Monday, October 13, 2008

Cinema Wasteland Remembered

Briefly… It was another terrific Cinema Wasteland. Seriously, I almost wish Ken and Pam would put on one that sucked just to break up their record! But no, we had a vast amount of fun, made a decent amount of money and got to see our bi-annual friends and catch up with life. This trip we had a few "newbies"—Tara Cooper (who truthfully lost her Wasteland virginity in April), Tabatha Carrick, Nikki McCrea and Aaron Bernard came out to help us promote Demon Divas and the Lanes of Damnation and it was fun watching the madness unfold through their eyes. Seriously, how do you describe writer Joe Knetter ("Zombie Bukkake") without visuals? How do you explain the films of Bill Zeebub without the proper demonstrative tools? And since we had Henrique Couto with us, and his ever-present ukulele, that just added to the surrealistic nature of the weekend.

There was a last-minute snafu, however, that turned things on an interesting curve for us. Damian and Ed, the creators of the ubiquitous "Living Dead Dolls", had to cancel at the very last minute due to transportation problems. To keep from having empty spaces, Pam shuffled some of us around, putting the Teddy Scares folks in the corner usually occupied by "Living Dead Dolls" and moving us behind Art and Allana's Ultra-Violent table. So for the first time in, I believe, five years, we weren't facing the door.

Now you wouldn't think something as minor as that would be a disaster—and in truth, it wasn't. But it was a completely new perspective for us, facing the room instead of the door. Because Wasteland is one of our favorite places on Earth, we don't handle change well. Hell, we nearly wept when our directly-behind-us neighbors moved an aisle over for more space! Now where we were, we were given a bigger table and had all the space we needed to spread out (necessary, as we're behind-the-table slobs), but it was almost an alien perspective at first. I experienced instant paranoia, thinking people were sneaking up on me all weekend. Again, not a big deal except what we made of it. We were still there among the ones we loved and by 5:00 on Friday, we were used to the view, but beyond anything else, we discovered what creatures of habit we truly are.

I'm choosing to blame our Friday-night rule breaking on the new perspective, even though I should really pin the accusations on our own lack of responsibility. Friday nights we try to take things easy, get to bed at a decent hour and save our partying for Saturday. But the French Canadians—Simon, Hugo and Steve—were in the house as well, and they can drink us virtually under the table so… we slipped.

I didn't get hammered, but since my drink of choice is rum and coke, invariably, if I drink too much, the alcohol wears off faster than the caffeine. As a result, I spent much of the nocturne hours between 1:00 am and 8:00 staring at the blinking light on the smoke alarm, growing increasingly convinced that Dick Cheney was watching me. Amy and Tara fared no better. For some reason, the Holiday Inn chose to replace their downy comforters with something made either out of crinoline or old tambourines. Regardless of their composition, every move any of us made beneath those comforters would echo through the room. Madness, I tell you.

So as a result, we looked terribly hung over, minus the joyful memories of being drunk the previous night. All I wanted to do was crawl under the table and sleep, but the show must go on! And go on it must'vely.

Because of my sleep-deprived condition, I found myself reaching my maximum level of small talk quicker than usual. Perhaps the never-ending ukulele music wasn't assisting. Or perhaps it was the unusual amount of political banter surrounding me—yes, Sarah Palin is an empty-headed mannequin and John McCain is a pod person. I agree, go away—but by about 2:00 that afternoon, I was attempting to lure passersby into conversations about Proust, Billy Wilder and Marcel Marceau. I just couldn't talk about the election, torture porn or "Slaughtered Vomit Dolls" any longer. God help us all!

Oddly, because it's Wasteland, the movie and convention gods were on my side. Whenever I started to slide too far to either side of my homicide – suicide scale, someone would invariably swing by to cheer me up, whether it was Art Ettinger making another "Minutemen" joke about my name, Mike and Carrie presenting me with a genuine "Mike Watt" etched glass, or Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni giving me a personal introduction to Lamberto Bava. It's hard to have lowered spirits at Cinema Wasteland for very long.

Two other surprises were in store for me that weekend. The first was discovering that I was mentioned twice in the UK book "Zombiemania: 80 Movies to Die For", by Dr. Arnold T. Blumberg and Andrew Hershberger. The first was for writing Dead Men Walking and the other in a capsule review of The Resurrection Game. That the book is a ridiculously thorough look at zombie movies of all budgets didn't suck the wind out of my sails in the slightest. And the fact that they spelled my name as "Watts" should be more than enough proof that I am not affiliated with the writers and in no way cajoled them into including me.

The second surprise came from one of our fans and supporters and con friends who showed me a little souvenir thing he bought at Borders called "Whack-A-Zombie". It's a box that comes with a small inflatable bob bag with a zombie painted on it, so that you can slap it around to your heart's content. It also comes with a little book, a guide to zombies, zombie lore and zombie entertainment. In it, it has a short list of "the better-known" zombie novels available out there. Predictably, it includes books like "World War Z" by Max Brooks and "The Risen" by Brian Keene, but right there, at number five, is "The Resurrection Game", with my name spelled correctly. "Better known"? Thank you very much! So the authors of this little book are responsible for my tiny quarterly publisher's royalty check! I'm eternally grateful.

As usual, Sunday rolled around leaving us torn between wanting to go home and never wanting to leave. While we did achieve sleep Saturday night, we were all afflicted with a degree of hotel kennel cough, leaving us hoarse and exhausted. Amy, as we discovered, was developing a sinus infection that would chase her through the rest of the week. I just wanted to sleep for another month or so.

It took us a good hour to say our good-byes—always longer than the hellos. We got to hang out with Michael Berryman and Kane Hodder for a little bit, though, which was nice. And we made plans to try and get together with the Kishs and some of the other Wasteland crew who we've come to know and love. On the drive home, we looked back at the weekend, realizing that Tara makes a terrific personal assistant/one-woman personal support group, Henrique and Charles are a cool comedy team (that will someday result in a ukulele passing completely through Henrique's digestive tract), Tabatha and Steve are nauseatingly cute, Hugo can take a punch, Simon is hiding a very clever and very cruel streak that I hope to see come out more, and Rhonda and Kyle are more disturbed than I had even suspected. In short: another terrific Wasteland.

* * *

Don't forget, Sirens of Cinema 13 is officially available at fine stores or, more directly, from It features a beautiful cover by Dave Stevens and a three-page memorial of his amazing artist. Other highlights include an exclusive look at the upcoming movie Bitch Slap, the completion of Justice Howard's Twisted Fairy Tales photo series and the first look at Demon Divas and the Lanes of Damnation. So don't miss out! You'll hate yourself. And we'll hate you more.

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