How Far Would You Go to Meet Willie from “V”?

My wife has always been a big fan of the 1983 TV miniseries V and its 1984 sequel, V: the Final Battle. She could take or leave the short-lived series that followed, and she had no interest in sampling the recent failed reboot.

Veterans of V are an extreme rarity at local geek conventions. Until tonight she’d only met its star, Marc Singer, several years ago at a Trek con that was generous enough to incorporate other sci-fi universes. While it was interesting for us to see the original Beastmaster up close, he was never her favorite V character. Whenever she waxes nostalgic about the show, her narrative sooner or later turns to the subplot of Willie, the humble alien Visitor who would betray his race, join the human resistance, provide comic relief, and lend the show some much-appreciated heart. He may not have been a he-man like Singer, but I’ll admit he stood out in every episode I saw when she introduced me to their world.

This weekend that particular actor is in town, headlining a convention that’s been around for a few years. We’ve never attended it before because its primary focus really isn’t our thing. After weeks of hemming and hawing over whether or not this was a suitable idea for us, ultimately we had to ask ourselves: how many other chances will she have to meet him?

It’s in that spirit, after no small amount of deliberation, that we endured wretched construction traffic and the world’s ickiest dealer booths to grant her not-dying wish of meeting the man who brought Willie to life.

Many of you know him better for his movie work, including one specific character ten thousand times more well-known than Willie.

Robert Englund, HorrorHound Indy 2013

So yeah, that’s us with Robert Englund, in my new favorite convention photo of the year.

Attendees had the chance to pay money for a photo op with Englund, who was clearly having a blast and open to whatever posing suggestions each fan brought to the table. His line was a few hundred strong, but moved quickly. 99 out of every 100 photos struck the same pose: Englund grinning like a ghoul and threatening the fan(s) with his trademark Freddy Krueger ginsu glove. Imaginative prudes that we are, we were hoping for something a little different.

As is sometimes the case, inspiration struck her first. As we approached for our turn, she immediately greeted him with the V-for-victory hand sign. Englund stopped in his tracks, thought for a split-second, realized what she was referencing, immediately shifted gears, doffed the glove, and…presto! A photo op to call our own.

This was our primary objective and our biggest expenditure at HorrorHound Weekend Indianapolis 2013. Again: not something we normally attend. Horror was never part of my wife’s pop-culture diet by choice, only when others foisted it on her. For me it was all but intrinsic to my disgruntled teen and bitter young-adult years. Nowadays, not remotely so much. (That’s a long story in itself. Another time, perhaps?) But, y’know, this was Willie. He still pops up here and there in random TV guest spots. And I saw plenty of his films in my youth, including all seven films in his one big series, which means the event might or might not qualify for being grandfathered on a temporary free pass. Or something.

It’s kind of a complicated subject, for which I refuse to pretend I have every answer. I have no doubt that sharing our weekend plans with one of our pastors would spark a fascinating conversation. Events like this certainly aren’t for everyone, but we’d like to think we emerged from the experience intact, albeit a wee reviled by things we cannot unsee. We knew the job was dangerous when we took it.

Besides, it’s worth noting that “horror” spans an undeniably broad spectrum. Representing for the defense are life-size models of old-school scarers Nosferatu and Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein, relatively benign members of the community.

Nosferatu, Frankenstein

Not every square inch was devoted to blood ‘n’ brains. Ballyhoo Pictures, the company that’s produced featurettes for the last several Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVD sets, was on hand with genuine MST3K props, such as Mike Nelson’s first jumpsuit (including a handmade Wisconsin patch on one shoulder) and the miniature Door #5 from one of the “MOVIE SIGN!” transition sequences. Joel, Mike, and the ‘Bots survived more than a few horrid horror flicks back in their day, so the’re hardly off-topic.

MST3K props

My wife was understandably perplexed at the sight of a giant Green Goblin head. I had to explain this was a prop from Maximum Overdrive, a movie about a small town plagued by evil, sentient trucks. Emilio Estevez, The Simpsons‘ Yeardley Smith, and The Wire‘s Frankie Faison are among the few living actors who can say they once worked with director Stephen King. This Goblin head was mounted on one of the really sinister trucks. I have no idea why because I never finished watching it. Perhaps it was explained in a scene after the end credits.

Green Goblin head

No convention is complete without cosplay, even on Friday night. Behold the natural stars of the show floor.

Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, costumes

Movie maniac copycats abounded for each of the big names in the biz. Not usually in identical pairs, though. Points for creativity.

Freddy Krueger twins

I’m not sure this was meant to be Pumpkinhead, but he was equipped with a creepy voice filter for value-added disturbance. I like to think of him as the malevolent avatar of pumpkin-flavored everything. And soon he will be overtaking all our restaurants once more. CURSE YOU, PUMPKIN FLAVOR DEMON.

pumpkin flavored everything demon

Most of the other acting guests were murderers or murder victims from assorted slasher flicks, including the likes of Jamie Kennedy (whom I’ll someday forgive for Son of the Mask), Vivica A. Fox (Independence Day), Larry Drake (Darkman), Christopher Marquette (Fanboys), Danielle Harris (Bruce Willis’ li’l daughter in The Last Boy Scout), Gerrit Graham (the underrated Now and Again), Brendan Fletcher (the Parasite on Smallville), and — pictured here — Zack Ward from two winning episodes of Dollhouse and, in his youth, A Christmas Story.

Zack Ward, HorrorHound

I would’ve been stoked to meet Chad Coleman from The Wire (Cutty!), but filming schedules precluded any of the three Walking Dead guests from appearing Friday. My loss.

The atmosphere was convivial. The gatekeeping was minimal. The photo op line kept us in great company with fellow fans close to our ages. The overcrowded dealers’ room was par for the course. The wretched concessions haven’t made me ill yet. All told, not too shabby an experience for a three-hour tour. A couple of the Saturday panels sound intriguing (especially Ballyhoo’s premiering of their new, feature-length MST3K documentary), but our schedule, budget, and other preferences got in the way and limited us to tonight only. As far as we’re concerned, that photo is quite the grand consolation prize.

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