Ever since childhood, I’ve been a fan of scary and thrilling movies. As a writer, I’ve been fortunate enough to experience visiting and even trying to grab some sleep in some of America’s most haunted places. Never in a vampire’s lifetime would I have associated Irving, Texas (former home field of the Dallas Cowboys) with a feast of chills and thrills; that is, until I attended the Texas Frightmare Weekend in early May 2009, one of the biggest horror conventions in the southwest. Not only did I get to meet one of Jasons of Friday the 13th fame, but I also got to hear a legendary classic rock performer speak to us horror fans at a public forum.
Ironically, Irving, Texas is reportedly named after author Washington Irving, who wrote the renowned short story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. So it was indeed the appropriate place to host around 25 classic horror movie stars and 150 vending tables that sold all kinds of merchandise related to this pop cultural genre. Heavy and thunderous rains belted the Dallas-Fort Worth area during the Saturday afternoon of the event, which added to the ambience of the gathering.
Zombies, Alice Cooper and More!
Saturday morning saw scores of people dressed as zombies walk one mile to the horror convention site just before the 11 a.m. general admission opening, many playing the part of a zombie quite well as some of them even walked around and acted zombie-ish during the convention! As the “zombies” came to the hotel, many hearses of all different styles and models entered the parking lot for the Hearse & Shock Rod Show, which took place for several hours later that afternoon.
The atmosphere inside the hotel was quite buzzing indeed as the masses eagerly awaited for celebrity guests like Alice Cooper and Linda Blair to be on hand to sign autographs, merchandise, as well as to pose with them. Most attendees were dressed in black t-shirts with horror genre messages and had their faces made up to resemble some kind of horror injury like a knife wound.
I had a chance to talk to the horror convention’s director Loyd Cryer, an avid horror movie fan who started this horror convention on his own from scratch by emailing and calling people in the industry. In 2006, some 1,500 people attended the first Texas Frightmare Weekend, which featured Sid Haig, who starred in the horror movie House of 1000 Corpses. By 2008, this conference had seen a rise to 6,000 fans showing up.
During the early afternoon, Alice Cooper conducted an open Q & A session with hundreds in attendance, answering questions from his fans. One of the more interesting insights he gave was how, to him, horror movies and comedies are similar because he could always find something funny in basically every horror movie. That is, with the exception of The Exorcist, which didn’t make him laugh, but the film horrified his soul. Throughout the day, open forums on the subjects of movies like Invaders From Mars and horror movie stars such as Dick Miller took place.
I Got Talk To Horror Movie Celebrities Like Karen Black and C. J. Graham
C. J. Graham played Jason in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, and was on hand signing autographs and talking up horror movies. I asked him if he had an interest in doing the 7th Friday the 13th film, and he told me that he did, but got passed over by another actor. Now Graham spends most of his working time in upper management at a Las Vegas casino. In the same aisle as Graham, the actress and two-time Golden Globe Award Winner Karen Black was stationed, signing autographs and allowing people to take pictures with her for free, which I took advantage of this kind offer, posing with her. I complimented her on her performance as Myrtle Wilson in the 1974 movie The Great Gatsby, while not a horror movie, showed just how talented she is. Black, who’ll be 70 this July, is still working, just recently completing another film which she told me is due out next year.
And what would a Texas Frightmare Weekend horror convention be without a lot of stars from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre horror movies, including Tobe Hooper, Marilyn Burns, Teri McMinn, and the very attractive Caroline Williams from the sequel. As a writer, I found it interesting that several horror writers were on hand, too, including Gabrielle Faust and Christopher Fulbright.
Scheduled movie showings included the cult classic Black Sunday, featuring a witch played by Barbara Steele. The previous evening, the horror movie Laid To Rest aired, and some of the cast was on hand Saturday afternoon for an autograph/posing session with the folks, which generated long lines.
Gathering of Like “Ghouls”
Horror films are such a part of the American pop culture scene, so when a major horror convention comes to a region, it’s something “that people save up for all year”, says Texas Frightmare Weekend founder Loyd Cryer, who plans these special once a year weekends all year long. Horror fans like myself get to see some of our favorite stars up close and personal while communing with others who share our same passion! Next year’s convention is scheduled to take place in Irving, Texas April 30-May 2, 2010.
For more information about the Texas Frightmare Weekend, go to http://www.texasfrightmareweekend.com
Irving Accommodation Tip
I stayed at the Omni Mandalay Hotel in Irving, which has a real sense of peace and ambience to it thanks to its Asian influence, especially via its relaxing Les Jardin area, full of lush plantlife and pianos waiting to be played romantically. The beds are super comfy and you get adequate workspace plus very reliable internet access in rooms that really let you spread out.
The hotel’s fitness center is 24/7 and those who live for the “spa treatment” won’t be disappointed either, as the onsite Mokara Spa offers a Sweet Tea Body Gloss done with tea leaves, sugar, and lemon oils for exfoliation or you can request a moisture scrub with brown sugar and shea butter!
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and the hotel’s restaurant Trevi’s offers a great buffet full of ham, sausage, eggs, fruit, and bread. Even better, you can dine on steel cut oatmeal, organic cereal and soy milk if you want to eat even healthier!
How is this for service: whenever I got done with my morning runs, the doorman would greet me and give me a bottle of water and a towel!
Omni Mandalay Hotel (15 minutes drive from DFW and Love Field): 221 East Las Colinas Blvd., Irving, Texas 75039. 972-556-0800 or 1-888-444-OMNI.
Irving, Texas tourist information: http://www.irvingtexas.com
You can read my interview with Linda Blair at this Bootsnall.com article.
About the author: Roy A. Barnes haunts southeastern Wyoming when he’s not scaring up thrills on his travels!