FAQs – 8.  What’s the wildest thing you’ve experienced when touring?

One of the most frequently asked questions I get during audience Q&A’s is “What’s the strangest request ever made of you, the oddest gift ever given to you, the most bizarre experience you’ve had on the road traveling in promotion of your work as an artist?”

In the past, I’ve struggled to answer this question. I’m sure it came across as backpedaling, an attempt to hide what must have been a juicy tale. That was not the case (those of you who follow my blog can attest that sometimes I’m a little too forthcoming). No, the reason I used to scramble to provide a satisfying answer to that frequent and extremely loaded question was that I’d actually had very few off-putting exchanges during my years of traveling.

GraveRobber_licenseplate_Clemo-Family

(custom license plate by the Clemo Family)

Because of my line of work, I’ve met and mingled with thousands of folks and can honestly say that almost everyone has been great. I’m not just referring to the fans of my work, but also the countless promoters and organizers who have been gracious enough to have me as a guest at their various events.

This changed in November 2009 when I was a special guest at Orlando’s Anime/Horror event, ZonaCon.  There, a heaping dose of The Crazy was served up right before my eyes.

Contrary to what you might imagine, The Crazy did not come in the form of an obsessed fanboy or girl. It didn’t rear its Crazy head in a package containing a severed ear stapled to a deranged love letter. I wasn’t bestowed with a if-I-can’t-have-you-no-one-will stalker sonnet composed of letters clipped from magazines. No, ZonaCon’s attendees couldn’t have been nicer and I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with them.

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(Repo! mannequins by Gabriela Wolert Huck)

The Crazy, straitjacket unhinged, came out swinging in front of an auditorium full of attendees at The Holiday Inn Resort, which served as the weekend home to ZonaCon. It happened moments before I was scheduled to introduce a shadow-casted screening of Repo!.

It was 7:00 PM. The Con’s organizer took the stage, stood in front of a podium, and blurted into a microphone that a mad gunman was loose on the premises. She ordered everyone to stay in the screening room, feverishly repeating the words “Lock Down! Lock Down!” to the seated, worried onlookers.

Something didn’t seem right about all of this. I had just left the hotel’s lobby where everything seemed normal. The hotel’s staff was carrying on with business-as-usual demeanors, casually checking-in guests, guests casually strolling the halls. Nothing was out of place. No hysteria. Not even the remotest sense of panic. Yet inches away, within the walls of the hotel’s screening room, pandemonium was just unleashed.

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(Tarrie Noir’s Repo!-inspired tattoo)

I approached ZonaCon’s organizer, the woman who just made the terrifying gunman announcement, and asked her what was going on. She revealed that she “locked down” the screening room for my safety, that the roaming gunman was specifically targeting me and that she had been receiving “death threats” towards me for over a week.

Several onlooking Con attendees overheard this exchange and immediately perked up, concerned for my safety. Who wouldn’t be? Especially me! But if someone was armed on the premises, someone who had been threatening to kill me for over a week, shouldn’t I have been made aware of this before boarding a plane to Florida? I’d already been staying in the hotel for two nights, shouldn’t I have been warned about this potential danger? Before that moment?

Something obviously wasn’t adding up, so I decided to ignore the “quarantine” and venture out into the main area of the hotel to consult with its security. Shockingly, I was informed that not only was there no legitimacy to the imminent gunman claim, but ZonaCon’s organizer had no legal authority to “lock down” a room within the hotel. The Holiday Inn’s head of security shook his head and rolled his eyes as if this was not his first outlandish encounter with the person behind ZonaCon.

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(Repo!-inspired painting by Molly “Zirofax” Rodman)

Sadly, this was not my only bizarre exchange with ZonaCon’s organizer: she’d flooded my inbox with a flurry of strange, hostile, and often incoherent emails in the weeks leading up to the event, every-other one bearing the threat of some sort of frivolous lawsuit. These odd correspondences were the main reasons that I did not grant credence to the wild gunman proclamation.

Several guests and vendors from past events that this lady organized had also contacted me. These people, mostly strangers to me, all shared similar tales involving elements of The Crazy, warning me to not participate in ZonaCon. I would have heeded their warnings and cancelled my appearance were it not for the fact that my name had already been advertised in connection with the Con and I didn’t want to let down anyone who may have purchased a non-refundable ticket.

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(GraveRobber scarf by Emily “Zydrate Whore” Smith)

Why would someone do this? Create an unsubstantiated sense of panic in an auditorium full of people? I don’t know. If it made sense, it wouldn’t be The Crazy. And I wouldn’t now have an answer to the question of my strangest experience on the road.

Fifteen minutes after leaving the hotel’s screening room, I returned and introduced Repo!. The evening, and the rest of the weekend, carried on as if nothing had happened. There was no formal declaration that the threat had been quelled. No reassurances that my life was no longer in peril. Nothing. Nada. From the attendees’ perspectives, I think it was easier to pretend that the bizarre announcement never occurred because sometimes when you gaze into The Crazy, The Crazy gazes also into you.