Eclectic Arts: CRYPTICON SEATTLE 2016 Report!
May 27, 28, and 29th 2016
Hilton Seattle Airport and Conference Center
It's been five years of covering this wonderful convention of horror here in Seattle, WA. As they say, time sure does fly when you're having fun. And fun we had at Crypticon Seattle 2016! Three days filled with guests, conversations, panels, film screenings, parties, contests, and a slew of other events.
Crypticon Seattle means different things to different fans. Some come to take it all in - from the moment the doors open to the late night screenings and parties where you party your little black hearts out. Others come for specific guests - to meet them, perhaps get a photo or autograph. While still others come to network with like-minded individuals in the field they want to get into (writing, film making, etc).
As a reporter for Eclectic Arts, I go to cover the convention for three days. I have found that I have to balance the three days otherwise I'll burn out and be of no use to anyone. My reports tend to cover things from a perspective of those that could not attend any given year. To give the reader a snapshot of what occurred, what changed, what was good, what wasn't, etc.
Anyone that's been following Eclectic Arts recently knows the magazine has been spending a lot of time covering national touring bands as of late. There are more concerts on the horizon over the next few months as well. Keep watching this space.
Why I mention this is that going to Crypticon Seattle was a welcome change of pace from all the recent concert coverage. I always enjoy myself at Crypticon Seattle and this year was no exception. A few familiar faces were absent but others were there like old friends you see once a year. And this extends to the fan base. There are definitely some of the same fans that I see each and every year. Genre fans are a dedicated bunch for sure!
Each year I tell myself I'm going to find a new angle to cover Crypticon Seattle. This year I was interested in doing a few video interviews - with proper lighting and such. Crypticon Seattle has an in house videographer who does fine work with his interviews. The two guests I targeted unfortunately declined. Well, one did, the other I never heard back from. Par for the course when it comes to securing interviews I've found over the years. I'll give it a go again prior to next year's convention.
This year I took the convention in for what it is. For starters, the celebrity guests tables were all lined up in the same area for once. Well, once since I've been covering Crypticon Seattle. This made it easy to find whom you were looking for instead of having them spread in the back and in the front like years past. It also seemed to be a little better lit that way. That could have just been my old eyes though.
This was the first year that professional photo ops were available for purchase - just like Comic Con. Actually, I believe it was the same company as ECCC used this year. More commentary on this later.
The convention was laid out like 2015 where the main vendor room and other meeting rooms were in one building (above the parking garage) while the connecting main hotel building hosted panels, the horror cake lab, and screenings.
The past few years I've parked elsewhere to avoid the parking garage prices. I figure a little walking and saving of money is better so I can spend said money at the convention than in parking my damn car.
The ever familiar Anubis Hearse Club greeted all fans as they walked up the stairs to the elevator that would take them to the ticket area. As always a comforting sight to see the hearses lined up. Two or three military vehicles were also lined up this year - one was used in a film ("Zombie Strippers").
After securing my press passes (thanks Dee!), I made my rounds inside the vendor room. Almost all of the guests were at their tables. Luchagore Productions were caught up at the US/Canadian border so they arrived later on Friday. As always the beginning of the convention was slow at first but picked up as late afternoon turned into evening.
Going with a generic press pass was a smart move. It just makes it easier to avoid mistakes. The celebrity guests of course had name specific passes.
Familiar vendors, some new vendors, were present. The author’s alley was again near the exit area where food was served and smokers took their breaks outside from the hotel. Mercer A and B were being used for the professional photo ops this year. Crystal A B and C were used for a variety of performances again, etc.
Tony Todd ("Candyman") and Ginger Lynn ("The Devil's Rejects") had specific prices at their tables. All others had signs that said one or two things which was confusing this year. For example - Michael Biehn's (The Terminator, Aliens, K2) sign said "$40 for autographed DVD" or something to that effect. His wife Jennifer also had a sign with her own price for an autographed item. I bring this up as it wasn't clear if you could get candid photos with the guests or not. In more recent years, it was either included with the price of buying an 8x10 or DVD. Or you could pay $10 for a photo by itself - unless it was Sid Haig who never charges for candid photos.
For those new to the convention circuit, the guests set the prices, NOT the convention. I heard some grumblings about the pricing and that the professional photo ops were the reason for the high prices for autographs and such. Whether or not this is true I have no idea. It does make you wonder though. It could just be the roster of guests this year had higher prices than other years. Who knows? No one's forcing you to buy anything. But I do see the point.
Did I splurge? Yes, I did. Well, not splurge but I did shell out some bucks for one professional photo op with Elvira in costume as well as her signature. Add in Lance Henriksen for an autograph that included a candid photo with him. I'll get to these two experiences soon.
I also chatted with the Luchagore Productions folks and spent some money at their table. One of my assistants bought a few items through the other vendors in the hall (see photo further in this report).
Speaking of assistants, I brought two this year - on Saturday and Sunday. Both had been to Crypticon Seattle before so that made them easy choices to help out with my coverage.
I noticed in my program (seemingly more professional in appearance this year although there were still a few typos in it but overall it was better) that the guest panel list for Saturday was really mixed. Normally, the "big" guest panels are on Saturday. Instead, those were on Sunday. Perhaps this was a business move to get attendance up on Sunday which is notoriously the slowest of the three days. All I know is that the two big panels on Sunday should have been standing room only and they weren't. If they had been held on Saturday, I believe they would have been packed. There were also the professional photo ops to accommodate so that may have played into the decision to have these two panels on Sunday. Anyone from the Crypticon Seattle staff care to chime in?
In any event, I knew I wanted to hear Tony Todd's panel at 1:00pm. I had purchased a professional photo op for Elvira that started at 12:30pm. When I got to the convention, my assistant wanted to buy a photo op for later in the afternoon. The line for Elvira was already forming so I figured I best wait in the line so I don't miss my opp. If you read the fine print, if you're late to your photo op and the guest is done/gone, you're SOL. I was in line a good 40 minutes early at least. Maybe longer.
I ran into Mika Savoia (hi Mike!) If you're an event/concert photographer fan, then you know Mike's legendary work. Yes, legendary work. The man has photographed all the big names in rock over the last 30 years or so. And here he was at Crypticon Seattle waiting in line just like me for none other than Elvira. Good to see you Mike! See you at Armored Saint/Metal Church in two weeks!
Elvira was appearing in costume. It was by far the biggest draw for the professional photo ops all weekend. No other line came even close. Her line went down one wall, wrapped past the Crystal ball rooms, down the other side of the hall, past the bathrooms, and toward the elevators/ticket purchasing area.
Due to the line, and the 45-minute allotted time slot, all the fans were basically rushed through the line which is normal for these things. If you think you're going to have a "moment" with a guest at a photo op, forget it. Go to their table where you can chat with them a bit (or sometimes at length). I saw many people in line with items to be signed by Elvira. I'm sure they had to hold off until she was back at her table.
As I put my shoulder bag on the table, and had my ticket scanned, I went through the curtain to wait my turn. A fan was next to Elvira and the school year book photo backdrop. Elvira’s assistant was fixing her hair. Then Elvira mentioned that it was so hot back there that her makeup wouldn't hold up the whole time, could they please get some air/AC back there. This prompted the photographer to tell a staff member the message about the request for air. The photographer then left (where I have no clue) while Elvira adjusted her makeup and rested on the red couch. The photographer returned and then there was nothing going on. The fan was still waiting in place by the backdrop, looking awkward (I would have felt weird, too). Finally, Elvira's assistant asked if the photographer was good. He said he was ready to go to which she replied, "oh, you should of let us know - we follow you're direction" or something similar. So Elvira got back up, took the photo, and then the line moved. I had three people waiting in front of me.
Let me tell you - standing next to the horror icon was surreal. She was here three years ago but she did not appear in costume. So, to see the whole Elvira mystique in person was awesome! She was very polite which was not a surprise as she was great to the fans three years ago. She looked A-MAZ-ING! I thanked her and scurried over to the photo line to get my print.
I figured I might be late to Tony Todd's panel. I walked hastily over to the elevators and who do I see there? Tony Todd. Whew! I ended up walking behind Tony's group to get to the Alpine room. Tony Todd is 6'5". And he looks it.
TJ Tranchell had the pleasure of moderating Tony's panel. Mr. Todd is very well spoken. He was real, funny, serious, and a real pro. He was genuinely thankful to be at Crypticon Seattle. He's done tons of these conventions but he talked to the moderate audience like he was lecturing at a film school. Intentional with his words, his stories, and again, very real, his panel was very memorable. A jazz fan - he had already been to a club or two in Seattle on this trip, he spoke of Candyman fame, all the other films he's been in, living as a working actor, and his love of sports (he mentioned the OKC-Warriros NBA series - which was a bit of a groan moment for me and any other Seattle Sonics loving fans due to the mention of OKC).
My assistant knew Tony but was really impressed with his panel. She was off for her photo op back in the other building with the Aliens crew. I meanwhile ventured down two doors (or three) to the Glacier Room where the screenings were taking place all weekend. For what you ask?
Luchagore Productions were at Crypticon Seattle last year. The Soska Twins talked them up but I never got a chance to talk to them or see "El Gigante". So, this year, I knew I wanted to see what they're up to.
The four core founders were here to screen an anthology of some of their best clips. This included Slam!, El Gigante, Madre De Dios, and a few short clips. I wasn't sure what to expect from an upstart film company of four years. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the shorts. The fact that these were made on shoe string budgets (or even less) was miraculous as they didn't look for lack of a better word "cheap" or low budget. Dirty, grind house oriented, and visually assaulting, I found their work inspired and intriguing.
The team talked to the audience about their work and answered questions as well. I caught up with them at their table on Sunday. I'm trying to type this in chronological order but my waning memory is making that difficult.
After the Luchagore Productions panel, I met my assistant again. Alec Gillis was scheduled to have a panel at 3pm. A few fans were waiting inside as the previous panel wrapped up. I saw an old friend, Anthony Kay (hi Tony!), who had just finished moderating. We caught up on the current goings on in our respective worlds. We both started working/attending Crypticon Seattle in the same year: 2012. Just typing that makes me shake my head - has it really been five years? I was telling my assistant how I first met Tony at a panel in 2012. I was waiting for a panel to start on a Saturday and Tony introduced himself. Once he started with his extremely well written introduction for the guest, I made a mental note to mention how good a moderator Tony was/is in my report. No small feat considering I was massively concussed at the time of the 2012 Crypticon Seattle (true story).
After 3pm came and went, I found a staff worker to ask about the Alec Gillis panel. He radioed in and someone was trying to find out what happened. We waited around a bit longer and then decided this wasn't happening I guess and left the room. When we went back to the vendor area, Mr. Gillis was at his table so I don't know what happened. In any event, I knew he'd be a part of the Aliens panel on Sunday so I'd still get to hear him speak.
At this point, my assistant and I ventured around the convention taking in the sights and goods. I say this every year but one of these years I'm going to get a room at the hotel and plant myself there so I can stay all night and partake in the night parties and other goings ons at Crypticon that I tend to miss out on by heading home. Perhaps next year will be the year?
Sunday brought rain showers, cold temperatures (initially), and much enthusiasm for the day as I was looking forward to two of the panels - or three if I could of made the timing work. Elvira and the Aliens panels were on Sunday.
While waiting for the room to be turned over from the Brunch, I had a guest ask me if I was waiting for the cruise to Norway. Um, Norway? Nope. She then found out that this thing called Crypticon was going on in the hotel and she snickered in disgust. You know what? Get your ass on your cruise lady and leave us genre fans alone. But I digress.
A group was waiting to grab seats for the Elvira panel. Again, had this been Saturday, it would have been standing room only (just like it was three years ago - I know as I was there).
Tony Kay got the luck of the draw (I guess that's how it works) as the moderator of BOTH panels, as well as others over the three days of course. Lucky guy!
Cassandra Peterson - Elvira to you and me, was as pleasant and charming as last time. Tony did a fine job moderating to pivot between questions some of us may have heard prior and new topics. The go-go dancer at a gay club on a military base story was priceless! A farm girl from Kansas, you see how Cassandra has been there and done that, and then some. Yet, she is still very much a humble human being who has worked for everything she has, including the coffee table book she has coming out soon. Shameless plug I know. But the book sounds interesting! She also mentioned the development of an animated series!
The next panel featured Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, and Alec Gillis - all were involved with the film, "Aliens". I saw this film in the theater back in 1986 and it is a film that I never tire of.
The three guests spoke about their time on the film, stories, and such. By the half-way point, they were definitely warmed up and talking with little questioning from Tony who was moderating this wonderful panel. Lance Henriksen was a surprise to me. He was overall quite happy during the weekend which was awesome to see. Michael Biehn was dare I say ok? He often seemed like he'd rather be elsewhere but that may just be the way he is - protected and guarded. Alec Gillis was pleasant and personable. As a member of the SFX crew on the film, he had interesting tidbits to interject into the panel. Overall, it was interesting to watch the chemistry between Biehn and Henriksen as they reopened the vaults from the mid 80's.
Kane Hodder was next who I wanted to stay and hear from but I also wanted my photo with Elvira signed and she was going to be done at 3pm. So, my assistant stayed at the panel while I went back to the vendor room.
I was told that Kane's panel was very interesting. He spoke about the different films he's worked on, particularly as a stunt man. He mentioned that Brad Pitt tore his hand up during the making of, "Seven" but insisted on continuing the shoot. Once done, he was brought to the hospital to have his hand stitched up. Apparently it was bleeding profusely. Kane’s burn accident early on in his career is also well noted but also interesting (in a good/bad kind of way of course). And, of course, his four turns as Crystal Lake's most famous killer.
Meanwhile, I was in a line to meet Cassandra Peterson. I had my Elvira Fan Club pin on which meant I could select one of the patches or pins from the table free of charge (and yes I asked her assistant first as I didn't know what "special gift" I would receive per the Fan Club letter). Wondering what the heck I'm talking about? Join Elvira's fan club for $20 a year and when she comes to town, if you were wearing your pin (and have your card on you), you get a "special gift".
As I got closer to the front of the line, the assistant noticed my pin and told me I could select one of these items (she pointed to the end of the table). I mentioned I already had selected a patch earlier - yes I'm the honest type - and she thanked me.
When I got up to meet Cassandra, she looked at my photo from Saturday and remarked, "what a nice pair” – she paused – and then said “you and I don't look too bad together either". Witty as ever, her crack about her breasts made me laugh and then I asked her about her friend Danny Koker from the show on the History Channel, "Counting Cars". I had interviewed Danny a few years ago and I wanted to know if her episode was real or something done up for TV. Nope - she really does know him, has nothing but good things to say about him, and they share the horror host background. I was glad to hear this as Danny was an awesome interview and as genuine as they come. She remarked that she only wanted a few things done to her car and he came back with a whole long list of things they could do. If you know the show, then you're smiling right now as you know this is totally something Danny would do. The guy is a care junkie!
I thanked her for her time and left the table area feeling good about the day. A few family members were at the convention on Sunday so I met up with them for a while. Eventually my assistant made her way back to the vending room as well.
I wanted to speak to the Luchagore Productions folks so I headed over to their table. All four of them were there (hi guys!). They were happy to hear I was at the screening on Saturday. I spoke to them about how much I liked their work, that it didn't look low budget at all, and I really enjoyed the screening.
They in turn introduced themselves and talked about upcoming work, what it took to get where they are, etc. Very cool, down to earth, people. I can see why the Soska's were so high on them last year. I purchased a DVD and photo - which came with a poster. Since I came to the screening they let me choose another print - from the forth coming El Gigante comic book. I couldn't make up my mind so Gigi said to take both of them. I got everything signed because I'm a geek that way, and I wished them well. I'm really antsy to hear what project they have coming up (they couldn't talk about it just yet).
I decided to get a photo with Lance Henriksen. I mentioned how much I enjoyed his panel which he was pleased about. I also mentioned "Pumpkinhead" which he seemed a little less pleased about. He was very friendly and met my entire family that was there.
At this point, I was pooped. I took another look around the convention and then decided to call it another Crypticon weekend.
At this point, I was pooped. I took another look around the convention and then decided to call it another Crypticon weekend.
I want to thank everyone involved with Crypticon Seattle for making my Memorial Day weekend special again! I do not take for granted the press passes you grant me each year. I will do my best next year to expand upon my coverage, either via video, or my actual time at the convention. I've already put in to take off the Friday and the Monday (to recuperate) next year in May to focus strictly on Crypticon Seattle 2017!
Mark your calendars folks as two things are happening with Crypticon Seattle 2017 - one is that it’s moving to the Double Tree at Sea Tac (south of the Hilton) and it’s at the beginning of May - not over Memorial Day weekend.
The convention is coming up on its 10th convention in 9 years (depending on how you count it - right Eric? J ). It started at the Double Tree. Since I was late to the game, I haven't experienced Crypticon Seattle at this other hotel so it'll be interesting to compare the two.
Any way you slice it (pun intended), I'll be there!