Shaking Hands at DragonCon
I’m not a big crowd person. I usually feel uncomfortable in large groups because I don’t know anyone and a lifetime of being the weird kid in class has left me a little bit introverted. But DragonCon was completely different. For the first time in my life I dove head first into a teeming sea of strangers and swam through new waters meeting people, talking to them, and sharing in a way I never expected to be able to do. The tiny pink strip on my badge that read “PRESS” was a good icebreaker with some who were eager to talk about what they’re doing in terms of their fandom while my own wide eyed wonder at the encounters was more than enough to make most conversations come to life. There’s one area, however, where I never fail to make an ass out of myself.
I’ve talked to an astonishing range of people in my life. From my career in emergency service to interviews I’ve done for 52 Weeks of Horror and never once have I been genuinely intimidated or awestruck to the point where words fail me. But put me face to face with someone whose work I admire and I become a giggly child who can’t formulate a coherent sentence to save his life. It happened in 2005 when I met Bruce Campbell during his book tour for Make Love* The Bruce Campbell Way. I was 20 and absolutely ecstatic about the chance to meet my all time favorite actor. I knew everything I was going to say to him. I knew how cool and suave I was going to come across. I was going to shake his hand, get his autograph, and it was going to be a moment that would resonate in the annals of horror history.
Instead, I stammered and made some incomprehensible chin joke before his scribbled his initials in my book and moved on to the next person in line.
But that was a fluke. I mean, surely I’m not so completely out of touch with reality that I’m going to spaz out any time I meet a celebrity. Right?
Last October I got the chance to go to my very first nerdcore concert featuring MegaRan, MC Lars, and one of my all time favorites, MC Chris. For those of you who know nothing of nerdcore rap -which will likely be everyone reading this article- MC Chris is one of the first nerdcore rappers and has also done voice acting on shows like Sealab and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. It had been eleven years since I fan girled in front of Bruce Campbell and I was certain I was going to be much cooler as I walked up to the merch booth where MC Chris was standing after the show.
So, descending the depths of the Marriott “Food Tube” during DragonCon, I was more than a bit surprised by the booths lining the bottom floor belonging to a slew of musicians and bands who had come to the event. Many were goth industrial and heavy metal and I was enjoying the very unique sounds and sights as I came across them when a familiar banner caught my eye. Psychostick! Don’t let the name throw you, or the band’s image. This group of Arizona heavy metal rockers, in chorus with groups like ICP and Evanescence were the soundtrack of my highschool career. The high octane, absolutely random screaming vocals and beats have always given me a boost when I need to get up and just lose my mind for a little while. It was amazing to get a chance to meet them. I wanted to go to their show Sunday night but fate (among other things) stood in my way. If you need a good introduction to Psychostick, search Youtube for the music video to their song Pluh! You’ll be hooked.
Still giddy from my encounter with some of my favorite metal rockers, I thought my day couldn’t get any better. And then I walked around the corner to see Aurelio Voltaire sitting at a table talking to fans. Voltaire, arguably one of the best goth musicians and personalities out there today, has been a longtime musical favorite of mine. With albums like Bitrekual, Ooky-Spooky, and Riding a Black Unicorn, his music is a mixture of fandom humor and deep, emotional storytelling with in styles that run the gamut of musical traditions. I have an excellent Halloween playlist here that contains several Voltaire songs if you’re interested. Anyway, still high off meeting Psychostick, I walked up to the booth and talked to him. No giddy excitement. No giggling, poorly formed jokes. Just a strong handshake and a brief chat before catching him on stage.
Wandering the halls after the Voltaire show, I made my way to the vendor halls where a familiar looking man in a tan blazer and a bright green shirt was walking by.
“Hey, you’re Lloyd Kaufman.” I said with a smile.
He looked at me for a moment, smiled, and shook my hand. He apologized that he couldn’t speak long as he was trying to hurry and get to an interview but he took a picture with me. We didn’t get a chance to discuss how my stories would make for some of the greatest Troma masterpieces since The Toxic Avenger and there were no seeds planted for a collaboration, but his words to me were none the less moving. He looked me in the eye, put his hand on my shoulder, and said to me:
“Hey, buddy, can you tell me where the nearest bathroom is?”
Okay, maybe I find that funnier than it is but it was still a truly one of a kind experience.
DragonCon was full of some of the most talented and genuinely wonderful people I’ve ever had the chance to meet. From attendees and cosplayers who will drop everything they’re doing to talk about their fandom, to celebrities and performers who appreciate their fans, it was a fantastic weekend.
Dan Lee is a horror fiend and freelance writer with a special place in his heart for monster movies and demonic possession stories.