For fans of horror and science-fiction movies, music and art, conventions offer year-round opportunities to get out and party down with fellow enthusiasts. The semi-annual Monsterpalooza convened again the second weekend of April at the Marriott in Burbank, and among the featured attractions were events focusing on such movie classics as “King Kong,” “Ultraman,” “2001 A Space Odyssey,” “Jaws,” “The Monster Squad” and “Night of the Living Dead.”
Per usual, the main convention floor consisted of more than 100 tables catered to many tastes with masks, life-size sculptures, T-shirts and jewelry, books, magazines, makeup artists, sketches and paintings, buttons, videos and DVDs and soundtrack CDs.
For the movie fans, the neighboring building featured a rich array of movie stars. A Friday night presentation focused on the ladies of “Night of the Living Dead,” the low-budget George Romero-directed 1968 zombie movie now considered a classic. On hand were Judith O’Dea (Barbra), Judith Ridley (Judy) and Kyra Schon (the youngest victim Karen Cooper who comes back to life to brutally murder her mother). The three stars returned Saturday to sign autographs and talk to fans. O’Dea said that despite the grisly story being filmed, the production mostly was fun, with the trappings of a sparse budget. “When you can hear crickets inside the house, you know we had sound problems,” she said.
Representing “Jaws” were Susan Backlinie, who played the doomed Chrissie, her death in the opening moments of the movie likely one of the most notorious and unsettling scenes in horror cinema; and Jeffrey Kramer, who played Deputy Hendricks and also appeared in a small role as a dentist in “Halloween II.” Also present was Donna Wilkes, who was the most terrified of the young boating teens stalked by the killer shark in “Jaws 2.”
Tom Noonan, so chilling as the serial killer Francis Dollarhyde in Michael Mann’s “Manhunter” — the first filmed version of the Thomas Harris novel “Red Dragon” — was low key and gracious in accepting praise for his performance, a layered role of a man who methodically stalks and plots his next murder of a family while cultivating a relationship with a blind co-worker (played by Joan Allen).
Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood from “2001″ had numerous visitors to their table, allowing them a warmup for their Sunday presentation in the theater of “2001: Memories of H.A.L. and Stanley (Kubrick).”
Martin Landau had on hand photos of his many roles over the years dating back pre-”Mission Impossible” to “The Twilight Zone” and earlier. Naturally he also offered stills from his Academy Awarding-winning performance as Bela Lugosi in “Ed Wood.”
Denise Crosby provided crossover talent, having starred as Security Office Tasha Yar in the television series “Star Trek — The Next Generation” and as Rachel Creed in Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary.”
Also taking time to meet and greet fans were Linnea Quigley, Angie Everhart, Eric and Eliza Roberts, Eugene Clark, who somehow managed to add charm to a zombie as Big Daddy in “Land of the Dead,” Virginia Madsen, Stephen Macht, who paused in his autographing duties to reinforce the poster above his table with duct tape, Mary Ellen Trainor, and veteran actor Richard Herd, who stood up and announced that if anybody was willing to make a Starbucks run, he would appreciate it.
By far the biggest draw was Linda Blair, so memorable as the demon-possessed Regan in “The Exorcist.” Fans were willing to stand in line for up to an hour to meet her and get an autograph.
Judging by the crowded conditions most of the day Saturday, Monsterpalooza continues to be a success, and naturally, the weekend of Oct. 11-13 has been reserved for the 2013 Halloween version of Monsterpalooza.
Linda Blair’s passion
In addition to meeting fans and signing autographs, Linda Blair was promoting a special event. “The Exorcist” will be screened May 13 at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, with the proceeds going to the The Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation (LBWF). The nonprofit organization is dedicated to the rescue and care of all dogs with the goal of finding new homes for these abandoned and sometimes abused animals.
The organization recently purchased a 2.5-acre piece of property north of Los Angeles, and in addition to providing homes and care to dogs, the organization addresses issues as dog fighting, breed bans and overpopulation.
Doors will open at 8 p.m. on May 13 and feature raffles and prizes. Blair will appear for a Q&A starting at 9 p.m., followed by the screening at 10 p.m.
For information on the event and LBWF, visit www.LindaBlairWorldheart.org.