Friday, October 6, 2017

Halloween: The 25th Anniversary Convention (2003)





Picture It: Pasadena, CA.  Halloween 2003.  A young, peasant boy travels ten miles east to his very first convention celebrating the 25th anniversary of his favorite movie and franchise. Ever since halloweenmovies.com announced the convention many months prior, I made it part of my daily ritual to fire up my old Gateway desktop to check and see which celebrities had been added to the event of the year.  Several minor earthquakes were reported in the Burbank area due to my cartwheels and happy dances.  I knew about Star Trek conventions so I had some idea of what to expect but little did I know the monumental event that was to come.


A year prior to the convention, I got my first dose of meeting Halloween cast and crew working on a documentary series for AMC called Backstory.   We did a one hour special on Halloween, so for about three months it felt like Christmas every day.  I sat in on the interview sessions for Debra Hill, Nick Castle, PJ Soles and Charles Cyphers, who I got to pick up from the Burbank airport. The most surreal moment was going to John Carpenter's house for his interview, which was conducted in his garage.  Mickey Yablans provided tons of behind the scene stills and future convention organizer Anthony Masi was kind enough to provide two tickets to the Halloween: Resurrection premiere.  When it came time for Anchor Bay to release the 25th Anniversary DVD, thirty more minutes of footage was added and it became the 'A Cut Above The Rest' documentary.  

On a late summer's day in 2003, Paul Swearingen, one of the other convention organizers, happened to be driving by The Strode house as I was doing a scene interpretation on the stoop and handed me this flyer....





I told him not to worry, that I was already well aware of the convention and that I was actually filming my video entry for the "Be An Extra in Halloween 9" contest (more on that later).


Since the convention was about the Halloween film series and took place on Halloween, I figured many people would be dressed up in... Halloween costumes.  So I combed the racks of Goodwill and found some things that resembled a famous Midwestern bookworm. Some ill-fitting pantyhose, a horrible wig in the vein of Halloween II (1981) and a borrowed bra (thanks, Liz!) rounded out the rest of my costume and I was good to go.  You can decide who wore it best...









Finally, the day arrived.  I showed up to a sea of black t-shirts and jeans at The Pasadena Convention Center.  I panicked.  For a second, I thought about driving home to change but I didn't want to pull a Nurse Karen and be late for the bus tour.








Kicking off the convention was three hour tour (a three hour tour) of the filming locations from Halloween and a few from Halloween II.  At check-in, attendees were given this cool bus pass...  



Some buses had a Halloween celeb on them, I don't recall mine having one.  But I met some cool people from Pennsylvania who were my seat buddies for the morning.  I first visited many of the locations from Halloween (1978) back in 1999.  I had been back many times since so I certainly didn't mind a revisit, especially with people seeing them for the first time.  Eyes widened, mouths gaped, drool dripped.  It certainly brought back memories.





One thing that as so great was how the South Pasadena community got involved.  Students from the high school re-inacted several moments from the movie during the bus tour...
 





A few new locations were revealed to me during the tour including The Elrod House and the alley behind it (I originally thought it was the alley next to Annie's House) in addition to Haddonfield Elementary School...





Some of my fan club...










Black Friday for Halloween fans.  In a more civilized manner.  I remember walking down a decorated strobe-lit corridor as Michael Myers unzipped himself from a body bag a la Halloween: H20 (1998).  I received my Silver Seat badge, a Fast Pass if you will, granting first dibs access to celebs on tight schedules and guaranteed seating for discussion panels... 






A detailed itinerary with some cool fan art...








And like Haddonfield, there were the celebrities, all lined up in rows up and down the convention center.  I did a complete lap to decipher my strategy.  Do I go by order of importance?  Do I go by sequel?  I ended up going by proximity because as soon as I saw someone at a nearby table, I got so Jessie Spano excited, I just made a bee line for whoever was in arms reach. 







While posters and celeb glossys were the more popular documents of choice to get signed, I went with the script cover page.  I was ill-prepared when I worked on The Cut Above The Rest so I made a photocopy of the Halloween script cover page ten seconds before heading out for the interviews.  I figured I'd keep that theme going for the rest of the sequels...



And since I wasn't spending enough money on autographs, I also purchased a few convention mementos...







This map of Haddonfield was my absolute fave...







The convention panels were a great chance to sit and relax for a bit in between running around, besides being informative of course.  With my #12 Silver Seat, I could see nose hairs from the front row.  Warning: Lighting wasn't the best and neither were 2003 cameras so these photos are not the greatest...


















During the Halloween II panel, it was mentioned that one of the hospitals used was the veterans hospital in Sepulveda.  I was not aware of that previously so I was thrilled a new filming location was revealed.









What better way to end the evening than a screening of the original Halloween at South Pasadena's famous Rialto Theater?  Rambunctious fans filed into the theater, and while it didn't reach Scream 2 (1997) theater-going participation, it was a lively bunch...








It was difficult to get to sleep knowing what the first day of the convention was like.   Watching Halloween II and H20 when I got back from the theater didn't help either.  I headed back to Pasadena, in regular clothes this time, to enjoy day 2 of the extravaganza...















Some masks weren't the best, but all were better than Halloween 5's...



























Since I was in costume the first day, I didn't get my photo taken with anyone, which is when I got the bulk of my autographs so my picture with Ellie is the lone celeb pic I have from this convention...









Be An Extra in Halloween 9?  Totally!  Living only fifteen minutes from where the original was filmed, I decided to use it to my advantage in my contest entry.  I took to the filming locations and reinacted a few key moments .  If I can track down my VHS copy of it, I will post it here.  I submitted my entry, hoping for the best but expecting the worst...






Whaaaaaaaat?  Oh my God, this was so unexpected!  I guess that acting workshop I took in high school finally paid off.  To bide my time until the next round of announcements, I walked up and down Hollywood Boulevard trying to find a section devoid of hookers and the scent of urine to see where my star might go...




Wow, they liked me!  They really liked me!  I thought making the top 50 was a fluke, but this, this left me beside myself.  I could say it was an honor just to be nominated, but I'd be a damn liar. I wanted to win this thing.

When it came time for the announcement, I was almost late because I kept looking for the red carpet I figured the nominees would be walking down.  I was wearing Old Navy but there was no one to ask me.  I guess there was some snafu behind the scenes.

I had my acceptance speech all set.  My heart was pounding.  I had pit stains worse than Dennis Quaid in Jaws III.  Was I about to become part of Halloween history?  And then it happened. Moustapha Akkad announced the winner.  Only the name didn't begin with a B.  It hit me like a ton of pumpkins.  As if someone had stabbed my neck with a knitting needle.  I heard a shriek from other end of the room.  A blonde wearing a convention staff t-shirt began convulsing as she headed for the stage.  I was about to shout "It's a fix!" but I held my tongue.  I didn't want to jeopardize my chances should there be a Halloween 10 extra contest.


Heather received a round of applause from the room (and perhaps a middle finger from me).  I wouldn't meet him until 19 years later, but I found myself in good company with Robert Patterson from Set-jetter.com in the loser line.  When Halloween 9 ended up being Rob Zombie's vision four years later, I felt as I had dodged a bullet.






Devastated and distraught over being snubbed by The Academy Dimension Films, I thought about calling it a convention and heading for home.  But did I want to go out like this?  At one of the greatest experiences of my life?  Then I remembered I had purchased a ticket for the final raffle - a convention poster signed by all celebrities who had attended.
 



Just as I was about to pop a Prozac, my number was called!  Now I know what lotto winners feel like, well maybe not entirely... 






What an upper!  With my one dollar raffle ticket, I got all these autographs... after spending hundreds all weekend.  Nah, they were worth every penny.  I couldn't wait to frame this puppy.  I also couldn't wait to find Heather and rub her face in it.
 






When the convention was over, it felt like December 26th, like leaving Disney World to go home.  The only thing that got me out of bed the next morning was my trek to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital.  This was around the time I started visiting filming locations outside the Halloween universe, which eventually led to the hobby as I know it today.  

In 2006, Anchor Bay released the 25 Years of Terror DVD documenting the convention.  Dark Delicacies in Burbank, CA hosted an autograph signing by the organizers and several of the cast...




The 25th Anniversary Halloween Convention was without a doubt one of the highlights of my life thus far.  For those who attended, I hope this post brought back some memories, and for those who didn't, I hope you got an idea of this truly amazing experience.  It left me wondering if it could be topped five years later...   

4 comments:

  1. I wish I could've gone. I love the dvd of it however. I'm curious if that Heather Girl actually had a part in Zombie's Halloween. I need to go rewatch it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The DVD is amazing. I read that she was in a deleted scene, maybe as a reporter.

      Delete
  2. This was the third convention of any kind I ever went to and it was such a blast! I had so much fun, even though I had to miss out on being at home for Halloween. But still, what a great way to celebrate the holiday. Still have a bunch of goodies I purchased there, along with the program and a variety of autographs/pictures. The bus tour was cool, and I even got to go up on stage for the fan film contest. And seeing you dressed up as a Laurie Strode, I now realize that was you I saw walking around on Day 1. Haha! Great memories of this con.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, that's funny you spotted me! This convention was incredible. One of the best times I ever had.

      Delete