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By Mike Watt | May 26, 2004

As far as conventions go, the Chiller Theatre Toy, Model and Film Expo is big. Huge. And crowded. The first time I went to Chiller, I suffered a claustrophobic panic attack in front of Scooter (“Shatter Dead”) McCrae. It wasn’t pretty (Not “Scooter” pretty, to say the least). While the April Chiller is generally less crowded than the October Chiller, the East Rutherford, NJ, Convention Center is still packed to the walls more often than not. Due to strict fire marshal rules, for example, there can only be a certain amount of people in the building at any given time, which means long lines to get tickets and an additional wait just to be allowed on the escalator. Those of us with nifty orange plastic wrist bands (allowing us free passage to and from the upper dealer’s floors) were often met with scorn from the line-standers as we bypassed the wait and leapt onto the moving stairs.

This past April marked my first year as a guest at Chiller. Okay, it was Amy Lynn Best who was the actual guest (big surprise to those who follow my irregular column on an irregular basis), but I was still the recipient of the aforementioned wristband and was treated just like a guest by the many Chiller volunteers.

A note about this: I’ve written about cons at war with the hosting hotels, cons at war with other cons, etc. The fine folks who run Chiller, however, don’t seem to be at war with anyone. These are truly nice people. Head Honcho and Chiller Theatre Magazine publisher Kevin Clement was our primary liaison and I’ve never – I’ll repeat this for the record – never encountered a more accommodating promoter. After having been met with indifference from past shows, and scorn at others, we were pleasantly surprised to see that Kevin would repeatedly go out of his way for any attendee or official guest that had the smallest concern. From the beginning, Kevin did his best to help us out. Since it was Amy’s first Chiller, she requested to be set up somewhat near Paul Scrabo and Georgeann Muller, there to promote their feature, Dr. Horror’s Erotic House of Idiots, in which we both have a cameo. As our good friend and “Dr. Horror’s” star Debbie Rochon was also to set up with them, it would have lent us a good support system to be near them. What we didn’t know is that Chiller rapidly runs out of room, and while Kevin did his best to grant Amy’s request, it would have meant the five of us (six counting “Front Row” host Rich Scrivani) stacking up like Lincoln Logs.

As a backup, Kevin had Amy set up in the outdoor tent, where the other media guests were located. But with a whipping wind and an innate fear of tents (don’t laugh, it’s a real malady! – plus, one year, a hurricane touched down, blew the tent over and dragged Adam West for three miles! It’s true! And even though there was a brand new tent with extra supports and moorings, it was still a big, scary white thing that made noise when the wind blew and will you just leave us alone!!), we sheepishly requested a third location, if possible. At this point, who could possibly fault even the most even-tempered promoter if tops were blown? Not Kevin. Cool, collected, he did a quick mental assessment of the many rooms available, the spaces not filled, and found Amy a home with an assemblage of friends and peers, including T.V. Mikels (“Mark of the Astrozombies”), Tom Savini and Brinke Stevens. It was a very nice room—the same that Tom set up in at every show. So there was an immediate sense of familiarity and comfort. And it also meant that we could harass Tom as much as we wanted for three whole days! And that, friends, is the ultimate icing.

Our location secured, we made a quick run back to our hotel – not the same one attached to the Convention Center, as that had long since sold out – and then made our way back. Unfortunately, I was driving. I’m not the best driver under the best of circumstances, and even though the way was clearly marked “To Convention Center”, for some reason, I was compelled to yank the steering wheel to the right and we found ourselves mired on the New Jersey Turnpike. During rush hour. On a Friday. Ever been so angry you invented your own profanity?

An hour later, we re-arrived at the Convention Center, after switching places at a semi-convenient rest area. We had all of fifteen minutes to get back to our table and get things set up for the rush of fans already assembled in a block-long line. Arriving at the room, we discovered that another vendor—of impressively-aged and authentic lobby cards—had spread his wares onto our table. And under it. And behind it. And had stolen one of our chairs. “Oh, didn’t know anyone was set up here,” he said, as he lifted his stack of ancient movie magazines off our little sign reading “Reserved for Amy Lynn Best”. Tom offered no help; he was busy perusing the lobby cards (for the record, he bought at least three bearing the images of actors under contract at Universal during the high “monster” period. And they were pretty cool).

I snarled. Amy kept her cool. I trooped back to the dealer’s room to score another chair from the little room in which chairs were kept. Located conveniently near our aforementioned friends Paul, Georgeann and Rich. The newly-secured chair allowed me to sit for a moment, bullshit with my buddies, and block the fire exit.


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