After a long self-imposed hiatus to help plan the first DAYS OF THE DEAD show, Mr. Chainsaw returns with his first public blog in 9 months with a behind the scenes look at life as a convention promoter.
SEND MORE PARAMEDICS #4: "Never Mind the Bollocks...Here Comes The Infected!"
It's been quite a while since I've sat down and shot off my thoughts on the ole' blog, choosing to hold my peace until after the first DAYS OF THE DEAD convention so as not to have anything I write be construed as propaganda for the show. That said, with the inaugural show in the books (and having been a successful one at that), it's time to climb back on my rickety soapbox and give the dozen or so of you that give a shit my two cents. As always, thanks for reading. : )
There are two major things I learned in the 9 months I spent going from convention fan to convention promoter with the birth of DAYS OF THE DEAD:
1) On a business level, the convention arena is more crooked than a room full of politicians and more cutthroat than an armada full of pirates.
2) When taking on an endeavor as challenging as putting on your own horror convention, having a strong sense of what really matters goes a long way towards success and ultimately personal satisfaction.
Of the two, I think the first revelation was easily the most shocking to me. When offered the opportunity to be a part of putting on my own convention, I had this naïve notion that most of the promoters across the convention landscape would send me emails chock full of helpful advice and encouragement on my ambitious undertaking, welcome me into a fraternity of like minded fans living the dream, and ultimately accept invitations to come out to the show and support the new kid on the block. So imagine my surprise when the actual outcome involved a greatest hits of underhandedness, including threatening vendors with banishment from other events, politicking with celebrity managers to have their clients pulled from our show, and a bevy of rumors and half-truths involving that DAYS OF THE DEAD would not happen for one reason or another. One not so famous monster even went so far as to imply that they would show up to the convention in costume and assault me. But again, that’s neither here nor there and certainly not worth giving extended attention.
So, what is it that really matters then?
By Friday night of DAYS OF THE DEAD, we could already call the convention a success. Everything was paid off and any revenue beyond what we had already made was slated to be set aside as profit. Most vendors had done well enough on the first day to have themselves made a profit on the weekend and just about every celebrity guest was very pleased with the turn out. We had gotten almost twice as many fans as we would have expected for a Friday and the biggest issue on everyone’s minds was, “If this is what Friday looked like, are we - as a first time show learning the ropes as we go and for the most part winging it - ready for what promises to be an insane Saturday?” And yet, even with a hotel full of happy fans, happy vendors, and happy celebrities, I couldn’t bring myself to not stress the negatives. Panicked calls to the hotel from patrons who heard that the show had been canceled. Fake accounts being created on our phpbb in an attempt to spread misinformation. Even vendors opening up about what other prominent business figures in the convention world had “warned” them would happen if they worked with us. I sat in the DAYS OF THE DEAD staff room with my head in my hands that night wondering if I hadn’t made a huge mistake in even getting involved with this to begin with.
Saturday went much in the same way only significantly busier. It started around noon with a group of jokers deciding to pull the fire alarm close to the start of every scheduled panel. Understaffed due to our own inexperience of how many people it would take to run a convention (we foolishly thought we could get things done with only 20 volunteers scheduled each day, though they were the best damn volunteers ever!), catching the culprits eluded us much of the day. To make matters worse, the AC would temporarily shut off each time the alarm was pulled, making the jam packed convention area quite hot. By 2pm, I had yet to eat a bite of food all day, had gotten 2 hours of sleep the night before, and was pushing around cases of bottled water on an office chair trying my best to keep everyone cool and hydrated. In between water runs, I obsessed over every negative thing that had been perpetrated on us to date and slowly my sanity began to fray a bit. Despite the best efforts of my partners and staff advising me to ignore the agenda driven haters, I was starting to crack under pressure. It’s not that I was sensitive to the nay saying or overwhelmed by the work – this shit just wasn’t fun anymore, and to me, if it ain’t fun it ain’t worth doing. Between the insane physical and mental demands of putting on such an event and the playground drama that comes along with it, I was very much ready to call it quits.
At 6pm, I went up to my hotel room, laid down on the bed, and began to talk myself into getting through what was left of the weekend. I took a brief, but soothing shower. I changed into my attire for the VIP Party. And before walking out the door I looked in the mirror and asked myself, “Why the fuck did you ever want to do this?” – it was more a question seeking an honest answer and an appeal for self empathy.
Whether due to exhaustion or a renewed sense of clarity, the walk from my hotel room to the VIP Party seemed to happen in slow motion. Everywhere I looked, there were smiles on faces and nods of approval. There was a buzz in the air that I hadn’t felt in a very long time. And then, looking down, I saw a 2 foot tall Jason Voorhees, quite possibly attending his first convention ever, chopping up ankles and bruising kneecaps with his plastic machete. I started to think of how magical it once felt, going to conventions – being a part of a community of like-minded people who would otherwise very likely be shunned in the every day world for their love of this misunderstood and often maligned subculture which celebrates the gruesome, the gory, and the macabre…feeling like I belonged. Leaving little Jason, I approached the rear entrance of the VIP Party location, when someone stopped me in the hall and said, “Hey….thanks for making me fall in love with conventions again. You guys have done well by the fans.” We shook hands and they went about their way. A fire inside me lit up and as Rick opened up the back door, the realization of why we agreed to help birth this bad motherfucker in the first place hit me like a boomstick blast to the face.
With a renewed sense of purpose, the rest of the night was the most fun I’ve ever had at a horror convention ever. There was laughter, there was drunken folly, and there were even White Castles, but most important of all, there was community. Outside, the world went on, but inside the Wyndham on that weekend, nothing else mattered but the reunion of members of an extended horror family. And many fond memories were made that night that would last a lifetime.
In the end, I walked away from my first convention as a promoter feeling great about the overall experience. We may not have been “the best this” or “had the most that,” but one thing I do know is that we had the greatest coming together of true horror fans that I have ever seen at any convention in a very long time. And while I feel that the whole DAYS OF THE DEAD crew, staff, and volunteers did an AMAZING job, the best aspect of the show came from the element our patrons, vendors, and guests brought to it. I still haven’t quite figured out what it was, but everything seemed friendly, relaxed, and genuine, the polar opposite of the donut shop atmosphere that has begun to overtake our scene where you come in, pay your money, get your product, and get the fuck out. I’d like to think that those of us behind the scenes helped facilitate that, but in the end, I think most of the credit goes to the horror fans, the horror scene, and those who came out to openly and selflessly share their love for something so important to them. Each and every one of you is the reason why these things even happen in the first place and each and every show everywhere in the world is another celebration of our lifestyle and camaraderie.
In closing I would like to thank a few people specifically for their contributions to the first DAYS OF THE DEAD show: Gina Migliozzi (of Rock and Shock) and Jeff Waldridge (of Scarefest) for their encouragement as promoters and for being great mentors and supporters in our first year, Neal Jones and the Without Your Head crew for their excellent work in moderating out panels, Jeff “Wickedbeard” Cochran and Scott Medjesky for helping put together the best damn costume contest and tattoo contests the convention world has ever seen, Eriq Chang and Asia and Anders Eriksen for their support, contributions, and encouragement on behalf of Fable Foundry, T-Shirt Bordello, the whole Fangoria crew, Rue Morgue, DJ fuckin TRE for keeping me fueled with CRUNK all weekend long, Robert fuckin Rhine and Girls and Corpses, Dick Starr and Christopher Ott for contributing some amazing artwork for the show, all of our amazing costumers who we hope to have at future shows, all of our fabulous vendors who had faith in us and came out to be a part of our first show (even in the face of pressure from outside parties), all of our A-FUCKING-MAZING volunteers, friends, and staff who came out and helped put this bad boy together for little more than a shirt, a few autographs, and some White Castles, Lisa Baker for being the Queen Bitch we needed at just the right times, Amanda and Kevin with BioGamer Girl and Trash Cinema Collective for lending us their Xbox at a time of dire need, all of the other individuals who donated their time and wares to the show in some capacity, Jerry Pendelton for cooking the best damn meatballs I’ve ever had in my mouth, my amazing friends who help keep me sane and feeling normal with our outings and conversations that AREN'T convention related (Jerry, Lyndell, J-Payne, Ken Bub, Ian, Danny84, Shawnster, Wild Bill and Diva, and any others I my memory may have failed me with), our web guru Mike Delle, Tom “Evil” Combs who does rockstar level work for local musician level recognition, my wicked partners “Ultimate” Bill Philputt and Ricardo “Del Muerto” Lara, Jen Sicilia, my amazing wife Erin and all of our collective families, and anyone who I may have forgotten and who well deserves a mention (shoot me an email and I’ll add you to the list…no hard feelings).
But most of all it’s because of the FANS that this ever happened to begin with and YOU ALL are who matters most at our convention and at ANY convention. What you all created at DAYS OF THE DEAD during out inaugural weekend was nothing short of magic and we thank you. YOU are what really matters.
Hope to see you in next year in Atlanta, Indianapolis, and anywhere else we damn well please to take this crazy circus, nay sayers be damned.
And for the love of all that is holy, don't feed the bear alcohol! It leads to some weird things....
See ya at the con!
Brutal and bloody regards,
Adolfo “Mr. Chainsaw” Dorta
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