Friday , 23 June 2017

Chiller Theatre’s 25th heats up East Coast!

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Halloween means scary movies, dressing up in cool costumes, and for those on the East Coast, Chiller Time! Celebrating it’s 25th year, Chiller Theatre Toy, Model and Film Expo brought stars of film and television, musicians, authors, artists and more to Parsippany, New Jersey’s Sheraton Hotel over the weekend in what is one of the best and most entertaining and diverse conventions of its kind. Where else can you find the stars of the TV series, Batman and Lost in Space, meet cast from The Walking Dead, watch the original members of the Alice Cooper Band perform live and see the one and only Cool Ghoul, horror host, Zacherley, who recently turned 97!? The event’s Grand Poobah, Kevin Clement, along with his incredible team of staff members, put on another memorable show. There was something for everyone, and the Gore 4 was there to take it all in. Well, maybe not quite everything,  as that would be quite a bloody task, but here’s what we did manage to see:

Once again, Kevin and company brought together an amazing array of guests. Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar celebrated 50 years of their original TV series, Batman, and brought along the Batmobile for a ride. Also celebrating their 50th anniversary were the stars of Lost in Space, Mark Goddard, Marta Kristen, Angela Cartwright and Bill Mumy, along with the Robot. There were also reunions for the movies, Carrie, with Nancy Allen and Piper Laurie, The WarriorsMadman and more. Michael Rooker (Merle) and Madison Lintz (Sophia) were on hand to keep the memories of their Walking Dead characters alive. Add in The Exorcist’s Linda Blair, Re-Animator’s Barbara Crampton, Alien’s Veronica Cartwright, as well as Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, Ace Frehley from Kiss, Marky Ramone and, from Alice Cooper, Dennis Dunaway, Michael Bruce and Neal Smith, who performed together (more on that later), and you’ve still only scratched the surface of the numerous guests appearing at this October’s Chiller. (Also spotted in the crowd of attendees was Willa Fitzgerald, star of the recent MTV series, Scream.)

The sum is greater than the parts….

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Along with Chiller in celebrating it’s 25th anniversary was the horror comedy cult classic, Frankenhooker. The Gore 4 scored a date with director Frank Henenlotter, and stars James Lorinz and Patty Mullen (in her purple wig), at an entertaining and informative panel. Henenlotter, also known for the Basket Case films and Brain Damage, is a great source for the ins and outs of independent, low-budget filmmaking, and dealing with what used to be the enemy of horror films, the MPAA ratings board. Saying he was inspired by the 1962 film, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, Henenlotter gave all the credit to his two incredible co-stars. Wanting someone innocent to play the title role, he pushed for and cast Penthouse Pet of the Year, Patty Mullen, which may sound strange, but if you see the movie, you’ll see he was spot on. His direction to her was to walk like Boris Karloff, and it must be said that Patty puts on one of the best, physical comedy performances in horror history. As for James Lorinz, there is no one else who can deliver lines like him, and, as Henenlotter told him, if his ad-libs made him laugh, they’d be in the movie. Lorimz explained that one of those ad-libs, yelling “goodnight 22!” was a bingo reference in honor of his grandmother. Who knew? Another tidbit gleaned from the panel was that at the last film shown at the old Bleecker Street Cinema in NYC, none other than Italian horror maestro, Dario Argento, was at the head of the line to see Frankenhooker, and when he and Henenlotter actually met at a later date, Argento couldn’t hide his excitement at meeting the director of one of his favorite films.

Worth the Price of admission….

Following the Frankenhooker panel was an immensely enjoyable and inspiring talk from Victoria Price, daughter of iconic, debonair horror icon, Vincent Price. On the day before the 22nd anniversary of her famous father’s death, her theme was “explore, savor and celebrate.” After leading off with a recording of her father’s one of a kind, distinctive voice, she proceeded to extoll her dad’s love of life, positive attitude and multitude of hobbies and passions. Indeed, Victoria advised, “when you limit your interests, you limit your life.” Among her father’s many attributes, which she visualized with a wonderful slide show, were his love of animals, his passion for performing, his wicked sense of humor, his eye for art, and, along with Victoria’s mother, Mary, his delectable taste for food. She even showed a picture of him with 2 plastic forks in his shirt pocket, as he was constantly  at the ready for something tasty to eat. The cookbook he wrote with his wife was recently named the 8th most popular out-of-print book of any kind. Luckily, you can get a 50th anniversary edition, with a preface by Victoria herself at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other outlets. As for her dad’s ghoulfully delightful style of humor, Victoria told the story of how when she lost her first tooth, she was worried the tooth fairy wouldn’t be able to find her as they were staying in a hotel at the time. Her father, in what he had surely been planning and savoring for months, placed a set of dentures under her pillow. Victoria also revealed that it was during the filming in Rome of The Last Man on Earth, that her parents found out they were going to have her. And while his film, Witchfinder General may have been her dad’s most maleficent role, and that in Theatre of Blood, perhaps his most memorable, his favorite female co-star was Ava Gardner, for which she offered a funny quip her dad told of the effect Ava had on him.

Priceless

Victoria Price left the audience with another word of advice, that of “yes,” that each day, instead of responding with a “maybe”, “I’ll see” or “I don’t know,” try just saying “yes,” and discover all that’s out there in the world. Quoting poet, Mary Oliver, with instructions for life, “pay attention, be astonished, and tell about it.” And relaying her dad’s philosophy, “if you’re always curious, you’ll never be bored.” It was a pure joy hearing Victoria speak with such a life-affirming and positive attitude, and with such reverence for her father, someone us horror fans treasure for his indelible work. Though not a particular fan of horror herself, she exclaimed that horror fans have been the most enjoyable to speak to and meet. We feel the same having listened to her. May it be said, her words of wisdom, and that of her father’s, were indeed, priceless. You can read more of Victoria’s inspiring words at her blog, Daily Practice of Joy , follow her on her facebook page, This One Brave Life, and her dad’s facebook page as well.

Gore 4 all and all 4 Gore!….

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Chiller‘s auction and model contest followed, and after spending some quality time with the Frankenhooker gang, the Gore 4 was honored to meet “the Godfather of Gore,” Herschell Gordon Lewis. Before Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, before the Italian cannibal films, there was HGL. Exploring bold new, bright bloody red territory with 1963’s Blood Feast, Lewis ushered in a new age of horror film, using crude, but effective, methods of showing graphic, gory depictions of death. It was unlike anything seen before on film. With follow-up gorefests, Two Thousand Maniacs!, Color Me Blood Red, The Wizard of Gore and The Gore Gore Girls, Lewis paved the way for all that followed. Without Lewis opening the door to a grave new world, there may be no Fangoria magazine, The Walking Dead, or even the Gore 4 itself. It would be an understatement to say we all owe the man a debt of gratitude for every severed limb and spilled organs that grace our screens today. You can check out his official website to find out more about this 86-yr. old pioneer.

To the bat cave, Robin….

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While the Gore 4 loves its horror, it also has a great appreciation and concern for the magnificent wildlife on this planet. So it was with great interest to be able to visit with “New Jersey’s own Batman”, Joseph D’Angeli, and his accomplice, Miss Bookie, talk to them about the threat that bats are facing and see a few of the flying mammals up close and personal. Bats are essential to the planet, gobbling up millions of insects every night – insects that carry diseases that can harm humans and other animals. However, these remarkable creatures are seeing their numbers plummet due to a disease known as “white nose syndrome.” And while bat populations continue to drop, there may be a light at the end of the cave in the efforts to put an end to this devastating plague. D’Angeli is a licensed chiroptologist, and runs The Wildlife Conservation and Education Center in Ridgefield Park, NJ, where they exhibit live bats and lecture people on these amazing animals, while dispelling the many myths associated with them. Visit their website at NJBatman.com and drop by the center to get a first hand look and learn more about this fascinating order of mammals.

A sight for sore eyes….

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Another attendee at Chiller, and a friend of the Gore 4, was the stylish and beguiling Lindsey Lowe, known for her wild and colorful sense of fashion. She has recently launched her own line of eyewear and prescription eyewear which combines horror and cartoon designs for a look that is perfect for Halloween or for any time of the year you want to show off your personality. This ‘ghoulishly glamtastic’ eyewear runs the gamut from 3-D lenses to glow-in-the-dark frames, like the scareriffic Fright Board ones you can see here. They come with clear lenses, or maybe you prefer sunglasses to protect your precious eyeballs from the dangerous rays of our closest star, or frames for prescription lenses so you can avoid stumbling into things that go bump in the night. You can see Lindsay’s designs and more at Lindsay Lowe Eyewear. And keep up with her visionary,trendsetting ways on facebook.

Aghast and the Goriest….

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As darkness fell upon the Sheraton, the goblins, ghouls and ghosts emerged from their hotel rooms to partake in the ever popular costume contest. Chiller truly brings out the creativity of its attendees. From the Predator, who won best costume to a little dude dressed as Ash from Evil Dead, complete with chainsaw arm and sawed-off shotgun, this year’s contest had a wide variety of visually appealing and disturbing individuals, as seen in the images above. While the Spring Chiller sees its share of cool costumes, people really go all out for the Halloween show. It’s a site to behold watching this collection of creatures all hanging out in the lobby together.

I wanna rock and roll all night!….

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After an on-stage wedding ceremony, presided over by Chiller stalwart, Animal, and a guy dressed as the Joker, it was time for some music. What’s great about Chiller when it comes to music, at least for the Gore 4, is there isn’t any rap or hip hop to get in the way of pure rock and roll, a lesson the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame could take notes on. After an opening set by The Test, the three members of Alice Cooper’s original band took the stage for the anthems ‘I’m Eighteen’, ‘School’s Out’ and more. Then it was time for Chiller’s perennial house band, The Dead Elvi. Replete in their zombie makeup, and accompanied by their ghoulishly garbed dancers, lead guitarist/singer Chris Palmerini and lead vocalist/guitarist Jason Fresta, along with Mr. Chiller himself, Kevin Clement on rhythm guitar, led their shockabilly bandmates through a rockin’ set, with guests from Lost in Space’s Bill Mumy to Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys. Highlights were The Dead Elvi classics, “The Creature Stole My Surfboard,” “21st Century Frankenstein” and a rollicking version of their “Munster’s Theme/Peter Gunn” mash-up with the help of guitarist, Ace Von Johnson and saxophonist, Tim Capello. If you haven’t seen The Dead Elvi perform live, either at Chiller or at one of their rare outside gigs, you have missed out. You can check out more of their kick-zombie-ass music via their website, and can like them on facebook.

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More bands followed, culminating in the Ramonesesque ‘1,2,3,4’ punk rock of The Accelerators. The only thing missing this year was the Cool Ghoul himself, Zacherley, performimg his rendition of “Monster Mash.” At the ripe young age of 97, and after performing at Chiller for a quarter century, it’s more than cool for the Ghoul to rest up for his daytime appearance.

As the music reached its end, the beer taps stopped flowing and the attendees found their way back to their tombs, Chiller‘s Saturday night came to a close, only to rise once again the next morning. It should be said that, perhaps contrary to popular perception, this eclectic gathering of monsters and music, fans and fangs and dealers and demons, is the most well-behaved and friendly group of people around. There’s never an incident or brawl to worry about. Though there was this one time a zombie and a vampire got into a….well, no one likes to talk about that. Safe to say, Chiller is a place for young and old alike, and Kevin and his grue crew need to be commended and thanked for 25 spooktacular years of bringing stars of screen and stage together to meet their fans. Note that this recap was that of just one individual’s perspective of their particular day and night. Every attendee could give their own personal account and every one would be different, yet still memorable. Long live Chiller! Can’t wait for the next show in April!

— by Brian de Castro

About Brian de Castro

Brian worked at NBC in New York, writing and producing promotion for everything from Saturday Night Live to Letterman, Leno and Conan, as well as The Today Show and Nightly News. A graduate of Rutgers University, the New Jersey native, when he's not working on the Gore 4 website, can usually be found on a baseball field.

8 comments

  1. Hey cous, interesting!,,,,

  2. Thx! These conventions are always a blast, and so close to home!

  3. Damn you had all the fun without me!
    The pics came out so Wicked, Sweetheart!

    • Well, it would have been even more fun if you were there!
      Hopefully, you can make one of the upcoming ones.
      Long live Chiller!

  4. 'Walking' Ed Turner

    Great Chiller review! Wish I could’ve attended, but, alas, I could not. Great to see the Frankenhooker people again! Cool costumes, too, as usual. The Halloween Chiller is the best – something about the Halloweenee time of year that just sets the mood for Chiller… and vise versa.
    Wow! 25 years of Chiller! It’s hard to believe. I was going to Chillers when there were no lines to stand in and they were being held in school gymnasiums! They’d show old B&W horror and sci-fi movies in a classroom, on old reel to reel projectors (remember those?!) Chiller sure has come a long way. Hope they’ll be around for many years to come.

    • It’s always great to run into true fans like yourself at Chiller. Hopefully you can make it to the next one. What’s so great about Chiller is the eclectic mix of fans and that there is such a wide array of guests – there is something for everyone. We’re lucky to have it so close to home.

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