Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Tonight I have to write about my old friend and first love Benny, who died on Sunday. There's a memorial service for him tomorrow evening, and as much as I'd love to get up and speak about him there, I don't think I'll be able to do that. I'm not sure I even have a right to do that. But I can't let his death go unmentioned because although I hadn't seen him in two years, he was an important part of my life for almost as long as I can remember.

I met Benny when I was twelve. He was one of a bunch of kids from my neighborhood who all hung out together for one long summer on a hill in Highland Park. Many of us were from extremely dysfunctional families or single-mom households. I think we all gravitated toward each other as a result of our perceived insecurities within our own biological families and general pre-teen angst. Parents could be raging alcoholics, fathers could desert their children, but your friends would never let you down. We clung to each other that summer like our lives depended on it, and maybe they did. To this day there's never been a group of people I've felt closer to, and I'm proud to say that I still count some of them among my best friends. We shared a profound bond that will never break completely. It was a "Stand By Me" kind of summer, without the dead body.

Benny was sweet, beautiful, vibrant and exciting. I fell in love with him before I really knew what that even meant. He carved my initials into his arm to prove his love for me; it was the most wildly romantic thing I'd ever heard of (and, in hindsight, really pretty bizarre and kind of alarming). Young love is fragile and fickle, however, and he broke my heart when he fell for someone else a few weeks later. I got over it - sort of - and moved on. After that summer I didn't see him because we went to different schools. I ran into him about a decade later and our "affair" briefly fired up again. And then it ended again. (Sadly, the scar left by my initials had faded by then.) And ten years later we repeated the process. And again ten years after that. I was able to capture his attention for only a few days and then he'd disappear - off to Florida, Hawaii, Washington, wherever - for a decade.

In 2004, out of the clear, blue sky, Benny appeared on my doorstep like he'd never been away. He was the same frenetic Benny - smiling, eyes twinkling - but I could see physical changes in him that indicated he hadn't been living a healthy life. I'd known for a long time that he'd had trouble with drugs and alcohol, but not quite to that extent. He'd survived at least one very serious suicide attempt that I knew of, and I hoped that he would stay in Pittsburgh and clean up. He had two older sisters here who adored him and would look after him. He didn't stay in town at that point, but came back again for Christmas. When he came back I invited him and some of the old Highland Park gang over for a reunion. In retrospect, it was as much a farewell party as anything. But that night was magical - pictures of that party are full of orbs and good energy. It was the first time we'd all been together in close to thirty five years and it felt warm, familiar and secure. Benny went back to Seattle where he'd been living, and then returned in the Spring. He'd decided to live here permanently again. He arrived in town with two incurable diseases he contracted through IV drug use. Neither of them had to be a death sentence, but he told friends that he viewed them that way. He continued his downward spiral.

The last time I saw him was two years ago when he and my friend Chuck put a new roof on my gargage. I thought I'd love having him around, but his behavior was so disturbing and so un-Benny that I made a conscious decision not to be around him any longer. It was obvious to me and everyone who knew him that he was using and he didn't seem particularly interested in getting clean. He was headed for disaster and I didn't want to witness it. I kept tabs on him through Chuck, but I never laid eyes on him again. Aside from work, Chuck didn't hang out with him, either. Benny found people who were into the same things he was.

Chuck told me yesterday that at one point Benny asked him why I hated him. That makes me feel awful -- I never came anywhere close to hating Benny. I could never. I hated what he was doing to himself, but I always loved him. And now he's gone. Part of me is relieved that he's not torturing himself anymore. Another part is devastated that he wasn't able to conquer his addiction and whatever drove him to it in the first place. A part of me feels guilty that I shut him out even though I know it would have made no difference to the final outcome. A part of me is really pissed off at him.

One thing is certain: My world is darker tonight for his absence.

Rest well, Benny, and wherever you are, be kind to yourself. You were always worthy of love.

All Is Well

"Death is nothing at all,
I have only slipped into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by my old familiar name,
Speak to me in the easy way which you always used
Put no difference in your tone,
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was,
Let it be spoken without effect, without the trace of shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was, there is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near,
Just around the corner.
All is well."

By Henry Scott Holland (1847-1918)
Canon of St Paul's Cathedral

Friday, April 03, 2009

Lou Perryman

I was saddened and sickened to learn this evening that Lou Perryman had been murdered in his Austin, Texas home earlier this week.

Lou was a veteran character actor, best known among horror fans as "L.G." of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. He was also just a really nice, warm and funny guy. I had the good fortune to meet Lou at Cinema Wasteland several years ago. As luck would have it, our tables were set up next to each other, and he entertained me with that wonderful Texas drawl, telling me funny stories for three whole days. I bored him with pictures of my animals and forced a pack of SpiffyCards on him which he graciously accepted and took home for his daughter. I was thrilled to run into him again at Wasteland a few years later, and though we weren't set up near each other that weekend, we took a little time to chat and laugh and take some snapshots, one of which is posted here. I will always remember Lou with fondness and I will miss him. My deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's About Time

It's been ages since I've blogged, so I figured I'd throw some thoughts in here and make some constructive use of the space.

  • Watching The Ellen DeGeneres Show the other day, I was reminded how absolutely yummy Simon Baker is!

  • Our roosters have finally found a new home! I know it's news to most that we even have roosters, but three gorgeous roosters have been living on our "campus" at school for nearly two years. They appeared on our property one day and decided to take up permanent residence. From what we've heard, some irresponsible woman in the neighborhood owned them and when she moved away, she just turned them out to fend for themselves. Along with some compassionate neighbors, we've been feeding them and keeping them healthy. We love them dearly, but we're grateful that they'll have a real home on a real organic egg farm not too far from here. Long live Rob, Chip and Ernie!

  • The "octomom" is a twit, but as nuts as she is, her doctor is the real criminal. His license should be revoked and he should be forced to support those kids until they're out of graduate school.

  • Pittsburgh's child-mayor Luke Ravenstahl has decided to squander $250,000 of taxpayers' money on garbage cans bearing his name. He ought to be impeached for his enormous ego alone.

  • I've been busy drawing up new t-shirt designs for my shops at and my new store at More info about them can be found on my Ghoulish Gifts pages.

  • Convention season is about to begin again and my first outing this year will be Chiller Theatre in Parsippany, NJ. Come out and visit me! For more info, visit my Conventions page.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Will somebody please get the hook?

Back in the days of vaudeville, they employed an inelegant but effective tool for getting a bad act off stage. It was called "the hook." I'd like to propose that the DNC and super delegates use that hook on Hillary Clinton. NOW. Her "RFK assassination" remark has given us all a really ugly glimpse into her subconscious mind, and I, for one, am frightened and truly appalled by what I see there. This was not a simple "misstatement" -- it was a Freudian slip.

I'll let Keith Olbermann sum it up -- in my opinion, his tirade is right on the mark.

Part 1

Part 2

Monday, May 05, 2008

Saturday Surprise

My Saturday morning ritual typically involves drifting around the house in my PJs, drinking coffee and watching a horror movie from my own tiny collection, Netflix or TV. It's my favorite way to start the weekend, a habit begun and lovingly nurtured in my childhood, immersing myself in Chiller Theater's weekly offering of schlocky horror. As I perused the meager choices on Comcast, I natually found myself in FearNet and realized I'd already gone through most of the movies (good and bad) there. My beloved Fido was on, but I have the DVD and I was in the mood to see something new, or, at least, new to me. I went to the "Zombies" menu and spotted the title "Romero Dead Films." I clicked on it.


It was our FearNet interviews from Texas Frightmare Weekend! I loathe seeing myself on screens, small or large, but it was fun watching because it was unexpected. The piece is only eight minutes long, but there are interview segments with Judy O'Dea, Russ Streiner, John Russo, Michelle Morgan, Tom Savini, Pedro Arce, Shawn Roberts, Antone DiLeo, Robert Joy, Howard Sherman and Joe Pilato. It's supposed to be available through June 30, so catch it before it leaves forever!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors - Los Angeles

I've only been back from Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors a few days and it's already kind of a blur. I seem to have spent the weekend in a fog of jetlag and sleep deprivation. Maybe I only dreamt about it. If that's the case, it was a decent dream.

Friday night there was a midnight screening of Night of the Living Dead at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. I didn't go because I couldn't even keep my eyes open. How pathetic is that? I didn't spend much time hanging out with my Dread Central buddies at this convention, either. I did have two lovely dinners with Judy and Bill, which is always a treat, but we were all pretty burned out from the very long days. We "dead" people didn't stay at the host hotel, so we were separated from the bar-life and parties that typically fill convention evenings. All things considered, that may have been for the best.

Socially, however, all was not lost; I did meet some very cool people of the non-celebrity persuasion. I picked up a couple more tattoos for my Tattoo Gallery and finally met Bobby Villalba, a guy whose tattoo was already in my gallery. I remembered his name as soon as he showed me his tattoo, and that his brother had done the tattoo. I can't remember my own name some days, but there's just something about the people who have my face tattooed on them that I can't forget. It's a strange bond.

And speaking of bonds, I met Sharon Jenkins, a long-time fan of NOTLD, who noted my Obama obsession and brought me an adorable Obama bobblehead! It was an unbelievably sweet thing to do, especially because she, herself, is not an Obama fan. We hung out for a while at my table and discovered we have a lot in common. Aside from our political ideologies, we could be twins who were separated at birth. It's nice to know I have a sister on the west coast!

Gina Quaranto skullsI also met a couple of artists whose work I absolutely love. Gina Quaranto's skulls are pictured in this photo; she was kind enough to load me up with all of these and I want to thank her again for her generosity and kindness. I have the skulls hanging all over my house and they make me smile. I love "Day of the Dead" imagery - hers, particularly. Visit Gina's MySpace page and throw some business her way. Her artwork is wonderful and she's a super-nice person. I had a great time talking to her and her husband throughout the weekend.

Victor the Snake Mannn (yes, there are three "Ns" in his name) had a table there. He makes gorgeous sterling silver jewelry and I picked up one of his little silver spider pendants. Check out his work at Nightwind Creations.

Eddie Allen of Haunted Memories Changing Portraits was there, too. He's a really nice guy, and coincidentally, went to high school with Judy O'Dea's daughter! I spent the weekend drifting toward his table, mesmerized by the portraits, and after staring at them for three days I bought three of the 5x7s. They'll reside on a wall among some old family photos.

Night of the Living DeadMax Brooks moderated our panel on Sunday and he asked about Spiffy. As you know from one of my previous blog entries, we love him! He was as nice Sunday as he was at Pittsburgh's ZombieFest in October. At the end of our panel, they showed a snippet of the documentary attached to the new release of Night of the Living Dead. It's called One For The Fire: The Legacy of Night of the Living Dead, and I'm very eager to get my hands on it. It includes my dad's last, very emotional interview and I'm very thankful to Mike Felsher, who edited the documentary, for leaving it in. I was present for that interview and there wasn't a dry eye in the room. We were all privileged to witness a very special and beautiful reminiscence that was, blessedly, preserved for all time, and for all to see. It was a thoroughly anti-Harry Cooper moment. I just pre-ordered my copy and while I was there I pre-ordered Diary of the Dead which I have yet to see! Both are being released by Dimension Extreme on May 20. Just a few more weeks!

Our next stop on the tour will be Fangoria (again), but this time in Secaucus, NJ. I think I'll be a little more relaxed and rested for that one because I'll finally be on my summer vacation. Yippeee! I'm looking forward to seeing some east coast friends while I'm there.

I didn't take too many pictures at the convention, but the ones I do have are here. Enjoy!

And Happy May Day!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pennsylvania Primary

What an amazing day it's been! The weather was beautiful, I didn't have to go to work, and I voted for someone I really believe in. When I went to the poll today at 10am, I was the 119th person to vote, and for the first time ever, I had to wait in line. It was great! Some of the people in line appeared to be first-time voters, and I suspect that has more to do with Obama's campaign than it does Hillary's. I just don't see her being able to galvanize many white men in their 20s and 30s the way that Obama can.

The polls closed a little over an hour ago and I'm watching the returns trickle in. No one holds out much hope for Obama actually winning this state (there are a lot of older women in Pennsylvania), but I hope he makes a good showing in my county. If the yard signs in my neighborhood are any indication, Obama's got Pittsburgh wrapped up. Time will tell what happens here, but I believe Barack Obama will be our next president! *fingers crossed*