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2013 RONDO AWARD
Oct. 5th-7th, 2012
So once again, just like we’ve been doing every six months for the last 12 years, we headed out to Strongsville Ohio for the Cinema Wasteland show. And as always, we have a great time. With all the conventions around these days, it makes you wonder why everyone says this one is so different. That would be because of the Wasteland head honcho, Ken Kish. Love him or hate him, Ken has been putting on a show the way he wants to. It’s organized and runs on time. Never any surprises. While the same guests show up at every other show around, Ken works hard to try and get guests that you might not find there. Or at least ones that you might not see listed at 5 shows during the year. That’s not to say that he doesn’t get those repeat guests every now and then, but he still works hard to bring in different ones. Not to mention getting guests that have actually done something, as opposed to a 5 second appearance on some TV show or movie and now consider themselves a celebrity enough to think they should charge $20 for an autograph. Sorry guys…that term has already been stretched to the limit these days. But this is something that has to be getting harder and harder for Ken each and every show. We just hope that he can keep it up a little longer.
One of the things that Wasteland is known for is the partying that goes on after the show closes for the day. It has almost become legendary. Honestly, this is the one thing about this show that I don’t care for. I’ve got nothing against what people want to do, but it seems strange to see a lot of people out in the lobby partying that I don’t recall seeing walking around the show. So why is that a big deal? Pretty simple actually. This is the only show that has run 22 shows at the very same hotel and Ken (and the rest of us regulars) would like to keep it that way. But it doesn’t help when people come to the show and get drunk and trash the place, especially when they are not even part of the convention fans. I love it when I hear that they don’t have the money to buy at ticket to the show, but seem to have plenty of money to buy beer. Strange. This is something that Ken has been very vocal about for several years, mainly because he doesn’t want to lose his partnership with the hotel because of some random idiots that come there to get shitfaced and cause problems for everyone. He’s not against the partying…but when people come there JUST to do that, then it becomes a problem. These people are taking up hotel rooms for people that actually wanted to attend the convention. Where most conventions seem to have become less about the movies and more about selling autographs to the fans, Wasteland still tries to push that point, that is really is about the movies and the people that made them. If none the guests showed up at a Wasteland show, we would still have a great time. That is the difference between this show and every other show out there.
Okay…enough of my opening rant…let’s get onto the show, as they say.
Making the trip out this time was a little different for the first time in quite a lot time since it was just the Kitley Klan making the trip to the show, but we’re all ready for another great weekend. The show seems to have its usual crowd of attendees. This show is never packed, but usually has a decent amount of people wandering through. But for some reason, it didn’t seem that people were doing that much shopping. At least not at our table, or even a few of the other dealers that I talked to over the weekend. In fact, this was one of our slowest shows for us in a very long time. Now usually, I would say that it might be due to all the money being spent on the $25 autographs. But I have to say that the times when I was walking around the dealer room, there seemed to be more people at the dealer tables then at the celebrity tables. Could the fans finally getting tired of these high priced autographs?
My son Nick has been coming to the shows with me for a while now, but only every now and then will a guest be announced that he’s kind of excited to see. But last April when Ken announced that Reb Brown was going to be attending the October show, Nick lost his mind. See, in typical movie fan fashion, Nick had been watching a bunch of the movies that Brown had made in the ‘80s, a lot of them in Italy and just loving them. Sure, they may not be the best made films, but as Nick as learned from his old man, if they’re entertaining, then that is all that matters. So upon arriving at the show Friday, once we were all set up and the show had opened, Nick was anxious to get over there to meet Reb. He had brought two posters to get signed, an American one-sheet for YOR: THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE and a Turkish poster for ROBOWARS. So I head over with Nick so I can take the photo. We learned earlier that Brown was charging $25 for each autograph and then another $10 if you wanted your picture taken with him. One would think that after spending $50 on two signatures, that you could get a photo together with the celeb for free. But not these days. Must be afraid they are going to sell those on ebay too. Needless to say, we did it because Nick didn’t care about the cost. All the money crap aside, I have to say that Reb was one of the nicest guys we met that weekend. He was super friendly and after I told him that my son is a huge fan of his work and has been waiting since April to be able to meet him, Reb stood up and said “Oh Hell…that deserves a hug!” and came out from behind the table and gave Nick a huge hug, and told Nick that just made his day. Needless to say, it made Nick’s weekend. I have to say that it was great to see that same passion and excitement in my son’s face that I have had myself countless times over the years at these conventions.
Another guest at the show this time out was director Jeff Burr. Now a lot of people might think that he’s a second rate director, but if you knew a little of the history behind the films that he worked on, I’m not sure you’d think that. Besides, one of his first films was FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM (aka THE OFFSPRING) is a pretty damn good movie. We first met Burr when he was just walking around at a HorrorHound convention last year. He wasn’t on the guest list, but just there seeing the sights. We had a great conversation there and were hoping to get a chance to talk to him at this show. But lately we’ve been a little leery of that these days because we’re afraid they are going to want us to buy something from them first or just getting the stink eye from their handler because we’re not there to buy something. So we never made it over there. But then at the end of the show, Burr was walking around the show and came by our table. So we did have a chance to talk for a bit and he even signed my Mexican lobby card of TCM 3, which didn’t cost me a dime. I guess that was because his handler wasn’t around. But it showed me that some of these guests are very approachable and are not there for the money, though not all of them.
Which brings us to another guest making their first appearance at Wasteland, the infamous Mr. B.I.G. himself, Bert I. Gordon. We had met Gordon a few years ago at a local show and were able to get poster and lobby card signed at somewhat reasonable price, and that was after giving him a large German poster from EMPIRE OF THE ANTS. We could tell even then that Bert was all about the money. But as I was walking by his table this time, I looked over at the sign on his table which listed his prices. Mainly the usual, $20 for signing one of your items, but there was a line that said “Your Poster - $50”. I actually had to stop and get closer to make sure I seen it correctly. But yep…$50 to have him autograph your own poster. What a crock. I’m sorry, I respect the hell out of Mr. Gordon and his work. He made a ton of entertaining movies in his career. But who does he think he is that he can charge the fans that have been keeping his movies alive all these years that much money just to add his signature. Does he really think it is worth that much? Sorry…not even close. Very disappointing. But apparently I wasn’t the only one to think that since on Sunday, he had changed that price down to $20. I wonder if he realized that or if something clued him in to the fact that was way too high.
Speaking of which, one of the Q&A sessions that we sat in there was with Mr. BIG and actress Belinda Balaski, who appeared in Gordon’s FOOD OF THE GODS. She also appeared in several Joe Dante films, such as PIRANHA and THE HOWLING. I will say that Gordon did have some great stories, like when he had to work with Orson Welles. Of course, he told more stories during this Q&A then he did in his autobiography, which isn’t saying much for that book (read our review of it HERE). None the less, Gordon was a talented filmmaker and made some great entertaining movies in his career, a lot of them still being enjoyed today. So we will always give him credit for that. Balaski had some great stories working on some of her genre films, as well as with the likes of Joe Dante. So overall, it was a very entertaining Q&A.
But the first Q&A we went to on Saturday featured Linnea Quigley, Michael Bauer, and Fred Olen Ray. While I might not be the biggest fan of their movies, this was a very interesting Q&A. There’s a lot of stuff that goes on in the world of independent film production and they gave us all a little peek inside. I think a lot of us have no clue how hard it is to get a film not only made but even more so to get it distributed in that film market. They even gave some high praise to Jess Franco, telling the audience that he really did know his craft when it came to filmmaking.
Guests Reb Brown, Art Hindle, and James Hampton were together for a Q&A panel about character actors in the films, since most of them had done just that in their careers. Art Hindle started out with a great story about his early days when he was just starting out and what young actors will say they can do just to get a part in the movie. Even if it means pissing off a local biker gang. Brown talked about working with actor Tex Cobb and how much of a free spirit this guy was, even if it was getting people in trouble. He also mentioned how much fun he had overseas making all those cheesy action films. But when it came to James Hampton, the room got very quiet. Hampton seemed to be a little lost at times, even having trouble finishing an answer that he started. There were long uncomfortable pauses during his answers, like he was trying to remember what he was talking about. Ken and Art from Ultra Violent magazine, who were running the panel, tried to keep the conversation going, but it was still a sad thing to see. Hampton was a great character with plenty of memorable roles over the years. He’s one of those guys that people will remember, but just not sure where from. Damn shame, really.
The last Q&A that we sat in on was Jeff Burr. Once again, this guy is a talented man. Some of the movies that he has made might not have turned out to be great films, but I know on some of them, he really had his hands full with all sorts of problems, some of them even before he was hired. But overall, he has turned out some entertaining stuff. Of course, not bad when one of your first movies stars Vincent Price! We had to get back to our table so we couldn’t stay in there for that long. But I would recommend anyone checking out some of Burr’s work.
There were a few other guests attending the show, but didn’t have a Q&A and we never went around to their tables. Getting photos of the celebs during the Q&A’s is the only way to get them without paying for them. And that is something that we will never do. But we did want to give a shout out to Donald Farmer who was a guest at this show. Mr. Farmer has made a few low budget films over his career. But he also has worked hard at promoting the horror genre, through his magazine Splatter Times, which he published in the early ‘80s. Though it was only around for a few years, he was still fighting the good fight, with a wide range of articles and interviews. In 1994, he put out a ‘Bloody Best’ issue, which had some great interviews in there with the likes of Richard Johnson, Cameron Mitchell, and even Larry Buchanan! How could you not give this man some major kudos! We bought some books that we was selling at the show and got a free copy of his Bloody Best issue that he was giving away to anyone that bought something. He was a super nice guy that I now wish I would have spent a few more minutes talking to him. But this is one of the great things about Wasteland. What other convention out there are you going to find Donald Farmer on the guest list? What is sadder is that most horror fans out there don’t even know who he is. But they know the name of the actor that played a zombie in THE WALKING DEAD for 5 seconds…right after giving them $20 for a signature. Just don’t get it.
One of the other things that Wasteland definitely has over every other show out there, at least for me personally, is the dealer room. As I’ve said many times before, this is the only show that I could spend every single dollar I make right within the walls of the dealer room. From t-shirts, posters, to books, there are always more things that I would love to come home with each and every time. But since our spending funds were kind of low this time out, I had to really limit what I was going to buy. We did end up with a couple of back issues of the British magazine Diabolique, which is a great little magazine if you get a chance to browse through one. We discovered them last year and have been trying to pick up the back issues that we don’t have. There were a couple of dealers that were selling those amazing Hammer busts that I have been drooling over ever since they were first announced. I was just about to make my move on the Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee ones when someone bought the only Cushing one left right in front of me! I guess that was a sign that I should wait. Maybe next time. But we were able to find a poster for a Paul Naschy film that we almost passed up. It was under the title WALK OF THE DEAD, which starred a “Richard Naschy”. Not sure if I remembered seeing this one before, but I knew I didn’t have it, so I just had to add it to the Naschy collection.
There was a new dealer set up this year with some very interesting sculptures. The artist name is Joseph Gubocki and has some very unique pieces of art. Below are some photos of the three that we came home with that my wife and son bought. His work is just incredible to look at with all the little details and the amazing colors throughout each piece, which these photos below do not do justice to the colors. Some of his pieces were actually oil lamps, which is one of the ones that my son bought. Had we done a little better at the show, I think we might have come home with 4 of his pieces!
Of course, one of the highlights to this show, as well as any convention, is the get-together for food in the evening with our extended convention family. As great it is to come to these shows, it really is seeing all our friends each time that makes it even more fun. And our evening escapades looking for food is even better. Because the dealer room closes at 10pm on Fridays, it is usually hard to find a place still open that late so we usually end up at the local Fridays Restaurant. But in our goal of trying to find new and local places, we were steered to a new place that I think will now be our regular spot on Fridays. It is called The B-Spot and is actually a restaurant owned by Food Network’s Michael Symon (yes, we are Food Network geeks). The B’s stand for burgers, brats, and beer. They had some amazing choices on the menus and it is going to take me while to hit all the ones I want to try! They have a few locations, but the one that we hit was right in Strongsville. Try it out…you won’t be disappointed.
Then Saturday, while trying to find another new place, though the urge to go right back to The B-Spot was tough, we found a little Lebanese place called La Kabob. I don’t think the guy there was expecting 10 hungry horror fans showing up at 8pm on a Saturday night, but even though the guy was by himself, he cranked out that food. It was our first time for Lebanese food and it was very tasty with some great flavors.
So another Wasteland weekend comes to an end and we’re back to reality. The one thing that I realized over the weekend, which I had already known but seem to forget every now and then, is that to make sure you enjoy these shows for what they are. Don’t sweat the small stuff. We go to these shows to have fun and that is what we need to focus on more. Because those memories are the ones that will always be there. So until next April, when we do it all over again, we hope to see more of you there…at the show, enjoying the show.