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2013 RONDO AWARD
A week after our trip to St. Louis for the Contamination Def-Con 4 convention, we had a slightly shorter drive for our next show, the Flashback Weekend, which is our only Chicago area show that we go to. For the longest time, it was the only show in the area. But while other shows try to get their foot in this market, nobody does it better here than Flashback Weekend, which is something that is so much more than an autograph show that has the same guests at all of their shows. Unless of course you count the comic book convention that takes place across the screen during the same weekend, where it will cost you $60 to $75 for a single day’s admission, only to have to battle big crowds, long lines, and outrageous autograph prices, I’d rather come to Flashback and have a much better time. Which is what we’ve been doing since their very first show back in 2002.
Flashback Weekend is not just another convention. They do have an ulterior motive. To make a ton of money? Well sort of. But the reason is not so they can vacation on some sunny beach during the harsh Chicago winters but to save one of the few remaining iconic family outings in America….the drive-in theater. Mike and Mia Kerz, who run Flashback Weekend, also own and operate the Midway Drive-in out in Sterling, IL. While most of the season they screen double features of first run movies, about twice a year they hold Dusk to Dawn horror movie marathons, screening 3 to 4 films to the wee hours of the morning. And we’ve been to almost all of them, and each time having one hell of a movie going experience. So the money that they make from the convention goes to helping the Midway stay open. That is true dedication, trying to keep this small bit of Americana open for the newer generations to experience, just like some of did when we were young. So kudos to Mike and Mia for not only putting on a great convention once a year, but also for fighting to keep the Drive-in alive! But let’s get back to the convention report!
George Romero was this year’s headliner at Flashback and while he’s been at this show a couple of times before, the last time was back in 2008. But with George not getting any younger, we all know that he’s not going to be doing too many more shows. So it was a good chance to let the newer Chicago area fans get a chance to meet this horror icon. Sure, we might not have enjoyed his last few pictures, but it doesn’t take away what he’s done for the genre. And as usual, the fans did come out for him, making a pretty good line for most of the weekend.
Now since we’ve been going to shows for over 25 years, it is pretty tough to get some guests that either we haven’t seen before, or even that are going to be a huge interest to me personally. Nothing against the shows mind you, just it’s the whole ‘been there, done that’ aspect of it. But at this year’s show, they had a couple of guests that I was pretty excited to meet. The first one was Kim Darby, who was suppose to have been here last year but had cancelled. But she was here this year. Now for those of you who might not know who she is, if you grew up in the ‘70s, then I can guarantee you’ve seen her in either some movie from TV or at the theater. She was the girl starring next to John Wayne in the original version of TRUE GRIT. But for horror fans, she is probably best known for starring in the original DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, which still is one hell of a movie. But for me, even before DON’T came out, she appeared in a TV series called Ghost Story, alongside Martin Sheen and a creepy-ass wooden horse. The episode was called Dark Vengeance and it scared the crap out of me. So I wanted to make sure I went over to Darby and explain to her just that, which she just loved the fact that I still remembered that episode that she appeared in with such fondness. She was super friendly and just a lovely woman to talk to. Really enjoyed meeting her.
The other guest was actress Judy Geeson, who is probably mostly known (to people my age at least) for her role in the film TO SIR WITH LOVE. But again, for horror fans, she appeared in her share of terror films, such as INSEMINOID, 10 RILLINGTON PLACE, and IT HAPPENED AT NIGHTMARE INN, just to name a few. But the one one that she appeared in that really had me going over there to meet her was the 1972 film FEAR IN THE NIGHT. This was a Hammer film co-starring Peter Cushing, Ralph Bates, and Joan Collins. I have the book called Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography that I have been adding signatures over the years of people that have worked with Hammer studios, and was thrilled to have her add her name to the list. We talked about Hammer, working with Cushing and Bates, as well as her role in the very disturbing 10 RILLINGTON PLACE, which is about a real life serial killer, played in the movie by Richard Attenborough. But just like Darby, she was so friendly and just a treat to talk to for a few minutes at the show.
One of the bigger names at the show, Danny Glover, happened to be at the table right across from us. While I wouldn’t say he’s known for his roles in the horror genre, he has made a few like the first SAW movie and PREDATOR 2. But I have to say I was surprised at the small amount of people that seemed to be coming up to him over the weekend. Since we were right across from him, there were quite a few times where he was just sitting there talking on the phone with nobody coming up to him. Although I do have to say it was pretty amusing to see someone bring up an actual toilet for him to sign, bringing back memories of LEATHAL WEAPON 2. Now that was being creative.
My son Nick was excited when Flashback had announced the original main cast of DAWN OF THE DEAD would be at this show, since not only is it one of his favorite movies, but the poster he has that has a few signatures already on it, including Ken Foree’s and Romero’s, still was missing Gaylen Ross, Scott Reiniger, and David Emgee. So he was at least able to add the rest of the main cast, which made him even happier that they were only charging $20 each for autographs. A little higher and that poster would still be unsigned by them. Yes, it is those small things in life that make it all worthwhile
One of the things that I really enjoy about this show is the Q&A’s. Not that I mind having the crowds wandering around the dealer room, but it is always nice to be able to go sit down for a minute to rest, as well as be able to catch some of the numerous Q&As that were going on. They really had the schedule packed with them. If I was going to a convention that just had guests and a dealer room, I wouldn’t be there for more than an afternoon, because once you get your autographs, go through the dealer tables once or twice, there is no reason to come back. But when you have plenty of events going on throughout the whole weekend, it makes it a much more attractive reason to stay for multiple days. There were a few different theme panels at this show. It also helps when there are constant announcements being made of what is going on and where throughout the day. Unlike a more recent show that we were at, when there was no real schedule or announcements that people could hear and/or understand. Can’t stress how important that is for the people attending. Plus, if it wasn’t enough to have stuff going on during the show, they also had movie screenings at the Muvico theater which was basically next door to the hotel.
The first panel had the guests that appeared in Rob Zombie’s latest film, LORDS OF SALEM. Attending the panel was Judy Geeson, Patricia Quinn, Meg Foster, Bruce Davison, and Lisa Marie. Dee Wallace was scheduled to be there but had to cancel due to filming conflicts. What we had up on that stage was a huge amount of talent and history in the movies. While they were mostly talking about the new movie, each of them had their own little comments and insights on the project, as well as other things they had worked on. I have to say that Patricia Quinn was just a delight during the panel, with some wonderfully funny comments and remarks.
Another great panel was with the cast of PET SEMATARY. Director Mary Lambert was scheduled to be there, but cancelled last minute. Damn shame too since out the scheduled cast, she was the only one that I hadn’t met before, mainly because she had cancelled out of that last show as well. But the cast, Dave Midkiff, Denise Crosby, Miko Hughes, and Brad Greenquist did have some interesting stories from the making of this classic and still powerful film.
Of course, the last group panel was that casts from DAWN OF THE DEAD. While Romero had his own Q&A session, this was just for Foree, Ross, Reiniger, and Emge. But they had plenty of fun stories about the film to keep the audience more than amused. It just goes to show you that for a movie that is 35 years old, to see it draw a huge number of fans really shows how much of an impact that film, as well as many more, has on fans like us.
While browsing around the dealer room, checking out the other tables, making sure there wasn’t anything I needed to add to my own collection, I came across a dealer that I hadn’t seen before. Tom Martino from DWN Productions had a table full of masks. Now, I usually don’t even stop to look at masks since I don’t really collect them. But what caught my eye right away was a dead-on reproduction of the aliens from BAD TASTE. It was incredible how well done it was. Had that been there at the end of the show, there was a good chance I might have gone home with it. But it was gone pretty quick, even before I could get a photo of it. Another great little thing they were selling was something so cheap (as in a low price) and simple, but pretty damn cool in my opinion. They had made the little alien slugs from NIGHT OF THE CREEPS. It is one of those things that if you’ve seen the movie, then you know what they are from. They also had a baby Selwyn from BRAINDEAD, Belial from BASKET CASE and much more. You can check out some of his work at their website HERE. Good stuff.
We then stumbled across another dealer that I’d never come across before. They were selling puzzle boxes inspired by the HELLRAISER movies and stories. Now I’ve seen reproductions before but never as amazing and beautiful as the ones from The Pyramid Gallery. Of course they had the one that we’re all familiar with, but also many other designs. Plus, they even had one that was an actual music box when you spun the circle of the box! Simply incredible. You can tell the work and detail that goes into each one of these and truly beautiful works of art. You can check out their website for all the different designs by clicking HERE.
And lastly, another dealer that we see at a lot of conventions is Barry Crawford, better known as The Clay-Guy. If you’ve been to many conventions in the last few years, you’ve probably seen Barry and his wonderful work. For making clay characters based on famous people in the horror and cult world, his figures are so much fun to look at. My son has picked up a few over the years, and it is always a treat to go check out his stuff to see what new ones he’s come up with. Never settling with the just the typical or popular characters, Barry comes up with some obscure ones as well. The one that caught my eye this time was Corbis from THE DEVIL’S RAIN. It was a great rendition of Ernest Borgnine’s character. Of course, because I was debating on getting it too long, it was sold. Even worse…a friend of mine bought it! But just like in the movie, I’m sure that was not the last time I’ll see Corbis! If you haven’t checked out Barry’s stuff, head over to his website HERE and have a look. There are tons of great figures to see there. Or better yet, if you see him at a show, take a few minutes to look at them in person.
In the evenings at these shows, there is usually a bunch of us piling in a couple of cars and heading to someplace close for some chow. On Saturday night, from the advice of friend and fellow dealer Bob, we headed to an Italian place down the street that he was giving high praise too. It was called Tuscanos and it was just amazing. Sure, it looked like some real life Soprano’s were going to walk in at any minute, but the food was delicious. After working behind the table all day, it is really nice to be able to sit and eat with some good friends and some great conversations. Hanging out with our convention family is one of the best things about doing these shows.
Which brings me the other surprise event that we were lucky enough to be a part of Saturday night. At the very first Cinema Wasteland, back in Sept. of 2000, right across from us was a dealer selling t-shirts, and some pretty damn cool ones at that. Her name was Jill and her company was LixOnline and this was her very first horror convention. A couple of years later, at the very first Flashback show, she was set up right next to us. We’ve became pretty good friends over the years, seeing each other several times a year at different shows and events. When I’ve mention before about having a convention family, it really is like that. I’ve known Jill now for 13 years now and I can’t think of anybody that is nicer, friendlier and just such a great person, always bringing homemade goodies for the other dealers. Then a few years ago, not really sure how long, but she met another guy who was working the convention circuit, named Gregg Olheiser. Sometime later, they were doing shows together. And then all of a sudden….they got MARRIED! Okay…maybe not that sudden. But at this Flashback show, some of her friends, namely the wonderful Cassie Garrison, got together to give Gregg and Jill a little surprise belated Wedding party in the lobby at the hotel. Needless to say, they were both surprised and very happy to see so many of their friends get together for something like this. Since we only see these people a few times a year, we are one big happy horror family! Congrats to Gregg and Jill and to many happy years together! It’s an honor to be part of your convention family, as well as all the other great friends we see at the shows.
Well, we better wrap up this report since I think I’ve rambled on long enough. Below you will find plenty of photos highlights of the Q&A and the weekend. Once again, a huge thanks to Mike and Mia for putting on such a great show. We look forward to doing it all over again next year!