Last weekend, Amy and I made the seemingly endless trek to the Full Moon Tattoo and Horror Convention in Nashville. We were accompanied two-thirds of the way by a vicious storm testing our windshield wipers to their very limits. The second we crossed into Tennessee, however, the sun took up residence in our backseat and remained there until we arrived at our hotel. The next day, a tornado touched down, swept away some visiting whiny Kansas farm girls and left the hotel without lights for a little more than hour. Not letting little things like threats to life and limb deter them, horror fans flocked from far and near to join the festivities and hobnob with the likes of Bill Moseley, Debbie Rochon, Bill Johnson, Caroline Williams, Ari Lehman and, from Repo! The Genetic Opera, the Graverobber himself, Terence Zdunich, who doesn’t care how you pronounce his name provided you’re friendly.
Except for a secluded show called ConCarolinas, this was the deepest south we’d been as guests at a convention, thanks to the support and lovely human beingness of Ben and Stacy Dixon. While horror and tattoos are universal ice breakers, I have to admit that the majority of stand-up comedians have it right: there is a difference between the Yankees and Confederates.
I’m not talking about the obvious stereotypes like self-proclaimed rednecks or white supremacists because, frankly, you’ll run into those no matter where you go. We live within spitting distance of West Virginia and from our porch you can hear the banjos. Sure, there was the guy walking around with a t-shirt emblazoned with the Pillsbury Doughboy in Nazi gear proclaiming “White Flour”, and I complimented him for the adorable racism. And there was the charming fellow who liked everything Clive Barker did, “But I heard he was gay, so I don’t know about him any more.” And the three shaved-headed gentlemen who asked me, very discreetly, if Splatter Movie had any of them “colored actors” in it. To which I responded, “No sir. Splatter Movie contains 30% fewer blacks than any other movie.” Which must not have been a high enough percentage because they left the movie sitting where it was, untouched and unloved.
No, I’m referring to the fact that, as a majority, the people who visited this show were by and large the nicest con attendees I’d ever encountered. Mayhap there’s a sarcasm shortage in the South, or maybe manners come free with tanks of gas, but I’ve never been to a show where I was called “Sir” so often I started to wonder if I’d acquired some sort of clandestine knighthood. Little kids, old people, that mishegoss of age range in between—all of them “Sir”’ed me up and down for three full days. Amy got “Miss” and “Ma’am” a lot (I only got a couple of “Ma’am”’s). People held doors for us poor emburdened vendors and guests. And even the mouth-breathing morlocks that infest every convention seemed to have their clue-free crassness under control. The nearest we got to insults (aside from the good-natured ones from George, the vendor of hockey masks next to us) was from an awkward guy who told us flat out he wouldn’t buy one of our movies because “I ain’t never heard of ‘em. They’re not from Hollywood, huh? Those always look better.” So for the first time in my long career as a merchandise-warmer, I did not have to cheerfully order a single attendee to “get the fuck away from my table”. It was a nice change of pace.
It’s still not the best economic climate to do too many shows in a year, of course. I heard a goodly number of folk complaining about varying states of unemployment and there wasn’t too much money to go around (particularly not after one certain guest’s price-gouging for autographs), which was a common complaint among the vendors. Because of the timeframes required by the tattoo artists, Full Moon is a marathon show as well—11am to 11pm on Saturday, for instance, that left most of us bug-eyed and twitchy by the day’s end—so there’s more time to kill painfully and bloodily than the average convention. But if the folks weren’t buying, they were at least talking.
Sure, we got a couple of plants here or there, yammering away about Freddy vs. Jason in the same tone-of-voice you’d discuss fiduciary dividends, until you’re ready to pepper-spray them and call for security. But for the most part we were visited by nice people who shared similar interests and wanted to pass the time by sharing thoughts and feelings about gore and horror.
Among the topics discussed:
Remakes. As inevitable as inexact change and body-odor, the remake argument was debated by more than its share of folks on either end of the spectrum including, for the first time in my recent memory, a couple of older guys (as in “close to my age”) who are actually for the darned things. I’m used to hearing the Generation Shrug crowd extolling the virtues of the new Texas Chain Saw movies over the original ones, claiming they cannot connect to any movie made prior to their recent birthdate, but very few old timers ever come down on the ‘Pro’ side of remakes or sequels. There were a number of hardcore guys who were simply beside themselves with glee over the impending release of the new Nightmare on Elm Street movie and had valid arguments for wanting to see it, slickness aside. They wanted to see the story updated, they wanted Freddy’s origin and new CGI-enhanced make-up. “The stories should be updated,” one told me. “They’re our society’s fairy tales. Everything gets adapted for the new generations. Otherwise, I guess, we’d just be running in place.”
My own feeling about remakes has been well-documented in these very virtual pages. Basically, it falls into the categories of “There’s nothing I can do about it” and “I’ve got better things to worry about”. I bristle as much as the next guy over the latest reboot or reimagining announcement, but since nobody asked my opinion in the first place, and it’ll happen with or without my approval, I’ve opted to conserve my frustration for matters of more importance. Like:
Whether or not Repo! The Genetic Opera is “good” or not. Again, another subjective argument stemming from an incredibly polarizing movie. On one side, you have the die-hard and will-die-for-it cult fans and on the other the virulent haters-of-all-things-Repo. I don’t run into too many people who are merely “meh” on the subject. Like religion and politics, each camp is sincere in its stance on the film. Of course, I unabashedly adore the film and not just because I know a couple of people in the cast. I think it’s a well-made gothic musical with a sick sense of humor and some terrific performances, not to mention a catchy soundtrack. And for every reason that I enjoy it, there is a cadre of people who hold to the opposite opinion. Except some of these opinions are simply wrong, at least in the way that they’re stated. For instance, the one person who declared that, “No one in the movie can sing!”
“Not even one of the virtuoso sopranos in the world?” Amy countered, citing Sarah Brightman, “Or the musical stage stars like Anthony Head?”
Finally, the critic conceded his point but insisted that the movie was an “interesting failure”. And to that judgment, he’s perfectly entitled. If you don’t think it works, or it’s boring, or confusing, or sloppy, or whatever, that’s all valid. But to declare a sweeping opinion as fact, that’s where the gloves seem to come off. Personally, I think it’s a literate and intelligent melding of rock opera, music hall and grand guignol, but what the hell do I know? I can’t even pronounce Terence No-Good-Nik’s name correctly. But we did buy his comic book (The Molting, which turned out to be quite good).
Getting placed in an “overflow ballroom” has its advantages. Like the rest of the folk in the “overflow” vendor’s room, Amy and I joined the party late. Booked as guests a mere month before the show began, we were placed not in the main guest and vendor ballroom but in one down the hall on the opposite side of the movie and panel rooms. It took some maneuvering and huckstering to alert attendees that the room existed, but Ben and his staff (thanks, Mark!) made sure people knew we were there. Plus, we were much, much closer to the bar. Which only mattered on Sunday when signs went up around the hotel notifying everyone that “personal outside alcohol is not permitted”. Having finished a bottle of home-bought rum and half a box of wine, all we could say in our defense was, “Oops.”
A naturally-growing herb, outlawed by the alcohol, tobacco and lumber industries, had a miraculate medicinal effect on my back. I don’t have much more to add to this except, c’mon fellas—legalize and tax the shit out of marijuana! Even after the high wore off, my back felt fine for hours! Let the pharmaceutical companies turn it into a pill if that will make everyone happy.
There can never be enough zombies in the world. As make-up guy Chris Pezzano and his sidekick Pixie demonstrated, people who dress like zombies are performance artists and endurance athletes. He stayed in that get-up long after the point of sanity, to the point where he wound up with chemical burns on several patches of skin. Dedicated to the dead!
Caroline Williams liked Europa’s Cry. I don’t have anything else to really expound on this but it was really nice to hear. Oh, and Bill Johnson said such nice things to me at one point, I almost cried. Almost. Manly tears. Again, that’s all I have to really say about either experience. These horror people are good friends.
Blackouts at conventions are neat. Having experienced the infamous Cinema Wasteland Blackout of 2006, I’ve become a fan of such occurrences. While there was a modicum of tornado panic as the lights started to flicker before extinguishing altogether, there was a strange energy present in the room when we were thrust into the dim glow of laptop screens and emergency overheads. It was a shared experience we could all tell our grandchildren. And I’m proud to announce that, despite lasting for 72 minutes, the blackout did not cause any of us to go instantly feral or cannibal.
It takes less time to go from PA to Tennessee than it does to return. I’m not sure if there was some sort of time-space distortion or if someone deliberately picked up Pennsylvania and moved it further away during our absence but even with the time-difference, it still took us longer to get back home than it did to get there.
So, should next year come around and we’re not all living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, wearing animal fur and fighting rabid weasels for scraps of carrion (which is apparently what is going to happen during our first year of “Obamacare”), I would recommend that everyone within shouting distance make your way down to next year’s Full Moon show, get a tattoo, get liquored up to dull the pain, and then spend your last bit of money on something gory and independent, be that DVDs, artwork or free drinks for hard-working horror folks. We also accept checks or medicinal herbology. Oh, and pharmaceuticals. No livestock, please.