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Thread: Rex B. Hamilton reports on the 2008 TransWorld convention

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  1. Default Rex B. Hamilton reports on the 2008 TransWorld convention 
    #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
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    Rex B. Hamilton reports on the 2008 TransWorld convention


    March 29, 2008


    Greetings, Fellow Haunters:

    I had an enjoyable time at the International Halloween, Costume and Party Show last week. I was in Las Vegas from Sunday the 16th until Friday the 21st. This was my first visit to Lost Wages, a sprawling city that was seemingly plopped down into the middle of a vast, flat, treeless, desert valley.

    When Fluffy and I touched down in Vegas, the weather wasnít much better than the Cleveland variety we had said good riddance to four and a half hours earlier. Sunday was a chilly day and there were occasional sprinkles of rain. As the days went by, the weather in Vegas steadily improved. By the time we left for home early Friday evening, the skies were a panoply of deep blues and the temperatures edged into the upper seventies. Landing in Cleveland at midnight in a driving snowstorm brought the real world quickly back into focus.

    The convention itself looked about the same, size-wise, as what we see in Chicago each year. The haunt section of vendors, which was in turn directly connected to the Dark Zone, was located in the furthest corner from the entrance doors. The trick to finding the haunt area was to always ďstay to your rightĒ as you walked through the building.

    The show was on a single floor, contrasted to the two-floor affair in Chicago the past few seasons where all the haunt stuff was up the escalator. To my eye, it looked like the number of haunt vendors was somewhat less than in previous years. Hopefully, someone who tracks the number of vendors/booths from year to year will chime in here with hard data. The haunt vendors who were in Vegas last week were smiling and upbeat.

    My wife has never attended a haunt convention, despite the fact that Iíve produced haunt conventions and attended many others. Maureen thoroughly enjoyed meeting vendors and producers on Sunday afternoon as we strolled about the convention floor.

    On Sunday evening, the two of us took the Viva Haunt Vegas tour of local haunted attractions. We were on the fourth bus, which appeared to get lost on two occasions on our outbound trip. During those awkward moments we haunters sat quietly in our high-back seats and simply grinned at each other. The bus driver was calm and deliberate, and eventually got us to our destination.

    At first, we stood in line for the left-hand of the two haunts that stood side by side. (I regret that I cannot remember the proper names of these shows.) But after just a couple of minutes I realized that the throughput for this larger-of-the-two-shows was around 150 to 200 people per hour. For an expected crowd of about 800, those haunts were going to require four hours or more to admit everyone. The weather was chilly and breezy; standing in line wasnít what you wanted to do that evening.

    So we jumped ship and dashed over to the waiting line for the small 3-D show. The throughput wasnít any faster, but at least the line we joined was much shorter. We saw all three haunted houses and I commend the producer for opening up his attraction in March. No haunter, big or small, can easily crank up his show at the end of winter. Many haunters have the devilís own time opening up their attractions in October even after months and months of warm weather.

    There was plenty of Tex-Mex food for the guests and it was surprisingly tasty, given the packed area in which food and alcohol were dispensed. The hospitality tent, where haunters sat to eat and drink, was large, well-sealed off from the cold winds, well-lit and a happy place. I saw many groups of haunters enjoying each otherís company there.

    Those of you who attended the tour have already figured out that they (meaning the tour producers) bit off a lot more than they could chew. Eight hundred people is a big number of bodies to thrust upon a production that has been ďdarkĒ for about five months. You could tell they werenít ready for lines. For example, there were no cones/barrels/ropes/snow fence/whatever to corral the waiting customers outside each venue. I could cite many more things about the Vegas tour that had not been fully thought through. But making a comparison to an experienced TransWorld haunt is, I think, more instructive. To wit:

    Over the years, Iíve become friends with the four guys who own DreamReapers in Chicago. Iíve never acted there - itís all me and I canít explain why. Instead, I hang out behind the scenes and gab it up with the monsters, staff and owners during the performance as they stream in and stream out of the make-up rooms and break area. For several seasons, Dreamreapers has opened up their show for a couple of nights to TransWorld attendees. Doing this drives these four guys crazy, itís so much work. They donít do a sit-down dinner - just concession stands outside on the sidewalk. Everybody is running around like a crazy fool until the doors close. (Just like you always see most nights in October at _any_ haunted attraction.)

    On those lovely visits to Dreamreapers I have had the languorous luxury of standing around, drinking beer, and being able to giggle all I want to at the constant flurry around me. If these four convention pros get a little stressed by an off-season visit by hundreds of haunters, then imagine what the rest of us would find ourselves up against.

    I say this: Hats off to any producer brave enough to invite the haunt community for a meal and a tour.


    -------


    Monday the 17th was my big day at TransWorld Vegas. In the early morning I zipped down the elevator to the Venetian food court and loaded up on breakfast. I wasnít sure when I would eat again that day.

    Back in the room around 8 AM, I started gluing my face into place. I tried to emulate the zombie character that I played in the movie ďThe Dead MatterĒ last summer for Precinct 13 studios. Iím told the flick should see the light of day this October. But instead of ratty old zombie clothes, I decided to spiff up my look with my Yacht Club Ghoul outfit. Hey, itís Vegas, baby. You have to have the style.

    As a guest at the Venetian hotel, I had to walk through the hotelís casino in order to get from my room to the Sands Convention Center. At no time was I accosted by any hotel employee for wearing costumer/make-up in a casino. However, I made sure not to linger around any of the gaming tables.

    I pulled my annual shift at the IAHA booth from 12:30 till 2:30 that afternoon with Deanna Roberts-Morton and Brett Molitor. I jested with a number of haunters that passed by that I was the ďsex appealĒ for IAHA that day. In hindsight, I really didnít do much except pose for pictures and startle the occasional unsuspecting guest. The other folks sitting at the table did most of the heavy work of signing up new members and answering questions.

    The IAHA Live Auction began at 3:30 and I was there to watch the IAHA stub its big toe on a fundamental technical issue. The sound system appeared to be a small, single speaker with a single clip-on microphone. The two auctioneers, Chuck Williams and Rich Hanf, attempted to share this small mike and work through the sound limitations. After about five minutes of this, they abandoned their electronic efforts and worked on voice power alone.

    I stood at the back of the crowd, so as to give others a chance to clearly hear what was being auctioned off. All around us where the bangs, blasts, crashes and air horns from the vendor booths. On two occasions, the crowd was urged to hike their chairs closer to the front of the venue, so that they could hear better. Rich and Chuck worked hard that day

    Good fortune smiled upon me because I was auctioned off to Terror on the Fox in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I have never visited this haunt put on by Bad Boys Scenic Design, so I have a special treat waiting for me come October.

    The IAHA banquet and annual meeting began at 5:30 PM. Actually it really began around 6:10 PM, due to delays getting the room ready for action. For whatever reason, the two bars werenít ready to start pouring drinks at 5:30. At that time, there were no staff personnel in the room. I overheard some muttering from the staff and some IAHA directors about scheduling mixups, but nothing specific.
     

  2. Default Rex B. Hamilton reports on the 2008 TransWorld convention 
    #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
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    305
    Some observations about the activities that evening:

    1. All the IAHA directors got dressed up. The men wore nice suits and the one lady on the board wore a red dress that really liked her. This was the most professional board appearance I can recall.

    2. The dinner that evening was the first time I can remember IAHA serving a hot meal to the attendees. The dinner seemed to be well-received by those in attendance. Members got to eat for free. Non-member guests (like my wife) and walk-ins paid 25 bucks to eat. IAHA seems to have learned that if youíre going to provide a quality product (i.e. the buffet dinner) you should charge accordingly.

    3. IAHA was smart enough to set aside high-top tables for those attendees who didnít want to shell out 25 bucks for food, but who did want to grab a few drinks from the cash bars and be on hand for the proceedings. All the tables, drink-only and dinner guests, in this double-room on the convention centerís lowest level seemed to be fairly full.

    4. At a few points during the evening I happened to walk by certain tables and see the script for the eveningís activities lying on the tables. I confess: I found surreptitious ways to hover over these documents for a moment or two without looking obvious to others. What I saw was one of the most detailed scripts for a large meeting that Iíve seen in a long time. The meeting was scheduled to conclude at 9 PM, and my recollection is that they met this mark.

    The IAHA remains an organization still struggling to break out of its decade-long image as a special interest group, but not a strong spokesperson, of the haunt community. However, the past two years have been the most productive and peaceful ones in the organizationís history.

    Of course things could blow sky-high at any moment. Yet the board of directors we members have right now contains several people who have held office for multiple years. Longevity in political office might not always be a good thing, but for a non-profit organization still trying to find its own way in the world longevity gives us members some sense of commitment and stability.


    -------


    The rest of my time in Vegas was spent on Vegas stuff. The Hoover Dam Tour took up most of Thursday. The remainder was spent in bars, restaurants, and walking around and through many of the sights and resorts on the Strip.

    Las Vegas is a great place to visit, but it is not an inviting site for haunters who relish the company of other haunters. To be sure, I met many haunters from the western part of the country on the convention floor. Some of them commented that they had never attended the Chicago versions of TransWorld because of the distance and expense.

    But with so many other entertainment activities competing for oneís attention, the substantial travel and hotel costs, and no centralized meeting place for haunters to socialize, I doubt if I would ever return to Vegas for future TransWorld shows. There was no costume ball, a staple of Ironstock, MHC, HauntCon, and other haunt conventions, for attendees to dress up and whoop it up. Nor were there private in-room parties at the hotels, the Crazy Bob Social, and the Haunterís Pavilion.

    It has been my experience that most haunters donít need a lot of glitz and glamour to have a good time. What they do seem to thrive on is a centralized spot (like the Crowne Centerís lounge area in Chicago) where they can hang out, drink a few adult beverages and yak about haunting morning, noon and night. On the other hand, Vegas encourages you to gamble all the time. Itís true - there are slot machines everywhere.

    In 2009, the TransWorld show will return to Chicago in mid-January instead of March. Sure, it will be cold and snowy then. (Big deal - we suffer through the same kind of weather here in Cleveland.) But if the vendor community needs the extra time to manufacture their wares, then we will all have to adjust to their schedule.


    -------



    I will attend several regional haunt conventions this summer, and have already firmed up much of my acting/consulting schedule for the coming fall. Iím confident that 2008 will be a devilishly delightful year of haunted activities for me and, I hope, for you.


    Very truly yours,



    Rex B. Hamilton


    13939 Clifton Boulevard
    Lakewood, Ohio 44107-1462
    216.226.7764 (home)
    216.973.0050 (cell)
    EvilLordZargon@msn.com
     

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