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Chiller Theatre

Author heidi Macdonald

Chiller's chilling brew

Chiller Theatre

If you like horror and being horrified, Chiller Theatre is the place for you. This thrice-yearly convention is held at the Meadowlands Sheraton, and draws all fans of horror films and weirdness in general – they hold shows in January and April, but of course it is the Halloween show, which is the big one. Adding to this year's excitement, it was the 15th anniversary show. Organizer Kevin Clement pulled out all the stops to make this one of the best attended shows yet.

Althought Chiller can be an alarming place if you're not in the right mood, for those who are, it's a riot. The appeal of Chiller is two fold. Two large dealer's rooms hold all the ghoulish DVDs, movie stills, toys and assorted odd stuff that you could ever want, from jewelry to kitten-shaped candleholders. Then there are the celebrity guests who will, for a fee, sign autographs and let you pose with them for a picture which you will treasure forever. This year was a real barn burner – everyone from the still lovely Barbara Eden (I Dream of Eden) to Adam West and Burt Ward (Batman) to Warwick Davis (Star Wars, Willow) to Fred Williamson and more stars of old horror movies than you could count, like the beautiful Ashley Laurence of Hell raiser fame.

We arrived at the show on Saturday afternoon. I arrived with a friend I will call FM, who is an avid collector, but only of Planet of the Apes and Lost in Space items – hey everyone needs a hobby. FM owns one of the finest collections of PotA stills and movie posters in America, and he went through stacks of stills in search of that one elusive item. I myself possess much arcane pop culture knowledge, but when FM meets another Apes freak and they start going on about the differences between Spanish and Mexican lobby cards I just hold my head. FM didn't find any monkey stills, but he did score one of the swell new Lost in Space figures from Sci-Fi- Metropolis, a Dr. Smith complete with velour jump suit. The set also includes John Robinson and the Keeper, and they are sure to set the hearts of Lost in Space fans a flutter.

After checking out the dealer's room, we went to the celebrity tent. I must mention here that lines to get in were INSANE. We had press passes and were able to get in to the show easily, but if you just needed a ticket, the line went around the hotel. Every year Chiller gets more and more popular, and the fire marshal is very very picky about the number of people who are let in. Considering how crowded the aisles can get – and how elaborate some of the costumes are –this is a good idea. But some people had to stand inline for hours, and I'm sure some people just gave up and went home.

Toy maker NECA was set up, showing off some of their news releases, including their Clive Barker line, and selling their show special – a Sin City Variant of Kevin that includes a severed head. I hadn't managed to pick up any of the Sin City figures, as much as I loved the film, so the chance to get a Cannibal "Frodo" couldn't be passed up and my wallet was soon $20 lighter.

The celebrity tent was also quite crowded, and there were individual lines for groups of autographs. As someone once said, this is a great chance for veteran stars to meet their fans, as well as veteran fans to meet their stars. Kevin Sorbo from Hercules was on hand, looking as tall and dashing as ever. I also spotted little Warwick Davis and his equally diminutive family walking around. Now, you don't see that every day.

Karen Allen from Raiders of the Lost Ark was there. Marion is by far my favorite female from an Indiana Jones movie, and Karen still has a spunky look about her, and was very gracious with her fans.

We also stopped by the Batman booth. Lee Meriwether, who played Catwoman briefly was at the show, and at age 70 she looks stunning. Perfect skin, sparkling eyes. I had appeared as an "expert" on the Catwoman Biography on A&E and I got to tell her how inspiring it was for me to appear on a TV show with such great ladies as herself, Eartha Kitt, and of course, the great Julie Newmar.

Adam West was just packing up to go as I walked by – to be honest, I just wanted to hear him talk in that amazing voice of his. He and his manager were discussing what to do with a package of pens a fan had left behind.

Chiller is also the place to see some celebs whose claims to fame are more, um, dubious. Such was the case with Tonya Harding, the former figure skating champ. I admire Tanya for having been the first American – and one of only three women ever – to perform the dreaded triple axel jump. No can take that achievement away from her, but let's just say she looks like she isn't at her fighting weight right now.

There was also a large wrestling contingent. Two-time Olympian and weightlifting champ Ken Patera was on hand, and he showed me his scars from joint replacement surgery. I asked if he regretted all the wear and tear on his body. "No, because it could have been worse," he said, exhibiting quite the game attitude. We also spotted Abdullah the Butcher who is probably the scariest looking human being we've ever seen, and Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka who the very next day was on Raw.

Also on hand was current WWE superstar Rob van Dam who is recuperating from extensive knee surgery. Rob says he should be back in a few months. Look for a future interview here on Eternal Collector with Rob about his store – he is a very cool guy, and super gracious with his fans.

Beside the tent, celebs are set up in the second floor mezzanine. I went there in search of Buckethead. In case you have never heard of him, Buckethead is a guitar player of great renown who never appears in public without a mask and a KFC bucket atop his head. Alas, I never spotted him (although he could have taken off the mask and no one would have recognized him) although I heard he played in the big Saturday night concert.

Speaking of the big Saturday night this is where Chiller really gets insane. The tent is converted to a stage and an enormous costume party is held. There's something for everyone here...many lovely lasses in skimpy vinyl outfits, dedicated costumers in complicated get-ups, and some costumes that have to be seen to be believed, including several guys in huge body suits with sound effects. I was especially taken by an elaborate Treebeard from the Lord of the Rings. You don't see that every day either. The big concert included the Dead Elvii, Zacherly and a speech by Horror film meister Hershel Gordon Lewis.

Saturday night the lobby turns into a giant party that rages into the night, as costumed freaks mingle and, so we hear, swingle. The entire scene was captured in the movie Unconventional—if you've never been to a Chiller but want to see what it's all about this movie gives you a pretty good idea.

Chiller is also a place to catch up with old friends, and we enjoyed the party with some pals from around, including the master of himself. A fine time was had by all, at least what can be remembered of it.

Sunday dawned warm and sunny, but there was another huge line to get in. One of the coolest things at the show was replicas of the 1966 Batmobile and the Green Hornet's car that were out back. You could get in the cars and get your picture taken for $10 or for $20 you could get Burt Ward to pose with you. I confess, I waited until dark and posed outside the yellow tape!

If there was any actual news coming from the show it's that Chiller has once again outgrown its home. According to the official website, next time Chiller will have a new home. Rumors at the show had it moving across Rte. 3 back to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, but no official word yet.

If you come to Chiller, be prepared to bring a lot of money because you are sure to spend it on SOMETHING, whether it be some toy you have been yearning for, or getting an autograph from someone you have always admired. For Halloween thrills and chills and some of the scariest people on earth, Chiller is the place to be.

THE BEAT: The people need to know!

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