Rex B. Hamilton reports on the 2007 TransWorld convention
March 10, 2007
Greetings, Fellow Haunters:
I hope you were able to visit Chicago a couple of weeks ago and attend the TransWorld Halloween show. I had a great time and I hope you did, too. I was there from Thursday through Sunday - the shortest stay in the eleven straight years I’ve been an attendee.
As the weekend progressed, the weather in Chicago steadily went downhill. (You may have heard that 2007 was the final year for TransWorld in the City of Broad Shoulders. In March of 2008, the show will re-locate to Las Vegas. The second day of that show will be St. Patrick’s Day. Erin Go Boo!) I heard a steady trickle of comments about how the warmer weather in Las Vegas will be appreciated next year, even though many of us who live east of the Mississippi will have to fly instead of drive.
For the most part, the roads to Chicago on Thursday morning were clear and dry. The sun came out to stay as we approached the Illinois line. The Tri-State Toll-way (a.k.a. Interstate 294) was at last enjoyable to drive. Gone were the years of construction activity to re-do the toll booth areas. Jeff “Samhain” Glatzer and I arrived at the Crowne Plaza not long after two o’clock.
What to do for the rest of the afternoon? The two of us called some friends who were setting up their booths, and wrangled smuggled passes from them so that we could help out vendors on the convention floor. (If you’ve never seen what the convention floor looks like on the day before the show begins, then you don’t know the meaning of the word “mess.”)
Silly us - we thought we would be instantly grabbed up by vendors and pressed into service erecting their booths and laying out their wares. Nothing remotely like this ever happened. Many vendors were gracious enough to stop their frantic activities and chat with us for a few minutes. Jeff and I wished them all the best.
As the sun went down shortly after six, Jeff headed off to his night at the Crazy Bob series of haunt seminars, held across the street at the convention center. At 7:20 PM I jumped onto the Kennedy and haltingly crawled my way downtown. My nephew Jac is a fourth-year architecture student at Illinois Tech. I took him and his main squeeze, Miwa, to a basement seafood joint called “The Half Shell.” Pretty it wasn’t, but delicious it was.
When I returned to Rosemont I immediately went to the Crazy Bob affair. But when I arrived around 11:30, the event had just concluded. From the few attendees that I interviewed, my unofficial take is that it was modest in size yet satisfying in nature.
Until 1 AM, you could have found me at the Crowne Plaza’s patio deli, outside the bar door.
On Friday, I decided to change up my look, given that 2007 is reportedly the final Chicago TransWorld. Out with the crazy hair; in with the Beau Brummel look. I sported a black velvet tux jacket, a silver herringbone ascot and all the trimmings that day. My regal stroll about the convention floor that morning was a charming experience. All about me were gore, depravity and ghastliness. How utterly delightful.
After a late lunch of Fluffy Food, Jeff and I drove over to the Fangoria convention at the Wyndham hotel, only about 2 miles away from the convention center. There was a large crowd pushing to get in to a rather small show. Since Chicago is ten times the size of Cleveland, the two of us anticipated something really special. The truth is that the horror movie/memorabilia/celebrity shows in Cleveland are bigger than what Fangoria put on that day.
We stayed for less than an hour and then drove back to the Crowne and the convention center for the balance of the day. During our return trip, we made a quick stop at Stylemakers Hair Salon so that I could introduce Jeff to Jennifer, my beautician (uglytician?) for the past six TransWorlds.
Friday evening outside the Crowne Center’s bar was a continuous, enthusiastic celebration of haunters. The noise and the beer flowed all night long. Jeff and I were smart enough to chow down on some more Fluffy Food before heading downstairs. When I left around 1:30 AM, the festivities were still in high gear.
One of the nicest things that happened at TransWorld is when Katie Lane, last year’s chancellor of the Legion of Terror acting troupe, walked up to me during the evening’s festivities and smilingly presented me with a black sweatshirt. You already know that it wasn’t just any black sweatshirt - it had freehand airbrush drawings on it done by Shane “Raven’s-Wolf” Rapkin. On the front was a large, grinning portrait of my “Lord Zargon” character. On the back, in large lettering surrounded by glowering, ethereal skulls, were Zargon’s words to slay by: “Evil is Good” It was a lovely addition to my collection of Shane’s arresting darkworks.
Saturday was my big day at TransWorld. Right at 8:30 that morning, I opened the door to Stylemakers Hair Salon on West Higgins and sat myself down in Jennifer’s chair for the final time. With her shy smiles throughout, she gently pulled my hair up into a pincushion of needle-tipped spikes and painted them green with purple tips. It was the first step in creating my loony-tune Butch the Butcher character.
Jen got married in an outdoor ceremony last October. While she massacred my hair, I leafed through her wedding albums and admired the glorious fall afternoon she had luckily chosen. She and her new husband have my best wishes.
Back at my room at the Crowne, I slapped on the rest of Butch’s make-up and was on the convention floor around 11 o’clock.
I pulled my annual shift at the IAHA booth from 2 to 4 PM. This year’s booth was the biggest it’s ever been and was in a good spot, facing the Haunters Pavilion and away from much of the mechanical noises and horns. I was joined at the beginning of my shift by Jim & Marty Smith, Deanna Morton, Gerrie Wisniewski, Donna & Tony Wohlgemuth, Jessica Sammis, Jennifer Goff, Cary Smith and Melissa Burkholder. As the afternoon progressed, we ended up with nearly double that number of people working the booth - a record.
Perhaps the fact that the grand make-up competition took place in front of us that afternoon contributed to the high turnout. I ended up not doing much that day since we had so many booth workers, and was able to sneak away for a few minutes to photograph the finished entries in the make-up competition.
The IAHA Raffle, from 4:15 to 5 PM was my next TransWorld commitment. I was surprised to find that my haunted services on the weekend of October 26 & 7 was the first item up for bid. Auctioneers Chuck “Bubba Hotep” Williams and Rich “Horrormeister” Hanf raised $400 for the Association by selling me off to Woods of Terror in North Carolina. I look forward to re-visiting this standout attraction.
With nothing to do between 5 and 6 PM, I slid back to the hotel for a quick dinner of Fluffy Food and then slogged back across the street to the convention center. The weather in Chicago had rapidly deteriorated through the day. Some haunters from Wisconsin had left for home right after lunch, wishing to beat the approaching blizzard. By evening, it was snowing like mad in Rosemont and the winds were gusting.
The IAHA Annual Meeting was scheduled to run from 6 until 8 PM, but it didn’t wrap up until nearly 8:30. To their credit, the board of directors included a variety of agenda items such as recognition of board members, a tribute to Cydney Neil of Rocky Point Haunted House, a tribute to Crazy Bob and Crazy Beth Turner of the Haunted Hydro, a t-shirt toss, a review of the 2006 public relations campaign and more.
The leadership of the IAHA board put forth their budget proposal and future operational plans to the membership and guests in attendance - a welcome step. It’s no secret that riding the IAHA roller coaster since 1998 has had its highs and lows for us members. But it appears that the current crop of Association leaders is finally doing some of the things that have needed doing for quite some time. We can only hope that this group finds the patience to stick with each other for a few more years. They seem to have both the industry drive, and the benefit of being friends with each other. Perhaps better days for the IAHA are at hand.
By the time the meeting ended, the weather was pretty darn awful. But the blowing snow did not diminish Jeff’s desire to visit Dreamreaper’s Haunted House. So, after a few more bites of Fluffy Food we bundled into my car and off we went, oftentimes sideways, down the snow and ice-covered Chicago streets. We arrived at Dreamreapers just as the final customers had finished their tour. The actors had retreated to the make-up rooms to clean up, and the customers who remained for the lights-on tour were milling about the customer waiting area.
We’ve seen lights-on tours at Dreamreapers before. What we wanted to see were the new waterfall and swamp scenes under “show conditions.” So we snuck in through an access door and took our own private tour. Afterward, we hung out with the actors for a while and swapped stories of spookin’ and shriekin’.
The drive back to the Crowne was an adventure. The roads were in poor shape, streetlights and traffic lights were out and the wind was howling away. We saw several stupendous flashes of light near ground level in the direction of Rosemont which made me think of exploding transformers, not lightning.
As Jeff and I made our way from the car to the hotel’s back door we passed a large, roaring diesel generator. From the outside, everything about the Crowne looked normal. But once inside we learned that the power was out to the Crowne and other nearby buildings. Only one of the five elevators worked, there was no water pressure in our room and the heater didn’t work.
Resourceful haunters had brought down their own stocks of adult beverages from their rooms, and the party at the patio deli was roaring away as well. I learned that the Doubletree Hotel, site of the big costume ball, had completely lost power just after 11 PM. With the ball suddenly canceled, a big chunk of its attendees came over to the Crowne to join in the merriment. When I decided to turn in around 2 AM, there was still plenty of whooping and hollering going on.
Sunday is always a relaxing day - no make-up, no costume, no schedule, no deadlines. It’s my chance to wander around the convention floor all day, meet old friends and make new ones. Before one knows it, the 5 PM closing time has arrived and the seven-hour drive home is all that separates me from the 2007 haunted season yet to come.
So, what did I think of this year’s show? The attendance seemed just as big as last year. In the haunt section on the second floor, the number of vendor booths seemed a little smaller than 2006, maybe by one row. Someone with booth maps for both years will have to chime in here and let me know if my perceptions are correct.
I poked my head in the on the haunt seminars at two different times on Friday. One seminar had 45 attendees; the other had about 25 students. That’s all the time I had available to investigate the seminar program. Perhaps someone better informed will give us details about the overall success level of this educational program.
TransWorld 2007 was somewhat bittersweet. Sure the eating, drinking, viewing new haunt merchandise and gabbing with hundreds of fellow haunters were as much fun as ever. Yet, it will be a different convention when it moves far away to Las Vegas next March. Some of the smaller haunters and enthusiasts from the eastern half of the country might not attend, while TransWorld might attract more of the small haunt crowd from western states. Only time will tell.
I will participate in regional haunt conventions this summer and work at various haunted attractions in the fall. I’m confident that 2007 will be a marvelous year of haunted activities for me, and I hope for you as well.
Very truly yours,
Rex B. Hamilton
13939 Clifton Boulevard
Lakewood, Ohio 44107-1462
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