The 60-Minute Speed-Conventioning Challenge
September 12, 2015 2 Comments
We had an idea in mind of how today would go. A small Indianapolis convention had brought in a handful of actors of varying levels of fame and importance. In my mind one of the biggest was Lance Henriksen — Bishop from Aliens and Alien³, one of several cops from The Terminator, star of the X-Files spinoff Millennium, costar of the southern-vampire cult classic Near Dark, and other stuff I’m forgetting. With a geek resumé like that, I anticipated waiting a few hours or more for the chance to say hi.
VIPs could enter the con at 10 a.m. When the general public was ushered in promptly at 11, we were third in his line. That seemed wrong. If we had known how quickly we’d finish the rest of my to-do list, maybe we would’ve taken a closer look at the photo, noticed his blinking, and asked humbly for a retake. Who knew.
Today wasn’t our first time attending HorrorHound Weekend Indianapolis, but it’s not in our annual rotation. The other time we attended in 2013, we met V costar Robert Englund, cruised around the ballrooms a tad, and that was a short Friday night for us. Horror has never been my wife’s thing, and I rarely go out of my way for it nowadays. As with 2013’s show, however, I found a couple of reasons for showing up anyway.
Lance Henriksen was one of them. Aliens remains one of my all-time favorite films, and I thought the second season of Millennium was better TV than 90% of the X-Files episodes I ever caught. I’d brought my old copy of Near Dark for him to sign, then kept it tucked away and instead opted to buy a copy of his perfectly titled biography Not Bad for a Human for sale at his table. $35 got us the book, his autograph, and a quick photo op. I handed over two twenties; the handler panicked because he didn’t have change; Henriksen handed me a fiver out of his own pocket. He was congenial and complimentary, like the grandfathers I never had. He deserved a longer line.
That took us till 11:05. On to another room to meet the other big, big name on my list: Yaphet Kotto. Throughout his fifty-year career he’s been best known as the Bond villain from Live or Let Die and The Black Guy in Alien, but to me he’s Lieutenant Giardello, (a.k.a. “Gee”) from TV’s Homicide: Life on the Street. In a convention-defying series staffed with a formidable ensemble of strong-willed characters, he had the honor of playing the one guy they looked to for guidance and orders.
Emmy Award Nominee Yaphet Kotto, costar of one of the greatest science fiction films of all time and an impressive TV series, had no line. At all.
And, call it a hunch, but I got the impression he wasn’t too hyped about being there.
I wish I could’ve done anything to change any or all of this.
That took us till 11:10. Between Henriksen and Kotto, I figured by now it would be 3 p.m. and we’d be dying for lunch. I specifically ate too much at IHOP this morning because I thought we’d be living in autograph lines all day.
Of the other guests in attendance, Robert Englund was back once again, and still commanded the longest line, but we’d already met him. Second-longest line belonged to his costar Heather Langenkamp, who survived more Nightmare on Elm Street movies more than any other actor in history. Other guests included Kuato from Total Recall, two guys from the group Danzig, James Hong (already met), a few other folks from Big Trouble in Little China, nineteen (!) other victims from the Elm Street series, the legendary Tom Savini, some other makeup artists and creature-shop guys (including Neville Page, a past C2E2 Costume Contest judge), and surprise guest Daniel Roebuck (The Fugitive, River’s Edge, and a zillion other things).
We hadn’t really come to see any of the rest of those folks. If I’d known Roebuck would be there, I might’ve prepared better. (I still remember Dudes.) The con had a modest panel schedule, but Henriksen’s was hours away and we’re not the type to attend random panels just get our money’s worth. I could imagine Chris’ dad from Everybody Hates Chris yelling at us, “That was $25 worth of convention ticket. SOMEONE gonna look at all that convention!” But that’s not how we roll.
So we spent another forty minutes checking out the rest of the main exhibit hall, as well as the “Mask-Fest” in the slightly-less-main exhibit hall, which was all about masks, for those who like to stock up on masks for multiple Halloweens or future convention cosplay.
We saw a few cosplayers, but didn’t stop to capture them — a Freddy Krueger, a couple of killer clowns, a few people wearing the masks they probably just bought, a few murder victims, a couple of Ghostbusters for charity, and so on. What you’d expect, all told. No characters from Star Wars, sadly.
All the halls were packed and could’ve used trigger warnings for the claustrophobic. The show sold out today, threatened to burst beyond the Marriott’s walls, and required a few policemen to direct traffic in their inadequate parking lot. Our regular Indy sci-fi con, Starbase Indy, has used the same hotel for decades, but they announced earlier this year their next show will be elsewhere in town. HorrorHound now draws a larger crowd than SBI and had a fantastic turnout on their hands, but it might be in their best interest to check out larger locales for 2016, especially any with more parking spaces.
That’s not to say the rest of our stay was a bust. I greatly appreciated one vendor who brought several boxes of $5 graphic novels I couldn’t pass up, including a Chris Samnee book I’d never heard of called Capote in Kansas. I found myself a new MST3K T-shirt that’s more colorful and less worn than the one I picked up on our 2000 road trip.
I also stopped by the booth of local horror author Michael West. He’s written several novels, published two short-story collections, edited an anthology, and has plenty of links on his official site for checking out his books and e-books online.
That took us till 11:50. And with that, we took our leave, walked back to our car parked three blocks away, and called the day a success.
It sounds like a failure, but I achieved everything I’d hoped. To be honest, setting aside actor-related expenses, I think I bought more merchandise in HorrorHound’s halls than I did from the dealers at Wizard World Chicago this year. Never expected that kind of shopping imbalance between the two shows of vastly different sizes.
And that’s the story of the shortest convention experience we’ve ever had, seventy minutes shorter than our romp through the Appleseed Comic Con last May. And they all lived happily ever after. Really. I’m fine with our choices.
In fact, some fan group out there should turn this sort of thing into an ongoing competition. Challenge each other to find a local con with a negligible guest list (either in general or just to you) and see if you can have yourself a fully satisfying con in one hour or less. Stipulate a minimum number of autographs, a minimum number of dealers-room purchases (they have to be items you genuinely want, no random grab-‘n’-pay), and a minimum number of non-boring non-selfie photos to take before you rush out the door. See who wins and gets all the pointless bragging rights, which are the best kind of bragging rights. Add special bonuses for each Hollywood actor you meet within that narrow time frame, and chip in to buy a trophy for anyone who can do the whole thing in costume, which would be impossible. Someone should go have fun with that.