Every year, the New England Horror Writers get a booth at Rock and Shock in Worcester, Massachusetts. We set out our books and magazines to sell, and speak to fledgling writers about the challenges and joys of publishing. Many of us speak on panels. Usually on each of the three days, 10-15 of us from the group (of about 300) man the NEHW booth. It’s the one time of year that we can be present in a large crowd and not stand out as “weird” or “dark” or any of the other adjectives bestowed upon us by the mainstream folks. At Rock and Shock, we seem pretty laid back and common.
I arrived early Friday, well before it opened, to set up our table. Fridays are usually slow nights but it’s the best time to get to know the other vendors. The main floor has dozens of booths selling horror movies, memorabilia, zombie makeup, spooky contact lenses, and anything horror related you can imagine. Across from our well-placed booth is the celebrity room. We know a couple of people over there well, from other cons and from life in general, and so mill in and out often.
Friday night a few of us wandered to the celebrity room and chatted with Sean Whalen who we’d never met. He was very nice and exchanged cards with us and told us about some great opportunities we should check out. Like most people we meet at the conferences, be it t-shirt salesman or actors or directors, he was down to earth and friendly.
Three NEHW woman, Stacey Longo, Trisha Wooldridge and I joined Heather Langenkamp and Lisa Marie for a Friday night Women in Horror panel. The NEHW girls have done this panel before, last year here, but adding in some movie people brought a breath of fresh air. Afterwards the five of us talked a little amongst ourselves. It’s always interesting to see that there isn’t much difference between people despite their ranking on the entertainment ladder, and that writers and actors seem to have a lot in common.
I met Michael Berryman Saturday morning and talked with him a bit. His booth wasn’t too far from ours. I have vivid scary memories of characters he played from my childhood, most notably, The Hills Have Eyes.
Saturday afternoon, Anthony Michael Hall arrived. The long line of fans wound out of the celebrity area and throughout the main floor. Honestly, when I go to these cons I never recognize names. A friend will say “X is over at that booth.” I will say I don’t know who that is and didn’t see his/her movies. Then I’ll see the face and say, “Oh yeah, that’s the guy in that movie with the camper and mountains from when I was little,” or something to that effect. But since Anthony Michael Hall starred in a lot of mainstream movies, I knew exactly who he was. I loved Sixteen Candles and as a teen named my Cabbage Patch Doll Jake Ryan. Who didn’t love Farmer Ted? And the brainy Brian Johnson from The Breakfast Club? I saw him on SNL and then all grown up on The Dead Zone. I grew up watching his movies and since we’re the same age, I thought it would be fun to break my cardinal rule about paying to get a picture with someone.
I waited for the line to shorten then stood with two friends. When my turn came and we took the picture, he was charming and very nice. I got to speak with him briefly afterward and like the others, he was sociable and seemed like a sweet, regular guy.
The NEHW group ended the evening by going to Vive Bene for dinner. It’s a fancy Italian restaurant down the street. It’s probably the only place that will allow so many of us to sit together and speak loudly about horrific things.
Rock and Shock continues on through today but I am back to my regular life: grocery shopping, feeding pets, homework, writing…The brush with celebrities and all things horror was fun but getting back in the groove of my real life is nice too.
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