Here Come The Vultures - CRYPTICON SEATTLE 2014 Report!

Crypticon 2014
May 23, 24, 25th 2014
Hilton Hotel @ Sea-Tac

Greetings one and all!

It's time for another report of the Northwest's largest horror-themed convention:  Crypticon!  I've had the pleasure of covering the convention the last two years (this being the third) for my magazine Eclectic Arts.  Each convention has had it's own flavor and this year was no exception.

Much thanks to Dee for arranging the press passes this year and to Eric Morgret for all the assistance leading up to the convention.

As I had done in previous years, I had Eclectic Arts assistants with me to help cover Crypticon - to get their opinions (all three this year were new to Crypticon but two had been to other conventions), take photographs, and to add details that my dilapidated mind couldn't remember.  Their input is scattered throughout this report.  Thanks to Rick, Caitlin (a last minute replacement for Carol our transcriber who had health concerns), and Martine for your invaluable assistance this year.

As much as I'd like to report that Eclectic Arts is my full time job, I, like probably everyone involved with putting on Crypticon, hold a 9-5 job to pay the bills.  The week leading up to Crypticon was rather taxing so I was looking forward to escaping for the next three days with my fellow horror enthusiasts.

My assistant and I arrived on Friday at the familiar Hilton at Sea Tac Hotel.  We headed up to the check in, got our press passes, and ventured down the main hallway to the vendor room and the panel rooms.
As I usually do, we did a brief sweep of the convention, knowing that I would be going back several times over the course of the weekend.  All of the media guests were at their tables minus one or two. 

My assistant knew Mr. Jeffrey Combs from his cult film "From Beyond" which was displayed on his Crypticon banner.  My assistant then talked to Mr. Combs about his experience with that fucked up film.  Mr. Combs laughed and said, "you know I lived here in Seattle for three years and went to UW."  This was the first of many "I didn't know that" moments for my assistants and I this year (aka Mark needs to do a better job with his homework).

I then talked to Mr. Combs about possibly doing a 1-1 interview on Sunday, as Martine, my Sunday assistant, was a huge fan of his work.  He said, "let's see how burnt out I am by Sunday."  Fair enough we thanked him for his time and continued our journey around the room.
The very familiar assortment of vendors filled the room:  tattoos, horror memorabilia, clothing, art pieces, photography, etc.  The author's alley was outside the panel rooms again.  Paracon raffle and silent auction tables were in the main hallway this year, which was a smart move.  They were still using a room for their own panels but at least this year the auction items got more visibility.  A random side note - I met a nice guy from the Paracon group (Jaime/Jayme) who was there talking about the auction/raffle and Paracon.  I mention this as I ended up getting a photo with him because my sister in law asked me to.  Why you ask?  Both are Navajo.  But I digress.

After scanning the print program, we decided to hit a couple of topic panels.  Friday was pretty much all topic panels or visuals (movies, shorts, etc).  I believe Count Jackula was the only media panel Friday. 

A quick "hi" to moderator extraordinaire Tony Kay (you know I had to put that in here if you've read my past Crypticon reports) as we walked into Room C - where he was about to moderate the panel:  Past Horror Influencing Modern Horror.  My assistant picked the panels this day and we listened to this panel, switched to another topic panel, and then one other topic panel Friday night.

We went back into the vendor room to take another look at, well, everything, and then eventually called it a night.

I reviewed the print program at home and did some extended research for the media panels that were coming up on Saturday and Sunday.  I checked social media Saturday morning for any other interesting tidbits and then double-checked my belongings (such as my audio recorder, wallet, etc).

Saturday started with my assistant Caitlin's arrival at 10am.  We got down to the Hilton before it opened.  According to the program, Mr. Reggie Lee was doing a media panel at 11am.  There were a few of us sitting in the Room C, including Mr. Lee at one point, waiting for the panel to start and then he left (he had been sitting in the audience portion with us).  I went out to his table and asked what happened to his panel and his Crypticon assistant said there was a mistake in the program and his panel was actually at 3pm.  I went back in and told the rest of the folks in Room C.

This actually worked well.  We now had time to go into the vendor room and roam around.  My assistant had been to other conventions but not Crypticon.  She is a horror fan and aspiring writer, so this was perfect for her.  She's also the newest contributor to Eclectic Arts Print Magazine so welcome Caitlin!

I'm not ashamed to say that every year there are guests at Crypticon that I know - kind of.  Like I'll know the movies they were in but, aside from that, I couldn't tell you much more than that.  And then there are guests that I know well, could interview without doing research, etc.  Well, Mr. Doug Jones falls into the former category sorry to say.

My assistant on the other hand was a big fan of Mr. Jones' work.  She was rather star struck when she saw him.  I told her she should go say something to him but she wasn't sure what to say.  This was amusing to me to see this awkward side of Caitlin come out.  I told her it's Mr. Jones' birthday - there's an "in" to break the conversation ice.  She still seemed nervous so I went over and broke the ice with an "I understand it's your birthday - Happy Birthday!"  And then tossed it to my assistant by saying, "my assistant is a big fan." 

Caitlin did great.  She asked fan questions and Mr. Jones was most accommodating.  I can't remember the last time I've met such a sweet, endearing, gentleman like him.  I can easily see why the Crypticon folks welcomed him back to the convention (having been there in previous years).

Someone had given Mr. Jones a few Kit Kat candy bars stacked upon each other with a candle as a birthday treat.  Mr. Jones offered each of us a piece and we celebrated his birthday with a Kit Kat cheers and Happy Birthday.  Judging by the smile on her face, I think at this point my assistant Caitlin was lost forever in swells of Doug Jones fan-girl glee.  I'm sure it still hasn't worn off.

I pestered Mr. Combs again with some small chitchat.  His panel was at noon so we made sure to get over there to hear everything he had to say.

It's hard to describe Jeffrey Combs.  At times, it feels like he's in character, shielding himself from fandom and the usual questions and crap that come along with being a horror icon.  At other times, he's very real, very genuine, like someone you might start talking to at a bar over a beer.

His panel was a mix of both.  He's matter of fact, funny, loud at times, and a bit …edgy I suppose is the right word.  Again, whether this is "the real" Jeffrey Combs or something he does when he's at conventions, I'll never know.  I just found him entertaining in the same way watching the hydroplane races at SeaFair are when you're secretly waiting for a crash to happen.

He spoke extensively about his one-man show as Edgar Allen Poe.  He would love to do it here in Seattle, as Seattle is a theatre town according to Mr. Combs.  He talked about his voice work in many animated cartoons and films.  And of course - he talked about Re-Animator and H. P. Lovecraft.  He interjected about his time here in Seattle.  The UW drama program he was enrolled in for three years.  Eating PB&J sandwiches for 25 cents at the Last Cup on Brooklyn (in the U District) because he was dirt poor.  His panel was entertaining and informative. 

My assistant and I ventured back into the vendor room.  We talked to Mr. Carel Struycken a bit about his career.  I had asked him about Mr. Richard Keil's statement from Crypticon 2012 that people of their height (both are over 7 feet tall) are stereotyped as either monsters to stay away from or village idiots.  Mr. Struycken agreed and mentioned he's had to endure that his entire career.  He, very much like Mr. Keil, talked about how he's usually cast as a character that doesn't speak, looks menacing, or is for comedic relief.  And many times covered in prosthetics and/or makeup.  

Mr. Struycken is of Dutch background; he is soft spoken, and had many things to say.  I, being a photographer as well, was intrigued by his panoramic photography (he has his own site), virtual reality interest, and web site design.  He also is a musician, having written a few waltzes back during his time in the Caribbean.  One of his own pieces of music ended up in The Witches of Eastwick - which he was really happy about.  Caitlin got a photo with him (I was going to get mine on Sunday after his panel) and then we moved over to another celebrity's table:  Mr. Eric Roberts.

I'm going to be straight up honest - when I saw that Mr. Roberts was coming to Crypticon, the first question I asked myself was, "why?"  It just didn't seem like something he would do.  This isn't meant as a slight to the other media guests but Eric Roberts is on another level.  His resume and reputation speak for themselves.  He's not necessarily associated with horror genre work (even though he's done quite a bit of it recently).  He's associated with A level actors he's worked with, his very famous sister Julia, and his quite lengthy and much speculated career twists and turns over the last 40 years.

I was a bit intimidated by him.  This is someone that could be a complete ass - justifiably so if you look at the work he's done.  So I went to his table when there was a break and he pounded out fists to my assistant and myself.  I asked him a few questions and got short answers back.  Not in a rude way but in a matter of fact way - like something a New Yorker would say (even though he's originally from the south). 

His favorite genre work was "Best of The Best" as he holds two black belts in martial arts.  And here's a little side note:

Mr. Roberts's 8x10 photos were $25.  He said pay what you can afford.  This pleasantly surprised me, after all, he could of charged $50 and most of us would of still paid it.  Candids with your own camera were the standard $5 that I believe all the media guests were supposed to charge (many weren't though).  I wanted a photo with him - and instead of coming over to his side of the table.  He came around, came behind me to the side, and put his head on my shoulder and wrapped his hand around me.  Imagine that - my big melon head with Eric Roberts head on my shoulder.  It was surreal and one of my favorite candids from the entire convention.  I thanked him and then we headed back to Room C.
Up next was C. Thomas Howell's panel moderated by Tony Kay.  Let's face it - if you're my age (40 something), you know Tommy Howell (as he likes to be called) from "The Outsiders". Period.  You read the S.E. Hinton book in school and saw the film at your local theatre. The cast from that film became the stars of many, many 80's films (Cruise, Swayze, Dillon, Macchio, Lowe, Estevez, Lane, Garrett, etc).  So to me, he will always be Pony Boy - the character from that film.  And I look upon that fondly - not with embarrassment or disdain.  So I was interested to hear about Mr. Howell's career - particularly his recent turns as some baddies in several TV shows.

As much as I hate to use the word but it fits, Tommy Howell is just real.  He acknowledges his teen films.  He acknowledges making some not so good films to support his family.  And he's damn grateful to have a career all these years as an actor.  He came across very genuine, very much a workaholic, and also father-like (he has three children).
The very next panel was with Mr. Reggie Lee.  Most folks know him from his role as Sergeant Wu on NBC's "Grimm" on Friday nights.  I remembered him in his parts in "The Dark Knight Rises" and "Drag Me To Hell".

Of Filipino and some Chinese background, Mr. Lee (his stage name that he took from his grandmother after receiving too many offers to play Hispanic characters due to his real last name sounding Hispanic) spoke clearly, had funny stories to tell, and seemed happy to be at Crypticon.  His hour flew by.  It's too bad he could only stay for Saturday at the convention.
At this point, we took a break - by going back into the vendor's room.  I immediately wanted to mention something Tommy Howell had said during his panel to him at his table.  I went over and told him how much I enjoyed his panel.  And that one thing resonated with me a lot.  He had said, "young/green actors are always chasing after the moment.  Instead, they should let the moment come to them."  I found that statement profound and that it could really be applied to so many different aspects of ones life.  Mr. Howell told me how astute that was of me to notice that and to understand how true that statement really is. 

I then told him that I never know what little surprises are going to come from covering this convention.  All three years something unexpected is either said, or seen, and it's one of the very best aspects of Crypticon if you ask me.  So, his comment is one of those things from Crypticon 2014 I'll always remember and work at applying in my own life.

I needed another break so we walked around the other parts of the convention floor for an hour before the next panel.

Mr. Eric Roberts was the last media guest panel for Saturday and it couldn't have been more interesting.

I want to write what Mr. Roberts thinks of Christian Bale (they both were in The Dark Knight) but he had asked if anyone was taping this before he verbally let loose during the panel.  And out of respect to him, I won't repeat what he said here.  BUT, let's just say that rant that was captured of Christian Bale going off on some poor crewman on Terminator Salvation that made the rounds a few years back?  Yeah, apparently that's normal Christian Bale.  'Nuff said.

What I loved about his panel was that the questions I had in my head like "why is he doing Crypticon?"  "Why is he in like a gazillion projects for 2013, 2014, and beyond according to IMDB?"  All of this was answered and it all made sense.

Mr. Roberts is planning on retiring around the end of 2015.  His career spans from the 70's on up.  He decided that he would do his best to help out any young filmmaker that wanted to hire him before he hangs it up.  That they could put him in their film, and his name could perhaps help them get distribution for their film, etc.  He wouldn't be carrying any of these films, only doing 10 lines or so, but it would be a potential boost to that project - thus all the projects coming out with his name on IMDB.  I get the feeling that this is the same reasoning why he's doing conventions like Crypticon.  Something new, a way to meet some of his fans, and to potentially help up and coming actors, directors, etc that might want to pick his brain about the business or even secure him for their project.

He comes across like someone sitting on his or her couch, relaxed, and just enjoying the last part of the ride.  He's been involved with so many incredible jobs; it really emphasized to me just what an amazing career he's had.

After his panel, we decided to call that the end of day two at Crypticon.  All the partiers had much to look forward to later into the evening but my old ass needed to go home and rest. 

Sunday brought a change in the weather and a different assistant.  Martine has been involved with Eclectic Arts Print Magazine since the beginning.  She is the featured columnist in "The Last Call", has done a few interviews, and many music reviews.  It was high time she came to the convention but usually work prevented this but not this year!  Martine is a horror nerd and knows more about horror than I do, really.  It was great having her there to start Sunday off.

First on the docket?  Find Jeffrey Combs and see what he's up to.  Mr. Combs was talking to a few fans so we continued to walk around the vending room floor.  We decided to go to the Carel Struycken/Doug Jones/John Kassir/Camden Toy panel at noon.  I wasn't sure how this panel was going to go meaning I didn't know how in depth they could get with four media guests instead of one or two.  I am SO glad we went, as it was arguably the best media guest panel of the weekend!

All four actors were incredibly funny.  I didn't know about John Kassir's "Star Search"/standup comedian background.  He was interjecting lines every chance he could.  Doug Jones and Camden Toy have worked together and it shows.  They are friends and were sharp witted and engaging.  Carel Struycken got laughs out of the crowd and panel as well.  Who would of guessed that this lineup would work so well together but it did.

It was also at this panel that William J. Bivens (Crypticon sculptor, actor) presented Doug Jones with the annual Crypticon Icon award.  Doug seemed truly touched and he received a loud round of applause from the crowd.

Right after their panel was Zach Galligan's panel.  I had spoken to Mr. Galligan at his table on Friday so I was interested to see what he would be like for an hour.  In a word - entertaining.  He had great stories about his days on Columbia University's campus (when Ghostbusters was being filmed), choosing between Phoebe Cates and Diane Lane for Gremlins, and his undying devotion for the Seattle Seahawks!  Mr. Galligan has been working as an instructor for a New York based college program for actors.  He also emphasized not letting them see you act (something similar to what Tommy Howell had touched on earlier). 

After Mr. Galligan's panel, we headed back into the vendor room.  Martine decided it was time to go talk to Mr. Combs and get her friend's Re Animator soundtrack signed.  I had been talking to Mr. Combs about Martine doing a 1-1 interview all weekend - and it was never a yes or a no.  I basically left it up to her to decide if she wanted to ask about it or to leave it alone.  I had gathered enough information earlier to write about him in this very report.  She decided to ask a few questions at his table instead.  Mr. Combs liked seeing the vinyl (and he touched on it earlier in his panel on Saturday).  He signed the album and then had difficulty putting it back in its sleeve.  There was a poster inside as well, which explained the problem.  He took it out, and made a point of signing it to Martine (even though it wasn't her item), figuring she brought it so her friend gets his album back signed, and she gets the poster.  Martine didn't argue that point.  Her friend will just have to deal with it.  We both got photos with Mr. Combs and then we continued to roam the room.

I talked to Carel Struycken more and got a photo, as did Martine.  I got a nice photo with Camden Toy - and we talked editing since there wasn't time to touch on that at his panel.  He's spent much of his career as an editor - doing it old school cutting actual film to using Avid.  A true pleasure to talk with him - very engaging and sincere.
My last stop with the media guests was Zach Galligan.  A vendor was talking with him about the Seahawks.  As it turns out, ever since that trick play that place kicker Efren Herrera did back in the late 70's, Zach became a fan.  He's been defending his love of the Seahawks all these years.  So, and he said this at his panel, he said he reached out to the Crypticon folks so that he could visit Seattle and bask in the glow of the Super Bowl Champions while attending Crypticon.  This explained why he was wearing a Seahawks Super Bowl hoodie most of the time at the convention.  I mistakenly thought he was jumping on the bandwagon because he was here in Seattle.  Nope.  I was way wrong.  He is a diehard fan that reads the Seattle Times and Seattle PI online.  He watches video from King5 news online and anything else he can get his hands on.  Like he said, I know all these places here in Seattle yet I really don't.
We went to a topic panel about Extreme International Horror for a bit.  We then headed back to the vendor room and decided it was time to eat as we were both hungry.  This ended our Sunday Crypticon experience and my three-day Crypticon coverage.

As always, I couldn't cover every media guest nor every event at the convention.  Other guests in attendance included:

*Naomi Grossman
*Jennifer Lynn Warren
*Lynn Lowry
*The Soska Sisters
*Jessica Cameron
*Tristan Risk
*Cleve Hall
*Roy Wooley
and a few others I believe.

Makeup Contest
Costume Contest
Several makeup workshops, cake workshops (Cake Rhapsody), parties, zombie tag, Zombie brunch, and other assorted convention events.

The familiar row of hearses lined up outside the parking garage is always a welcome sight.  It tells me, yup, it's Crypticon as soon as I see them.

I left the convention on Sunday feeling satisfied.  I would say my experience was perhaps the most well rounded of the three years.  I can point to 2012 having highlights but the whole experience was dampened by my condition at the time (I had been in a bad car accident the Monday prior to the convention and was severely concussed at the time).  Technically I wasn't even supposed to be at the convention due to my condition but I really wanted to be there and I didn't want to let down the organizers that had finally granted my credentials.

2013 also had highlights but my experience was not as well rounded.  This was my issue, not the conventions.  I should of spent more time attending panels of the less familiar folks or at least talking to them at their tables.

2014 - I talked to almost all of the guests, random folks, familiar folks, and just felt like I finally nailed how I want to cover these conventions from now on.

For those that haven't been or perhaps don't even like the horror genre, Crypticon is always an interesting, fun time.  It's run well by some very dedicated staff and I always leave knowing more about a particular guest that I knew next to nothing about prior to the convention.  Quite a few memories crammed into my overly large head as well.  It's very informal unlike the big conventions (ECCC or Sakura come to mind) which makes for a much more personal experience.  You can actually talk to the media guests without being bum rushed through like a herd of cattle. 

Yes, autographs and such usually cost money but they are reasonable as far as conventions go.  Actually more than reasonable.  Ditto ticket prices.  If you buy them ahead of time, you really are getting a bargain.

Can you bring kids?  Absolutely!  I remember my first Crypticon seeing a family of zombies on Saturday and the kids looked more gruesome than the adults.  Good times.

I do my best to cover Crypticon the way I would want to read about a convention - with details.  I'm not perfect but I take my assignment seriously and I go in as prepared as possible and ready to rock.

If you're available next Memorial Day weekend (Fri, Sat, or Sun), I highly recommend going!

My parting memory of Crypticon 2014?  As we were leaving, my Sunday assistant Martine and I were walking off the elevator in the walkway in-between hotel buildings.  She was getting directions from some other folks outside so I was just waiting for her. 

All off sudden someone slaps me on the right should in a friendly manner.  I turn and who do I see looking at me?  Mr. Eric Roberts.  He said "good to see you again, pal", smiled warmly, and continued into the other building.

Yes - that memory is already tattooed into my brain - and it will carry me through the next twelve months until Crypticon 2015 creates new memories for me.

Mark Sugiyama


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