NOTE: Tons of fun links in this story...and they don't cost $25 to click!
My (morbid?) fascination with celebrity autograph shows came to a head with my first attendance of one: I hopped on the train and wound up in Parsippany, New Jersey, at the Hilton to cut my teeth on the popular Chiller Theatre Expo, a horror nichefest. (The most horrifying part? The bummy guy on the train who obeyed the "no feet on the seat" rule literally—by hogging four seats and kicking his stank, stockinged feet up against the wall.)
I'm not much of a horror fan; I love quite a few horror flicks, but my devotion can't compare to that of the couple thousand fans who roamed the first floor of the establishment like Dawn of the Dead zombies seeking to feast on varying degrees of fame rather than human flesh. And yet the beauty of Chiller is that the definition of a horror star is loose enough that even the likes of Debbie Reynolds is invited (for the Halloweentown series—though she called in sick).
My video extravaganza with most of the stars:
The ground rules: Stars sit at tables with their own homemade signs overhead announcing their names and their claims to fame. Usually, they have a friend or business associate (occasionally two) at their side to take money and help with photo ops. No security to speak of, so they will find themselves fielding all manner of inquiries from Tourette's-inclined admirers. Each star usually has a range of 8X10s or will sign items brought in. Most were signing for $20 or $25; photo ops were as low as $10, were more often $20 or $25 and went on up to $40. (And let's not even talk about the $125 I Dream of Jeannie cast photo taken "inside Jeannie's bottle." Well, let's. But not yet.)
At first, I was as nervous as a black dude in a horror movie—would it feel awkward asking the stars for paid autographs and photo ops? But I got over it as most of them seem to have years ago.