Wednesday, September 30, 2009


The month of October means that the cycle of horror conventions and film festivals begin again.

Los Angeles has Shriekfest, Manchester England has The Festival of Fantastic Films, Ohio has Cinema Wasteland, Baltimore has Horrorfind. Through 2010 come the cons and fests thick and fast, with the giant, Hollywood-heavy San Diego Comic Con topping them all for sheer size and acreage in July.

But in October, the mother of ‘em all, Chiller Theatre Expo in New Jersey, monster fans of all ages, tastes and stripes, start the convention circuit to meet their fave celebs, do a little memorabilia shopping, but mostly hang with kindred spirits who love films of the fantastic.

The Chiller Theatre Expo is New Jersey is the baby of the great Kevin Clement. Certainly the largest fan event on the east coast in the United States, Chiller happens a couple of times a year, drawing thousands from across the country. The big show is around Hallowe'en, and the diverse guests that Clement manages to get for his show keeps happy film fans coming back again and again.

This is one of my favorite little Chiller moments–one of many.

A couple of springtimes ago we had a table promoting our films DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE and CHAINSAW SALLY. We were stuck in the “Outer Limits” tent, meaning the third tent erected in the parking lot, the one almost no-one got to because it ate up the parking, fans had already spent hours in line to get in, then more hours waiting to get into the main celebrity tent, and by the time they got to our tent, they were either too tired, too broke, or too out of time and pissed off and didn’t set foot inside. The fire marshals were patroling in packs, watching all with eagle-eyes. After all that, many fans never made it into the third tent. So there was a lot of down time…

Our table was in the center of the tent, surrounded by TV horror host Zacherley and actor Kevin McCarthy (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS) near the entrance at the north side, Conrad Brooks (PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE) watching the the east flank, filmmaker Ted Bohus and HorrorBiz magazine on the west, and Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams in the back, down south.

During one of the many lulls in the action, Penny Marshall shuffled around checking everybody out. It was clear that she wasn’t too thrilled. I was alone at the table, as everyone else had gone to get some late lunch. Marshall locked eyes with me, and snapping gum in time with her slow steps, sauntered over.

We smiled at each other. I broke the ice.

“How’s business?”

She shrugged and chewed her gum. She looked at the DVD of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE on the table. She picked it up. Her eyes rolled up to the poster behind me and back to the DVD.

“You make this?”

“Yes,” I said, extending my hand. “Mark Redfield. You can have it. My gift to you.” A fan appeared, and was hovering just over Marshall’s shoulder.

Just as she was about to reply, the fan snapped a picture. She whirled on him. “Don’t do that! Don’t ever do that! That’s so rude. If you want a picture, just ask first.”

The fan mumbled something. Marshall looked at me, rolled her eyes as if to ask “whatya gonna do?”, and walked away with the DVD.

When April Burril and Jennifer Rouse got back to the table, I told them that Penny Marshall picked up a copy of JEKYLL. Great they said, maybe she’ll hire you in one of her pictures. Jennifer was upset to find out I gave the DVD away…

A moment later, Marshall shuffled back to the table. April and Jennifer perked up a little.

Marshall sidled up to me and asked, “So–where’s all the porn shit?”

Time froze for a split second. Nobody had an answer. Before any of us could even think of where to direct her (helpful as we are), Marshall said, between gum snaps, “I going to a friends birthday party tonight. Just wanted something goofy. Think he’ll like this?” She held up the DVD of JEKYLL.

“Yeah. I think he’ll love it,” I said, not having a clue as to who this friend was, nor what his interests and tastes were. In hindsight, if she was looking for a goofy porn gift, my version of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE was certain to disappoint.

Penny Marshall just nodded and kept bobbing to the music playing in her head, and walked back to her table and Cindy Williams.We all looked at each other and laughed. I stepped outside the tent for a breath of fresh air.

Ten feet away was Dean Stockwell. He was smoking a cigar by the propane tanks used to fuel the heaters for the tents.

I went back inside.

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