Thursday, May 25, 2006

Our Heroes Live Where You And I Have Only Been

Excuse that header for mangling a beautiful Leonard Cohen lyric a bit.

And sorry for having been so long away from this poor, lonely blog. Life has kept me busy and even though there were times I wanted to jump onto the computer just to take care of this joyful task, I found that after being in front of the screen for eight hours of work, the idea of relaxing to write a new entry seemed a bit, well....

Nonetheless, as life would have it, despite the incredible length of time between the last post and this latest, they are both inextricably linked by the presence of one common character.

Besides me, of course.

And that would be the one and only, George A. Romero.

This past weekend I ended up as a cameraperson for the MONSTERS HD network again, this time out in Cherry HIll, New Jersey. As a local crew had already been hired to videotape all the events in the main room (speakers like Charles Band, Tony Todd, the incredible Lance Henrikson, and a HELLRAISER Cenobite reunion with Doug Bradley and writer Peter Atkins, amongst others), I was simply there to shoot the rest of the show -- stuff like the dealers room, interviews with willing celebrities in the autograph room (Ricou Browning, the CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON himself was the only one willing and a very nice gentleman), and even 42nd Street Pete doing the auction to benefit children with autism.

Needless to say, over the course of the two days I was there, this was not exactly a back-breaking amount of work.

I was driven up on Saturday morning by damn good friend Mike Gingold, managing editor of FANGORIA magazine, and was joined in the car by director Mike Mendez, who directed the kick-ass THE CONVENT (among other films) and is an all-around nice guy. We hit some seriously screwed-up traffic in that annex of Hell known as New Jersey, but it was a fun trip as we all get along quite well (even if we rarely agree on what a good film is -- but that is another post).

When I got to the show I set-up my equipment at the MONSTERS HD table and waited around for something to shoot. And kept on waiting for hours, doing nothing but taking a few quick walks around the dealer's room.

Did manage to bump into a few friends along the way. First up was Paige Davis, the lovely, practical and tough-as-nails dame who's V.P. of Sales and Marketing at E.I Entertainment. Her no-bullshit attitude about the stuff she's working on and what other people are doing always makes her a pleasure to talk to -- and she knows her way around a bar like I wish most people did.

Pleasantly surprised to also bump into Mike Watt and Amy Lynn Best as well. I've been e-mailing back and forth with Mike as I recently scored a short film he and Amy did (HIGH STAKES) and I'll be working on a vampire movie they are shooting right now (in fact, they had to drive 5 hours back home Saturday night for a Sunday morning shoot!). They are both so much fun to hang out with and Amy is very easy on the eyes (and Mike's a cutie, too!) so we were just jumping around like little school kids, so happy were we all to unexpectedly bump into each other at the show.

Mike Mendez and I choked down the hotel food for lunch (dear god... WHY did I go for the buffet?!??!) and I continued trying to look busy while doing nothing -- which reminded me of what I used to do when I worked my corporate job at Rainbow Media (the parent company of MONSTERS HD). Somehow I felt like I was back at the old job, and it really depressed the hell out of me. Pity I couldn't really drown my sorrows in drink while working.

At the end of the day, we got that Ricou Browning interview; all three minutes of it, standing in front of his autograph table.

And that was it for shooting that day.

On a side not, Dave Sehring and I walked around the autograph room to try and see who else mght be interested in being interviewed (if not that day, then at a later date) for the network. Ashley Laurence from HELLRAISER 1 and 2 was one of the people he asked, and I have to say that seeing her up-close and in-person was a bit of a shock to me, as she was stunningly beautiful. I never thought she was a particularly interesting performer or thought twice about how she looked, but I'm now wondering if she's just been poorly photographed on film or just taken roles that haven't shown her off to best advantage. A very pleasant surprise.

Eileen Dietz, from THE EXORCIST, seemed like a nice, chatty character who was hawking her latest projects -- certainly nothing wrong with that.

Doug Bradley, on the other hand, came off as a sententious prick -- just a complete and total asshole, who took the paperwork that Dave offered him and then turned away from us (mid-sentence) and made himself busy with fiddling his paperwork and cleaning his cuticles, never making eye-contact with Dave as he contined to politely finish his spiel.

I asked Dave what he thought of Bradley's reaction, and he smartly surmised that he was probably reacting to the fact that I was standing there with a camcorder and a microphone and he thought I might be surreptitiously taping him as we spoke. As I had done my best to make sure I was visibly pointing my camera AWAY from him and had the microphone down at my side, I had hoped it indicated to people that I was NOT trying to pull a fast one by taping them without permission.

But what David said made a certain amount of sense, and I felt bad at the moment if I had caused any Bradley any discomfort.

Onwards and upwards.

In order to feel as if I'd earned an honest day's wages, I hung around for the Lance Henrikson and Cenobite reunion events in the main ballroom so I could help the other camera crew clean-up their equipment.

And then, afterwards, I would go crash the party in Romero's room on the sixth floor.

More on that in a moment, of course.

First, I just want to mention what a fantastic stage presence Lance Henrikson has. Funny stories well-told, and not afraid to be honest about the films and the people he's worked with, at the same time being a gentleman about it and allowing listeners to read between the lines based on his lyrical inflection and choice of words.

The Cenobite reunion was esoteric fun for HELLRAISER geeks (of which I'm not particularly one), and since everyone was British they all had a cheeky sense of humor I found very entertaining. Doug Bradley was the complete opposite of the person I encountered at his table, which made me rethink my labeling him a prick.

Fast forward through cleaning-up and wondering whether or not I was too tired to hit the party.

I didn't know what room number the party was in, but as luck would have it, as soon as I got off the elevator there was an open door to a suite filled with people. And being the kind of guy I am occasionally, I just casually walked in like I was supposed to be there and hoped I had entered the right room.

A quick scan of the crowd and I saw both my Mikes talking to George Romero in the corner -- bingo!

George was absolutely trashed and in very good spirits holding court in the corner of the room. Over the course of the two hours in which I was there, I never once saw him get up from that chair. As elated as I was to be sharing drinks and listening to stories from THE MAN, I made sure on two separate instances to give up my seat and circle the room to give other people the same chance I had to partake of his presence.

I ended up having the most fruitful conversation with Uncle George about music. I wondered what he listened to in his spare time to relax, and he said classical music was what he enjoyed most. As I've always thought his films have had great soundtracks (even the ones with library tracks that he chose), we ended up talking about the process a bit.

At first he seemed a bit mystified, but I reminded him that, like Kubrick, he seemed to be a guy who had no trouble finding already existing music to repurpose for his own filmic uses (ie: the music library cues that make up NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE CRAZIES and quite a bit of DAWN OF THE DEAD). George indicated that he liked the control that came from finding already created music instead of the crap-shoot of hoping that an untried composer might supply something as good.

When I asked him about why he hadn't worked with Donald Rubinstein since KNIGHTRIDERS, he praised his music and said it all had to do with studio choices and not him -- the studios preferred established composers they had heard of or worked with before.

When I mentioned how much I liked the John Harrison score for CREEPSHOW, Romero was quick to add how much he liked the DAY OF THE DEAD score as well. He also told me about how for the CREEPSHOW sessions Harrison had actually brought his Prophet 10 keyboard into the mixing studio so they could add little stings or sound effects to the film as they went along during the mixing process, creating not only music but ambient sounds on the fly.

I love Goblin, but I think their score for DAWN OF THE DEAD has some real crap in it (though of course there is also one or two absolutely classical pieces in the film by them as well) -- and apparently, Uncle George agrees, which is why he chose to use their music so sparingly in his edit of the film. Some of the best library music cues I've ever heard make up the rest of the score (chosen by Romero, of course).

Feeling comfortable enough to talk about anything with the group at this point, George tactfully answered even the most pointed questions about people he's worked with or major studio bullshit with honesty and ablomb, though he would preface such comments with the admonition "This isn't for publication, but..." -- so out of respect for him and his comments, I'm afraid I will not post everything he spoke about here.

Doug Bradley was also at the party. I thought about what Dave had said earlier about him thinking that maybe I was shooting him on the sly and making him uncomfortable.

And so, screwing my courage to the sticking place (Shakespeare's MACBETH, by way of my 11th Grade English teacher Mrs. Townsend) I walked up to Mr. Bradley when there was a break in his conversations and introduced myself. I mentioned the circumstances of our meeting a few hours earlier and offered my sincerest and humblest apologies if I had in any way made him uncomfortable, etc.

He had no idea what I was talking about and had no recollection whatsoever of David or I. He then waved me away from his almighty presence.

Doug Bradley, you are a stuck-up cunt, wherever you are.