My first encounter as a phan happened Saturday morning, as my friend Ken and I waited in line for the convention’s second day opening. Bill Thornbury appeared around the hallway, walked up to me, and introduced himself. He asked if we had met before, and though we hadn’t, I answered with a polite, “Maybe,” and briefly chatted. A bit later, after entering the ballroom, Ken and I strolled around the vendors’ tables a few times and acclimated ourselves to the reality of numerous horror icons seated all around, awaiting fans’ greetings, money, and questions. We were mentally preparing for the photo-op with all from Phantasm and bought a ticket weeks earlier to avoid a sellout. To say the anticipation and assembly line nature of photo-ops with icons was surreal is not an adequate enough description. Split second acknowledgments were made to the cast, although with Reggie Bannister, I offered and received a more personal greeting.
Following the shoot, I met and took pictures with Robert Englund, Reggie Bannister, Amanda Wyss, and Zach Galligan. Ken and I shared a photo-op with the fan-friendly Englund, sans Freddy makeup, and the meeting, minus the waiting time, took about ten seconds. A meeting of Bannister and his wife, Gigi, at his table proved his charm and personality is much like his fictional character of Reggie. Better Off Dead’s Amanda Wyss, was talkative and still striking, while Waxwork’s Galligan was efficient as he autographed and took pictures before heading to his scheduled panel.
Mid-afternoon was the Phantasm panel, which Ken and I were thrilled to witness, followed by our decision to enter the line to meet Angus Scrimm, The Tall Man. While waiting, staff announced that Scrimm had gone to his hotel room to take a nap, and that he would return later to sign. Ken and I remained grounded as Flashback staff meekly, though persistently, announced that it was unlikely he would be able to sign for all and attendees and were asked to return on Sunday. Some people left, but many, including us, stayed put. Our chance was not going to waste, especially since we were going to drive home the next morning, and this was likely a now or never moment. Scrimm, though starting his cult film career later in life, is a rare living member of the generation that gave us other horror greats like Christopher Lee, Roger Corman, Richard Matheson, Betsy Palmer, and Julie Adams. After much anxiety and waiting, we were so grateful Scrimm chose to stay later than scheduled. Ken meet The Tall Man first, and when it was my turn, I greeted and thanked Scrimm for his work. He signed my ’70s Phantasm press book and took photos, including a few while he scowled with his hands around my neck!
After a last lap around the vendors, an afternoon of convention stimulation had left us worn, but we continued on for the evening, scoffing at the overwhelming line to see Robert Englund’s panel. During that time, we relaxed and conversed with a friend we had met that day, awaiting the most important event of the evening – the Phantasm Stars Live in Concert! It was a true surprise when Angus Scrimm opened the show and sang a capella. While I can’t say I was too impressed with the headliner, The Reggie Bannister Band, I enjoyed Kathy Lester singing in Jessica Rabbit-mode, and the duo of Bannister and Thornbury performing “Sittin’ Here at Midnight.” I was also pleased to see Don Coscarelli joining the audience in supporting his long time film partners. After the concert, Ken and I returned to our hotel room, pleased with the memories, photographs, and autographs amassed that day.
The next, and possibly final, Phantasm reunion is scheduled for September 11-13, 2015 at Kentucky’s Scarefest. Hopefully, I will be able to attend and again meet the cast and director of one of my most loved horror franchises. As of now, I am proud to belatedly share some of the pictures I took on August 9, 2014, an exciting day for which I will always consider myself fortunate to have experienced.