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June 27th-29th, 2008

It had been about 3 months since our last big convention so we were really looking forward to this one.  For one thing, itís local, so the drive is much easier.  But even if the Flashback Weekend wasnít local, weíd still be heading off each year to it.  It is one of our favorite shows to do, and we always have a lot of fun.

The Chicagoland area has a huge horror community, and I think over the last 5 years it has grown immensely.  And I think the Flashback show has had something to do with that.  It gives the local fans a chance to gather in the masses.  You get to see your favorite celebs, meet up with your fellow fans, and just have a great time.  Sure, other shows are the same.  But for Chicago fans, itís kind of like our hometown show, if that makes any sense.

And the fans really did come out this time as well.  This looked like one of the busiest shows yet.  Iím sure a lot of them were there to see George Romero.  He still packs in the people.  But of course, Romero is a genre icon, so itís very understandable.  My son was able to meet him, get his Dawn of the Dead poster signed, and get a photo with him.  Since Dawn is one of his favorite movies, he was thrilled to be able to meet him.  Of course, like most horror fans, his bragging rights are limited to only a select number of friends who know who Romero is.  Sad really, when you think about it.  Say what you want about his movies, the man is still an icon in the genre.

Joining Romero in their Night of the Living Dead 40th Anniversary tour, was most of the remaining cast: Judy OíDea, Russ Streiner, John Russo, Kyra Schon, George Kosana, and Bill Hinzman.  Marilyn Eastman was scheduled to be there but had to cancel.  So to make up for that, they dug up Charles Craig to join the anniversary tour.  Craig played the newscaster that we see on the TV throughout the movie.  It was nice to hear and see these people still having fun at these conventions.  We had seen most of the cast at the 25th anniversary show in Pittsburgh, and had gotten plenty of autographs for free back then.  Boy, how things have changed.

The other big reunion was the 30th Anniversary for Phantasm.  Pretty much the whole cast was there, from Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Angus Scrimm, Reggie Bannister, Kathy Lester, and of course, director Don Coscarelli.  This is another great example on how a creative low budget film can make such an impact that it still holds a special place in the hearts of horror fans today, 30 years later.  Coscarelli and his crew really created something completely different than what audiences were seeing at that time.  And even after 30 years, the film still can hold the viewer in it's spell.

I did find it rather interesting that over the course of weekend, the biggest line for the Phantasm cast seemed to be for Reggie Bannister.  Why is that?  Could it be that Reggie is just one of the coolest guys you can meet?  Or is it that because Reggie makes that connection with each of his fans, so they walk away like they just made another best friend.  That really says a lot of about Mr. Bannister.  He really is the real deal, and one of nicest guys out there.

The other huge line was for the Mistress of the Dark, Elvira, who is still a knockout today.  She hasnít lost anything.  Other guests there were the two final girls from the first two Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies, Marilyn Burns and Caroline Williams.  Both are so pleasant to talk with and really seemed to enjoy talking to their fans.  Of course, Williams really goes over the top for her fans.  We had the opportunity to interview her for the site during the show.  And a couple of times during the interview, she would stop to say hello to fans that were passing by her table, even offering to have their picture taken with her.  As she said in our interview, if it wasnít for the fans, she wouldnít be were sheís at today.  Shame that some other celebs donít remember that as well.

On a slight personal note (yea, I knowÖsurprise, huh) Iím really surprised that there are not more of these conventions popping up all over the place.  According to a few people I was hearing at the show, itís apparently pretty easy to put one of these things on, and theyíre surprised at how poorly this one was run.  Of course, this is coming from people that either have never put on a show, or maybe have just done one recently.  Tell you what folks, once you run a show once a year for more than 5 years, then come talk to me about how easy they are.  I know Mike & Mia who run these shows, as well as Ken & Pam Kish who run Cinema Wasteland.  And just some of the horror stories that Iíve heard from them, having to deal with guests, managers, hotels, inflation, airlines, and on and on, all the while trying their best to make their customers happy, itís amazing that any show can happen.  So for anyone to put on a show that can last for as long as their shows have been, they are obviously doing something right.

Sure, thereís been issues.  I wonít lie about that.  George Romeroís autograph line went right down the middle of our aisle.  But the aisle was wide enough to still let people through, and it didnít last long enough to really bother anything.  Overall, I know that these people are putting on these shows because they are fans and want to do these for the fans.  Nobody is getting rich off of these (other than maybe the celebs).  So the next time you are at a show and think that itís poorly run, maybe think about what all goes into them before you start mouthing off.  Or better yet, just go run your own show.

Due to the weather, the outdoor screenings were moved inside the hotel.  But due to food plans and other festivities, we didnít partake in them.  I was disappointed a little since on Saturday they were screening All the Boys Love Mandy Lane.  Iíve heard good things about it and wanted to check it out.  Guess weíll have to wait for DVD.  The producer, Brian Udovich was on hand to participate in a Q&Aís about the movie, as well as joining Romero, Coscarelli, and Roy Frumkes about the horrors of distribution.  Now there were some scary stories.

We were able to catch a few minutes of both the reunion panels for Night of the Living Dead and Phantasm.  As always, great stories, and some really funny ones as well, from just about everyone.  It really hard to believe, which Iím sure that these cast members can attest to, that here they are on a panel at a horror convention talking about a movie that they made 30 or 40 years ago.  And more importantly, that these movies still have fans to this day, as well as making new fans each year.

Another first for this convention was that we actually had the honor to be involved in one of the Q&A sessions.  The Flashback crew allowed me and Dr. AC himself, Aaron Christensen get up on stage to talk about the Horror 101 book.  Flashback co-host Nick Digilio moderated the session, and we got a decent response from the crowd there.  So mucho thanks to Mike Kerz for giving us that opportunity.

As always, these shows are also a get-together for our convention-families.  These are the relatives that we never seen until we go to these shows.  And when youíve been doing enough of them, these people do seem like family.  People like Jill from Lix, Ken & Pam from Cinema Wasteland, Steve Bejma from Classic Horrors, Chris Kuchta, Scott Ford from Drive-In Graphics, and many more who Iím sure Iím forgetting

Plus we get to meet new people that become friends and are absorbed into the fold.  Thereís nothing better than to have someone come to you, and tell you that theyíre embarrassed to say that they are fans of Larry Buchanan.  And then to see their face light up when we tell them that we are also fans and that they are amongst friends.  To give fans a chance to talk and meet people that have the same twisted and deviant taste in such debaucheries of cinemaÖ.well, letís just say that itís a great time.

These people are one of the reasons that going to shows year after year are always a good time.  Even if that means trying to fit 18 people in a Mexican restaurant when you have reservations for 12.

Weíll see you next year for Flashback í09.


PHANTASM REUNION
30th YEARS OF BALLS

ANGUS SCRIMM (aka THE TALL MAN)
        

MICHAEL BALDWIN
     

REGGIE BANNISTER
        

BILL THORNBERRY
     

KATHY LESTER
           

DON COSCARELLI
        

MISC. GROUP SHOTS
     

     

 

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD 40th ANNIVERSARY REUNION

GEORGE ROMERO
     

JOHN RUSSO
  

RUSS STREINER
     

JUDITH O'DEA
  

BILL HINZMAN

GEORGE KOSANA

KYRA SCHON
  

CHARLES CRAIG
  

MISC. GROUP SHOTS
           

 

ELVIRA
  

 

BRIAN UDOVICH
  

 

ROY FRUMKES