If it’s the witching season, Chiller Expo will once again set up shop for its Halloween extravaganza. This edition of the long-running semi-annual convention runs from October 23 through October 25 and features, as always, several stars of motion pictures and television.
Begun modestly in 1990 at the Rutherford Arts Center as Horrorthon, the convention has grown through the years, necessitating bigger and more spacious venues. For the past few years, the home of Chiller Expo has been the Sheraton Parsippany Hotel in Parsippany, New Jersey. Twice a year, the show gathers celebrities from show business, sports, and music, who meet and greet visitors, sign autographs, pose for photos, and often share details of their careers in moderated panel discussions.
Headlining this season’s guest list are Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar from the ABC-TV hit series Batman, the camp take on the superhero that ran from 1966 to 1968. West played the title caped crusader, Ward his sidekick Robin, and Newmar the dangerous and sexy Catwoman (one of three actresses to play the role).
The show was a runaway hit known for its colorful villains and comic-book-style balloons containing such descriptive words as “Pow,” “Bam, and “Smash” to accompany each episode’s fight scenes. Originally each episode ran two consecutive nights: the first — in true retro serial style — left the Dynamic Duo in a dire predicament from which they managed to extricate themselves on the second night. Guest villains included the Joker (Cesar Romero), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), and The Riddler (Frank Gorshin). West and Ward later provided their voices for the animated series, The New Adventures of Batman and Robin.
Robby Benson will also be a guest at the October show. Known for the motion pictures Ice Castles, The Death of Richie, The End, and The Chosen, the actor also provided the voice of the beast in the Disney animated feature Beauty and the Beast. He made his film debut with an uncredited role in Wait Until Dark (1967) as “boy tossing ball,” and his Broadway debut in The Rothschilds (1970). In recent years, Benson has been a professor at several universities, including NYU. Benson’s voice talent co-stars from Beauty and the Beast — Paige O’Hara (Princess Belle) and Richard White (Gaston) — are also among the celebrity guests.
Linda Blair, a frequent guest at Chiller, will return to meet and greet fans. Known primarily for terrifying audiences in The Exorcist, the actress won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in that seminal horror film. Later work includes the controversial made-for-TV movie Born Innocent, Airport 1975, Roller Boogie, Hell Night, the Exorcist spoof Repossessed, and Scream. is An animal rights activist, Ms. Blair works with PETA and organized the non-profit Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation dedicated to rescuing abused, neglected, and mistreated animals.
Chiller will also host Michael Rooker, known to TV audiences as Merle Dixon, one of the survivors of a zombie apocalypse in The Walking Dead. Booker made his film debut in 1986 in the title role of Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer, based on the confessions of serial murderer Henry Lee Lucas. His other movie roles include Eight Men Out, Mississippi Burning, JFK, and the smash hit Guardians of the Galaxy.
Other guests at Chiller include the cast of TV’s Lost In Space (Bill Mumy, Angela Cartwright, Marta Kristen, Mark Goddard), Ralph Macchio (The Karate Kid), John Amos (Good Times, Roots, Coming to America), C. Thomas Howell (The Outsiders, The Amazing Spider-Man), Richard Thomas (The Waltons), Abe Vigoda (The Godfather, Barney Miller), Ian Ziering (Sharknado, Beverly Hills 90210), Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas), Veronica Cartwright (Alien, The Birds), Lee Majors (The Six Million Dollar Man), Piper Laurie (Carrie), Martin Stephens (the creepy kid with glowing eyes from Village of the Damned), and Chiller Expo regular Zacherley, the “Cool Ghoul.”
Chiller Expo consistently inspires the enthusiasm of visitors who enjoy meeting actors they have long admired in movies or on TV. Sometimes the lines to get autographs are long, but visitors are patient and often strike up conversations with fellow visitors.
A not-to-be-missed attraction is the massive dealers area, where hundreds of dealers sell all kinds of memorabilia. Rare books, monster magazines, autographed photos, models, vintage toys, masks, jewelry, novelty items, posters, lobby cards, and one-of-a-kind collectibles form a treasure trove of goodies to pore over. The range of items available is incredible and the displays are worthy of being exhibits in a museum.
Rounding out the attractions are a five-category Halloween costume contest and a competition among detailed models of horror, science-fiction, and literary subjects, some made from kits, others completely original.
Chiller Expo will be held on October 23, 6 to 11 P.M., October 24, 10 A.M. to 7 P.M., and October 25, 11 A.M. to 4 P.M. Tickets are $30 per day. Children age 12 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. For directions to the Sheraton Parsippany Hotel, check the Chiller website at chillertheatre.com or call (973) 515-2000.
For over 25 years, I was the Film and Home Entertainment Reviewer for "The Villadom TIMES," a New Jersey weekly newspaper, and have written for several other publications. I developed and taught a Film Studies program for two New York City high schools that included Film History, Horror/Fantasy, and Film Making.