Monday, September 24, 2018

Elvira at New Jersey Horror Con

It was a rainy Sunday on the first full day of fall that I headed on down to Atlantic City and the New Jersey Horror Con with one goal in mind--to meet Cassandra Peterson, aka Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. If you're unfamiliar with her, she is a horror host whose persona was that of a Valley Girl dressed like she stepped out of a Hammer vampire film. The clash between the two elements made her one of the most memorable and long-lived characters to come out of the 1980s.

I caught her show through the magic of VHS as a kid and became entranced with her and her peers at the time like Zacherley. The outfit she wore was clearly part of her appeal for me, but the humor was what kept me coming back to her show. Elvira could fire off witty one-liners with the best of them and her skits were often the highlights of the show as some of the films could be pretty dreadful.

Despite being an avid con goer for the past twenty years, I've never actually gotten a chance to meet this idol of mine. Some of it was due to logistics and being unable to attend the cons she has been to, and some of it was that Ms. Peterson was busy around Halloween with other commitments so she wouldn't be able to attend the shows that popped up around that time of year like Chiller Theatre. When I saw that she was going to be attending the relatively-new-on-the-scene New Jersey Horror Con, I jumped at the chance to go and see her and tell her what an inspiration that she has been to my love of horror and writing.

The convention was being held at the old Showboat Casino down in Atlantic City, now just referred to as The Showboat. It's changed a lot since I had last been there. All of the machines that had littered the floor were removed, though the light up displays that could be found above them are still there and blinking away. Gone is the House of Blues where I enjoyed many a show and sprained my ankle once. The bar we sat at while waiting to go up to see the bands we loved sits empty next to broken escalators. All of this empty space was ripe for the taking, and the NJHC filled it up to the best of its ability.

Vendors from all over came to set up tables and hawk their wares. Looking for horror themed prints? They had them. Maybe you were looking for an old movie that you half-remember seeing on a cable channel one night. There was a booth selling them too, as well as representation from official outlets like Troma and Vinegar Syndrome. Mixed in between these were vendors selling toys and props and replicas and crafts of all sorts. The amount of dealers wasn't as large as in a con like Chiller, but it was an impressive showing.

Lining the edge of the show floor were the celebrity guests. While Elvira and Twisted Sister's Dee Snider had a place of honor in one of the old poker rooms, the rest could be found out here--not that they were any slouches. Genre favorites young and old like Linda Blair, Ted Raimi, Amy Steel, Adrienne King, Edward Furlong, Tiffany Shepis, William Katt and more were on the scene and ready to meet with their adoring fans and sell some 8x10s and other memorabilia. In addition, the celebrities were all available for photo ops so you could get a picture to remember the day by that would turn out better than the one you could just snap with your phone.

If people in costume were your scene, you'd find plenty of them wandering around. Evil clowns seemed to be the theme that day and there were a few Pennywises and others running around. My favorite had to be a young girl dressed in the sackhead outfit from Friday the 13th Part 2. She was killing it.

After a quick tour of the show floor, I went to the photo op I had scheduled with Elvira. Meeting her was an amazing experience. She is warm and funny and an altogether wonderful human being. We only had a minute to chat before the next person so I didn't have too much time to make a fool of myself but got to say how great it was to meet her and how much she meant to me growing up as a young horror fan. The set we were on was recreated to look like the one she used on her show. I might not have gotten a photo otherwise, but being on the set of Movie Macabre? That was too good to pass up. Now I have a memory that I will always treasure...and probably hang up at the bar in the basement with the other horror hosts I've met. She'll be in good company with them.

One my photo was done, I scurried across the show floor to the next destination and to where I knew Elvira would be showing up next--the Q&A room.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

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