|Joined: 03 Mar 2006
| Rex B. Hamilton reports on the 2010 TransWorld convention
|Rex B. Hamilton reports on the 2010 TransWorld convention
April 2, 2010
Greetings Fellow Haunters:
I had a lovely time at the 2010 TransWorld Halloween and Attractions Show in St. Louis this past weekend. I was there from Wednesday afternoon until Sunday lunchtime. This was the 14th year in a row that I have attended this, the largest of all, haunt shows.
Jeff Glatzer was again my traveling companion. After our 10-hour drive we once again found ourselves on the 16th floor of the Renaissance Grand hotel, which is right across the street from the convention center. It is a far shorter walk than that in Chicago from the Crowne Plaza to the Stephens convention center.
Since this was the second year in St. Looie, we all were a lot more comfortable with the convention center, the hotels and surrounding downtown landmarks than in 2009. The city has a lot to offer visitors.
A group of IAHA supporters decided to go to dinner at Jake’s Steaks in The Landings district of downtown St. Louis on Wednesday evening. I was joined by Ken Donat (Insurance Correlators, Inc.), Tim and Ann Marie Gavinski (Wisconsin Feargrounds), Kelly and Neena Collins (Midwest Haunters Convention), Bill and Jayme Criscione (Ghostly Manor) and Bobbie Weiner (Bloody Mary).
Later in the evening I managed to sneak into the Insane Shane party for about a half-hour, right around 11 PM. Don’t tell Shane this, but I didn’t pay the $85 admission price. Take photographs of the 17 contestants in the costume contest - that’s what I did. No drinks, no food. Promise.
Earlier in the evening, I popped into that party room at about 8:30 PM for just a quick minute. The place was crowded and there was lots of noise, conversation, music and dance lights. When I returned at 11 PM, the scene was much the same. People seemed to be enjoying themselves.
I hope Shane elects to put on this same party in 2011. It was a noble effort on his part to get the haunt community all fired up. But I would encourage him to get a stage manager to run future parties. Shane was trying to do too much by himself, and he shouldn’t have had to.
That stage manager needs to re-arrange the dance floor lights so that the costume contest entrants can be seen by the party attendees. Those 17 entrants were not told to stop in the center of the parquet dance floor and pose a few times for the small throng of photographers just a few feet away. Many of the pictures I took aren’t that hot because the dang contestants wouldn’t hold still for the requisite few seconds.
Adam Drendel from Haunted Illinois dot com knelt right next to me as we tried our best to take nice shots. I compared my photos with his - we both had the same, less-than-desired results.
If you attended the convention floor on Thursday, then you walked by three poster boards of photographs that I took during the making of the Midnight Syndicate music video. (We shot this music video on March 6 and 7 here in Lakewood, Ohio.) Around 4:30 PM, Ed Douglas of Midnight Syndicate and I lugged those poster boards and their easels a couple of blocks down Washington Avenue to The Dubliner. It was in this two-story Irish bar that the music video was first shown to the public at 7 PM.
Ed tells me that the music video should be released to the Internet sometime in early April. The video will be included on “The Dead Matter” DVD as a bonus track when the disc is available for sale on July 30.
The Dubliner party that evening was quite the experience. It ran from 5:30 to 7:30 PM. There were three bars - two on the main floor and one upstairs. The dinner that was served to everyone who attended was an Irish feast - corned beef, Shepard’s pie, cabbage, mashed potatoes, salad, rolls, sauteed vegetables and some sort of dark chocolate cake that I was too stuffed to try.
I didn’t leave the place until around 8:30 and there was still a nice crowd at the bar. Earlier in the evening, attendees had been encouraged to take a second pass through the food line and box up some eats for a later time. Evidently, there was plenty of leftover food . This was difficult to understand because the joint was completely packed during the party. Around 7 PM it was hard to move because of all the people jammed in the aisles. My guess is that there were the better part of 200 haunters in that bar.
My other Thursday night appointment was to tour The Darkness haunted house in a behind-the-scenes type of tour. I was part of the very last group to trod the many scenes of this eye-catching haunted attraction. There were several well-done rooms that were added this year. A couple of them were of the “endless hallway” variety.
Friday the 26th was my big day at the convention. From 1 till 3 PM I worked the IAHA booth in costume and make-up. To the best of my knowledge, I am the only member who has a perfect record of booth volunteerism.
I got up early that morning so that I could visit the convention floor for a couple of hours before Jeff Glatzer started making me ugly around 11 AM. Our fellow Scab 5 member Geoff “Arachnid” Beck took pictures of the transformation and a few will get posted in a few days. The character I did that day is called “Yacht Club Ghoul.” The full-head prosthetic I used was actually created by Glatzer about 5 years ago and worn at a Chicago TransWorld show. At the time we thought the piece would get destroyed when I yanked it off my face. But I took it off gently and stored it with care, in the hope that we could use it once more. Jeff was able to piece it back together again with latex, raw cotton and plenty of grease make-up. I think it looked pretty good.
The IAHA purchased a couple of boxes stuffed with strings of cheap black and orange beads, the sort of junk jewelry that is tossed about by the busload during Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans. The shtick I came up with that day was this: Go up to every woman, young or old, who passed by the booth and place a strand of black and a strand of orange beads around their neck. Then I sweet-talked the woman’s husband/boyfriend into taking a photograph of the two of us. The result was that I stopped all traffic in front of the booth and caused a number of groups to investigate the literature and goodies that were being given away there. Deanna Rogers-Morton was my booth partner that day and I know that I kept her very busy.
Not one woman resisted my gentlemanly efforts to place colorful strands of beads around her neck. (Guys, pay attention here.) Women love to look pretty. Women love to receive jewelry for free. Women love to feel special. Women love it when disgustingly ugly monsters pose for photos with them, because it makes them look even more pretty. (Guys, are you still with me?) In my opinion, we had the largest booth crowd in about 4 or 5 years that day. The IAHA booth was close to the Dark Zone’s entrance but it should have been closer.
From 3 PM until closing time I sauntered about the convention floor in all my ghoulness. I scrubbed my face right afterwards, doing my best to save the appliance for another day. Jeff and I had a nice dinner at Jake’s Steaks as we watched Ohio State lose its sweet-16 NCAA basketball game in the final minute to Tennessee.
At 9:30 PM I took a tour of The Darkness haunted house under show conditions - the show lights were on and the scenes were populated with actors and actresses. Waiting in line, I struck up a conversation with a guy named Jim who is considering producing a haunt in the Tucson, Arizona area. At one point during our tour, he commented on how I took wide turns around hallway corners. I tried to explain to him that if monsters were hiding around the upcoming hallway corner, I wanted them to do something more than just growl at me.
For those who have never visited The Darkness, they need to do so. The Darkness is a wonderful example of a haunted attraction that is geared around lovely scenery, lots of scenery space and plenty of animatronics. (The closest example that I can give those in the know is the Akron (OH) Haunted School House and Laboratory.) I’ve now been through the Darkness three times in two years.
What I must tell you is that there was little difference between my Thursday visit, where we were allowed to wander backstage, and my Friday tour with the monsters and monsterettes. The star of the show is the haunted house itself, not the performers. Most of them engaged in what we in Cleveland call “cuckoo-clock acting” where the performers burst out of a hidden spot and try to frighten the patrons from behind with growls and roars. It’s the way this haunt was designed.
The best three performers I saw on Friday evening were these:
3. A young lady who operated a large rod puppet of a Tyrannosaurus Rex head, biting down upon the customers below her. In my opinion, she needs to wear a black bodysuit instead of street clothes. The scene needs more black curtains to keep the operator hidden.
2. A diminutive actor who stood stock still in a funeral parlor scene, as if he was one of the several other static characters. After I had walked by him, I stood back and watched this guy startle the next group of customers. He was good.
1. The best performer was still Gus Maurer from the Rockin’ R Ranch in Columbia Station (Cleveland), OH. He occupied the same 180-degree hallway turn as in 2009. Gus was the only monster that interacted with the customers and thrust his ugly face and scurvy costume straight at them.
After a chilly, windy and rainy Thursday and Friday, Saturday the 27th was a kinder, milder day. I took a few photographs of Jeff Glatzer’s 9 AM class on queue-line acting. Geoff Beck taught the next class that morning - it revolved around assembling a productive make-up room at one’s haunt. I took a few pictures of Becky at the instructor’s podium.
The only useful thing I did during the rest of the day was take photographs of vendors and their booths. I got some good shots of them and some strolling actors and actresses. You’ll see a clutch of these pictures on my Facebook page in a few days.
The one gig on my calendar that evening was to attend the IAHA (International Association of Haunted Attractions) awards banquet at the Holiday Inn Select. I sat next to Stan Jung of Digital Sound and Lighting out of St. Louis. It was a big thrill when Stan’s name was called as the recipient for the 2010 prop-of-the-year award. He didn’t have the faintest idea what was coming his way. The name of his award-winning device is the “Boom Stick.”
After the ceremony ended, I had a chance to chat with Quan Gan from Darklight, the vendor that had won the award for vendor of the year. His company has an office in California and runs a haunted attraction in Shanghai, China. I was the first American haunt actor in China when I worked at Ocean Park in Hong Kong in 2001. We swapped stories of what it is like to import a new, unheard-of holiday into a country far, far away from home.
As soon as we got up on Sunday morning Jeff and I packed up the car, checked out of the hotel and headed for the convention floor. The plan was to leave around 11 AM but we didn’t get going until nearly two hours later. Such is the gravitational field of a haunted convention. You never want to leave, even when you have to.
Here are three more visions of TransWorld and then I gotta go:
1. I encountered Dave Link and four of his comrades from “The Asylum Experience” in Berwyn (Chicago), IL. (I worked that show in 1998 and my Cleveland compatriots and I talk about how brilliant it was to this very day.) From what Dave told me, it sounds like the haunt might crawl back out of the grave this October.
2. One of the most popular vendors was a company from Norton (a suburb of Akron), Ohio called RotBots. (There are multiple videos on YouTube.) The booth featured a trio of decrepit skeletons who hung onto their granny walkers as they spat out haunted rap lyrics. I gave the owner of that booth, a fellow named Matt, a ride home from The Darkness on Saturday night.
3. There were big crowds on the streets in St. Louis when the NCAA games were played. The scalpers were everywhere you looked. Sometimes there were 3 or 4 of them on the same street corner. Those of us in costume and make-up had lots of gawkers to play up to.
In 2011 the haunted-house half of TransWorld will be reunited with the party, costume and make-up half in mid-March in St. Louis. What goes around, comes around. Eventually.
Very truly yours,
Rex B. Hamilton
13939 Clifton Boulevard
Lakewood, Ohio 44107-1462
“A haunted house is only as good as its actors.” Wayne Sealy, Mystery Manor