Crash Reports: Chiller Theatre Spring 2013 (Part One)

I had visited Chiller Theatre almost twice a year since 1995, but today was different. Most  chiller-theatre-expo       Saturdays for the April venue called upon dark skies, wind, rain, and the kind of cold that seemed to herald in pneumonia. But today, I traveled in shorts, my “Breakfast at Zombies” shirt from www.threadless.com (with a creepy, zombified Audrey Hepburn), and the normal jitters accompanied with seeing horror stars I respected.

Chiller Theatre takes place in the Tara Sheraton in Parsippany, New Jersey – not far from where I used to work as a desk clerk at the Embassy Suites. But that brilliant sun seemed to affect everyone: strangers – fans of the horror genre – waved and smiled as they passed from between the lot and the hotel proper. Even the Parsippany Police were cordial. The only time I had a run-in with anything was when I left a bathroom stall only to be confronted by a waiting Killer Klown.

“Don’t kill me!” I said.

“Don’t worry,” he grumbled. “I have to pee first.”

Unlike the previous Chiller venue, which took place for many years in the Meadowlands, the Sheraton offers much more space for celebrities, fans, and vendors. In the past, we had to walk almost single file to view a merchant’s wares. Now, one can breathe, and shop like mad for the cool stuff many can’t seem to find elsewhere. Anything from statues to original posters, magazines to Living Dead Dolls are on the menu, and so much more.

Shop I did. Thanks to Sean at the VHS Preservation Society (www.vhsps.com) and Chemical Burn Entertainment (www.chemicalburn.org), I left with some long sought after DVDs of: POSSESSION, PARENTS, SPELLBINDER, DEAD OF NIGHT, QUARTERMASS AND THE PIT, and the big one for me: SOCIETY.

All manner of fans were about: Horror aficionados dressed like ROCKY HORROR characters, to the Kiss Army, a pirate, as well as some Steampunk lovers. Of course, Goth patrons roamed as if the dead had risen, and others sported either Misfits or Ramones T-shirts, while other tees depicted one’s favorite movies or shows, horror, sci-fi, or cult.

I met my friend, Sue Pettit and her husband, before she raced off to find her heartthrobs of yesteryear, and I made my way to the one room that held all the people I had come to see: Udo Kier, Will MacMillan, and Jeffrey Combs. All of them were wonderful, and we got a chance to chat for a while (All of them will be featured in forthcoming mini-posts – as well as Lloyd Kaufman, who I finally met after all these years). Soon after, I shopped until money started to run out, then made my way towards other stars. Unfortunately, many stars wanted $30 or more for an autographed photo, so I had to bail on David Warner, Karen Allen, and Judith O’Dea, as well as Nancy Allen, who looked fantastic.

For whatever reason, Chiller Theatre has opened up to all things cult, including family oriented fair, such as WILLIE WONKA and even THE PATTY DUKE SHOW. Patty Duke engaged fans, and so did boxing champion Jake LaMotta. The champ’s 91, walks tall, and I knew he could still knock me flat.

Everyone was wonderful, and I had a smile on my face the entire time. Then again, so did all the patrons, as far as I could tell, even the little girl in the stroller all trussed up like a zombie. Even those on the longest line of the day – for Debbie Gibson – were happy and patient. (I’m still not sure if it was the sun, the air conditioning, or the open space that led to so much good feeling, but I couldn’t recall ever having a bad experience at the convention.)

If you get a chance, the show runs on Sunday as well – though you can still check out a party this evening. Visit www.ChillerTheatre.com to learn more – and don’t miss their upcoming Halloween convention.

At a future show I hope to see Bruce Campbell, Michael Ironside, Clancy Brown, and Barbara Crampton will show up – and I long to see Harry Dean Stanton and Veronica Cartwright. Who knows?

If you’ve been to Chiller, let us know about your experience, and tell us about your favorite stars.

  • randeroo

    Went Friday night — Saturday is no longer an option. Chiller is now walking distance from day job. Chatted up Anna “Patty” Duke, Karen Allen, Kevin Van Hentenryck and, briefly, Edward Herrmann. I think I got Denny Laine pee-oed when I ran down Carvin guitars. Felt bad for Paris Themmen, all by himself in a conference room. Couldn’t find my pals Bob Eggleton & Marianne Plumridge — wanted to congratulate Marianne on becoming an American citizen. Three celebs I wanted to see weren’t there (yet): Barry Bostwick, Sherry Jackson and and Jeffrey Combs. Finally, I got to see 95 year-old Zacherly and showed him my letter from him in 1959 when I became a member of the WABC Shock Club. He completed 54 years of unfinished business when he signed my membership card. God, I love that guy!

  • Hey, Roo! Glad you got to go. Yes, Themmen was still out on his own today. Bostwick still had the hair, and Zach still looked awesome. Combs was wonderful to speak with – very engaging. Never saw Sherry Jackson. I’m just happy to hear Zach signed your card!

  • 16times

    I agree with everyting you wrote about Chiller. I think it is a fabulous convention, and I haven’t missed once since I discovered it a few years ago. However, I had a VERY different experience with Jack Lamotta Friday night. I found Jake to be sadly, depressingly “out of it”. He was sitting there with his handler, kind of staring across the room. I asked for a photo op and paid my money, and was told to sit next to Jake. He never looked at me or seemed to know I was there. His handler called out, “Smile, Jake. Come on, Jake !” as she tried to take the photo. I very quickly started to regret getting this photo op as I realized that Lamotta seemed to not even know what was going on. I felt very bad for him. It was my only negative experience at Chiller (and our photo looks pathetic. I won’t be sharing that one.)

    So, it was good to hear you had a different experience. I’m not sure what was going on when I met him Friday night, but if he gets in that shape again, they really need to remove him from the crowd.

  • Sorry to hear about your experience. That’s really sad. He seemed all fired up on Saturday when I saw him. He was talking, smiling, and seemed quite engaged.

    I always passed up Fridays because I figured many were just getting into town and had the post-travel blues.

  • taylor1127

    @ 16 times. Jake is 94 and is completly aware of what is going on. He loves the attention and dose have his moments, but don’t think he is said. Hes doing pretty darn good for his age…

  • I thought he was 91! Damn. He’s doing better than a lot of fortysomethings I know.

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