By ANTHONY D. RECORD
—Autograph June 2010
Sometimes, you get lucky. Last fall, I found myself with nothing to do on a Saturday morning, so I checked out the Events section in Autograph and discovered that the Wyndham Resort in Kissimmee, about an hour and a half from my home, was hosting the Ultimate Horror Weekend. Now, with the exception of classics like The Omen and The Exorcist, I’m not a huge fan of the horror/zombie genre, but when I saw that the original Exorcist head spinner herself, Linda Blair, would be making an appearance, I grabbed my digital camera, left a note on the counter and hopped in my car. I’m glad I did.
While driving east across the Sunshine State, I remembered the last time I’d attended a similar event. It had been a bit of a disappointment—many of the celebrities whose appearances had been advertised didn’t show up and attendance was dismal. I was afraid I was in for a similar experience. I was (no pun intended) dead wrong. As I approached the Wyndham, I hit a traffic jam caused by people trying to park at the hotel to attend the show!
The line to get into the show wrapped around the hotel and extended into the parking lot. Even with a price of $20 for a day pass, it was worth it just to see the costumes of some of the attendees who apparently took Horror Weekend very seriously. No sign of recession here. There were people from eight to eighty years old, with every imaginable ethnicity and gender—and here I thought there were only two of those.
An amiable guy dressed as Beetlejuice was kind enough to loan me a program. The schedule of events were impressive: seminars on writing, comic books, screenwriting, memorabilia, makeup, computer graphics, costuming and many more. Interviews, photo-ops, Q&A sessions, film screenings were all offered—a little something for everyone. Oh, and did I mention autographs? In addition to the cost of admission, celebrities charged a signing fee between $5-$30 with a number of free autograph opportunities as well. In addition to Ms. Blair, Shannen Doherty, John Landis, Tippi Hedren, Adrienne Barbeau, Danny Trejo, Brian Krause, Chris Sarandon, William Forsythe, Jason Mewes, Jake Busey, Alex Vincent, Sara Karloff, Ed Gale, Ricou Browning, Jake “the Snake” Roberts and Greg “the Hammer” Valentine were all making appearances. That’s in addition to about 50 celebrities whom I’d never heard of! Even though I hadn’t heard of them, these celebrities were hailed as gods and goddesses by the true horror fans attending.
Of course I first wanted to see Linda Blair, but she wasn’t scheduled to arrive for more than an hour. I noticed that Jason Mewes (Dogma, Clerks,) had only a few people hanging around his table so I made my move. I waited less than five minutes to get a couple of autographs and snap a pic, but in that short amount of time I was regaled with a story of Jason’s exploits the night before. Let’s just say the story included booze, a swimming pool, and several women. Jason was a willing and friendly signer, which is more than I can say for Shannen Doherty. In my opinion, she was the least friendly celebrity in attendance. Her smiles seemed forced, and whatever she was asked to do seemed like an unwelcome chore.
At the very next table sat Jake Busey (The Frighteners, Twister) whom I always mistakenly believed was Gary Busey’s brother. Actually, he is Gary’s son. Regardless, he seemed like a sincere, nice guy. I like him best for his role as the terrorist in the Jodie Foster movie Contact. He claimed most people never even mention that role when speaking to him. My next stop was to get a signed photo of the voice of Chucky from the Child’s Play movies, Alex Vincent. Though not a big horror fan, I do appreciate those horror films that flirt with comedy (think Leprechaun and, more recently, Zombieland). Vincent was offering some great stills of Chucky and having a great time joking with fans.
Every once in awhile, serendipity plays a role at these events. On my way looking for Tippi Hedren and Adrienne Barbeau, I had the pleasure of making a beautiful discovery…and I do mean beautiful. While Cerina Vincent looked a bit familiar, I was unsure why. Turns out I may have noticed her from appearances in CSI and some other TV and movie roles. Did I mention she is beautiful? Another bit of serendipity occurred when I saw there were some former professional wrestlers there. My brother, Michael, is a big fan of old-time NWA wrestlers, and I got a photo signed by one of his favorites, Greg “the Hammer” Valentine.
Tippi Hedren signed a photo of herself with Alfred Hitchcock. She was actually wearing the same bird brooch that appears in the photo. Even in her later years she has retained a sense of beauty and elegance, as has Adrienne Barbeau. Horror fans love her for appearance in movies such as The Fog, but I remember her for her portrayal of Maude’s daughter on TV, as well as her brilliant performance in HBO’s short-lived Carnivale.
Oh, by the way, I finally did get to Linda Blair. I spent an hour in line to meet and greet the pea soup-spewing starlet. When I chose a rather gruesome photo from The Exorcist for her to sign she gave me a rather disgusted, if playful, grimace. “Sorry,” I said, “it’s one of my top three favorite movies.” When she asked me what the other two were, I told her the Wizard of Oz and It’s a Wonderful Life. I guess that put me back on more normal ground with her. When I told her my name was Anthony, she said, “Well then, I have to give you one of these.” She then proceeded to fetch a photo of her on the lawn with a pooch named Tony. She inscribed the photo and made a gift of it to me. What a class act.
All in all it was an enjoyable Saturday, and the next time the Ultimate Horror Weekend pulls into town I would give it my full endorsement. I guarantee you, I’ll be there. For further details, check out their Web site: www.spookyempire.com.