Monday, August 5, 2019

Scares That Care Autopsy

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
Hey, everybody!  Forgive me if this post is brief.  It's already after 11:00 pm on Monday and I haven't even gotten around to starting this post.  My new small business is opening this week (more on that next month) so that didn't make it the greatest time in the world for me to attend the greatest con in the world...but of course, how could I not?

Scares That Care is a 501 (c) (3) registered charity and one that is entirely deserving of your donation right now, whatever time that is in the year.  They are always accepting donations. 

Scares That Care Weekend, of course, was this past weekend in Williamsburg, VA, and it is a time when horror aficianados, both professionals and fans, gather from (literally) all over the world to do some good and indulge in their love of horror.  I've been delighted to attend for the past four years. 

The legendary Paul Tremblay expresses his support for myself, Aaron Dries, and Patrick Lacey
My weekend actually began on Wednesday (I know, right?) because Matt and Anna Hayward were in town from Ireland (remember how I said people come from around the world) for the convention.  It was lovely to take a deep breath before the plunge.  My greatest regret every year is that I can't have the long, intimate conversations with all of the attendees, or even just the ones I count as friends.  There are just too many people I know and love to do that, and so, inevitably, every year I come away feeling that I shafted someone.  But I like to think that by now people understand how conventions are and that it's like trying to catch lightning bugs in a bottle: you will really only be able to catch so many in one (or four) evenings.

My trip to Williamsburg was largely uneventful, albeit plagued by miserable traffic around Washington D.C.  The first night there I did something I've actually never done in four years: got in the hotel pool.  I'd forgotten how much I loved swimming until I went to Knoebels earlier this year and found it was utterly unfeasible to get into the pool there without waiting in line for hours and then paying exorbitant amounts.  I promised myself I'd swim at least a bit at STC, and I did.

David Barbee admires a bullfrog's various attributes at the Bizarro Power Hour-ish
Friday morning I got to really get to know my tablemate, Aaron Dries, of Canberra, Australia.  (I told you it was genuinely international.)  Aaron is a sweetheart, and gives Jonathan Janz a run for his money for making every single person who stops by the table feel like the most important person in the universe.  And to be clear, in neither of those cases do I think the guys are pandering.  It's their very genuineness, I think, that makes them so charming and appealing.  Meanwhile, here I am, an overweight, frumpy little hack trying to live off of reflected glory.

In any case, largely thanks to Aaron taking pity on me and redirecting most of his customers in my direction, sales Friday were quite robust.  They dropped off a bit Saturday, but overall I was very, very pleased with the weekend.  I'd have to check my records, but I believe it was my biggest financial success for a convention ever.  Of course, my financial success is really not what a charity convention is all about, so I like to think that I did a bit to contribute to the charity by participating in some really compelling programming.

The contenders in the Bizzaro Power Hour-ish: (from L to R) myself, David Barbee, Scott Cole, Andersen Prunty, Eric Hendrixson, and John Wayne Communale
My first quality programming came Thursday night with the trivia contest.  I was pleased to take the highest score of the night (2600, bitches!) but had to hand off my prize to my competitor.  It was fans vs professionals, and as hokey as it sounds I feel like my job as a professional (ha!) at a convention is to make the fans happy.

Friday I had the unusual honor of interviewing the legendary Jonathan Maberry.  If you missed it, you did indeed miss something.  I had no idea what a profoundly fascinating life Mr. Maberry has led, and really, while I want to share everything he talked about, I feel like it's not my place.  Well, all right.  One little thing: he saved Stevie Nicks's life once.  It was funny and heartbreaking and all points in between.  And I also got the chance to right a little wrong I've always felt terrible about.  The first time I met him, I interrupted his drink at a bar (yeah, I was that guy) so I was finally able to make it right by mixing some fine Bombay Sapphire martinis for us to enjoy as we talked with the audience.

I had a great reading on Sunday with Jeff Strand, but I'm skipping over Saturday for a reason I'll get back to.  Jeff was on point, particularly with a piece about being served fish at a restaurant that was by a wide margin the most gut-busting of the several short pieces we each read.  It must be heard to be properly appreciated.

I also got to witness readings by Kenzie Jennings (impressive), Somer Canon (hilarious), Wile E. Young (absorbing), Dan Padavona (heartwrenching), Aaron Dries (theatrical), and Wesley Southard (meh.)  I'm just busting chops, of course.  If I don't bust your chops, trust me, I don't really care for you.  And by that metric the only person I love more than Wes is my girlfriend.  His reading was actually really impressive, both the piece and the performance. 

And now we come to the elephant in the room, which is hard for me to describe without sound like a completely self-absorbed asshole, but I guess I'll try anyway: the Bizarro Power Hour-ish.  When I was preparing my readings for the convention (pro tip, kids: always prepare fresh material at least once a year for conventions) I realized I wasn't writing a straight reading, I was writing a bizarro reading.  Early this year I heard Carlton Mellick III's story about a Conan the Barbarian-type who just wanted to talk about his nipples and I really, really wanted to write something like that.  But, of course, shit like that is ephemeral and, of course, it didn't come until I was bashing my head against the wall trying to write a decent more standard reading.  But then when it came I was certain I had just shat gold upon the page.

I knew there was a Bizarro event at STC, but I wasn't sure if it was open invitation or not.  So I lobbied some of the convention staff to let me in, and while I didn't want to take advantage of my connections, I also really, really wanted to do this reading.  Unfortunately, a few of the participants weren't able to make it to the convention.  As sad as that was for the people involved, it was a stroke of luck for me, because I no longer felt like I was weaseling a place on the panel.  In fact, I felt like I was being helpful.  Little did the other participants know, though, of the solid steel atomic turd I had hiding in my pocket, glistening, waiting for them to finish their presentations.

Scott Cole, I would say, did the most straightforwardly (I guess that's a contradiction in terms?) bizarro piece, an excerpt from his book SLICES.  David Barbee gave a thrilling rendition of the butthole song with a frog puppet.  I was a little drunk and horribly nervous, so I don't entirely remember what Eric Hendrixson and Andersen Prunty did, but John Wayne Communale's piece was dissertation on getting really, really high, which I sympathized strangely with at that period.

And then I went on.

I have never seen an audience laugh so hard.  Maybe at a professional comedian.  Like name-level.  I mean, I thought it was going to go over well, but I was shocked when I saw the laughter become uncontrollable.  This may come as a surprise to those in the audience that night, but I had actually carefully timed and calibrated my piece, but the waves of laughter were simply so powerful that I had to adjust entirely.  I've never been in that situation before.  In a word, it went over like gangbusters.

And then the accolades poured in.  I was told I "broke" several people.  The bizarro veterans in attendance who, I assume, had never heard of me before tonight, were hurrying up to shake my hand and discuss, at length, the virtues of circumcision. 

So the Bizarro Power Hour-ish was the highlight of my con, although, of course, the real highlight of the con for everyone involved is the chance to help out victims of burns and cancer.  If you have not been, I really hope you'll consider attending next year.  And now to post this just under the midnight wire and...done!

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