Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Convention Report: CONCAROLINAS

Lara Parker and Kathryn Leigh Scott stop by the CHS table at ConCarolinas.

"What made you want to come to a GAME OF THRONES convention?"

It was a fair question, given the number of Cersei Lannisters, Daenerys Targaryens and Petyr Baelishs wandering the halls of the University Hilton Hotel in Charlotte, N.C., this last weekend. The annual ConCarolinas event brought out a lot of hardcore gamers and fantasy fans, and even the big guy — GAME OF THRONES creator George RR Martin — was present. DARK SHADOWS stars Lara Parker and Kathryn Leigh Scott were definitely spending the weekend outside of their comfort zones.

DARK SHADOWS fans were in the clear minority for ConCarolinas, but enough turned out to support two discussion panels and a screening of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. The latter proved to be an illumination and a challenge: I'd never seen the film with an audience, and the room's energy underscored just how violent it is. And I don't only mean the physical violence that's on screen, either ... the film is even edited with the psychotic exuberance of a first-time serial killer. It was a little unsettling, truth be told.

As for the Q&A afterward, I found myself juggling several duties at once. I couldn't find the room's light switch in the dark or figure out how to turn off the video projector (which had rolled around to the Czech legal notices by the time I simply hit the "power" button.) Then I had to fetch Lara and Kathryn and bring them back to the screening room before the audience grew impatient and left. Insert "Yakkity Sax" montage here.

Sara and Patrick man the CHS table.
I hosted the first Q&A, myself, despite constant reminders from the Internet that Lara was not in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. (Unsurprisingly, she was aware of this.) The interview went OK, though it was difficult to balance the questions between the two actresses. I wanted to focus the discussion on the original films and not poach potential material from Sunday's panel, which might have made the proceedings unnecessarily complicated. Still, my thanks to the ladies for taking part.

I asked Patrick McCray to lead Sunday's panel, and he did a terrific job. (He opened with the GAME OF THRONES question at the top of this piece.) The panel ended when I asked both actresses to read from the DARK SHADOWS joke book published in 1969, "BARNABAS COLLINS IN A FUNNY VEIN." Yes, I've got audio from both events, but I still haven't figured out what to do with it. An obnoxious audience member continued to throw questions at Lara and Kathryn, even as Lara was trying to read from the joke book. Manners were not at great supply among the visitors at last weekend's convention.

Lara Parker reads from the DARK SHADOWS joke book.
For a DARK SHADOWS fan, I'm almost at a loss for words to describe the weekend. This website has humble beginnings. The original mission of The Collinsport Historical Society was nothing more or less than to connect with other fans. My experience with the series had been fairly isolated, and I was surprised to discover how many fan clubs DARK SHADOWS had inspired. I'd missed out on all of that, and hoped to recreate the experience as best I could. In that regard, The CHS has been a spectacular failure, because fandom's "old guard" want nothing to do with this site.

Luckily for me, the cast members of DARK SHADOWS have been incredibly kind and gracious with their time. Lara and Kathryn were both trusting and inclusive at the convention. I got to meet Ben Martin (as a journalist and photographer, myself, that was a bigger thrill than I might have let on) and had an amazing time.

What about the convention, itself? When compared to my experience with Mad Monster Party in March, ConCarolinas was a model of efficiency. There were a few glitches here and there, but the events took place where and when they were supposed to happen. Once your feet were on the floor, the convention was pretty easy to navigate.

ConCarolinas might even be the first convention I've attended where there was too much to do. That's not a complaint, mind you ...  just an observation. The events that I missed (a double bill of HEAVY METAL and WIZARDS, a BLAKE'S 7 screening, etc.) were interesting enough to have kept a second convention afloat. While I missed the panels and signings involving George RR Martin because of other obligations, his hotel room was right across from mine and we wound up sharing an elevator at least once. And I got to see Valentine Wolfe perform, which is always a treat.

And, as usual, it was fun hanging out with Patrick. It's only the second time we've ever met, but we were careful on this occasion not to do so during a full moon. Despite his protestations otherwise, lycanthropy in not just a "lifestyle choice," and my weekend was already busy enough without having to worry about a rogue werewolf running around a crowded hotel. He's a smart, charming guy, but Patrick McCray makes for a mean werewolf.

- Wallace McBride




Will McKinley said...

Ahem. I'm a member of the "old guard."

Unknown said...

"Older guard?"

Oh, you know who I'm talking about.

Laramie Dean-Young said...

I guess I'm not necessarily "old guard" -- I've been in fandom since 1991 or so, but I love this site and everything you do. :)

R Isbell said...

Original fan here. The old clubs were good for the time, but xeroxed newsletters of old news. Your web site is a glossy daily magazine. I love it. Hope you'll podcast everything.

Cousin Barnabas said...

OK, now I feel like an asshole.

I really need to quit whining about how the festival folks are mean to me.

Unknown said...

I'm a n00b, and to prove it I'm going to ask what the old guard is

Unknown said...

Wallace, my wife and I just had a ball! It was great to meet you and Patrick. The actresses were both amazingly gracious, considering how utterly star struck I was! My little group of four rushed by your table without seeing it (while *looking* for it, no less! ) and stumbled upon the table where Lara Parker and Kathryn Leigh Scott had set up. I got weak-kneed and sort of hyperventilated a little as we gushed our jubilant hellos to the ladies. I had made them gifts of gemstone macramé necklaces (aventurine for Lara, amethyst for KLS) and presented them in matching little gift bags and wrapped around a bottle of local soda, Cheerwine. I did not realize that KLS had spent a portion of her life in Salisbury, NC, the home of Cheerwine! She lit up when she saw it! (Still has an amazing smile). Lara asked if it was real wine! We bought pics and books and got autographs, took pictures, etc.--the usual convention stuff, and would have happy with just that! You know well what happened after!! A private dinner with the two actresses, Ben Martin, you and Patrick, and my little group of four is simply something I will never forget! I cannot thank you enough!!

Unknown said...

My wife just gently reminded me that Lara Parker hugged and kissed us both at the end of dinner!

Unknown said...

Oh, and you can totally see the necklace I made KLS in the photo of day two's panel!


Jada Marnew said...

Thank you for the kind words about ConCarolinas. :-)

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