Chiller Theatre Catastrophe

PhotobucketYou know when numerous people tell you the same thing but if it doesn’t happen to you directly you can’t feel exactly the same about the subject? That may seem vague, more specifically, I’m referring to the Chiller Theatre convention. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically a horror/pop culture convention that has been going on annually for over 20 years where personalities from all facets of entertainment sign autographs and take pictures with their fans. There’s also a huge dealer room which is basically like the best flea market with the coolest stuff you will ever go to. If you’re a first timer, you may not notice the clusterf*ck taking place before your eyes. I always hated that term, but it’s the most appropriate word to describe it.

Since I had great memories going to Chiller conventions with my Dad as a kid, I tried my best to ignore all of the negative comments people always have about the con. I always had a really good time and bought awesome crap so I couldn’t see where the breakdown was. If you speak to someone who has been to a Chiller con, chances are, they will trash it. Finally, after going to my first one in the mid ’90s, I now realize why this bad omen exists.

My main directive this year was to meet Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. I’ve been crazy about her since I was a kid, both because she was a hot goth chick, but even more so because she makes me laugh. I consider her one of my comedy idols, after all, the earliest incarnation of Elvira was during her time in the improv troupe, The Groundlings! Elvira has appeared at many Chiller cons throughout the years but for some reason I’ve always missed her. This year I was absolutely NOT going to miss my chance because her appearance was being touted as the last one on the east coast in character as Elvira.

Elvira and Jay at Chiller in NJ 

What really pissed me off about this event was that I had to wait on line ALL night for her. First, I was first on line for the autograph signing. She wasn’t planning on showing up until 7, and of course she wasn’t there until almost 7:45. I waited for over 2 hours! Then I was told that photos could only be taken at the designated photo session which would be at 9:45 PM! What a crock! Why couldn’t it be a one stop shop? This meant that I had to dedicate my entire night to Elvira, forget about walking around the dealer room or trying to get any other autographs. Right after I had less than a minute to talk with her I had to go wait on the photo line which didn’t wind up getting let in until nearly 11 PM! Terrible. Awful. As much as I love Elvira, I wasn’t so crazy about the autograph, I was more set on getting a photo op with her.

Once we went in the room we took the pics and then were told we had an hour to wait until they were printed up. We had to come back in an hour! WHAT? A poor woman next to me was complaining she was going to miss her train back to NYC because of this. One other guy had to fight for his money back because he just couldn’t wait any longer. These things are the tip of the iceberg. What’s even worse is that I only found out after purchasing the photo op that they were also offering a jpeg of the pic for a little extra money. I asked if I could add that on and no one had a clue how to make that happen. I offered to supply my e-mail address. I still have not received the picture.

Chiller volunteers and employees had no idea which way was up. They were not communicating properly. Not one of the people in the orange shirts had any valuable information or directions for us. I wound up just taking it upon myself to start my own lines. There were no signs either.  It was really a complete mess and now I understand why everyone is so down on Chiller. Stuff like this shouldn’t happen, and if it does, then it shouldn’t be done near the customers. A typical Chiller attendant pays $20 bucks to get in and then drops tons of other cash on various stuff inside. It’s not cool to air your dirty laundry and shady disorganized business dealings in front of someone who now has to shell out a wad of cash and wait on numerous lines for something that should’ve been done in one shot for half the money.

There are much worse things I could’ve been doing than dedicating my entire night to the Mistress of the Dark. The problem with Chiller is they do all their business right out in the open. I was hearing haggling sessions between Elvira’s handler and the Chiller organizer about money issues and who gets what cut of the take. Then they were also arguing about who would sell the tickets for the photo op and if the photo op would even happen! Elvira’s handler even told me that the Chiller people promised to send a car for Elvira at the airport and one never showed up so that not only made them late, but also angry. I would be pissed off too. Hey Chiller – if you want us to come back, get your shit together!

  • Tom

    What a headache. But that is an awesome autograph and photo; it seems like your wait was worth it, and at least you are local. That flight-delayed woman should have planned to be there for the weekend, not leave on Friday night. When you go to these kinds of shows you need to expect these kinds of things, especially a 2-4 hour wait for big name draws. Also, the admission price should include some sort of weekend pass.

    This was my first Chiller; I went Saturday and it was also a madhouse. I was there from 3-5 pm. Didn't get Elvira's autograph but I did see her line and it was long the entire time I was there. I didn't like how you had to cut in front of people to get to the other celebrities; everyone I wanted to see was against that wall beyond the Elvira line. I waited 30 minutes for Martin Landau; some guy in front of me said he had been on a break for 2 hours.

    That's just the beginning. Due to the weather, there were at least 2 power outtages that caused the whole building to blackout. I waited 30 minutes at the ATM machine alone to get some extra cash.

    But what's worse was the drive home on Saturday – the huge storm. I had a 7 hour drive back to my hotel in Pennsylvania because the roads were so bad. Finally got back at midnight. Plus my friend and I got into an argument about my driving and now our friendship is in ruins. He said he doesn't even want to talk to me much anymore now. Bummer!

  • Last Chiller I went to was the same mess. Met Ace Frehley, got a signature, paid another $20 to have a goon with fat fingers take a crummy picture of us, got shooed along. Sorry Chiller, I won't be going again.

  • That's a shame to hear. I'm definitely not a fan of waiting on lines. Last year I spent probably close to an hour waiting for Heather Langenkamp so I could take a picture of her with my girlfriend and right as we finally got our turn she announced no more pictures. Fortunately, when she saw we were also planning to buy her documentary, she allowed one more photo!

    We didn't end up going to this one because of the weather and I regret not getting a chance to meet Michael Pare and Heather Matarazzo. And you while waiting in line!

  • I'm sorry to hear that this experience turned out to be such a nightmare. My brother was planning on going until he saw that Dirk Benedict had to back out. He enjoys going to these shows with dad and our cousin Sal. I've been to them a few times. Once he waited about 3 hours to get Linda Hamilton's autograph. It was very disorganized in that pit area. They probably should've put her in a seperate room. Sounds like the situation there keeps getting worse. My brother said that they should move it to a bigger place. I'm sure the ticket price would go up.