My first son was born in 2005 and, like a lot of new parents, I was feeling a bit rundown the first few weeks. The shift between having no concerns aside from having your shit together enough to hold down a regular job and actually being responsible for another human life can be a little overwhelming. Even when you’re relaxing, you can never really turn your brain off entirely.
That’s why the Chiller Theatre convention held in October of that year was so appealing. It was a time to put any concerns behind and just fully immerse myself in the things I love. Still, my son was only two months at the time and I wasn’t comfortable leaving for the entire weekend. In the past, I had always gotten a hotel room and spent the weekend with friends, but this year was different. I went down just for one day and I went by myself. It was a great opportunity to clear my mind and just sort of hit the reset button. I chose to go on Sunday since I didn’t buy advance tickets and didn’t want to take the 4 hour drive to New Jersey and not be able to get in.
The guest list this time was an afterthought. I didn’t care who was there, I just wanted to be around horror stuff. Luckily, it was still a pretty good line up that included mini Cannibal Holocaust and Blood Feast reunions.
So after I paid for parking, I went around the dealer’s rooms for a while, bought a few things, and finally went down to wait in line for the autograph tent. For a Sunday, it was still quite a line up. Most of those people were waiting for George Romero. As much as I love George, his line was incredibly long and I was more interested in a few other things.
My highest priority was the Cannibal Holocaust table with Robert Kerman and Gabriel Yorke. I think this was the first east coast convention for these guys. Sage Stallone was there as well, but I didn’t want to talk to him as Sly’s son, I was much more impressed with what he had done with Grindhouse Releasing. Anyway, when I got to the table, Stallone and Kerman were the only ones there. I chatted with them for a few minutes and they were both pleasant enough. Kerman seemed a bit cynical about the whole thing. Not nasty, just different.
After a while, I asked him to sign my DVD. I had the Grindhouse release, but I thought the signatures would look better on the Italian release (see above) that I had gotten previously. Kerman seemed flummoxed by this. He turned to Stallone and asked, “How much do I charge him if he brings his own thing?” This surprised me a little as this was Sunday toward the end of the convention. Had no one brought their own things to this point?
Stallone ran his hand through his hair and said, “I don’t know Robert. You can charge whatever you want.” It kind of sounded like they had already gone down this road a few times over the weekend and he was a little tired. I can’t remember exactly how much he asked for, but it seemed reasonable. I think it was either five or ten dollars.
I always make a point to ask for my stuff to be personalized. I’m not sure if it matters to the guests, but I want to make sure they know that this is for a personal collection and not something to be sold for profit. So, I asked him to sign it to Joe and he took my DVD and proceeded to write, “To Jeff, We are the real cannibals?” I just kind of looked at it and smiled when he gave it back to me. Should I tell him? He didn’t seem like the most stable guy I had ever met and what was he going to do about it? I didn’t buy it from him and it would terrible if he scribbled out Jeff and wrote Joe. I thanked him and asked Stallone if Gabriel Yorke was still at the show. He was and would be back at the table in about 20 minutes or so.
I looked around the tent for a while and chatted with the people from Blood Feast. This was an interesting series of encounters too, but that’s a story for another day.
I went back to the Cannibal Holocaust table and Gabriel Yorke was there. He was as personable and friendly as anyone I had met and seemed genuinely pleased to chat with me. I decided to move things along as a couple had lined up behind me. I think he charged ten dollars as well. When I handed him the DVD I made sure to really enunciate my first name in hopes that he’d get it right. I said Joe as clearly and slowly as I could without him thinking that I had some sort of brain damage. He even used my name and said how it was a pleasure to meet me.
He must have looked at what Kerman wrote before he signed it though, because he wrote “Jeff, You Cannibal You!” Again, I smiled, thanked him and moved on. I put my stuff down to take a picture for the people behind me.
I left the autograph tent and made it back to the hotel where the main convention was held before I realized I had left my bag of stuff at the Cannibal Holocaust table. I went back to the exit as the line to get into the tent was still super long. The guy guarding the door was not buying what I was selling though. He insisted that the only way I was getting in was to wait at the end of the line. I tried bargaining though. I asked him to go get it and promised that I would guard the door and not let anybody in. Surprisingly, he actually agreed to this.
I stood by the door and obviously looked ferocious enough that no one tried to gain entry through the exit. After a little bit, I looked in to see if the guy had any luck and Yorke was waving me over. I abandoned my post and thanked the guard.
When I got over to the table they were all flipping through the book. Kerman told me that they were all jacking off in my book since I left. I don’t really know the best way to respond to a statement like this so I just gave a little laugh and thanked them for holding onto it for me. Kerman then nudged a little closer to Stallone and showed him a picture from the Cronenberg movie Crash. They have the following exchange:
Kerman: Do you know who that is?
Stallone: Yeah, it’s James Spader.
Kerman: Do you like him?
Stallone: Yeah, he’s a good actor.
Kerman: FUCK HIM!
He really yelled that last part. Enough so that a few people around us noticed. I got that uncomfortable feeling you get when you can’t tell if someone is serious or not. No one else at the table seemed all that bothered by the outburst, so I just reiterated that I was thrilled to meet everyone and went on my way.
It may not sound like much, but after I got home, I felt refreshed. Having been away for the better part of a day made everything to do with the baby seem less daunting.
To this day, I still don’t know if Robert Kerman is legitimately crazy or he just likes messing with people.