Back in the mid to late ’90s, I did something almost on a yearly basis that was one of those stupid things you do when you’re younger…driving from Chicago to New York for a convention, usually in the wintery month of January. I mean, when you have the opportunity to meet genre icons like Lucio Fulci or Paul Naschy, sensibilities tend not to come to the forefront of your thought process. Why pay $200 to $400 for a single plane ticket when I could get a bunch of like-minded horror fans in the car and make the 800+ mile drive there, stay a couple of days, and then make that same trip back. Granted, I was never dumb enough to do it alone, but the first few times we did this, it was in one straight shot. On the way there, we were so pumped full of excitement that the trip didn’t seem that bad. But for some reason the trip back seems sooo much longer. Sure, those long hours in the van were long, tedious, and sometime downright nerve racking. But it was an adventure, to say the least. Now I look back on those days with such fondness. Sure, maybe because I’m not behind the wheel at that moment, but those are still great memories.
Cut to present day. When I heard that Dario Argento was scheduled to appear at the Texas Frightmare Weekend at the beginning of May, a devious plot started to develop. I had met him a couple of times over the years and got some stuff signed (all for free), but my good friend Bryan Martinez, who idolizes this Italian icon, like a lot of horror fans, had never had the chance to meet the Maestro. We went to a Day of the Dead show a couple of years ago that he was scheduled to appear at but cancelled due to an injury. With the Italian director being in his mid 70’s, I knew his appearances were going to be less and less, so I knew this trip had to happen.
Now, since I sort of missed those long road trip adventures, I figured it would be cheaper to drive down to Dallas for the show. I mean, it’s only like 900 miles one way. We’d head down real early Friday morning, stay Saturday and meet Argento, then drive back on Sunday. Yeah, it was a lot of driving, like 15 hours each way, but remember…it would be another one of those great adventures! Right? What’s a few hours in the car? Initially, a couple of friends were thinking of coming out from Pennsylvania and joining us on the trip but had to back out due to work issues. Another friend of ours, Scott Bradley, was already planning to fly out to the show, so we had a place to crash. Plus, if there was a last minute cancellation, Scott would call us on Friday and we would just turn around and head back home with nothing lost but our car rental and some time.
But thankfully, a couple of days before the show, Bryan’s wife found us some round trip airline tickets for just over $200 each. Yes, it was a little more than I wanted to spend, but when the reality of spending over 30 hours in the car in three days looming over me, that seemed like the safer and smarter bet. And it was.
So Friday morning, we’re at the airport making our way to our departure gate, with the lovely Spirit Airlines. As we get to the gate, Bryan points to the airplane that we’re going to be flying on with a huge grin. It’s yellow. Now some of you might be thinking “yeah…so?” The thing is that we’re flying out to meet a director that had excelled in the art of the giallo genre, with titles like Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Deep Red, Tenebrae, Opera, and many more. And as we all know, “giallo” in Italian is yellow. Coincidence? Most likely. But damn if that didn’t seem pretty strange.
We had already had reports that Argento was at the hotel, so there was nothing stopping us. We arrived in Dallas after a short but damn uncomfortable flight, and made our way to the place where the shuttle would pick us up. Moments later, we were at the hotel with our buddy Scott waiting there for us. As soon as we walked into the hotel lobby, you can feel the convention vibe. Even though it was still late in the morning, the crowds were starting to pile in, getting ready for a hopefully great weekend. Since we hadn’t eaten at all that day, hitting the hotel’s bar/restaurant was the first order of business. Right away, you could tell that the this hotel was totally on board with this show being held there. From the drink specials they were offering to all the wait staff being in costume, such as this lovely lady pictured here, it is always refreshing to see when a hotel is onboard with the show and the people that it draws. In my 30 years of going to cons, I’ve been to a few where the hotel makes you feel pretty much unwanted, so it was nice to see that they were helping the fans celebrate this weekend even more so.
Stay tuned for Part 2: Everything is Bigger in Texas….