by Christopher Gullo
Conventions are always a time to look forward to with the chance to speak with film stars and find wanted items for your collection. Chiller Theatre's April 27-29 convention in East Rutherford New Jersey was no exception. As soon as I arrived I bought my ticket to the show (the line moved very quickly - a definite plus!) and went off in search of finding the show's guests who were signing autographs.
Outside the hotel was a tent in which most of the show's guest stars were signing. It was extremely crowded inside with many fans looking around to buy pictures to get autographed. I had brought some pictures with me so I did not need to spend time searching and just walked around until I found the stars that I wanted to meet. Of utmost importance on my list of stars for this show was Caroline Munro - star of such classic films as "Golden Voyage of Sinbad", "Dracula A.D. 1972" (with Peter Cushing), "Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter", "At The Earth's Core" (also with Cushing), "Star Crash", plus many more classic horror and sci-fi films. Peter Cushing Association member Janet D'Airo had done a drawing of Caroline and Peter Cushing from "At The Earth's Core" which I was presenting on the PCA's behalf. When I presented the framed drawing to Caroline she exclaimed that it looked wonderful and she would treasure it. Caroline then signed a couple of stills for me and then we took a picture together - a definite highlight for me at the convention! While chatting with her, Caroline mentioned that she is still working on her singing career and will in fact be heading back into the studio in another month. She is definitely one of the nicest of any film stars that you will meet - each fan was given her total attention as she answered their questions and autographed their photos.
Also in the tent was Yutte Stensgaard - star of "Lust For a Vampire", "Burke and Hare", and "Scream and Scream Again". I had met Yutte two years previous at another convention so I had her sign a picture of us that we took at that show. She expressed that she was enjoying this show.
Not too far away from Yutte was Suzanna Leigh - star of "Paradise Hawaiian Style", "Lost Continent", and "Lust For a Vampire". Leigh is another star whom I had met previously and she remembered the show as we chatted about the day and some of her films. Suzanna also has a new autobiography out (she told me it took seven years to write) called "Paradise Suzanna Style". She now resides in Memphis and spoke about the upcoming Graceland 25th anniversary celebration being held this summer. Elvis fans will not want to miss this event!
After meeting these three wonderful women I headed back into the hotel to go check out some of the dealer's rooms. Inside I met up with some friends who are producing the new 30th anniversary special edition DVD of "Lady Frankenstein". We had not seen each other in a while and we got the chance to catch up on all that was current in our lives. While we all searched the dealer's rooms I found the latest issue (Issue 15) of The House That Hammer Built. This fantastic Hammer devoted magazine from England is well worth picking up if you are a fan of classic horror films. This particular issue featured a special tribute to Peter Cushing and an interview with Ray Harryhausen.
The dealer's rooms were full with crowds of people searching for something to add to their collection. Being a Peter Cushing fan I saw a number of nice items (that I had to pass on - just bought a house), including a small bust of Cushing for $25, a complete painted model of Cushing for $75, his autograph framed for $150, and some Italian posters; Hound of the Baskervilles for $50, Curse of Frankenstein for $50, I Monster for $35, Satanic Rites of Dracula for $35, and "Island of Terror" for $25. Every conceivable film collectible was at this show - stills, autographs, posters, models, videos, DVDs, magazines, books, plus much more. Hats off to the convention's creator Kevin Clement for putting together such a great assortment of guests and dealers. He really has done a top notch job.
In another room was Luminous Video with classic Italian film star Barbara Bouchet. She was there signing copies of Eurovista's new DVD "Amuck" which she had starred in with Rosalba Neri. Barbara still looks great even after all these years and was very friendly to her fans who asked her questions about her career. As we spoke she noticed my autographed photo of John Phillip Law and Caroline Munro from "Golden Voyage of Sinbad" and her eyes lit up. It turns out that she knew John but had not seen him with dark hair - she was used to seeing him with blond hair. Luminous was definitely the place to visit for rare tapes and DVDs - always a great find at their tables.
After going out to eat at a favorite local diner me and a bunch of friends wandered outside to see the Chiller Saturday night party. The tent had been converted into a stage and some bands were starting to warm up. We stayed for a little while before heading back in as the weather outside cooled down considerably. In the lobby everyone was chatting with their friends about the days events and who met who. While talking with my friends I spotted Caroline Munro going outside to check out the bands - as a singer herself it's too bad that she didn't get up on stage! We all talked for another hour or so before deciding to call it a day and head back home - the Chiller show always seems to go by too quickly. While we headed back to out cars we had the good opportunity to once again pass by the tent/stage and see Zacherle and the Dead Elvi peform their rendition of Bobby "Boris" Pickett's classic horror song "The Monster Mash". A truly fitting way to end the night.
The next Chiller Theatre convention being held this October has already booked Yvonne Monlaur - star of "Brides of Dracula" and "Circus of Horrors". If you have never been to one of these conventions I strongly recommend attending the next one. You will be amazed at what a great time you will have.
COPYRIGHT © Christopher Gullo, 2001
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