Sometimes the stars align and the situation you find yourself in can seem surreal. This last weekend was probably one of the most insane I have ever experienced in my life, and for all the right reasons. I know that often it is said that you should “never meet your idols…” I know from plenty of friends and from what people have said online that sometimes meeting the people you idolise can be disastrous. This would of course be true if they are nothing like what you’d expect or don’t have time for you as a fan. All I will say is that this Halloween all my dreams came true.
Back in February I was surprised with tickets to see John Carpenter perform as part of his ‘Release the Bats Tour.’ A few of my friends already had tickets for the show but for his date in Manchester. My other half (Charlie) had kindly surprised me with tickets to see the ‘Master of Horror’ on Halloween Night! I knew already that Halloween was set to be magic this year. To give you some background, as a filmmaker and a huge horror fan, John Carpenter for me is ‘the’ filmmaker to watch and obsess over. From his early years to his more recent efforts Carpenter has been incredibly diverse in his approach to genre and story. The mix of style and his trademark soundtracks have made for some true staples of cult cinema. Whenever I have to cite an inspiration for the films I make in an interview or just in a discussion with another filmmaker, Carpenter is always top of the list. HALLOWEEN (1978) is my favourite ‘horror’ film, and arguably my favourite film in general to some degree. This is purely down to the fact you can clearly see how it influenced the genre and made horror what it is today. I really have such a strong love for the genre because of the likes of HALLOWEEN.
Winding the clock forward then to this last Monday (HALLOWEEN 2016) I found myself in London after already spending a couple of days there, ready to see the ‘Master of Horror’ in the flesh. I had seen pics of his tour from friends in America who had already had the chance to see him, and from friends here in the UK having seen him a couple of nights earlier in Manchester. It looked amazing and I couldn’t wait! Having booked a hotel nearby I woke up early and started to get ready. Dressing up was encouraged and with it being Halloween I was going as an alien from THEY LIVE (1988) with my other half going as Gracie in full Oriental garb from BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986). The concert was taking place at The Troxy, a venue I had never been to before but as soon as I laid eyes upon it knew it was going to be the perfect fit. The exterior alone was coated in art deco flourishes and finding out it used to be an old cinema, it seemed like a match made in heaven for a Carpenter gig.
Having spent a couple of hours working on makeup we made our way to the venue, just a few minutes walk from the hotel. To my surprise there were no queue formed outside. We checked around the building because I was sure we couldn’t be the first two there, but we were! Sitting outside the front of The Troxy it wasn’t long before we caught the attention of passers-by and staff going into the building. After only a few minutes a few members of Carpenters team/production company came out to congratulate us on our costumes and ask if we wanted to be interviewed. Not being shy we obliged and gushed in front of a small camera crew about our love for Carpenter and our memories of watching his work whilst we grew up. Soon after a queue began to form and we were surrounded by fellow Carpenter fans.
After a few hours of queuing I could hardly contain my excitement I just wanted to get inside, secure a good spot and bask in the presence of a horror icon. An hour or so before heading in I saw a woman strutting through the lobby of the venue. I immediately recognised her to be John Carpenter’s wife – Sandy King. Now I don’t know if she picked up on me starring or if my bright blue and red face caught her eye but she looked over and gave us an ‘OK’ sign. Bursting through the doors she came up to the queue barrier and told us our costumes were great and took a pic on her phone. Little did I know this wouldn’t be the last time we would be seeing her that night.
While in the queue we’d had our picture taken by one of Carpenter’s photographers and were told we would be entered into the costume contest. I wasn’t even aware there was a contest but was thrilled to see we were nominated. Soon enough it was time to be let in although there had been a few ‘meet and greet’ people let in before us, no one had gone to the barrier to secure a spot. I rushed to the merch stand and picked up a signed Halloween vinyl and They Live sticker pack and rushed back to the barrier where we were dead centre. I couldn’t believe our luck. I just wanted the show to start, the venue was incredible and it still didn’t feel like it was real. I was getting to watch someone who I have looked up to so much in my own short career, play some of their greatest soundtracks LIVE a mere meter or so away from me. Coming down the queue barrier I noticed a familiar face, Sandy King came along with an assistant to find me and Charlie. Wishing us a Happy Anniversary (another reason we were in London – Happy 4 years Charlie!) she wanted us to come to the side of the stage mid gig and present John Carpenter with an envelope on stage. I nearly fainted. We of course obliged and the show began.
JC took to the stage with an incredible rendition of the main theme from Escape from New York. Hearing his work live brought with it such a great intensity, I just couldn’t stop smiling. Aside from being a great Director and Composer, he really is a great performer. It was an absolute pleasure getting to watch him. The highlight of the gig for me was hearing The Fog soundtrack with smoke billowing over the side of the stage and into the crowd. That was a memory I truly won’t forget in a long time, it was pure magic. Soon enough it was time for us to make our way to the side of the stage. Once there Charlie was told she would be the one getting to go up on stage but not to worry we had some surprises on the way. Handing over the envelope we were runners up in the costume contest but as such we were handed a free They Live hoodie and signed tour poster. We got to watch the rest of the gig from the side of the stage with Sandy and co, before we’d get to meet the legend himself after the show. My legs trembled at the thought of it, it was insane. To just make things even more perfect the high pitched notes of the Halloween theme began to ring out, this was for sure the best Halloween ever! We finished the show at the side of the stage, the atmosphere was electric. I couldn’t believe it, it was nearly time to meet the guy I had looked up to for so long.
Instructed to give him 5 minutes or so after the show had come to a close we waited to be fetched. Soon enough we followed the assistant we had spoken to earlier through an endless maze of double doors and corridors. Suddenly the last door opened and there he was, stood leaning on the wall in the corridor in front of me. It was so surreal. All I can say is that I was glad Charlie was there because my legs turned to jelly and I could hardly form sentences, I was truly star struck. How lucky were we?! After complimenting Charlie on her outfit he thrust his hand out to me for a handshake. I shook it gently and realised we only had a few minutes so had to make them count. I handed the assistant my phone and we were ushered into JC’s dressing room – HIS ACTUAL DRESSING ROOM! After taking a few photos we had a small chat and I was super happy I got to tell him I make the films I do because of him. Although I’m sure he hears something similar all the time, it felt good, I sure as hell don’t think I will get another chance like that again. Charlie took charge and made sure we got as much signed and personalised as possible before we outstayed our welcome. Thank god she did because I was a mess. We all hugged and said goodbye and thanks, I even got a hug of JC (however uncomfortable it made him I don’t care) and we wished each other a Happy Halloween. Being escorted back out we joined the crowd of people still circling the merch stands and spilling out of the Troxy onto the street. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. In fact writing this now I still can’t believe it. Seeing JC on Halloween would have been special enough on it’s own, but to meet him and talk with him was just god damn ridiculous. I feel so incredibly thankful and lucky. This was an experience I will never ever forget. Starting with my opening statement about not meeting your idols I couldn’t disagree more. The show was incredible and my Halloween was out of this world. It just begs the question how the hell am I going to top this next year?!
Thanks as always and until next time…
DON’T BE A STRANGER: