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March 30th – April 1st, 2012

Here we are once again, trying to find words to describe another Cinema Wasteland show.  Being their 21st show, the Wasteland crew still hasn’t shown any signs of stopping or slowing down.  Making the journey to this show with me was my son Nick, and my wife Dawn, making her first trip to the land of Wasteland.  We had kept telling her how different this show was from the rest and now she was able to see what we were talking about.  And of course, what would a trip to Wasteland be without Gore artist Putrid tagging along for the fun.  Granted, I think he slept 90% of the way to and from the show, but we wouldn’t have expected anything different.  Following us out there were Liquid Cheese mastermind Dave Kosanke and our buddy Ryan Olson, once again making the trip.

When their Spring show was first announced, Italian director Sergio Martino was scheduled to appear, which made me very excited.  Directing countless giallo and horror films, including one of my favorites, ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN, I was psyched about being able to meet him.  But a month before the show, Martino had to cancel the show due to work reasons.  We know how that can happen so as bummed as we were, we completely understood.  Still a bummer and hopefully Ken can get him back for a future show.  But at least that did save me a few $$ on the autographs I would have gotten.

The only other name on the guest list that I personally was excited to see was director David Schmoeller.  I have been a fan of his work ever since seeing TOURIST TRAP.  He also directed the first PUPPET MASTER movie, which I thought was just okay, but he did direct CRAWLSPACE, which is a personal favorite.  I had even contacted Schmoeller before the show to see if he’d be up for an interview for the website, which he said he’d be happy to.  From reading and seeing interviews with him, he is one talented man.  Having worked with the infamous Alejandro Jodorowsky in his early years, having to direct the insane Klaus  Kinski, Schmoeller certainly has had his share of high points in his career.  He was a super nice guy and great to talk to.  He was even more surprised when I pulled out my Thai CRAWLSPACE poster to have him sign.  He had never seen this particular poster before and even wanted a photo of us holding it.  Still amazes me how these directors never see half the poster art and promo stuff that is put out to promote their movie.

One of the guests that I needed to get an autograph for a friend of mine was Jim Kelly.  This might have been his first convention appearances, though not sure.  But my friend who is a big fan of the ‘70s films, wanted to add Kelly’s signature to a photo of him, Jim Brown and Fred Williamson (who had previously signed the photo).  Much to my surprise, Kelly was charging $30 for a signature.  I didn’t care since my buddy was paying for it, but just couldn’t believe that the prices had already started to hit that $30 mark.  Unbelievable.  Granted, besides Schmoeller, this was the only autograph that I purchased at this show.  It is something that is becoming more and more of a pattern with me now.  Just not worth it.

Another panel that we caught the first part of was with guests Lana Wood, Barbara Bouchet, Richard Kiel, who had all worked in many cult films.  Barbara Bouchet had worked with Lucio Fulci, as well as appearing in many other Italian films.  She had some great stories of working in Italy, such as not really needing to know your lines as long as you could count.  Since the films were shot without sound and were going to be dubbed anyway, as long as you were moving your mouth for the right amount of time, that is really all they cared about.  Kiel always has some fun stories and has one hell of a career.  It never ceases to amaze me just how big that guy is!  Lana Wood, sister of the late Natalie, had worked in many different genres, including being a Bond girl in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER.

Making their first appearance at a convention was a group of people that worked on the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, playing misc. ghouls while also doing stuff behind the camera as well.  They were Terry Gindele, Dave James, William Mogush, Paula Richards, Herbert Summer, and Ella Mae Smith.  These people are not celebrities but just common people that lived in the area where the film was being made, knew Romero and company and somehow got involved in the movie.  So their stories were so cool to hear because these were just regular people who happened to work on the most famous zombie film of all time.  And it seemed that every one of them still has fond memories of working on it, as well as being able to tell people over the last 40+ years that they actually worked on the movie.

Gary Streiner, brother of Russ “Johnny” Streiner, who also worked in the film, was there trying to raise money to save the chapel from the Evans City Cemetery that is featured in the movie.  It is badly in need of repair and might be torn down unless money can be raised to restore it.  Streiner had some different items from movie that he was auctioning off, including some color photos from the original set, to actual pieces of the chapel that had fallen off.  Since we were at the cemetery the previous September, it was nice to see the chapel was still there, but might not be much longer.

The last panel that we caught was PJ Soles and Dey Young from ROCK ‘n’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL.  Of course, Soles also made a little independent film with John Carpenter a quite some time ago.  But she has many genre creds in her career, such as Brian DePalma’s CARRIE.  Young had worked all over the place, appearing in many tv series and movies.  As far as genre films, she was in STRANGE INVADERS as well as in Wes Craven’s SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW.  Soles is probably one of the nicest people you can meet.  She still as friendly in person as you’d think she’d be from her characters on screen.

Out of all the conventions that we go to every year, Cinema Wasteland is the only one that I have to make it a point not to spend all my money, because there are so many things tempting me.  It has the best dealer room around.  Since I’ve gotten more and more over the whole autograph thing, especially with the prices they charge now, I’m always looking for more stuff for my collection.  Whether it is posters, books, t-shirts, there are always plenty of great things to find there.  Case in point: after years of looking for a PIECES poster that was somewhat reasonable, I discovered that Ken had one for sale at the Wasteland table.  Now this is not a cheap poster.  But Ken’s prices are usually the best you’re going to find.  So while I was debating on making the “investment”, I was walking back to our table when my wife Dawn was waving at me.  When I get there, she tells me there is a guy that wants to buy some of the posters that I was selling.  He ends up purchasing 3 posters in all.  Now here’s the funny part: the total amount was exactly the price Ken had on the PIECES poster!  So I quickly walked back over to Ken and handed him the money that was still warm in my hands from the last guy!   So now…I can proudly say that I have a PIECES poster in my collection.  As a matter of a fact, it has been hanging in my office since the day we got back from the show!  Right next to one of my all time favorite posters, the 3-D release of Naschy's FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR.  Wanna see?

Although, there is a downside to being a serious collector.  And this is one story that every die-hard collector out there is going to slightly nod their head and think, “yea…done that myself”.  There’s a couple of other dealers at this show that also sell books besides me.  And being a big time reference book collector, I’m always looking to add a new volume or two to my library.  So I was looking through a selection of books and came across two that I need to get.  The first one was The Horror Hits of Richard Gordon.  The second one was From Silicone to the Silver Screen: Memories of THE BLOB, by Wes Shank.  It was even signed!  Of course, once I get home and am filing away the stuff that I bought at the show, I go to put this new book on THE BLOB away, only to see a copy already sitting there on my shelf.  Even worse…this is not the first time that has happened to me.  Is there a support group out there maybe?

One of the great things about conventions, which I know I’ve said many times before, is the people that we meet.  Over the years, we have made countless knew friends who also come to these shows to be amongst other like minded fans.  A place where you can proudly display your latest black t-shirt or show off the newest edition to your collection and see other eyes just as excited as yours when you bought it.  Honestly, shopping the dealer room and seeing our friends at these shows is becoming more and more of a draw for us these days.  One of our good friends, Alan Tromp, was able to make it to this Wasteland after it looked like me might have missed it.  Alan is “old” like me, so our tastes are pretty similar since we both like a lot of the classic stuff, even the real cheesy ones like the works of Larry Buchanan.  Well, at this show, Alan surprised me with a gift that just blew me away.  It was a poster for the "Final Dimension in Shock" triple bill poster, featuring THE CORPSE GRINDERS, THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS, and THE EMBALMER.  I had a 8x10 reprint of this one hanging in our bathroom, but this is the real deal.  And it is just amazing.  So much so that I wanted to make sure that made a mention in our report, along with this photo, to show him just how grateful I am to him and his friendship.  Once again, it is people like Alan that are making these conventions still worth going to year and year.  Can’t thank you enough, Alan.  Of course, this also was immediately put up once we got home from the show.  Right next to the CRAWLSPACE poster that I had picked up at Ken at the show as well.

So another Wasteland show closes and we pack up and load the van, just dreading that 7-8 hour drive back to Chicagoland.  The ride home from this show is always rough, mainly because of the distance, but also just because another show has come to an end and we have reality waiting for us back home.  Even worse this time out since I had to be back at work the next day.  Normally we take that Monday off to re-coup, but not this time.  So when we roll into our driveway at around midnight, and my 5am alarm is going to be going off so quickly, it was still worth every second of the weekend.  And we’ll do it all over again in October.  See you there.

PHOTO HIGHLIGHTS

BARBARA BOUCHET
           

 

RICHARD KIEL
        

 

DAVID SCHMOELLER
           

 

PJ SOLES
           

 

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD CREW & EXTRAS