As readers of this blog may recall, I'm not one for conventions (or "cons" as the parlance goes). I hit the Motor City Comic Con in the spring and that's been about the limit of my con experience. By happenstance, this year's Cinema Wasteland convention fell on the same weekend in Strongsville, OH that I was coming to Cleveland, OH for a book event at Visible Voice Books. It seemed natural that I swing by Cinema Wasteland to see what it was all about.
Taking over the Holiday Inn, Strongsville, this year's convention boasted a large selling floor, several celebrities, and two screening rooms. As I've taken a vow of abstinence when it comes to buying movies and most books, there wasn't a whole lot of interest for me in shopping around. Several of the t-shirts for sale proved amusing and I coveted a lot of the figurines but I stayed my hand when it came to purchasing anything except when I happened across Josh Becker selling DVDs of his own movies as well as three books that he's penned over the years for Point Blank Press.
Though I've introduced myself to Becker before and exchanged some emails with him over the years, he doesn't know me from Adam. That's fine. I don't expect people to remember me. Being a fellow Metro-Detroiter, I wanted to throw a little support behind him and picked up his book Rushes. It looks like it's going to be a fun read.
One person I had hoped would remember me was sitting just a few feet down from Becker, none other than the Godfather of Gore himself, Herschell Gordon Lewis. To be frank, he was the reason I came down to Cinema Wasteland. Being a cheap bastard, I wanted to save a couple bucks on postage and hand-deliver a copy of Impossibly Funky to Mr. Lewis as thanks for his contributing the foreword to the book. He didn't seem to remember me or remember writing the foreword but he definitely recalled the Maryland Film Festival where I met him. He's still pissed about the stage blood that fellow "Panel of Blood" member, Brian Horrorwitz, got on his pants. I wrote about it back in Cashiers du Cinemart #13.
After wandering around for a bit, contemplating stopping by and saying hello to Carol Speed and telling her how much I loved her in The Mack, I went into a screening room for a program of Three Stooges shorts and Warner Brothers cartoons hosted by Son of Ghoul. (Hosting, in this sense, means turning on the projector).
Herschell Gordon Lewis's The Uh-Oh Show was next on the docket. Originally intended to be a gore-iffic update to the Grimm fairy tales, The Uh-Oh Show also includes themes of reality television, media trends, and today's tough economic climate. The final project comes off as something of a mish-mash where it's fairly obvious that the folks on screen were having a good time but I'm not sure how much of that translated to the audience.
The movie deals with the bloody game show Uh-Oh where contestants who can answer trivia questions get some incredible prizes. Those who don't pass muster are subjected to the wheel of misfortune where they might lose an arm, a leg, a nose... you get the idea. Of course, no one comes out a winner (kind of like The Running Man) and audiences always get their fill of gore. When investigative reporter Jill Burton (Nevada Caldwell) loses her slacker boyfriend on Uh-Oh, she's stymied by her superiors as she tries to find out what's happened to him. Why she doesn't turn on the TV and watch her boyfriend being decapitated doesn't seem to occur to her. Meanwhile, the network wants a bigger and better program to fill a prime time slot. This thrills exec Fred Finagler (Joel D. Wynkoop) and burns up Uh-Oh host Jackie (Brooke McCarter). And, somewhere in there, a guy named Ray (Bruce Blauer) shows up to give Jill some kind of new romantic interest.
Wynkoop and McCarter couldn't be more different in their approaches to their roles--Wynkoop is completely unhinged, practically foaming at the mouth, while McCarter seems to be in danger of tripping over his lines and hurting himself and everyone around him. This uneven acting isn't limited to just these two actors but they demonstrate just how stilted the overall product is.
I know I'm asking a lot for The Uh-Oh Show to have a strong central narrative but it wasn't there and it bothered me more than it should have. I feel really bad capping on this movie as I really don't want to insult HGL and I was really looking forward to it. It just felt like it was trying to do too many things at once and should have concentrated on one or the other. Also, I was a little turned off by the bizarre appearance of a completely oversexualized African American character and a trio of "Arab" men who were pulling the strings behind the scenes. I have a feeling that this wasn't a reference to Americathon but maybe it was.
Now in its tenth year as a stand-alone convention (as opposed to being a seller at other conventions), Cinema Wasteland is Ken Kish's baby. I felt pretty bad wondering who the guy at the front of the theater taking slugs off of a Jack Daniels bottle was, only realizing once the post-Uh-Oh Show Q&A began that it was Kish himself. I got the feeling that when you're at Cinema Wasteland that it's Ken's world and we just live in it. Luckily, his love of genre films and everything to do with them comes out strongly at Cinema Wasteland. The whole event felt very well-organized and quite a hoot for horror film fans.
Oh, and HGL related the story about his pants during his Q&A. I think it's a regular part of his schtick. I wonder if Brian Horrorwitz knows that.
Later, in Cleveland...
"Whatever you do, don't go to Cleveland," was the advice given to me by Tesco Vee when I asked the fellow Michigander for tips on touring around a book. Vee hadn't had any luck selling his Touch & Go book in the Metropolis of the Western Reserve. His advice came after I had already set up my tour date for Cleveland (where I hoped I'd have better luck).
I got up to Visible Voice Books way too early. I spent some time wandering through the shelves. This is the kind of store that I'd frequent if I were anywhere near Cleveland. The store has a nice upstairs area for readings and this is where author Wred Fright found me as the clock neared 7. He was joined a short time later by a gal who had seen the reading mentioned and a twitter friend that was in town for Cinema Wasteland.
And, thus, the four of us sat around at Visible Voice for a while. I broke out my story, "Theater Daze," and read it to them -- making them guinea pigs for my first attempt to read in public. I think I'll need to cut it down a bit to make it fit into ten minutes rather than twenty. Otherwise, it went fairly well.
I exchanged a book for pizza with Wred (the same arrangement worked well when I got a copy of The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus from him in July). No other copies of Impossibly Funky were "sold" today. Yet, I still found the trip to be worthwhile. I delivered a book to H.G. Lewis, saw The Uh-Oh Show, read in public, and hung out with some interesting folks. As Ice Cube would say, "Today was a good day."