Two weeks ago, Amy and I took a break from killing ourselves on the Splatter Movieset and turned towards killing ourselves to get to New Jersey in time for the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors.
Like the Chicago show, the Jersey Fango is a great time and a terrific opportunity to network and catch up with friends. Unlike the Chicago show, we don't make a lot of money and the crowds are a lot thinner. Theories abound to explain this. The best one seems to be that the fifteen Monster Manias held throughout the year and the two Chillers draw attendance away from Fango. It's not like the golden days of the early 2000's when people had money. Gas tanks must be fed and at a higher price! Otherwise, the Eldritch God Dick Cheney will awaken, rise from his subsea slumber lair and shoot us all in the face.
Anyway, we like the show, profits be damned. So, Friday morning, we drove our six-plus hours to Secaucus, arriving around 11:00 in plenty of time to set up and relax before the 2:00 early-bird entrance time. Except the second we stepped through the door, we heard from line-dwellering friends (I'll Bury You Tomorrow's Alan Rowe Kelly and Art and Alana from Ultra Violent Magazine) that Creation Entertainment, the company in charge, will be opening the doors at noon to accomodate the demand. Our three-hour window vanished before our eyes.
Check in, rush upstairs, change clothes, sponge off the road dust, rush downstairs, find the registration, find our table - hi, hi, hey, good to see you, what's happening? what the fuck did you do to your hair? Tony Timpone? Passed him in the lobby. Good to see you. Not that way, I hate that guy. Hi, just a sec, be right back.
Our table was actually in a really good spot. We were in a corner, at the rear of the room, against a wall, between a loading door, an indie company promoting a movie called Closet Space (I believe... it's been two weeks and I'm old, sue me!) and our best friends at Pop Cinema (including the incomparable Paige K. Davis, filmmaker and organ grinder monkey Henrique Couto, and my good friend of nearly 15 years, Justin (Skin Crawl) Wingenfeld). Which was just awesome.
Then, as we began setting up, we heard a terrible scratching, screeching noise. At first, we thought someone had on some sort of odd sound effects record and put on the "Birds" track. A small rain of debris fell next to us and we looked up - there was a bird's nest just inside the drop-panel ceiling, under the sprinkler. There were holes in the wall between our room and the parking lot (the whole hotel was a disaster, incidentally - crumbling ceilings and walls, stains throughout) and the birds found this just lovely. Beneath the sprinkler, on the floor behind our table, a collection of twigs, dust and powdered bird shit had accumulated.
At first, this was funny. I mean, at most shows that are NOT Cinema Wasteland, we're used to being shit on figuratively. Now we were being shit on literally. We shook our heads, hung our posters, displayed our new issues of Sirens of Cinema (on sale now wherever Sirens of Cinema is sold!), and sucked it up. The nice thing about Creation Entertainment-run shows is that the head of security, Tammy, has become a great friend of ours over the years. She's awesome. She saw the bird shit. She went ballistic. "Tell the hotel, right now, to clean this up. This is a health hazard."
Oh, yeah. Bird shit isn't healthy to breathe or be around. Yeah, the little winged rats are cute, but they're teaming with mites, fleas, all sorts of unpleasantries. And these bastards were also loud.
So I politely (yes, politely - I can be polite! Go fuck yourself!) asked the nice something-Americans behind the hotel desk to send maintenance to vacuum up the pile of disease we were sharing space with.
Sometime Saturday afternoon, after two more requests and a mention of "health code violation", a two-man team of custodians arrived with a push broom and a dust pan. Away went the now-large pile of bird debris into the garbage - a receptacle located exactly four feet away on the other side of our table.
By this time, we'd hung a sign on the wall that said "Yes, there is a bird's nest in the ceiling", having grown tired of answering the question "is someone playing a sound effects record back there or are those real birds?" The avian shrieking wasn't helping our sales, that's for sure. Every now and then, the squawking would get so loud, I'd bang on the ceiling with a poster roll, yelling at them to shut up and feeling like the grumpy old guy downstairs. It usually resulted in silence for ten to thirteen seconds. Then they'd start up again. Every third time I tried it, I'd bump one of the panels and get a face-full of nest as a reward. That was fun.
In between the bird-battles, we got the chance to catch up with fine folks like Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, star of Argento's eagerly-awaited The Third Mother, who contributed to the new issue of Sirens; Scooter McCrae, master of weird horror like 16 Tongues and my underpaid composer; Tabitha and Mom Sharon, who run Corpses by the Bunch, who had their own woes to deal with; Anthony and Karen from East Coast Kitty. I met Stan Winston for a moment. He signed my Pumpkinhead DVD (for f/x wizard Eric Molinaris' birthday) and shook my hand before I was punched out of line, Time Bandits-style, by his After Dark handlers. We had a nice evening's dinner on Friday with Debbie Rochon, mere hours before she had to fly to Italy. Intrepid Fango editor Michael Gingold swung by (and we joined his nibs, Scooter, and about a thousand other people from evil clown movie 100 Tears for dinner on Saturday - a nice, intimate affair). We showed folks the Professor Jack and the Electric Club trailer I'd cut. We thrilled folks with some sneak footage from Splatter Movie. We drank to kill the pain caused by the incessant squawking of ceiling-dwelling sparrows.
That afternoon, one of the customers passed out in the aisle and hit his head on a table. Amy went to help him up and he latched onto her arm, wouldn't let her go. He was disoriented, had been drinking, and didn't know his own name at first. About an hour later, the paramedics from the hospital across the street finally arrived. The man, Bob, couldn't tell anyone his address or even how much he'd had to drink. Another man, who first identified himself as Bob's "handler"--then "friend", then "neighbor", then "a guy who drives him to horror shows"--just wanted to take Bob home. Bob was dehydrated and his blood pressure was through the roof. The paramedics, with Amy's help, got him into a gurney and wheeled him out of the room - almost taking Amy with them, as Bob still wouldn't let go. These are the adventures of my own personal Wonder Woman.
Saturday night was spent with our friends from Digger Films, the French Canadian film crew. Steve, Dave, Hugo and their buddies P.H., Johnny, T-Bag and Nova (these are all nick-names, of course; French Canadians all have Klingon names unpronounceable by their U.S. neighbors). T-Bag, incidentally, was not this magnificent man's real nickname. He told me, in a very noisy bar, to call him "T-Man". I didn't hear "man". So he was amazed when I replied, "You really want me to call you that?"
It got even funnier, later, when I realized my mistake. Not that I corrected it. The hilarity increased when the others discovered what "tea-bagging" actually was. I convinced the others not to tell him until they were halfway home. He was a lot bigger than I am.
(Unfortunately, he was told the truth towards the end of the evening. Somewhere along the line, we'd picked up a guy from Rhode Island who insisted there were fifty-two states in the Union: Washington D.C. and "East Virginia". As a result, I referred to him as "52" for the rest of the night. I like giving nicknames. It's a source of power. It was, of course, 52 who broke the news to T-Bag, feeling sorry for the poor, lost Frenchie. The joke was on 52, though, because T-Bag thought that was just as hilarious as the rest of us did. So there, 52!)
Sunday, I was not hung over. Miraculously. I was tired and desperately wanted to go home, but that's normal Sunday fatigue. My table was still over-run by bird mess and they seemed even louder today. Tammy had finally run down someone from Creation to witness the tragedy. Majid, the talent co-ordinator, was outraged. He demanded that housekeeping do something. Tammy insisted that I get my hotel room comped. The hotel didn't want to do either of those things. My fear was they would kill the birds, but by wildlife laws, they're not permitted to even move the nest. Finally, the same two custodians showed up with a plastic bag and draped it over the sprinkler inside the ceiling to prevent further mess.
This pissed the birds off even further. They started moving to the exposed hole in the wall, poking their beaks out and squawking at us with visible outrage. So, great, we go from lung disease to tetanus shots from beak-punctures. Yay.
I was very grumpy at this point. Irrationally, I was thinking this was a respect issue. That they'd stuck us in the corner intentionally - ha ha, wouldn't it be great if Mike and Amy got shit on all weekend? I knew this wasn't true, of course, but when you get into a pissy mind-loop, it's difficult to free yourself from it. While browsing the Pop Cinema table, an actress I don't particularly get along with, but never had anything against, appeared beside me with a ratty-looking entourage. They started heckling Chainsaw Sally, the star and director of which happen to be, of course, really good friends of mine. The actress agreed and tossed the DVD aside with derision. I smiled at her and pointed to one of her movies. "You were really good in this, by the way," I said.
She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, thanks."
I pointed at another one. "And you really sucked in this."
Her jaw hit the table. I gave her a bigger smile and walked away.
Anyway...Majid, still outraged, took us up to see one of the heads of Creation to rectify the situation personally, even though it wasn't Creation's fault or responsibility. It was, however, Creation's show, so I thought a personal apology would be nice. With the show in full swing, though, including a couple hundred swooning middle-aged James Marsters fans, no one else from Creation could be spared. We did end up getting our hotel room comped. This vanished expense actually pushed us slightly into profit! So we spread the love and bought stuff from our vendor friends.
The highlight of Sunday was breakfast with Justin. He's my oldest "adult" friend. I've known him since 1991 and we've seen each other through some extreme highs and lows, got each other jobs, gigs, acted in each others' movies. Since he moved to New Jersey with his wife, Trinity, and Amy and I moved to the farthest reaches of PA, we don't see each other that much. Now he has a beautiful new baby (Reagan Poe), a slew of good reviews for his movie Skin Crawl, we have our company, farm, horses and dogs and cats - it's hard to find time to just sit and talk. Breakfast was cold and late but the company couldn't have been better.
The drive home, as usual, was long and painful and seemed to take forever. Sundays, regardless of the show, always suck. It's filled with goodbyes and packing and exhaustion. Sundays should be banned from conventions, as a rule.
Still, I can't say that we weren't treated really well, particularly by Majid, Tammy and her daughter Amber, and their compatriot Chris. Fangoria always hosts a good show, regardless of the turn-out, and I'd be lying if I didn't say I wasn't looking forward to next year, regardless of the wildlife. I'll just bring an umbrella next time. And possibly all of the cats.