I know that I apologize every time I’m absent for a while but this time, I mean it. I do honestly wish that I could have more time to devote to this seeing that my last post was months ago (January to be exact), but this time I bring you one heck of an entry. With me almost turning 40, I would love to devote myself to this thing more than I have, and to maybe have it become one of the most read horror blogs on the internet. There’s so much I’ve acquired into my collection – I’ve recently become a rabid laserdisc collector – that I’d like to share with you all so please be patient with me, as I do plan to write as much as I can within the next eleven months. If you’d like to see me review a specific 80’s film, don’t hesitate to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on the Linus Loves 80’s Horror Facebook page. Thank you as always for reading this blog and for supporting the way you guys do. I love it! I just recently attended my very first horror convention – yes, my very first. Can you believe that? – advertised as SCAREanormal Fresno: Horror, Paranormal & Pop Culture Fan Expo presented by THC Talent and the Central Valley Horror Club that took place this past June 28-30, 2013 held at the Piccadilly Inn – Airport in Fresno, California.
A few weeks ago, just after my 39th birthday, I was sitting in a local movie theater waiting with my new buddy Matt for The Purge to begin when I received a text message from a mutual friend of ours that was nothing but a web address and a short message. When I got home, I looked up the webpage and found out that it was to a horror convention that was coming to the Fresno area within a few weeks. Of course, I was immediately interested and being the horror nut that I am, I’d never been to an official horror show or convention of any kind. I’d heard about them, as my cousin Daniel would attend some of the larger ones down in the Los Angeles area and always brought back the most amazing photos and memorabilia, but I’d never had the time (or the funds) to attend one. I began to browse through some of the many names that were scheduled to appear and though the list was impressive I was immediately sold when I saw that Victor Miller, writer of the original Friday the 13th, Ari Lehman, who played the boy Jason in that film and who holds the title of being the first Jason in the series, and the fabulous Felissa Rose of Sleepaway Camp were on the roster. There were other guests that were scheduled to appear, such as Sig Haig of House of 1000 Corpses, a panel of actors from both the Walking Dead television series and the Porky’s film series, and others. So, with Fresno being only a mere thirty-five minute drive, I did what I needed to do and immediately purchased three tickets for myself for the Friday leg (as it was going to be an entire weekend thing), one for my friend Matt, and another cousin of mine. I’d never even heard of THC Talent or the Central Valley Horror Club so I was intrigued from the beginning on how an event like this would even be like. I liked the idea of the VIP pass which included a lot of major freebies and access but I was only able to afford the one-day ticket price of $26 – which I thought at first was a little hefty for being an event in Fresno but if you stick around long enough, you’ll see that I will quickly change my tune.
First of all, let me say that Sleepaway Camp remains one of my most favorite and beloved eighties slashers of all time. And I’m not going to be shy about this, but I held a large torch for Felissa Rose all through my teenage years, even though I remained heterosexually-challenged, and even through my adulthood. If you know me well, you know that I hold that particular film near and dear to my heart as it was one of those films that scarred me as a kid, seeing that I viewed it for the first time when I was eleven years old. I’m not sure if I’ve reviewed it here yet, but if I haven’t you better believe I’ll be making some kind of effort to put it up here soon. She was so innocent in that film, so pretty, and so naïve. So you can imagine my horror and shock when I saw that ending for the first time and how it stayed burned in my memory to this day. It was something that stuck in my brain and stayed with me. And after I was able to finally get my own copy of the (*cough* - uncut) VHS back in the nineties, I would watch it all the time just to see her. And you’d think that being hetero-challenged I’d be watching it for other reasons – which I did, but she was the main reason I popped that tape into the VCR at every chance I could. Once I started being more vocal about my fanaticism toward the eighties slasher and the horror genre as a whole, I was surprised, and rather delighted, to hear how many of my friends not only remembered Sleepaway Camp, but talked about it with me with the same fondness and regard that I’d held it with for so many years. For all of us, it had been a staple of our childhood.
If you’ve read the very first entry in this blog from back in 2008, you already know just how much Friday the 13th means to me as a horror fan. And not for anything, but we all have Victor Miller to thank for writing a little screenplay with the awesome title of Long Night At Camp Blood that with a title change, some great casting, and a hell of a spooky atmosphere (and soundtrack!) would turn that little horror sleeper into the mega-franchise and pop culture staple that it is today. Everyone in the world has seen Friday the 13th or at least knows who Jason is. Without Victor we wouldn’t have Camp Crystal lake. We wouldn’t have Camp Crystal Lake or Mrs. Pamela Voorhees. And without Victor, we wouldn’t have Jason, period. I owe a lot to that man as an avid horror fan and horror writer/blogger. If he’d never written Friday the 13th, my father would have never tortured me with it as an eight-year old and my curiosity for the slasher film would have never blossomed into what it is today. And the same goes for Ari Lehman, who played the very first Jason and the reason for my nightmares when I was a kid. Just that moment where he jumps out of the water – iconic.
So we arrived a little after six p.m. which was much later than I’d wanted to show up. When we got off the car, we were surprised to see that there weren’t many cars out front which immediately caused us to think that we’d gone to the wrong hotel. Upon entering we were delightfully surprised to see that the lines to get inside were almost non-existent. Since we’d purchased our tickets more than two weeks in advance, we got to enter before the people who were waiting to buy them and before we knew it, we were inside. There weren’t many members of the public walking around which was exactly what I hoped for. We walked into the first room and were treated with a vendor of hard-to-find and out of print movies who was also selling 11X17 horror poster reprints. We took a look through them and ended up buying a few of them, like both the U.S. and Euro versions of Suspiria, the original Friday the 13th, and Silent Night, Deadly Night, but what we liked most from that room was the fact that Angus Oblong, creator of the Cartoon Network series The Oblongs, had his own table surrounded by prints of his artwork, donning his trademark clown makeup. For my friend, Matt, this was more than he could have ever asked for. Angus was nice enough to sign two prints and pose with Matt for a photo.
We then walked into the main area of the convention, with tables around the perimeter of the room and all down the center. There weren’t many people there, as well which was everything I wanted. We started to walk around and started gawking at the tables and some of the actors that were on the roster. For me, though, I had mainly attended to hopefully meet Felissa Rose of Sleepaway Camp, Victor Miller, writer of the original Friday the 13th, and Ari Lehman who was young Jason in the original Friday the 13th. As we walked around, out of the corner of my eye I became immediately star struck when I saw Felissa in the flesh sitting at her table. Was I nervous? Well, seeing that she is my all-time favorite horror female (next to Amy Steel) it was pretty nerve-wracking to have waited years and years to be in the same room with her and then have my wait suddenly be over. So in a word: yes, I was very nervous. When I approached her table she saw my Sleepaway Camp tee shirt and immediately stood up to greet me. So immediately I let her know that I was there to see her and from then on, it was pretty much all magic. She was not only the nicest gal in the world, she was sweet, very talkative and very responsive to all of the little questions I’d always wanted to ask her. She offered to sign my Sleepaway Camp tee shirt – which now I’m going to have to get framed – and took photo after photo with me, even one with her trademark Angela scream-face! Now that was something I’ve always wanted and she was gracious enough to suggest it! She also signed a photo for me tagging it, To Leonel, meet me at the waterfront after the social!, which is one of my favorite lines of the original film. After hanging out with her for a short while, we left the table but promised to come back to see her later on during the night.
If you’ve ever read the very first entry of this blog, you’ll know that Friday the 13th was the first horror film I’d ever watched – back at the tender age of eight – and that the film is the whole reason why I became interested in the slasher film and why I became the horror nut that I am today. During the latter part of my teenage years, and after having gotten over my inner childhood fear of Jason Voorhees, I got deeper and deeper into the whole Friday the 13th mythos and storyline and one day as I was watching Part 2 I said to myself, Someday, I’d like to meet Victor Miller and thank him for writing the first film and for being the reason I got into horror in the first place. It was a very genuine and innocent wish but in my own mind, I knew that it was not only too good to ever happen but it was so far from my reach. When I saw him sitting there, I became overwhelmed with excitement because I knew that not only was I going to meet him, he was going to sign my Friday the 13th laserdisc! It was like I was coming full circle and to tell you the truth, it was the best feeling in the world. I approached him, shook his hand, and instantly, we were drawn to a fantastic conversation about the origins of Mrs. Voorhees herself, his role in making the first film a permanent staple in pop culture, and in that conversation I was finally able to say that him writing the original film – and my father torturing me with it when I was only eight – was the sole reason that I got into the slasher film and horror in general and that if he hadn’t, I don’t know who or what I would be today. For one thing, this blog would not even exist, that’s for sure. And I really don’t even want to think of what I’d be without the slasher film in my life. We talked for a good while longer before the moment I’d waited for came to pass: the signing of my laserdisc. He was gracious enough to sign it To Leonel, you have come full circle! as he completely understood where I was coming from and how much this meeting – and this night – would mean to me. My favorite part about talking with Victor was when he shared with me the origin of his ideas regarding Mrs. Voorhees. She was the mother I always wanted, he said. My mother was the type that would say, ‘Hell, you drowned because you were dumb enough to not learn how to swim!’ whereas Mrs. Voorhees was the type of mother who did anything and everything for her son – even if it meant ultimately avenging his death. Wow, to hear something like that coming from the creator of everything Crystal Lake was a dream come true, and something I won’t soon forget.
Then it was on to finally meet and chat with Ari Lehman, the very first Jason Voorhees. I do have to be honest here and say that I was a bit leery of meeting him, as I’d read online and heard through horror friends that he wasn’t much on the nice side. So I stood on the sidelines for a while and watched him set up his table and listened as he interacted with some of the people around him. I wondered if he’d be willing to sign my laserdisc – as the mere thought of having both his and Victor’s signature on the same piece of memorabilia was exciting me the more I thought about it – and how receptive he’d be with me being such a huge fan of the original film. When he was ready to talk to everyone, he turned into a completely different person – an amicable and personable one. I got to be the first person to talk with him and he was very nice and immediately likeable. He saw my laserdisc and immediately offered to sign it which, of course, just thrilled me. But here’s the part of story I’ll be telling my children: As he tried to sign it with a silver marker (I was going to offer
him mine that Victor had just used), he went and opened a new package of gold Sharpies to which he took one out and began to shake it to make sure that it was going to work. Little did he realize that he’d splattered the entire bottom portion of my laserdisc with gold ink! He looked down, saw what he’d done and began to sincerely apologize over and over again for “fucking up my piece”. I looked at it and immediately loved what I was looking at. I chuckled and let him know that it looked like gold-colored blood splatter to me and he quickly agreed and both us shared a bit of laughter. He not only signed the ‘blood splattered’ laserdisc but he signed a fantastic photo of himself as the young Jason being made up by the maestro Tom Savini which had also gotten some of the splatter from the marker. Ari and I got to talk for just a little while and I have to say that he was a great guy and was nothing like what I’ve read about him. The best part was that he only had two copies of the photo of him and Savini – which I got one and my cousin who attended with me got the other, and to hear Ari tell other fans, “those two cool guys got the only two I brought with me” was the icing on the cake.
We walked around for a while to let everything that had just happened sink in and we noticed that two of the other people I’d come to see were nowhere to be found: Hal Sparks of Talk Soup and Queer as Folk fame, and Alex Vincent who played Andy in the original Child’s Play. When we asked up at the front if they were going to show, we were told that due to storms in the Midwest, their flights had been delayed and it was unknown if they were going to participate this year. As much as I did want to meet Hal Sparks (as I’m a very big fan of the first two seasons of Queer as Folk) and Alex Vincent (I mean, who isn’t a fan of the first Chucky movie?), I was more than thrilled with how the night was unfolding. We went into the next room, which held a ton of comic books, horror action figures and a total treat for me: David Gregory, one of the co-founders of Severin Films was there! I have a ton of their releases ranging from Jess Franco’s Bloody Moon, fantastic versions of Santa Sangre, Bloody Birthday, and my all-time favorite Fulci film The Psychic in its complete uncut version! Promoting the new Severin release, The Manson Family, He, too, was talkative, very nice and was quickly willing to take a picture with me for this blog. These guys have great releases, check them out at http://www.severin-films.com/. Thank you, David!
Then, it was back into the main room to visit Felissa once again. This time, we got some very hilarious and wonderful anecdotes from her regarding the original Sleepaway Camp, its mega-homoerotic undertones (did you know that Billy, the guy that dies by bees is actually gay in real life? And did you know that all the boys wearing tight little shorts and/or tight shirt or no shirts at all was done on purpose?), the classic cut “naked guys running down the dock” scene, and her friendship with horror icon David Hess! My favorite part of the conversation with her (well, aside from all the juicy bits about David Hess that I’ll keep to myself, bwahaha!) was finally getting to know why she did not do Sleepaway Camp 2. It was pretty simple: She wanted to continue her education and the school she was going to attend would not let her admit twice, so she had to pass. As simple as that answer was, it was something I’d always been curious about as a huge fan of the original film. But it was even better to hear that Felissa herself is not only a fan of parts 2 and 3, but she’s a big fan of Pamela Springsteen and even went on to say that, Nobody could have ever played Angela better than Pam! Oh, and did you know that Felissa and Karen Fields, who played uber-bitch Judy, were actually very good friends? Felissa was such a doll to us, so pretty (and petite) in person and was so ready to talk about everything Sleepaway Camp.
I even got to say to her that back in Texas, I have a ring of friends who are die-hard horror fans and when I asked them all one night at a get together some years ago, what was the one 80’s slasher film that fucked you up as a kid?, the collective answer being Sleepaway Camp! Not only did she find that overtly hilarious, but she said she would take that and hold it close to her heart forever. And that was like a million bucks for a guy like me.
Then, the night reached its pinnacle of fantastic. Felissa asked me if I’d gone over to Sean Whalen’s table to meet him, as he was a good friend of hers. Wait, Sean Whalen? As in Sean Whalen, Roach of The People Under the Stairs? Sean Whalen who played cute little Alan Sanders in Twister? Why of course I had to meet him! Taking my by the hand, she took me over to where he was standing quietly and smiling, politely introduced us and let us get to know each other. This guy, let me tell you, was so funny and just so down to earth. We shared a couple of laughs, talked a little bit about Wes Craven and what it was like working with him and before I knew it, we were engaging in a very funny and very cool conversation. We shared some more laughs and then realized that I didn’t have anything for him to sign (as somehow my mind had completely forgotten that he’d been scheduled to appear – can you believe that?). So I bought the 11X17 of The People Under the Stairs from him and poof! there was his signature in silver pen for me to behold and take home with me. I actually had Roach’s signature to add to my collection! As this was going on, both Felissa and Victor had come to join in and I soon realized that I was surrounded by all these people that I respected and adored and it was a feeling that can’t even be described. I even noticed that with all the other fans that were walking around and checking out the sights, they were hanging out with me! I stood there with them in a dreamlike state, laughing and chatting like we’d all been friends for years and then it hit me: take a picture with all three of them! So, I asked them if they’d be willing to pose for one more picture and with one collective and enthusiastic Yes!, it was Felissa, Victor, Sean, and myself posing for what I could only call a fantasy photograph come true. Yowza!
So after this photograph, I said good-bye to Sean and went over to say good-bye to Mr. Miller. He embraced me tight, thanked me for coming, and urged me to keep on supporting the horror community. He gave me his business card, hugged me once more and asked to keep in touch with him. That part was fantastic. Me keeping in touch with Señor Miller. Now that was something to think about. We then went over to say good-bye to Felissa, who promised us that next time she was in Fresno, she was going to look us up and have us enjoy a night out with her. Partying with Felissa Rose, now that’s something to think about! We left the convention a little before 9pm and I was really surprised on how much we got to do, how much we got to see, and how much fun we actually had in that short bit of time. We walked out the doors of the hotel feeling happy and proud and very satisfied with how things went that night. From someone who was pessimistic at first about what the experience would be like, I walked away extremely pleased. It was a night that I will never forget.
I would like to take the time to thank THC Talent and the Central Valley Horror Club for putting this shindig together. It was fantastic and better than I could have ever imagined it to be. Though I was only able to attend the first night of the convention, let me say that if it’s decided for it to be held again next year, I will probably do the VIP weekend. I wish I would have been able to do it this year, but work and other commitments just didn’t allow me to do so. You all did a great job in bringing great horror names down to the Central Valley. Suggestion for future shows? Bring us C.J. Graham, the Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives, Robert Englund, Freddy Krueger himself, Zach Galligan of Waxwork and Gremlins fame, and possibly Heather Langenkamp of Nightmare on Elm Street! You guys did a bang up job and I can’t wait to attend next year’s Scareanormal Fresno!
P.S. Little did we know that while talking to Felissa Rose, we were being taped by local the local CBS affiliate who, unbeknownst to us, were covering the opening night of the convention. Fantastic! Thank you again, THC Talent and Central Valley Horror Club! Here is the link to the TV coverage if you're interested. http://www.cbs47.tv/news/local/story/Scareanormal-Horror-Convention-Comes-to-Fresno/XhpkwE4E9U2IlsLpaz_ARg.cspx You can see me at the 0:27-0:29 mark on the very far right of the screen. Enjoy!