Let the Bodies and the Peanut Shells Hit the Floor
Those of you who read my report on HorrorHound Monroeville will recall that my visit to that convention was ugly. That trip involved a slain deer, an utterly depressed con buddy and a disappointing con itself. With these things in mind, I boarded my plane for HH Indianapolis wondering what I had in store for me. There would be no vehicular animal slaughter this time, because I wasn't driving. No morose X, as I was going solo. But would the con itself fair any better than Monroeville? Only time would answer that.
This convention had one thing going for it that put it a cut above any other convention I've ever been to: Joe Dante was a guest. Dante rarely does cons, and the ones he attends are usually in California. Since my very first con, he's been on the top of my "want to meet" list. So I decided even before my trip to Monroeville that I was going to Indy. Add in Dick Miller and Belinda Balaski, neither of whom I'd met, and the lovely Dee Wallace, and there was no way I could've said no to this Howling reunion.
Imagine how stunned I was when, a few hours into the con on Friday night, I turned the corner by Dee's table and saw her talking to Dante! I crept in very close to them, and as soon as Dante turned around to talk with Miller, I tapped Dee on the shoulder. The conversation went like this:
Phil Fasso: Excuse me, Dee.
Dee Wallace: Yes, Phil?
PF: Was that Joe Dante you were just talking with? (knees start to buckle)
DW: Yes. Would you like me to introduce you?
PF: Oh God yes! (foam starts to form on mouth)
DW: Joe, come here. This is Phil. He's one of our biggest fans, for The Howling.
Joe Dante: (looks over the very large Phil) Oh, he's a BIG fan all right!
PF: (Takes JD's hand): Mr. Dante, I've been such a huge fan of The Howling since I first saw it when I was young! You're the celebrity I've wanted to meet most in over 4 years of going to cons! (starts to slobber)
JD: Thank you very much. I'll be signing tomorrow. Feel free to stop by my table.
PF: (Indistinct babbling for about 5 more minutes. Eventually gives JD back his hand).
Phil with Dee Wallace
He wasn't supposed to be there til Saturday, but I tried to sneak in my Howling poster for him to sign. He very politely explained that this was the first time he was ever charging at a convention, because he doesn't believe in charging, and he didn't want to upset the promoters. I totally understood Dante's willingness to please the con's promoters, even if I didn't quite understand why they were making him charge.
Phil with Joe Dante
Alas, I wouldn't be giving you a fair and balanced review of HH Indy if a Howling reunion were my only criterion. If you read my review of HorrorHound Monroeville, my litany of praise and complaints here is going to sound awfully familiar. On the positive side, HH Indy offered guests I had never met before. Sure, there were your familiar faces to the circuit, such as Derek Mears and Danielle Harris (who seems to be the female version of Kane Hodder lately; I'm starting to wonder if she had cloned herself, she does so many shows lately). But there was also Dante, and a few other rarities with him. Belinda Balaski told me she had never done a show outside of Cali. And another fan told me Dick Miller's wife had mentioned that this was only the 2nd show Miller had ever done. Throw in Jeffrey Combs, who does cons every so often, A. Michael Baldwin of Rob G's very beloved Phantasm series, and Jake Busey (I cannot make that up; yes, people were paying to meet Jake Busey) and HH gave the fans reason to come out. Fortunately, all the guests I spoke to were very kind and appreciative. I also found some Slayer concerts on DVD (thank you for giving me the 3rd one for free, Mr. Vendor) and bought a Tombs of the Blind Dead t-shirt, as well the book Make Your Own Damn Movie from the Troma table. So the same goodies at Monroeville followed to Indy.
Phil with Belinda Balaski
Phil with Dick Miller
Unfortunately, so did some of the negatives. I had some foreknowledge this time that Joe Dante wouldn't be there on Friday; but why not mention that on the website, where it clearly states at the bottom of the page, "all celebrities are confirmed for all three days of the event, unless otherwise noted, but are subject to cancellation due to professional commitments outside of HorrorHound's control?" Obviously Dante wasn't filming anything on Friday night, because as I mentioned, I saw him. Doug Jones also was a no-show on Friday. Another drawback of the guest list was its size. There were basically 21 celebrities from horror movies here, many of whom were repeats from HH Monroeville, many of whom also frequently show up on the circuit. It got to the point where I've seen so much of Danielle Harris of late, I actually passed on getting her autograph. Now I'm sure many of these stars are new to the Indy area; but for a well-traveled vet of the con circuit, I'd rather have seen more of the rare guests, and a bigger guest list in general. The number of vendors here was a little greater than it was in Monroeville; but after 6 hours of walking around it on Friday night, and another 5 on Saturday, I once again told myself I could have gotten all my business done in one day. I understand that the HH shows are small scale, which has its perks and disadvantages just like anything else. With time, maybe they will develop into larger scale shows, with a bigger fan base.
As far as Indianapolis itself, I didn't find much to do. Friday, before the con, I ate at the Texas Roadhouse. With fond memories of Dallas and Frightmare Weekend in my mind, I was disappointed to find that this was not the down home bbq style roadhouse I had visited in Texas; so there would be no okra or meatballs drenched in bbq sauce for me. But the ribs were a cut above, and my waiter was a nice guy. He suggested checking out a jazz club called the Slippery Noodle in downtown Indianapolis, and the racing museum. After lunch, I headed to the city itself, and was through the whole place in three minutes. This was a "city," but a city much like Charlotte, NC, where my buddy Fasano lives. As I live 20 minutes from Manhattan, I was left unimpressed by this small scale metropolis. Clearly, I would be spending much time in my room with my iPod and Nintendo DS.
I decided by 3 o'clock on Saturday that I had exhausted all the possibilities at HH Indy. So heading back to the hotel, I made a return visit to the Texas Roadhouse. Seeing my Howling shirt, the teenage hostess bombarded me with questions about the con, as she wasn't able to make it herself because of work. After she sat me, my waiter Chazz came and sat down across from me. He was even more avid about horror than the hostess. As I ate, he hit me with roughly 57 questions about the con, and asked me about my favorite horror movies. After a discussion about the greatness of George Romero, at his suggestion I ordered the chicken smothered in gravy (and man, did Chazz know what he was talking about! Though I'm a mild vegetarian, it was worth breaking my meat fast two days in a row for that chicken!). On one of Chazz' many return visits, I asked him what the deal was with the little steel buckets of peanuts on every table. "I don't quite get it myself," he explained. "It's part of the at-home atmosphere, where you can just throw your shells on the floor." I then proceeded to eat about 47 peanuts and toss the shells to the floor. Hey, when in Rome, as they say.
I made sure to get a pic with Chazz, for my report. I also slipped him a business card, and gained one more convert to Icons of Fright. As I was leaving, it occurred to me that Chazz and I probably have two very disparate ideas on what would make a good con. I'm going to Chiller at the end of October. That's a month and a half away, and they already have over 70 guests listed. Chazz, who told me "There's always corn" when I asked him what there was to do in Indy, probably would have been thrilled with the con. The very same small guest list and amount of vendors which I found less than enthusing, would have dazzled my waiter.
I ended my review of HH Monroeville by saying, "Perhaps I'll have a better perspective on HorrorHound Weekend in Indianapolis when I go in August. After all, I'm flying there." After reflection, I can objectively say that the HorrorHound shows are an uneven mix. A small guest list with rare celebrities who are all genuinely nice people balance out a small scale con experience where all the guests might not be there all three days, even if fans think they will. If I were ever to go to another HH would depend on just how interesting the offbeat guest list is. But for Chazz and people like him, HH might just suit expectations. --Phil Fasso