So the long and short is that I met all the stuntmen/actors who've played adult Jason Voorhees at the Monster Mania convention. I also met John Carpenter too, as proven by this photo. .
Both of those photos cost me nearly $500.
I've been going to conventions since I was a kid, and I've noticed a specific type of convention popping up in smaller towns. They're usually put together by suspiciously mercenary companies who bring in a bunch of actors and directors from beloved cult franchises, and they set up massive autograph lines and photo sessions at often exorbitant prices.
I'm not a big fan of these kinds of conventions. I like stuff like DragonCon in Atlanta, where the emphasis is more on fan culture and socializing. Autograph mills tend to just make me feel exploited.
Plus, it's not like you get any meaningful time with the celebrity and it seems like a horrible experience for them anyway. Imagine you did a movie in the 1980s that people still won't shut up about. You're getting older and you suddenly have to summon up the emotional energy to meet thousands of people in a cattle line, sign thousands of autographs, and take hundreds of photos with people who say pretty much the same things about how much your work means to them.
I've been to a few of these types of signings and I've never seen a person be anything but gracious. Still it's seldom satisfying for anyone attending, on either side of the table. It's rare to get more than a second with someone, and if you do then you're holding up the line for everyone. Plus some fans can be real assholes. I saw several people with duffel bags full of merchandise that was no doubt headed towards eBay.
It was also not a very well-run convention. They'd clearly oversold the event, so I was hemmed in on every side by frustrated attendees. The volunteers trying to coordinate everything were clearly both disorganized and not given a clear idea of what was going on. Everything ran on cash which, considering the convention's high prices, meant that the overpriced ATM kept run-ing out of money.
So after all of these complaints, why would I stay? Why would an experienced horror fan and experienced conventioneer even bother to attend?
Steve Dash, Ted White, Tom Morga, C.J. Graham, Kane Hodder, and Ken Kirsinger were all in attendance. Each one of them had worn Jason's iconic hockey mask on film at least once. I love those movies (and, judging by a crowd that spanned the generations, I'm not the only one) for the nostalgia factor and the sheer elemental power of Jason that I had to meet them and get a photo with them.
And it was totally worth the hassle of the convention.
I wound up first in line for the fan photos because of course I did and when I walked up to get in the photo all the Jasons looked up at me and I remembered just how scary they could be. I was looking at the faces that I'd only seen on the screen. My animal brain screamed danger. It was thrilling. I made a joke about all the nightmares I'd ever had were in the same room with me. Then I got into position.
That's when one of the Jasons started to choke me. And another one stuck a machete to my throat.
I was lifted a little bit off the ground - stuntmen are very strong - and I started getting just a little bit freaked out. But I also realized that I had a couple of seconds to take a photo. So I smiled and gave a thumbs up.
For me, a lot of the pleasure in these conventions comes from the dealer floor. I like finding rare treasures and interesting pieces of art. Interacting with other fans gives you a sense of the shared joy and camaraderie that is central to the best convention experiences.
Horror fans are some of the most passionate and enthusiastic fans out there. We have such an intense and visceral connection to the material that it's generally a happy thing to be surrounded by your fellow fans. Monster Mania might not have been for me, but I really enjoyed those moments between myself and other people.