Monday, October 26, 2009

Day 26

Famous horror folk I've met

I've been very lucky as a horror film fan as I've been able to meet people over the years whose work I've admired.

Today with the whole autograph circuit at horror, nostalgia and pop culture events around the country, meeting the actors, actresses and other creators of horror and fantasy cinema is relatively easy: go the show and have a wad of cash for autographs.

It wasn't like this back in the day.

The first strictly horror cons that I can remember were two put on by James Warren in New York in the mid-1970s. I went to both and the first was pretty lame. Warren had promised appearances by people such as Vincent Price and Fay Way, but none turned up. Instead we had Forry Ackerman, makeup man Verne Langdon and producer and film buff Sam Sherman. Peter Lorre's daughter came to just check things out and Warren had a guest name tag slapped on her to beef up the star power.

The next year, though, Warren had Michael Carreras of Hammer Studios and Peter Cushing. The convention was presented at the Hotel Commodore, the august old train station hotel that was above Grand Central Station and I saw a familiar figure in the lobby. It was Peter Cushing. I mustered up my nerve and said, "Welcome to New York, Mr. Cushing."

He seemed genuinely pleased to be greeted and spoke with me a while asking me here I lived and how far I had come. Later he gave a great talk and signed autographs AT NO CHARGE for everyone who stood in line. He was a gentleman and a class act.

My friend Dick Gordon, who made "Island of Terror" starring Cushing, said Cushing had a personality similar to Boris Karloff's: a laid-back hard working gentleman.

My next encounter was in 1983 when Vincent Price came to UMass to perform a one-man show/lecture, "The Villain Still Pursues Me." May and I were comped as media with front row seats and the evening was amazing. Price later signed autographs for small group of people. I stood in line, but my wife, who is a little self conscious around most celebrities, declined to meet him.

The next day my fellow writer Stan Wiater and I participated in a press conference with Price. We asked most of the questions and I've yet to see a dime off my par tof the interview despite Stan having sold it to Fangoria and that it appeared in a book of his. I should probably post the interview just to establish my copyright!

Price was down-to-earth and frank. He was everything a fan such as myself would want him to be: funny and urbane. He was Vincent Price, dammit!

I was at some Fangoria Convention in New York, I think in the 1980s when I got to see Christopher Lee. He was speaking and taking questions from a large group of fans and I managed to ask him one myself. I was determined not to ask him the usual stuff about Hammer, so my question went along these lines: You've acted in a film directed by Billy Wilder and several by Jess Franco – can you talk about the way different directors work?

Lee actually looked happy at getting such a question but he gave a more diplomatic answer than what I have liked to have heard. I wanted some dirt!

I used to be a member of the Sons of the Desert, the international Laurel and Hardy Fan Club. At one dinner, a member supplied the speaker and i was able to find out ahead of time so Steve Bissette could come with me.

The guest was the Cool Ghoul himself Zacherley one of the granddaddies of horror hosts. Zach gave a great talk including a delightfully tawdry anecdote about how he caught the crabs from wrestlers who had changed in the shared dressing room of WOR.

Perhaps the best "horror" event took place one night at the Cinefest in Syracuse, NY. In my 20 or so years of going to this orgy of old movies, my wife has only gone one, but at least she picked a good year. This year, not only was my friend Richard Gordon there ( producer of "Fiend Without a Face, "Haunted Strangler" and many other movies) but two of his directors were in attendance – Radley Metzger (who directed "the Cat and Canary") and Norman J. Warren ( who helmed "Inseminoid/Horror Planet").

The five of us went to dinner – Dick's brother Alex, another film producer, was stuck with another obligation – and we had a ball. The guys certainly made my wife feel at ease and the evening took on the air of a roast with the directors ganging up on Dick and Dick firing back. It was great.

Although I've bought autographs as well just to have a chance to say hello to someone, none of those experiences come close to matching to any of these.
© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

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