I had visited Chiller Theatre almost twice a year since 1995, but today was different. Most Saturdays for the April venue called upon dark skies, wind, rain, and the kind of cold that seemed to herald in pneumonia. But today, I traveled in shorts, my “Breakfast at Zombies” shirt from www.threadless.com (with a creepy, zombified Audrey Hepburn), and the normal jitters accompanied with seeing horror stars I respected.
Chiller Theatre takes place in the Tara Sheraton in Parsippany, New Jersey – not far from where I used to work as a desk clerk at the Embassy Suites. But that brilliant sun seemed to affect everyone: strangers – fans of the horror genre – waved and smiled as they passed from between the lot and the hotel proper. Even the Parsippany Police were cordial. The only time I had a run-in with anything was when I left a bathroom stall only to be confronted by a waiting Killer Klown.
“Don’t kill me!” I said.
“Don’t worry,” he grumbled. “I have to pee first.”
Unlike the previous Chiller venue, which took place for many years in the Meadowlands, the Sheraton offers much more space for celebrities, fans, and vendors. In the past, we had to walk almost single file to view a merchant’s wares. Now, one can breathe, and shop like mad for the cool stuff many can’t seem to find elsewhere. Anything from statues to original posters, magazines to Living Dead Dolls are on the menu, and so much more.
Shop I did. Thanks to Sean at the VHS Preservation Society (www.vhsps.com) and Chemical Burn Entertainment (www.chemicalburn.org), I left with some long sought after DVDs of: POSSESSION, PARENTS, SPELLBINDER, DEAD OF NIGHT, QUARTERMASS AND THE PIT, and the big one for me: SOCIETY.
All manner of fans were about: Horror aficionados dressed like ROCKY HORROR characters, to the Kiss Army, a pirate, as well as some Steampunk lovers. Of course, Goth patrons roamed as if the dead had risen, and others sported either Misfits or Ramones T-shirts, while other tees depicted one’s favorite movies or shows, horror, sci-fi, or cult.
I met my friend, Sue Pettit and her husband, before she raced off to find her heartthrobs of yesteryear, and I made my way to the one room that held all the people I had come to see: Udo Kier, Will MacMillan, and Jeffrey Combs. All of them were wonderful, and we got a chance to chat for a while (All of them will be featured in forthcoming mini-posts – as well as Lloyd Kaufman, who I finally met after all these years). Soon after, I shopped until money started to run out, then made my way towards other stars. Unfortunately, many stars wanted $30 or more for an autographed photo, so I had to bail on David Warner, Karen Allen, and Judith O’Dea, as well as Nancy Allen, who looked fantastic.
For whatever reason, Chiller Theatre has opened up to all things cult, including family oriented fair, such as WILLIE WONKA and even THE PATTY DUKE SHOW. Patty Duke engaged fans, and so did boxing champion Jake LaMotta. The champ’s 91, walks tall, and I knew he could still knock me flat.
Everyone was wonderful, and I had a smile on my face the entire time. Then again, so did all the patrons, as far as I could tell, even the little girl in the stroller all trussed up like a zombie. Even those on the longest line of the day – for Debbie Gibson – were happy and patient. (I’m still not sure if it was the sun, the air conditioning, or the open space that led to so much good feeling, but I couldn’t recall ever having a bad experience at the convention.)
If you get a chance, the show runs on Sunday as well – though you can still check out a party this evening. Visit www.ChillerTheatre.com to learn more – and don’t miss their upcoming Halloween convention.
At a future show I hope to see Bruce Campbell, Michael Ironside, Clancy Brown, and Barbara Crampton will show up – and I long to see Harry Dean Stanton and Veronica Cartwright. Who knows?
If you’ve been to Chiller, let us know about your experience, and tell us about your favorite stars.