Took the family to the Chiller Theatre Expo in Parsippany, NJ this weekend. Not familiar with Chiller Theatre? Well, it was a Saturday night show on Channel 11 WPIX in New York that showed classic horror movies. It aired from 1961 to 1982. It's probably best remembered by the claymation six-fingered hand introduction (below). That was my favorite part as a kid.
It's long been off the air, but in honor of the classic show New Jersey has been the host of the Chiller Theater Expo since 1990. You can check out the website (here). At the Expo, they have lots of horror themed activities, vendors and guest celebrities signing autographs and stuff (though the celebrities are not strictly from the horror genre). For a complete list of all the guests this year (click here), it's staggering. Fans also get into the spirit of the show by dressing up as horror characters and other scary costumes. The place was super crowded with freaks.
The first thing we did was check out what the vendors were selling. Very cool and retro stuff. There was one table with a bunch of Godzilla memorabilia. Chloe went up to it and started naming all the monsters…"There's Gigan and Anguirus and Ghidorah and Hedorah…" The vendor got a big kick out of it. Then she looks behind him and says, "Oh, and there's Ultraman!" How many 5 year old girls know their Japanese sci-fi?
|Chloe was in the Chiller spirit making funny faces the whole day.|
Out of all the guest celebrities, there was only three that I really wanted to meet, and they all happen to be childhood heroes of mine. The first one we visited was Ace Frehley from KISS! He's the reason I learned to play the guitar! We stood in line for about 20 minutes waiting to see Ace. It was all very cattle-like. When we got to the front of the line his "people" had a table with various Ace paraphernalia to purchase for signing. I brought my own Ace Frehley "No Regrets" book for him to sign so I didn't buy anything, but they still charged me $30 bucks. When we met Ace, I tried to make a little small talk but he wasn't very interested. I can't blame him though, it's probably pretty boring sitting there all day dealing with crazed fans (and I do mean crazed – the guy behind us had close to 50 items for Ace to sign. Probably about $1500 worth!). He signed my book, gave each of my kids a guitar pick and we were on our way. I didn't take a photo of him – that would've been another $30!
The next celebrity I wanted to meet was Caroll Spinney, you know, Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street! Not sure how he fits in at a Chiller Expo but I'm glad he was there. There was only a few people waiting in line to meet him (which is criminal), but it meant him spending more time with you. He did both Oscar and Big Bird voices for the kids and he actually engaged us in conversation. When Kim asked how he manages to roller skate in the Big Bird costume he had a lengthy answer which sequed into unicycling. After signing my Big Bird Sings! LP he listed his favorite songs on the album. His wife, who was also there and very sweet, pointed to one of the songs and said they met during the recording of it. What a nice memory to be reminded of. We took a photo with Caroll, shook his hand and I thanked him for all the years of entertainment. I then asked his wife how much it cost for the signature and photo (I think it was supposed to be $25), but she said it was free of charge. Now THAT'S a stand up guy. Very humble. He IS his Sesame Street character.
We then took a little detour upstairs where they had the movie props and costumes exhibit. My favorite was all the Planet of the Apes memorabilia. The kids also liked the other life-sized monster props.
The last celebrity (and childhood hero) I wanted to meet was Lee Majors, The Six Million Dollar Man! Lee was set up in a large room with some of the other bigger-name celebs, like Penny Marshall, Danny Glover, Andrew McCarthy, Linda Blair and Tom Wopat, to name a few. I've already met and worked with Tom Wopat (read about that here), so no need to wait on his line. Again, it was very cattle-like waiting in line for Lee, about a 10 minute wait. Casey has seen The Six Million Dollar Man before so he was interested but by then Chloe was ready to go home, a little cranky. Lee signed my Six Million Dollar Man LP and we took a photo. Chloe was on the verge of a meltdown so she didn't want to get in the picture. I shook his hand, not as firm as you'd think (with the bionics and all), and we were whisked out of there.
I enjoy doing these out of the ordinary things with the kids and they seem to get something out of it. They're already talking about going next year. I'm in.