It was just by coincidence that Cult Classic Horror ended up with a booth at our first convention. In an attempt to obtain press passes through the Steel City Con’s email, I ended up receiving an extremely persuasive response from one of the event coordinators. Enthusiastically the offer was forwarded up the chain, accompanied by a note assuring the Blood Brothers I was more than willing to sacrifice my weekend. After reading the guest list, words like “cant miss” and “once in a lifetime” exploded like firecrackers in my mind. In the weeks leading up to the event supplies began to arrive in the mail. By the time setup day had arrived, we confidently loaded up the vehicle and set out for the adventure. Steel City Con’s first annual horror edition.
I have attended cons before as a patron, but with a vendor pass in hand, I was able to see a new side of the story. Behind the scenes is a world of dedicated and passionate individuals. Cast and crew, collectors, artists, and fans all converge, and congeal, to create a living breathing energy. When you’re stuck in a place for eight hours a day, for 3 solid days, you really get to know your colleagues. Case in point: Are you looking for that obscure poster that you’d like to have signed? Something that is going to surprise your favorite scream queen, perhaps causing her to be more engaging when you confess your undying love? Look no further than 12 Gauge Gore. Joe Rodgers one of the bearded proprietors, was happy to take the time and discuss horror films. Rodgers is quite the aficionado when it comes to poster art. Having completely separate opinions on movies and their printed propaganda. When I asked him what posters he had on his walls at home he replied “Currently: Monster Squad, Harold and Maude, Brazil, Videodrome, The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus and The Devil’s Rejects.” 12 Gauge Gore has a comprehensive selection that still baffles me. When I first approached the booth a poster for the movie within a movie “Stab” caught my attention. After striking up a conversation with Joe, I inquired about the coveted Nightmare on Elm Street 3, he immediately pulled out a Media Home Entertainment ad for the film. The most obscure title I saw amongst the collection was Deadly Friend with Kristy Swanson. Be still my heart.
Two rows down you will stumble upon a most curious sight: Baby onesies with horror film patches. I just had to speak with the creator of such a unique idea. As we conversed I learned that this vivacious woman seated in front of me was Christine Ramirez. When she isn’t creating badass babywear, Ms Ramirez is an accomplished special makeup effects artist. Her credits include the hit film Hidden Figures, and the upcoming Horrorshow. Christine explained to me later, the patches on the baby clothes were intended to be cut off and transferred to new clothes as your child grows up. Creating a continuity of horror appreciation in those crutial, formative years.
In the celebrity area meet and greet offerings with huge names like Linda Blair and Elvira attracted crowds that lined up almost out the door. A concourse of slashers including, two different Jasons(Stephen Dash and CJ Grahmn), Michael Myers(Tony Moran), and Leatherface(Bill Johnson), made for a delightful stroll down murder lane. As you can plainly see this was an amazing lineup on it’s own. Still, the icing on the cake for my fellow freaks was a Dawn of the Dead cast reunion and tours of the iconic Monroeville Mall. In a separate room was a cavalcade of zombies, bikers, and crew. This is where I was able to meet Mr. Taso Stavrakis, a personal hero of mine. Thanks to his younger brother Christian I was given a formal introduction and we were able to briefly discuss the arrowhead murder of Kevin Bacon, which due to a happy accident and Mr Stavrakis’ quick thinking, is now as iconic as the shower scene in Psycho.
While seated at my booth Jim Krut, the famous helicopter Zombie from Dawn of the Dead stopped by. We spoke only briefly but I was able to ask him “is it true that you were picked for the scene because of your low forehead?” He laughed replying: “that’s the story anyway.” Keeping in the Dead film arena, just a few steps from the CCH booth was Mr. John Russo co-writer of the original Night of the Living Dead. I was shocked to learn that we had lived in the same neighborhood for a time. It really is a small world. While having a smoke break I got the oppurtunity to bull shit with Tony Moran, the unmasked Michael Myers in the original Halloween. You may be interested to know that he is the brother of the late Erin Moran(Happy Days). Mr. Moran looks like a Hell’s Angel, but his warm receptive attitude is immediately likeable. I explained to him that I wasn’t allowed to ask him for an interview due to convention rules to which he loudly announced “F— them, message me on facebook.” What an awesome character.
In the hotel bar saturday night, none other than Ken Foree casually strolled in. Star struck doesn’t begin to explain the level of fanboy excitement that leapt into my heart. Later the next day when I finally worked up the courage, I introduced myself as a writer for Cult Classic Horror. He interjected “I’ve heard of you guys,” while I’m sure he was just trying to be nice, I can’t imagine the color of red on my face as those words left his lips. Ken Foree is a cult legend, and I’m extremely grateful I finally got to meet him.
Mr. Tom Savini himself, gave an amazing Q and A session. I asked “how does it feel to be apart of the six degrees of Kevin Bacon” his response was hilarious, commenting that he was only one degree away…. He did kill him after all. Mr. Savini is amazingly charismatic and charming. The passion he has for the artform is obvious. During his discussion he talked about the original ending he intended to shoot for the Night of the Living Dead remake, and how a studio employee drove him to the brink of madness. He is an honest open book when it comes to behind the scenes information.
On sunday at five o’clock the doors closed and the magic of the weekend was over. I strolled past my new friends as they broke down their booths and it felt similar to the last day of school. That bittersweet longing for people who weren’t even gone yet. Just before we drove off I took one last look at the Monroeville Convention Center, slowly purging itself of the remnants of horror fanatics. When I did, i smiled.