Sunday, February 8, 2015

Walker Stalker Con: The Impostor and Lord Battle Invade

In previous posts I had said that some of the citizens were going to be volunteering at the SF Walker Stalker convention and out of all of us, only the Imposter planned on going for the weekend. There were a couple of reasons none of us actually ended up volunteering after watching the combined 2 hours and 45 minutes of webinars, whose poor sound quality was only surpassed by what was actually being said which then became redundant and full of small talk.

But a few things we did learn were that:
-volunteers get a free shirt that they wear while working
-2 autograph cards which they can redeem with any 2 celebs they wish

This seemed weak for the 12 hour days Huntress, KillDozer and I were looking at. But that wasn't the half of it.

In the past, volunteers would get their shirt signed by everybody at the convention, but this resulted in people leaving their shifts early. Then they changed the policy to 2 redeemable tickets, which came with a catch. You only get 1 per day you work, whether it was for 6 or 12 hours, and they may not work for the celebrities in higher demand, as they can only be redeemed at the celeb's convenience. Then we learned that the tickets could only be used for autographs on your volunteer shirt, which looked like this:

(The lady sitting down to the right is wearing the free shirt.)

And as if all this wasn't bad enough, when your shift was over you had to leave unless you had a ticket. By the time we heard about volunteers needing a ticket, the con had been sold out for several days, at least. We were all under the impression that since we were working the event, we would at least be able to stay and check it out afterwards, so the only person who actually secured a ticket was the Impostor.

Remember, there was also a mandatory orientation at 7 am each day and you couldn't volunteer without going to it. So if you had an afternoon shift you had to get there at 7, leave until your shift, and then come back closer to your time.

We had known about the 7 am orientation for a while now. We even rented a hotel room nearby so that it could feel like a mini vacation in the city and not just work. Sadly, we didn't learn about all the other restrictions until the night before. We had been on the fence up until now, mainly hanging in there just to meet other bay area horror fans, since one of my goals is to network horror events in the bay area. But all of this was also on top of hearing Adam Green's experience with Walker Stalker on the Movie Crypt. He mentioned a couple of times that they hid him and the cast of Holliston in some secluded corner because none of them charged for autographs or pictures. He hinted to this event being more about making money than meeting the fans, but didn't want to sound like he was talking badly about the event. These final discoveries made it pretty clear that we shouldn't be participating but no one was saying it. It wasn't until we woke up late on Saturday that it was clear we weren't going. That was when I texted KillDozer about it and we both admitted that this wasn't going to happen. But I had told the Impostor that I would take him to the con and I fully intended to keep that promise. On the way there, we figured that we should cancel the room we rented, since we didn't need it anymore. That cost about 90% of what it would have to actually keep the room.

For a minute, we entertained the thought of maybe getting a couple of tickets and going into the con with the Impostor, but the stress of traffic and lack of parking squashed that. And no one was selling tickets. We ended up dropping him off and hanging out on Haight Street instead. We said he should call one of us when he was ready to go and we'd come grab him. We spent quite a bit of money at Amoeba buying VHS, blurays, DVDs, Laserdiscs, and vinyl which I don't regret. The whole time we were shopping, we were getting texts about the shoulder to shoulder crowds, the endless lines, and that the ATM charged $40 that it didn't actually give to the Impostor. Before all these negative texts, we got a kind of cool one.

The Impostor had a confirmation print out for two day passes, one for Saturday and one for Sunday. When he went up to the volunteer in charge of passes, they asked what he had. He told them 2 passes, a Saturday and a Sunday. Without checking or scanning the print outs, the volunteer grabbed both out of his hand and gave him two weekend passes. Seeing as the Impostor had just described the event as all the worst parts of Comic-con without any of the pros, the idea of driving over there and dropping one of us off didn't sound too tempting. We decided that I'd go with the Impostor on Sunday, with the soul intention on catching Robert Englund's panel and getting in his autograph line early to meet him.

(Walker Stalker branding price guide.)

The next day we came prepared with two Nintendo 3DS' and two copies of Super Smash Brothers. This of course was a necessity because even though Mr. Englunds panel was to take place shortly after the con opened, he was signing 3 hours later in a different building. We managed to show up only slightly late and still find pretty good seats (well, okay seats...). Robert Englund is a professional celebrity and told many great (and in depth) stories about his films and cinema in general. Sadly the audience had a very short attention span and once a story went over 2 minutes 80% of the crowd had already mentally checked out.

(The Impostor sporting his Freddy sweatshirt from Fright Rags while filming Freddy.)

Once the panel was obviously wrapping up we shot out of there heading straight to Robert Englund's booth. Surprisingly only 2 people had beat us there but before we could even properly get situated volunteers appeared behind the booth and following shortly after was Robert Englund. He promptly walked up to the volunteer at the front of the line and said; "Hey, I'm gonna be leaving earlier than planned. Let's get this going now." And before the Impostor and I knew it we were paying a volunteer.

(Masses at the con shuffle about)

I need to elaborate a bit here as the pricing and interaction with the cash holder are interesting. So pricing for Mr. Englund was as follows:

  • $50 For a signed and personalized copy of his book "Hollywood Monster"
  • $60 For anything else signed
  • $40 For a photo with him
These are not standard horror con prices. I actually later learned that Walker Stalker sets standards for the celebrities to maximize income... Still, this is fucking Freddy so I came prepared to pay some money. I also forgot to mention that in case he had sold out of his books I brought a laser disc copy of "Wes Craven's New Nightmare" for him to sign. It turned out he had 2 copies of his book left, just for me and the Impostor. So the final total for me was $110, for the signed copy of his book and an autograph on the laser disc. The Impostor's total was $150, as he went for a signed copy of his book, A signed 8x10 and a photo. But I'm skipping ahead now, since before we even got to the volunteer handling the money, a little kid in line behind me started talking to me about how much he loves Freddy. He followed that info up with a question: "Wouldn't it be awesome if he did another one?!" I responded with a question of my own, "What's your favorite Nightmare on Elm Street?" He promptly responded "Freddy vs Jason". This caused the Impostor and I to make eye contact at which the Impostor started to crack up and turn from the kid to anxiously await our turn with Robert. I had not given up on this boy however and asked him another question, "What did you think about Ash joining that party?" Zombie boy - "Oh I hate Ash, I wanna see Pinhead fight 'em!!" I couldn't help myself and blurted out "That's stupid, Pinhead has no place in that fight. If the film makers were gonna go that route they might as well just throw in Leatherface.". This was the last we spoke.

I wasn't done making people angry though as I asked the volunteer handling the money for Robert Englund how the management was treating them. I don't know if it was the question I asked or the fact I had actually asked her opinion as a person but she looked up at me completely startled. "Huh, me?" she said. "Yeah, I was just wondering if they were good to you guys." She quickly regained her focus and answered "Oh, yeah. They are wonderful!" Now I was surprised, since I had a list I mentioned earlier that basically guaranteed they wouldn't be "wonderful". I responded "Are you sure? I was about to volunteer but after the 3 hours of webinars and the list of "benefits" it really just seemed like slave labor." This time she didn't look up from her note's and responded "Yes, I'm sure."

Robert Englund was amazing. He was animated, personal, and like I said earlier, a professional celebrity. There was really only 1 thing that happened during what felt like at least 20 min me and the Impostor hogged of his time, that feels worth mentioning. It happened when I mentioned the Movie Crypt (Adam Green's and Joe Lynch's amazing podcast!) and all I did was simply ask when he would be on it. He answered without looking up from my book he was signing, which doesn't seem strange but for him it really was. Basically he told me his people need to contact his people if they want anything to happen because he's busy and can't do things last minute. I quickly picked up on the souring of the mood and started in about how much I loved 976-EVIL. This of course brought the mood back to its happy origins. I remember once again making eye contact with the Impostor, his eyes seemed to scream, "You're lucky you saved that! Don't talk about it anymore!" I of course couldn't resist and asked if he'd be appearing in Digging up the Marrow, which conjured up the same reaction... "I'm not sure, so I guess I'm probably not." is the gist of what he said while not looking up once again. This time the Impostor came to the rescue by asking frantically if he should step behind the table for his photo, "or what?" Robert Englund then jumped up saying no, he wants us to use the light coming in from behind his table and came around to the Impostor. He then began to tell me where to stand and what angle to take the shot. This caught me so off guard that I kinda froze, which Robert responded to by just moving me.

The picture came out great. Actually all of the ones I took did. 
(I basically got $200 worth of Freddy photos!)

The rest of the con was pretty uneventful. I did talk to some guys selling a zombie miniatures game. I actually talked to one dude for like a half hour which obviously bored the hell out of the Impostor (I'll plug and post the game once we try it out). This was followed up by a brief period of scattering Overlook Theatre cards and a trip to the bathroom.

(This was a pretty rad booth for the needy horrornerd.)

In the end it's disappointing how lame and obvious of a money grab con this turned out to be. I should have known when Adam Green complained about them hiding the cast of Hollistion at the first Walker Stalker because they weren't charging for autographs or photos. On that note buy a ticket for the Digging up the Marrow tour! Coming to the Bay Area February 12th! Support true horror, not Walker Stalker.

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