I step up to the entrance of the Baltimore Mariot. It’s my first con. I was unable to get tickets online because my traveling partner waited until the last minute to confirm. We got about ninety minutes before the posted start time. I fear there will be a long wait for the tickets or, worst yet, because the universe has a vendetta against me, all of the tickets will have magically disappeared. As we walk up through the parking lot, I spot cars with Jason, Michael Myers, and Evil Dead bumber stickers. One guy has a large zombie bobblehead perched on his dash. These are my people, I think. My anxiety is alleviated, replaced instead by excitement.
We step through the door. Not only isn’t there any sort of line, there’s not a single other person in the lobby. Nothing. There is no immediate sign of life anywhere else. My traveling partner asked, “Is this the right place?” Apparently there is such a thing as being too early.
After a little more searching, we found the ticket booth and a con schedule. A near-by escalator led to the Fright Rags t-shirt table. Okay, so we were in the right place. It was quickly decided to pop for the deluxe tickets so we could get into the con an hour early. I didn’t want to miss out on anything.
There wasn’t any threat of that. As we step through the hallways of Monster-Mania 20 proper, the majority of dealers tables and booths weren’t even set up yet. The room were celebs would be signing was barren and empty. The tables marked with simple pieces of papers and names was the only sign that we hadn’t accidentally slip three days into the future.
I scan the tables, spotting many of the expected names. Tony Todd, Jeffrey Combs, Zach Galligan, and others. But one important name is missing. Where’s the Atkins?
While the majority of con-goers, I suspect, came out for John Carpenter or one of the many other “Halloween” themed guests, Tom Atkins was the deciding factor for me. Yes, PJ Soles, Tony Todd, Carpenter, and maybe a few others were all guests I wanted to see. And, of course, just to scrounge the dealers floor and go out and meet people. But, mostly: Atkins. I was worried
his flight had been canceled or something. But, as I was walking back to the car to retrieve my camera, who but Tom Atkins himself walked by, playing with some sort of smart phone.
Times were good.
After paying too much for a German “Night of the Creeps” poster, which wasn’t the one I wanted, I found the room where all the Halloween related guests were gathered. I walk up to Tom’s table and, of course, he had replicas of the poster I want right there. But, whatever. Tom seemed pretty cool, just as sharp and humorous as you’d expect. He made repeated references to the Fright Rags shirts around him, seeming slightly perplexed by his fandom’s admiration.
Of course, because I’m a nerd and had just gotten swept up in everything, I hadn’t manage to think of any good questions or topics of conversation. I stumbled through a few statements about how “Night of the Creeps” is an all-time fave and how he was the main reason I came out to Baltimore. I didn’t even need to tell him to sign the poster with “Thrill Me!” He’s probably going to get ask to write that a hundred times this weekend.
He showed me a small stack of stickers the company makes, inscribed with the message “It’s Atkins Time!” He told me to go back down to the Fright Rags table and instruct someone named Krista that this image should be blown up and placed on beer coasters. I had a mission, a message straight from the mouth of Det. Cameron himself.
PJ Soles was the next guest I really had to meet but, oh curses, I had left my “Rock n’ Roll High School” DVD back at the hotel room. By the time I got back to the convention, things had gone from sleepy to swinging. There were crowds of people out, everything was fully set up, and I saw both a Jason and a Michael Myers.
PJ Soles has got to be one of the nicest celebs I’ve meet. She seemed extremely pleased to see a “Rock n’ Roll High School” fan and admitted it was her favorite role. She talked enthusiastically about the film and her character. She signed my DVD numerously times without me even asking and even posed for multiple photos, to make sure we got the perfect one. She was just extremely friendly and nice.
The dealer’s room was impressive. There was a huge cube set up in the middle of the room, full of figures. (Sadly, nothing I needed or didn’t all ready have.) What really impressed me was the number of home-made crafts. A lady crocheted various horror movie villains, which were both adorable and awesome. One man was selling Christmas bulbs, hand-painted with the Star Trek captains, Doctors one through ten, Godzilla creatures, and, the most tempting selection for me, the Universal Monsters. There were also home-made action figures, LEGO creations, fascinating mix-medium paintings, picture boxes, prints, and mountains of bootleg DVDs. (Also, a chick with huge tits, working for some independent distributor, tricked me into buying some crappy indie flick. These people know their audience.)
Anyway, this is getting long so I’ll cut to the point: I stumbled back to the signing room. Tony Todd’s flight got delayed, so he wasn’t there. So I settled for Zach Galligan. (Nice, very willing to answer questions, but a little distracted. Also, we got into a minor conversation about the proper way to spell Zack. To quote, “Zach should always have a hard –ch sound, like Loch Ness Monster." And he confirmed my suspicion that "Waxwork" was written by a hyper-active twelve year old.)
I walked by a table and realized the attractive young lady sitting there was actually Phobe the Feeb, all grown up. Ashley Bank was quite nice and we talked for about ten minutes. She discussed how she didn’t even meet Tom Noonan until she was an adult. On the set, he was never out of make-up, so she just assumed she was hanging out with Frankenstein. We also discussed the disappearing Fred Dekker and how, even as a little girl, she loved horror movies. (She shared a great story about going to the "Nightmare on Elm Street 2" premiere, despite only being about five years old.)
Finally, I decided to go ahead and give Jeffrey Combs a look, despite what I’ve heard about his reputation. However, as I walked over, I noticed a guy sitting at a table with prints of Georgio, the titular creature from “Castle Freak.” Indeed, Jonathan Fuller not only played the monster in that film, but also the hero of Stuart Gordon’s “The Pit and the Pendulum.” The actor’s connection with the director goes back to Gordon’s stage play days. Fuller was another friendly, chatty, intelligent guy and another completely unexpected great guest I met. After going up to both Ashley and Mr. Fuller strictly out of curiosity, I ended up buying a signed print from both, just because they were so nice.
So, I decided the night was up for me, especially after scoring a really cool “Aquaman” t-shirt from a guy who turned out to be a sincere fan of the character. (And also had a whole bunch of other cool stuff for sale.) I walked past the Fright Rags table and noticed a young lady sitting there. I walked up and asked if her name was Krista. “Yep.” “Tom Atkins sent me.” The message was delivered. "The Atkin's words are law," she said. I couldn't agree more. My mission was complete.