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Kristy Swanson Signed Our ‘Deadly Friend’ DVD and You Could Win It!

Kristy Swanson signs cover of "Deadly Friend" DVD

Kristy’s autograph on the “Deadly Friend” DVD cover.

We fired a lot of basketballs at “Deadly Friend” during our Fall Donation Series, but Now Playing Podcast will always have love for its star, Kristy Swanson. She’s our first Buffy. She’s Christie Boner. She’s the mannequin in “Mannequin Two!”

Kristy proved she’s also a friend of the show by signing our “Deadly Friend” DVD at Days of the Dead Chicago, and now it could be yours!

Enter to win the signed DVD by going to the Now Playing Podcast forums and leaving a post about one of the 16 films in our Fall Donation Series. Supporters have heard us review all five films in “The Fly” series and our “Horror of ’86” reviews will lead into our “Re-Animator” retrospective before year’s end. Tell us which of the films we’ve covered is your favorite and why, and you could be our winner!

The contest runs through Dec. 31, when our donation series comes to an end, and a winner will be contacted shortly thereafter. You don’t have to be a donor to participate, so don’t miss your chance to win!


November 19, 2016 Posted by | Conventions, Movies, News | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Freddy Fans Delighted at Flashback Weekend

Freddy and his Girls on Stage - Header Photo

Freddy Kruger (Englund) on stage with three costumed back-ups at the Flashback Weekend Horror Convention

Rosemont IL – Despite being known for his Nightmares, actor Robert Englund made fans’ dreams come true last weekend at the Flashback Weekend Chicago Horror Convention.

Flashback Weekends - August 2014 - Chicago IL - 266

Three Freddy fans patiently wait to meet their idol

Making a rare midwestern appearance, star of the Nightmare on Elm Street movie series Robert Englund was Flashback Weekend’s headline guest.  Englund spent all day Saturday and Sunday meeting fans, signing their memorabilia, and sharing stories of his life from the making of A Nightmare on Elm Street to The Mangler and more.  Fans lined up for hours to meet this horror icon.

Though the staff at Flashback Weekend had a convenient ticketing system to minimize wait times, Englund’s autograph line still wound out of his private room.  Even those with $110 “priority line placement” tickets stood in line for nearly three hours.  Once the fans reached the front of the line, though, the experience was rewarding.  Englund is known to have a slow autograph line as he spends a few minutes talking with each fan.  I watched as he fawned over one fan’s Japanese theater program promoting the release of 1989’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child.  “You have some cool shit,” he said to another fan who brought a DVD collection covered in autographs from other stars.

The long line may have had its advantages.  One congoer recounted his experience in Englund’s autograph line seven years ago at Flashback Weekend:  he met his wife in that line.  Now he, his wife of five years, and their daughter returned to again visit their horror hero.

The cost of Englund’s autograph was $50.00 per item–a very reasonable price for con-goers.  (For comparison, at the upcoming  Wizard World Chicago convention The Incredible Hulk’s Lou Ferrigno is charging $40.00, Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee $80.00, and, at New York Comic-Con in 2013, Sylvester Stallone charged $395.00).  While some celebrities rarely look up from their tables, their hands furiously signing item after item, Englund ensured each fan felt they had their moment with him and a story to tell as they left.

Arnie seized the opportunity to get a once-in-a-lifetime photo with Englund in the Freddy makeup.

Arnie seized the opportunity to get a once-in-a-lifetime photo with Englund in the Freddy makeup.

While the chance for Robert Englund’s autograph was welcomed by the fans, the far more publicized event was Friday’s exclusive photo opportunity with the star–in full Freddy make-up.  While celebrity appearances and photo opportunities are regular occurrences at conventions, rarely do the stars dress up for the occasion.  On Friday, however, Englund underwent a two-and-a-half hour make-up application transforming him into the onscreen persona of Freddy.   The latex prothetics that turned Englund into his on-screen persona were created and applied by 30-year Hollywood makeup effects artist Robert Kurtzman, who worked with Englund on the fifth Nightmare film.

The cost was very high– the photo opportunity, consisting of a professionally lit shot done by Celeb Photo Ops, a single 8″ x 10″ photo printout, and weekend admission to the convention (for one person) cost $365.00.  Up to two people could be in the photo, but the guest would have to pay admission separately.  The night of the event the photo itself could be purchased separately for $295.00.  Additional prints and digital download options added to the cost of the photo.  By comparison, at Wizard World Chicago photos with a single celebrity, also done by Celeb Photo Ops, range from $40 to $125, with the average being $55.  A photo with all seven stars of Star Trek: The Next Generation is in the same price range, at $299.00 (not including convention admission).

The cost was not due to organizer or celebrity greed.  Flashback Weekend started in 2002, run by Mike and Mia Kerz.  The event is held annually in the Chicago area., and all proceeds from Flashback Weekend, including the Freddy photo op, go to the preservation and operation of the Midway Drive-In located in Dixon, IL.  The Flashback Weekend web site states the philanthropic efforts are to “[provide] a theatrical outlet at the Midway Drive-In for new independent horror films [and maintain] a venue at the Midway for the screening of 35mm horror films.”  Englund cited this cause as a motivator behind his decision to appear in full make-up.

Despite the high cost, hundreds of fans lined up for this once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.  Fans came from across the country, some traveling from Tuscon, Pittsburgh, and Texas, for this chance.  Englund was in full-on Freddy mode, speaking in the gravely voice and sometimes letting out his trademark scream–acts which must be second nature for the actor who’s portrayed the dream killer for thirty years.  Fans hoping for a moment with their idol, however, needed to go to the autograph area as the photo op was a workman-like assembly line.  Englund seemed to have four  key poses:  for photos with one person he would put his blade to their throat.  For photos with two people he would attack one–usually the female.  For families that snuck a third person, a child, into the photo Englund would grab the young one’s hair, and for those who were wearing their own Freddy glove Englund had a crossed-blades pose.

Englund demonstrated on-stage the problems with wearing his trademark fedora in photos.

Englund demonstrated on-stage the problems with wearing his trademark fedora in photos.

The entire photo experience gave fans about thirty seconds with the star before the man behind the camera shouted “next” and fans were escorted out.  Englund seemed to barely have time to acknowledge any fans individually, it was enter frame, pose, picture, done.

However the result is a well-lit, framed, and shot photo.  Yes, the cost is high, but, as shown to the right, the result is a photo that cannot be gotten anywhere else.

In the weeks leading up to the convention several fans complained online about Englund wearing the makeup and glove, but eschewing Freddy’s trademark sweater and hat.  On stage that evening, in a private event for those who purchased the photo opportunity, Englund explained the hat created numerous lighting problems that plagued the filming of all the Nightmare films.  For the sake of a good photograph the hat had to be skipped.  As for the sweater?  Englund explained that fans could find convincing Freddy characters in front of Mann’s Chinese Theater and other locales, and that by wearing the official T-Shirt of Flashback Weekend fans could prove their photo was with the star himself.

Also in that evening panel Englund stated that this was perhaps not, as claimed on the Flashback Weekend web site, the final time the actor would don the make-up; the 68-year-old actor may not yet be ready to hang up his hat and glove.  Whether for other fan events or professional Hollywood productions fans may not have seen the last of Englund as Freddy after all.

And Englund wasn’t the only Nightmare on Elm Street star on hand for Flashback Weekend.  Also at the event were Amanda Wyss (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Better Off Dead), Robert Rusler (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, Weird Science, Sometimes They Come Back), Jennifer Rubin (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Bad Dreams, Screamers), Monica Keena (Freddy vs. Jason, Dawson’s Creek), Katharine Isabelle (Freddy vs. Jason, Ginger Snaps) and Ronee Blakley (A Nightmare on Elm Street and Nashville, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award).  Unlike Englund, lines to meet these actors were often short, and autograph prices ranged from $20.00 to $40.00.  Some would pose with fans for photos if you purchased an autograph; others had a separate photo charge.

A Nightmare reunion at Flashback Weekend 2014! From left to right:  Rusler, Rubin, Blakley, Wyass, and  Keena

A Nightmare reunion at Flashback Weekend 2014! From left to right: Rusler, Rubin, Blakley, Wyass, and Keena

But like Englund each of the stars were approachable and friendly, engaging with their fans in the short time allotted.

In total, over two dozen celebrities attended the convention, including actress/musician Traci Lords, Gremlins star Zach Galligan, and character actor William Forsythe.  These actors filled the end of the convention’s exhibit floor, and while, at peak times, lines became difficult to navigate, the average wait was short.

Aside from Englund, the two most popular celebrities at Flashback Weekends seemed to be Lance Henriksen and Angus Scrimm.

Henriksen is a science fiction fan favorite with appearances in three of the Alien films, as well as Terminator and the TV series Millennium.  In total the actor has over 200 on-screen credits in a career that spans more than 50 years.  Yet Henriksen engaged fans eagerly, sharing stories of knife-practice on the set of Aliens or “alimony movies” he had to make like The Mangler 2.  He had a dry wit which left interviewer “Svengoolie” Rich Coz nonplussed during the Friday night panel.

Scrimm, an actor best known for the Phantasm horror series, had a autograph line second in length only to Englund’s.  The actor, who is celebrating his 88th birthday next week,  had a health issue that caused him to cancel an Indianpolis convention appearance in 2013.  Fans, not wanting to miss this opportunity, stood in a line that at times stretched the length of the convention hall.

Scrimm headlined a 35th Anniversary Reunion of Phantasm stars at Flashback Weekend, which also included Reggie Bannister, Don Coscarelli, Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, and Kathy Lester.

Outside of celebrity appearances, Flashback Weekend had a bevy of costumers and revelers.  In addition to Svengoolie, local personalities Kitty Zombie, WGN Radio’s Nick Digilio, and Daily herald film critic Dann Gire helped host the event.  While the convention’s exhibit floor was one of the smaller ones for Chicago conventions, fans still could buy toys, T-Shirts, DVDs, and more.  For those whose tastes run outside the norm there were also taxidermied animal heads, lifelike silicon werebabies, and replica Freddy gloves.

Details for next years event are expected in the coming months at the official Flashback Weekend website.

See photos from the event in the galleries below.

August 11, 2014 Posted by | Conventions, Movies, News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Freddy Fans Delighted at Flashback Weekend

Film Fans of All Types Can Enjoy Days of the Dead

Nightmare on Elm Street star Wilcox poses with the man of her dreams. (Photo by Jeff Flynn)

Nightmare on Elm Street star Wilcox poses with the man of her dreams. (Photo by Jeff Flynn)

To someone who’s never been to a horror convention the thought could be as frightening as the blood-soaked splatter fests that appear on screen.  One could imagine pale, pierced social misfits and psychopaths standing in line to meet their favorite serial killer.  Many may feel if they aren’t into the gory or the grotesque then a horror convention is not for them.

That impression is totally false as shown last weekend at the Days of the Dead horror convention in Indianapolis. Of course it was a blast for those into fright films, but it also had entertainment to offer any movie lover!

One of the big draws of the convention were the large number of celebrity guests in attendance.  The stereotype of a celebrity on the autograph circuit is an actor with his career on the decline, clinging to former fame.  Days of the Dead proved that image wrong by bringing in several A-list celebrities promoting current films.  Some of the headlining guests have big movies out soon included Danny Trejo (Machete Kills in October), Keith David (recently in Cloud Atlas and a dozen more films in production), and Academy Award Nominee Gary Busey (Behaving Badly due out this year).  This is an amazing roster for a con only in its third year, besting some of the other national companies who host conventions in the Midwest.

Access to the celebrities was incredibly easy.  At many conventions fans have to wait in line for four hours or more to meet their idols.  At Days of the Dead my wait time to see Trejo was 10 minutes, and only 15 minutes for Busey.

More, the prices were very reasonable.  At conventions such as Dragon*Con or San Diego Comic-Con I’ve paid over $100 for signatures from actors who have not worked in several decades.  At Days of the Dead the majority of autographs were $20 and headliners Busey and Trejo were just $40.  Trejo would take a picture free with an autograph, while Busey charged only $10 additional for a photo; at some conventions photo opportunities start at $20 and can be as high as $150.

While all of the celebrities have horror films on their resumes, Trejo would sign a copy of the comedy Bubble Boy as rapidly as the vampire film From Dusk ‘Til Dawn, and Busey had available photographs of his roles in Lethal Weapon and Point Break.  I did not see anyone asking Keith David to sign their copy of Requiem for a Dream but I doubt he’d have declined.

All the guests were not just polite but completely engaged with the fans, having short conversations and truly making the con attendee feel appreciated.  This is far better than the assembly-line like atmosphere found by some guests at Wizard World or New York Comic Con.  In fact, the longest line to see a celebrity seemed to be A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 star Lisa Wilcox who would spend up to 5 minutes talking with her fans while signing their items.  (Unfortunately for Wilcox one of those fans I observed was a socially awkward male in his twenties regaling her with a story about a specially lit photo he had of Wilcox in his bedroom…so while some of the stereotypes were present at the con most of the attendees were overwhelmingly normal).

Even the guests whose primary work was in horror had non-horror items available.  For example, Wilcox is best known for starring in A Nightmare on Elm Street  but the actress also had available a wide selection of photos from her single-episode guest-starring role in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  As she rarely appears in the Midwest, Wilcox was a draw for Trekkers and horror fans alike.  Original Nightmare on Elm Street star Heather Langenkamp also had a minor role in this summer’s Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Of course, the horror fan had much to celebrate.  Icons of the genre including Tony Todd (Final Destination, Candyman, Wishmaster), Derek Mears (the Friday the 13th reboot, 2007’s The Hills Have Eyes II), Tyler Mane (Michael Myers in both Rob Zombie’s Halloween films), Leslie Easterbrook (Zombie’s Halloween and The Devil’s Rejects), several stars of Cabin Fever, and over a dozen more horror film character actors were also there.

The vendor areas of the convention were a shopper’s delight.  While the non-horror fan would find less that appeals to them in the vendor booths, there were plenty of superhero toys and Star Wars collectibles to choose from.  I bought an original painting based on the Howard the Duck movie!

Many booths catered to all children of the 80’s, including Don’t Eat the Gum – a company that sells trading cards from the 1980s and 1990s (and my wife should have listened to the company name as she almost broke her tooth on a stick of gum from Howard the Duck trading cards…the gum was made in 1986).  Also there was Adjust Your Tracking selling movies on VHS that were never officially available on DVD.

Of course, being a horror convention, slasher-film fans could buy items not found anywhere else.  Many booths offered DVDs of horror movies, including bootlegs of some incredibly rare films like Fright Night 2 and Silent Night, Deadly Night:  Initiation.


“They’re coming to get you, Leia!” – a custom zombie stormtrooper by vendor Curious Goods

There were also custom T-Shirts, paintings, and other original expressions of creative horror.  At one booth Curious Goods offered custom action figures, including Rob Zombie, and Deathtroopers–Star Wars Stormtroopers turned zombies.

The exhibit floor was split into two small ballrooms, a sign that Days of the Dead is quickly outgrowing the space offered by the Wyndham Indianapolis West hotel.  Having Days of the Dead split among several walled-off areas did make the convention feel smaller than it was.  While it were ever too crowded, as is often found at larger conventions, the lines often crossed and merged, making celebrity areas hard to navigate.  This is likely the product of becoming incredibly popular in only three years, and something I’m sure will be corrected at future conventions.

Overall Days of the Dead Indianapolis was an incredible experience, and I will certainly be attending their Chicago convention this November.  While the only guests announced thus far are stars of the Return of the Living Dead and The Blair Witch Project it’s sure to be fun!


When not attending conventions across the globe Arnie can be found hosting the movie review podcast Now Playing, which has reviewed hundreds of movies of all genres, as well as the toy collecting podcasts Star Wars Action News and Marvelicious Toys.  He also reviews books on the Books & Nachos podcast.



July 12, 2013 Posted by | Comic Books, Conventions, Marvelicious Toys, Movies, News, Now Playing Podcast, Podcasts, Reviews, Star Wars Action News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Film Fans of All Types Can Enjoy Days of the Dead

How to throw a Cougar Town Party (and why you should)


Busy Phillips MCs the Cougar Town Viewing Party

January 11, 2012

Last Saturday night Chi-town became Cougar Town for an evening at the Racine Plumbing Bar and Grill in Lincoln Park.  No, older women were not out prowling for young men, but rather a bunch of fans of the low-rated critically-acclaimed TV series Cougar Town showed up for free drinks and the chance to meet some of the talent behind the show.

Cougar Town is a show from Bill Lawrence, who also created Spin City and Scrubs.  Plagued by a title that Lawrence regularly mocks on the show itself, Cougar Town has struggled in the ratings.  When ABC did not include Cougar Town in its fall 2011 schedule, fans became concerned despite ABC’s assurances that it would return to the air as a mid-season replacement.  A low-rated show going on hiatus is often the death knell of that series.

As we now enter the second half of the 2011-2012 television season, Cougar Town still has not had a return announced.  But that is not stopping Lawrence and the rest of the cul-de-sac crew from using social media and local gatherings to mobilize Cougar Town fans and fight for the show to continue.

The creators of Cougar Town have had a greater level of interaction with viewers than most shows.  In Season 2 they put a telephone number in the show.  If you called the number in real life, you’d sometimes be greeted by a voice mail, but some lucky callers could find themselves talking to some of the show’s creators or stars.

Now Lawrence is taking this interactivity on tour to major cities like Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago.  Through Lawrence’s Twitter and Facebook pages fans were invited to come out, watch some as-yet-unaired episodes of Cougar Town, and mix and mingle with the show’s stars and creators.  And drink for free on Lawrence’s dime.

The Chicago party was hosted by Busy Phillips (Dawson’s Creek, White Chicks) who plays party-girl Laurie Keller, and series writer Melody Derloshon.  Derloshon worked the room well, introducing herself to attendees and sharing anecdotes about the behind-the-scenes goings on of a sitcom.  Phillips was also gracious to fans, stopping several times to pose for photos, and sharing stories about her co-stars  (In Season 3 when Dan Byrd, who plays Travis on the show, wears a helmet it’s due to the actor’s real-life aversion to washing his hair).  Phillips even showed grace when a somewhat creepy fan (also named Travis) seemed unable to separate fact from fiction, repeatedly pulling his shirt down to expose his chest and openly hit on the married actress.

Busy Phillips Poses with Cougar Town Fans

Busy Phillips Poses with Cougar Town Fans

Phillips also provided a running commentary during two episodes of Cougar Town shown to the partiers. The first episode shown was the Season 3 premiere which promises a surprise change in the show’s status quo.  The second episode of the evening will be the fifth episode of Season 3, one no Scrubs fan should miss.  That episode guest starred Sarah Chalke (Scrubs, Roseanne) as well as Sam Lloyd reprising his Scrubs role of Ted.  While hard to hear all the dialogue of the episodes, it seems like Cougar Town’s strongest episodes may be those yet to air.


Ted and his band from Scrubs


Phillips and Derloshon encouraged Cougar Town fans to be vocal with their support, and to use social media to spread the word about the show.  And, perhaps, have their own Cougar Town viewing parties when the show does return to the air.  And the Chicago party provided the perfect template for your own Cougar Town viewing party:

  • Start with plenty of alcohol.  The characters on the show are borderline alcoholics with the amount of wine they consume.  (Sadly the Racine Plumbing Bar and Grill did not have Big Carls for us to drink from, and our wine was sipped from mason jars)
  • Put out a Penny Can or two for people to test their aim on.  Don’t have a Penny Can?  You can buy the limited edition Blue Penny Can at Cafepress.  (The Green Penny Can is now sold out)
  • When people start to tire of Penny Can, have some Cougar Town trivia, such as the name of the town in which Cougar Town takes place.
  • Watch an episode of Cougar Town.
  • Continue to drink

The Cougar Town tour is set to continue with dates announced in Austin, TX as well as New York.  If in the area, it’s a unique opportunity to interact with television stars and creators, as well as get free drinks, and support the best show that’s not currently on television.

For future dates on the Cougar Town tour, follow the cul-de-sac crew on Twitter:

Bill Lawrence (series creator)

Kevin Biegel (series producer)

Nicki Maron (Lawrence’s assistant)

Melody Derloshon (series writer)

Cougar Town Writers

Busy Phillips (series actress)

Laruie Keller (the Twitter account of Phillips’ character on Cougar Town)


January 12, 2012 Posted by | Conventions, News, Reviews, Television | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Duran Duran Rocks Chicago

When I found out Duran Duran was touring in support of their new CD, I returned to my fangirl roots and literally squealed with delight.  Duran Duran was coming to Chicago! I roped my husband into going along, regaling him with useless Duran Duran trivia.Opening for Duran Duran was the Neon Trees.  I can’t decide if I was disappointed or respected them for not wearing a stitch of neon clothing.  A lot of their songs sounded similar but I think that is a hazard of being a relatively unknown opening band.  Their music sounded like retro pop – they would have fit in well during the New Wave explosion in the 80’s.  It’s hard to judge an opening band on one show alone.  I didn’t hate them but I’m not running out to buy their CD.

After a brief intermission, it was time for my childhood fantasies to be played out.  I had no idea what to expect.  Previous concerts by 80’s bands have been let downs.  Given that I paid higher than average for the ticket and that they were still selling out shows, I felt there was only a slight chance at disappointment.  By the time they finished their first song, Before The Rain, any doubts I had were gone. These guys were good.  They played well and they sounded great.

The set list was a mixture of their well known hits like A View To A Kill, The Reflex, Careless Memories, and some newer songs such as All You Need Is Now.   Throughout the years, they have kept the same sound – something to be said for a band that formed in 1978.  New songs blended in perfectly with their classics.

The first song to really get the crowd going was View To A Kill.  That song seriously rocked live.  While Duran Duran’s original guitarist Andy Taylor no longer tours with the band, his current replacement Dom Brown filled the vacancy well.  He played every note like it was his own.  After this point, the concert only got better.  The Reflex was played to an astounding sing a long as was Hungry Like The Wolf.

Simon LeBon really knows how to work a crowd.  He was engaging and all eyes were on him.   Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor appeared to be mostly behind the scenes.  I think the only time I saw both of them look engaged with the audience was when Simon announced the band individually. They looked serious, but not like they were having a bad time.  The clear cut stage leaders are John Taylor and Simon.  Both worked the crowd and spent time on both sides of the stage appeasing fans.

Their stage was not the elaborate sets of the 80’s.  This was simple, with three video screens, lots of lights and four weird video screen faces.  We might have been too close for the full effect but the video screen faces made Simon look like Terrance Stamp in Superman 2.

All in all, Duran Duran’s music, as well as themselves, have held up well in the thirty-something years since they formed.  Their music is solid and they play one hell of a live show.

Watch Duran Duran perform Notorious

October 25, 2011 Posted by | Music, Reviews | , , , , , | 1 Comment