Monday, October 13, 2014

2 Hours at Horrorhound

Cody talks about mingling with Friday the 13th stars and scoring presents for Priscilla.

Every April and October, I attend the Cinema Wasteland convention in Strongsville, Ohio and return to write step-by-step accounts of my experiences during each Wasteland weekend. Cinema Wasteland is the only convention I spend the whole weekend at, but I do occasionally stop by other conventions if they're within a reasonable driving distance and there's a guest who draws me in.
Last month, the Horrorhound Weekend in Indianapolis met that criteria, and I attended the convention... not for three days, but for two hours on its opening day.

The quickness of the visit is indicative of the fact that I was a man on a mission that day. I wasn't there to loaf around and soak in the atmosphere, I had specific signatures I wanted to get. And those signatures were from celebrity guests associated with the Friday the 13th franchise.

My obsession with the Friday the 13th movies has been documented on the blog, I've spoken of the copy of the Crystal Lake Memories book that I've gotten signed by so many people I've lost count at this point. At this Horrorhound, I got it signed a few more times. But I wasn't just getting autographs for myself. My frequent collaborator, Remake Comparison Project co-author Priscilla is also a dedicated fan of the F13s, so I was getting autographs for her as well. Living in Brazil, Priscilla doesn't get a chance to meet the stars of some of her favorite movies, but she deserves to have a collection of signatures from them and I'm determined to help her build one.

Horrorhound Indy is kind of hard to get around on your own, being spread out through multiple rooms on the ground floor of the Marriott hotel that houses it, but luckily there are maps on the ticket table that show you where the rooms are and which guests are in which room. Map in hand, I checked out the guest rooms to get my bearings and to see if anything other than the F13 guests caught my eye, but I didn't really want to spend money on anything else because I had several signatures to get.

The first celebrity guest I approached was William Butler. In his acting days, Butler went up against some of the greatest icons in the horror genre. He was in two episodes of the Nightmare on Elm Street TV show Freddy's Nightmares, he got sawed by Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, he cowered from Romero zombies in the 1990 Night of the Living Dead remake, he even had some trouble with the ghoulies in Ghoulies II. Most importantly, he played a victim in Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood.

I needed Butler to sign my copy of Crystal Lake Memories, which he did, but I had considered not getting his signature for Priscilla, since he has so little screentime in the film. My mind was changed when Priscilla said to get the signature of anyone who was involved with the '80s entries in the F13 series, no matter how small their role was. So I had Butler sign a picture "To Pri", and when she saw that picture she was very happy that I had gotten him to sign something for her. As she says, he doesn't have a lot of screentime, but his character is the reason most of the movie's victims have gathered together in Jason Voorhees's territory.

Butler primarily works behind the camera these days, and is currently writing and producing a project called The Survivors, which will star a bunch of genre actresses. It's being described as the Expendables of horror. One of the actresses who has signed on is Adrienne King, heroine of the original Friday the 13th. King was a guest at this Horrorhound as well, and since she had a long line at her table I figured it would be for the best if I were to get in that line and secure her signature before moving on to anyone else.

It took a sweaty while to reach King's table, but once I did I got her to sign a picture of the final jump scare in Friday the 13th - the drowned boy Jason leaping from Crystal Lake to pull her out of her canoe. King was one of the guests who I didn't need to get to sign my CLM book, as I had gotten her signature in it years ago. The stop by her table was just for a "To Pri".

I then took that picture right over to the table of the man who played young Jason in the film and leaped from the lake to grab Adrienne King, Ari Lehman. I hadn't expected Lehman to be at this show, he wasn't on the website or listed on the map, but I took advantage of his presence for Priscilla. He was one of the first people I got to sign my CLM, way back in 2006, so he was another who only signed something "To Pri" for me that today, and I had him sign the same picture King did. He gave me a choice between two options - sign it "Jason Never Dies" or "Jason Is Watching"? I went with "Watching".

While signing Priscilla's picture, Lehman asked me how long it had been since I had watched the original F13 myself, a question to which my response was, "A couple weeks." He thought that was a good answer, and said he's grateful that the film's popularity still endures all these years later.

At the table next to Lehman's was someone I needed to have sign both CLM and something to Priscilla, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter victim Peter Barton. I didn't realize it at the time, but because Barton was in Hell Night as well as one of the best F13s, it was his signature that Priscilla would truly go crazy over. The fact that he was wearing a purple shirt when he signed "To Pri" to her made it even better.

Next to Barton was his Final Chapter co-star Judie Aronson, but as I stepped into her line, my Horrorhound visit reached the speed bump that made it last two hours instead of one. Unbeknownst to me, the Final Chapter cast members were about to celebrate the film's thirtieth anniversary with a Q&A panel.

As convention volunteers led Barton, Aronson, and the third Final Chapter guest - Jason Voorhees himself, Ted White - out of the room, down a hall, across the lobby, down another hall, through a restaurant area, to the panel room, I followed along as if I were a fourth TFC alum. White was fifty-seven when he played Jason, now he's eighty-seven and still in incredible shape. He handled that walking distance like it was nothing.

The Final Chapter guests stopped outside the door of the panel room, where panel moderator/magazine writer Kristy Jett informed them that she would go in ahead and introduce them so they could enter the room to thunderous applause. Through this, I was standing just off to the side, as if I were still part of the group.

Jett entered the room and went up to the stage, and since I wasn't really someone who was supposed to wait for thunderous applause, I went in ahead of the actors and took a seat. Barton, Aronson, and White were introduced, there was applause, and the actors entered the room. As they approached the stage, Barton acted like he was running from White/Jason in fear.

Once the actors had taken their seats on stage, what commenced was a very interesting hour long talk about their careers and mostly, of course, about The Final Chapter. Although a lot of the basic information gleaned from the panel has also been revealed in either the CLM book, the documentary, or interviews throughout the years, it was still entertaining to hear it from the actors directly.

White is a very funny man, he reiterated twice during the panel the motto of "Always leave them laughing", so his stories were often told in a humorous manner. In addition to stories about the making of TFC, he also told a couple stories from his early days as a stuntman in the 1950s. There was a serious edge to his talk of the disagreements he had on set with Final Chapter director Joseph Zito, but it was quite funny when he would talk about the other person on the set he couldn't stand, his bratty little co-star Corey Feldman. White hated working with Feldman, but apparently the pair buried the hatchet at a recent convention. White wasn't proud of The Final Chapter in 1984, he chose to go uncredited on it, but his perspective has changed over the years, and now he's very happy to interact with the film's fans.

There's one subject that any Final Chapter discussion always has to cover, and that's Judie Aronson nearly freezing during the filming of her death scene. If that wasn't bad enough, Aronson also got covered in poison ivy or poison oak after filming in the woods.

The most interesting fact I learned from Barton and Aronson is that several of the cast members hooked up with each other. Barton and Aronson had already gone on a date (they went to see the play Brighton Beach Memoirs) before being cast in TFC, they had met on the short-lived TV show The Powers of Matthew Star, on which Barton played Matthew Star and Aronson made a guest appearance. On the set of TFC, they both continued their onscreen relationships offscreen - Barton with Barbara Howard, Aronson with Alan Hayes. A few years later, Barton would end up getting engaged to the film's Final Girl, Kimberly Beck, who was involved with the producer during filming. A couple years ago, Aronson was invited out by their co-star Crispin Glover, and during their night out together she realized that Glover had intended for this night out to be a date.

When the panel ended, I exited the room and made my way back to the guest rooms. Giving Aronson and White time to get back to their tables and settle in, I stopped by the table of another celebrity guest, Lochlyn Munro, who was killed by Jason in Freddy vs. Jason. Since Munro's installment wasn't part of the F13 series' '80s heyday, I only had him sign my CLM book. However, when I later told Priscilla that he was actor I opted not to get a "To Pri" picture from, she said she does like him, and in addition to FvsJ cited White Chicks as one of his career highlights. She has a positive outlook on that film, which I didn't realize until after I had made a joke at its expense. So since Pri likes White Chicks and one of its writers, Andy McElfresh, is a cool guy, I guess it's okay by me, too.

With Munro's name in my book, I headed back over to the room where the Final Chapter guests were located, and they were back at their tables by this time. Aronson was already busy signing something for someone else, so I got Ted White to sign a picture "To Pri" first. His name was added to my CLM several years ago.

The picture I chose for him to sign was of his Jason looking out a window after the final girl has leaped through it, and he asked me if I remembered that particular stunt. I definitely do, it's an awesome moment in the film. While White signed, I noticed that he had a can of Skoal chewing tobacco on the table, ready for him to take lipfuls out of at his leisure. I guess if the habit hasn't caught up to him yet at eighty-seven, who's to tell him he should quit?

From White I moved on to the last person I needed a signature from, Judie Aronson. She signed my CLM book, and the last item I got signed that day was a picture that Aronson signed "To Pri".

With that, my time at Horrorhound Weekend came to an end. I only expected it to last one hour, but because of the surprise TFC panel it ended up being two, but getting to see that panel was totally worth the extra time spent. During those two hours, I got four names added to my copy of Crystal Lake Memories and tripled Priscilla's signature collection, as she had previously only had autographs from Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees in parts 7 through X), Steve Dash (Jason in part 2), and Amy Steel (the heroine in part 2), and I got those Dash and Steel autographs for her last year. I'm sure her collection won't be ending at nine.

It was a successful and enjoyable two hours, and if there are F13 guests booked next time, I'll do it all over again next year.

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