Tag Archives: horror conventions

Crypticon Kansas City 2017: Now in St. Joe, Missouri

Todd, Colleen, and I at Crypticon’s new venue.

Crypticon KC 2014 was the first convention I ever attended. This year, I  went on a road trip with my podcast cohost Todd and his wife Colleen. Oddly, Crypticon Kansas City was actually held in St. Joe, which is roughly an hour away from Kansas City itself. I assumed that the move from the Howard Johnson Plaza in KC to the St. Joe Civic Center was merely for economic reasons. I found out later that it was because of a very real-life horror story.

More on this later.

Andrew Divoff sweetly agreeing to have a phone chat with my mom.

For those of you who prefer your horror in film and culture, Crypticon did not disappoint. It was great seeing my friend Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster, Lost, Toy Soldiers), who sweetly agreed to chat with my mom on the phone before things got too busy. 

With Jeffrey Combs, who should be in every movie.

 

I also enjoyed seeing Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator, Star Trek) again. He kicked off the convention Q&A session with several fascinating stories and a great sense of humor.

William B. David and Mitch Pileggi talk UFO’s

Another fun session was the panel with X-Files stars Mitch Pileggi and William B. Davis. The most interesting aspect of this panel was their discussion about paranormal activity and the existence of extraterrestrial life. Pileggi is a believer and Davis is not.

Dirk Benedict trumped us during a political discussion at his table!

Battlestar Galactica and A-Team star Dirk Benedict gave a lively talk about his personal life, past romantic relationships, political views, and love for his children. I didn’t always agree with his opinions (for example, he had many positive things to say about Donald Trump), but it was refreshing to listen to someone who was unafraid to share his unfiltered views.

We met a lot of new people too, a few of whom will be future podcast guests. African-American horror-fantasy author Crystal Connor shared a bracing story about a collision with a swastica-tattooed skinhead, only to be surprised that he was more concerned for her well-being. Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp) and Mark Patton (A Nightmare on Elm St. 2) have passionate opinions on depictions of gender and sexual orientation in horror films, and I can’t wait to talk to them further. Later, über-sweetheart David Naughton (An American Werewolf in London) chatted with us about his upcoming projects, Sharknado 5: Global Swarming and The Hatred.

Chatting with Andrew Divoff at the hotel.

On the final day, Andrew Divoff shared information about his upcoming charity pour and new hand-sculpted Djinn rings. We talked about the new convention venue, and he asked how it compared to the old one. I explained that I stayed in the Howard Johnson Plaza in Kansas City during Crypticon 2014, and while my room was clean, there were definite problems with the facility. One elevator bounced sickeningly before stopping at the correct floor, and another was broken entirely. I opted to take the stairs instead, and found the dismal concrete stairwell to be littered with broken glass and used needles. The convention hall itself looked decent, but occasionally I would notice a foul stench waft through, as though a particularly flatulent convention-goer had walked by and cropdusted the aisle. It turns out that the old plumbing system perpetually leaked sewer gas during the summer months. As unsavory as that was, I speculated that Crypticon simply moved because they found a cleaner, bigger, or cheaper venue.

But then, Andrew said, “No, it was closed down because of the bodies in the elevator shaft.”

The now defunct Howard Johnson Plaza/former Ramada Inn

Note the overgrown weed problem.

It was like American Horror Story: Hotel, minus the glamor. Maybe more like Bentley Little’s novel The Resort. This took me down a rabbit hole of research of the Howard Johnson Plaza/Ramada Inn, beginning with reviews from hotel guests who had far worse experiences than I did. (See select photos above from TripAdvisor.) There were tales of  mildewed coffee pots, filthy bedding, broken windows, televisions “ghetto-wired” directly into the electrical outlet, cockroach and rat infestations, bedbugs, and entire sections left abandoned, with unmade rooms potentially occupied by homeless people. It seems that the Howard Johnson Plaza was like a ghost town by September 2016 and abandoned entirely by December.

As for dead bodies, I found evidence of only one in the elevator shaft.  According to Fox 4 News and the Kansas City Star, a homeless man who frequently sheltered in the hotel reported to police that he had found  a body in one of the elevator shafts, and that it had been there for quite awhile. So long that it was not immediately obvious whether the body was male or female. While I have not found much follow-up information about this, it seems that the death was accidental. The victim was apparently stealing copper pipes and fell to his death.

Stay classy, KC.

 

Horrorhound Indianapolis 2016

This was my first year attending a Horrorhound show, and it ranks as one of my top conventions along with Crypticon KC and Rock and Shock. There are bigger shows with more guests, but in my experience, bigger shows are less pleasant for the simple reason that one may end up waiting in line two hours to speak to a guest for all of 30 seconds, and paying $80 (or more) for a single autograph. Then, if you want a photo with a guest, the only option is paying another $100-250 for a professional photo op, in which one is herded through something resembling an assembly line process. Brutally efficient, but basically, one is paying more for less. Perhaps I’m being a bit of a curmudgeon here, because the fans I met at the bigger conventions felt that this was money well spent. If autograph collecting is your thing, and you have the cash, I won’t further besmirch your enjoyment of such venues.

My priorities are a bit different regarding what I look for in a convention experience. Perhaps I was spoiled by my first convention experiences, because I got to spend a significant amount of time with some of the guests, whom I now consider my friends due to our ongoing communication. While I do have a modest collection of autographs, I’m more interested in the various guests as people, and not just for their respective work products. What are autographs compared to getting advice from Andrew Divoff on learning foreign languages (he speaks eight), insight into Ted Raimi’s daily routines for maximal productivity, not to mention guests’ personal stories that are never discussed in interviews? Horrorhound Indianapolis was one of those rare conventions that was big enough to never become dull, but small enough that there were ample opportunities to have extended conversations with guests, several of whom interacted with fans at the hotel bar.

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With Ted Raimi

Aside from my friend Andrew Divoff’s appearance, an added bonus was the Wishmaster reunion, which included the film’s director and special effects artist Robert Kurtzman, lead actress Tammy Lauren (her first convention appearance), and supporting actors Tony Todd (best known for his role in Candyman), and Ted Raimi (also of Xena: Warrior Princess  and the second season of  Ash vs the Evil Dead ). This was my first time meeting Ted Raimi, who was one of the nicest guests I’ve met, but also quite intellectual and a fascinating conversationalist. Other personal highlights included meeting Bernard Rose, the director of Candyman and the criminally underrated Snuff Movie, a smart meta-critique of reality television and digital surveillance; and meeting Piper Laurie (Carrie and many other films), who now has her memoir Learning to Live Out Loud: A Memoir in print and audiobook edition.  While most conventions concentrate heavily on films and filmmakers, I was pleased to see many book vendors and authors at the event, including John Everson, author of the outstanding horror novel Nightwhere.

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Meeting Tammy Lauren of Wishmaster

As with all good conventions, there were ample activities aside from celebrity signings. I only attended two panels, both of which were outstanding. The Candyman panel featured some of the most thoughtful discussions of racism, classism, and other social divides. The Wishmaster panel not only had great behind-the-scenes story about that film, but also an odd and hilarious backstory about the casting of actual prostitutes as extras in Ted Raimi’s 1993 film Skinner [VHS]. There was also an ongoing film festival, most of which I missed. However, I made a point of seeing the new Kevin Smith film Yoga Hosers, which is a loose follow-up to his film Tusk. Yoga Hosers follows the two Colleens, who worked as clerks in Tusk. But as the film’ s effects artist Robert Kurtzman stated, despite a few horrific effects and monsters, Yoga Hosers isn’t a horror film at all, but rather more of a teen movie with a lot of smart one-liners. I think fans will enjoy Yoga Hosers if they keep that in mind; it wasn’t at all scary, but I don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at a screening.

And, of course, there was also the convention-within-the-convention, Maskfest, which showcased an astounding array of masks and other costume accessories. I nearly went home with a set of Maleficent or Black Phillip-style horns, until I considered I have so few opportunities to wear such things.

Even though four days of sleep deprivation from these activities left me broken and beaten upon my return home, Horrorhound Indianapolis is a show I want to attend again!