Monday, July 17, 2017

Paying tribute to Mr. George A. Romero

Paying tribute to Mr. George A. Romero

Yesterday was not a good day. I had a bit of a rough morning, so to relax I went on my back deck to tan. I grabbed an iced coffee, and took a book I've owned for over fifteen years. The Zombies Ate Pittsburge by Paul R. Gagne. This was a book my mother had bought for me back in 2003 or 2004 around the time I was completely obsessed with everything George A Romero, mostly his 1985 cult classic Day Of The Dead. I remember I begged her to find me ANYTHING Day Of The Dead related. Here she susprised me by ordering this awesome book that I hate to admit I never truly read. Still, I have memories of flipping through the pages, completely floored over the colorful gory photos. This was a book I've held onto for years, sitting on the shelf. Even when I attended Tom Savini's school, I carried the book for reference while sculpting and one day when Tom was visiting I decided to say screw it and when I bumped into him outside of the school I asked if he could sign it. (I think I'm one of the few people that have actually never had a bad encounter with the man, who I've met several times.) He was pretty stunned I had this book and autographed it for me. It sat unread for years until I just finished Lee Karr's EPIC making of Day Of The Dead book that I honestly read at lightning speed. Deciding to tackle the other book that existed about Romero's films, I sat down yesterday opening it and said screw it and started in the middle during the chapter about Knightriders. 

I flipped through the pages, reading about the production and even got a little choked up when I read about how George didn't honestly blame anyone about the movie not doing well at the box office. That he was impressed it still was released with a final cut over two hours, and that he was able to make a non horror movie and capture the spirit he intended. I finished the chapter, intending to read the next about Creepshow. I went inside, showered, and went down to my den to take a nap. When I woke up, it was to several messages and texts.

George A. Romero had passed away that morning. He was surrounded by loved ones.

I honestly don't know what it was, but I sat there stunned. Strangely enough I was wearing my Flyboy shirt from Fright Rags I had received earlier this summer, and lowered my head and I fully admit...I cried. There hasn't been many artist/celebrities that I've gotten worked up over when they passed. The first actor I ever cried about dying was John Ritter (Mainly because I grew up watching the mini series IT) I still remember hearing it, and somehow it hit me that these actors, artists, singers, directors, ect were humans. They died too, and at whatever age I was when Ritter passed it hit me like a caseload of bricks and I lowered my head and cried like a baby. I still remember people in my car pool staring at me like I was crazy. A few years back when Wes Craven died on my birthday it hurt (mostly because A Nightmare On Elm Street was the main reason I got into horror.) but hearing of George's passing hit me much harder than I ever thought it would. I understood the man was in his 70's. Back in the day he smoked like a chimney, and even when I had the honor of meeting him at Rock & Shock back in 2015 I remember I told myself this might be my only chance to meet the man. He was getting older, and screw spending the extra money, this was a person I had looked up to for years. If I missed the chance I would regret it for the rest of my life. So I decided to say YOLO and I walked over with my Creepshow vinyl and met him with my friends Jeanette, Casey, and Courtney. I remember just how friendly he was. He smiled at me when I told him one simple sentence "Thank you so much for Dawn and Day." He smiled, swallowed up by hand with his bear one, gave me a squeeze and was beyond friendly and funny to the rest of my friends. We took some photos, and he honestly was the nicest, kindest man. I walked away in total awe. You see, I never once had the chance to meet Craven, but I had met Carpenter, so this meant the world to me. George's films were a big part of my childhood and fascination with horror and effects. I still remember discovering his dead movies and his work with Savini and instantly becoming obsessed. I honestly think I was the only girl in the 6th grade who knew basically all the lines to Dawn Of The Dead, or would practice zombie makeup in my backyard. George's movies were constantly being re-watched by me on tape. Dawn, Creepshow, and Day were staples for me. I remember feeling the complete thrill when I attended Savini's school and met other people who were massive fans of his. Being able to visit the Dawn Of Dead Mall, or creep around the cemetery in Night Of The Living Dead was a horror nerd's dream come true. I loved the whole Pittsburgh horror scene, and loved hearing stories about the good old days of filmmaking.

As a true horror fan of course I loved collecting anything to do with his movies. Over time I built up quite the collection, and back in 2015 I believe I re-discovered my love for Dawn Of The Dead. (This was a winter where my work was called off for a solid two weeks and I was practically snowed in. Here I re-watched Dawn over and over and over again.) Just this spring I re-discovered my love for Day. I began trying to get my hands on anything Day wise. I read Karr's book (which I'll have to review soon, beyond awesome.) Found as many things that I all ready owned based off this movie. The epic Fright Rag's Day boxset (still kicking myself for not getting the Rhodes one...Fright Rags PLEASE re-print that one!) my tapes, my Flyboy figure that I sent to me, my books based off the movies, magazines, stickers, pins, you name it I had to get my hands on it. Over time I've only had the pleasure a few times to meet a few cast and crew members from both Dawn and Day. Still everyone had been beyond welcoming, and had a family feel about them. Just like the Dead movies, I adored the Creepshow movies as well. These were films not only did I want to collect as many things as possible, they were always go to movies to re-watch, mostly in a huge group setting. Over the years I've been lucky enough to own even Mondo prints and Vinyls off these babies. It's just something about Romero's films that have always stood out to me and have been favorites. This spring/summer Day Of The Dead became my comfort movie. I've been re-watching it constantly, and plan on hopefully fingers crossed to finally get a Day Of The Dead tattoo this fall. I had just been feeling a friend that it blew my mind that these movies were as old as they were, yet still held up. In my eyes there is the original trilogy. Night, Dawn, and Day. These films were released in the 1960's, 70's, and 80's. They were smartly written epics, that perfectly reflected on social times during the decade they were released. What I've always respected, was he wrote strong characters for African Americas, and in Dawn and Day strong female characters that went against the grain. To this day I still feel Romero should have directed The Stand. 

Of course he went on and made Land Of The Dead in 2005. A movie I originally hated. Oddly enough, I re-watched this movie for the first time in years just last week and actually ended up loving it. In fact I would say it's Romero's last strongly written film. This was what he originaly wanted Day to be like. It had a perfect mixture of practical effects and CGI. I have only seen Diary once at school, and I gotta admit, wasn't a huge fan. Still, I do have a soft spot for Survival. The man may be drifted away from his original vision, but he was still making the movies he wanted to do. I still wish he would have been able to make Dusk or Twilight Of The Dead. Still, up until when he passed, he was still making movies, and clearly having a ball doing it.

Between that, his 70's work (The crazies, There's Always Vanilla, ect) movies I've yet to actually see. Oddly enough, a beautiful box set was just announced earlier this week called Between Night and Dawn. The movies he made during this time. I honestly can't wait to check these out! Of course there's Creepshow, a movie that's in everyone's top ten favorite horror movies of all time. Working with Stephen King, he showed his love for E.C Comics, and made a movie decades ahead of it's time. This movie tells five haunting tales, all visually stunning. This paved the way for Tales From The Darkness, and later he helped with it's sequel. George made Monkey Shines (I believe I own on bootleg and need to get on blu-ray ASAP) Two Evil Eyes (still yet to see that one!) and King's The Dark Half. Romero had a wonderful eye with directing, and in the early 80's made Knightriders which I watched for the first time a week or so ago via Youtube. I was blown way. This clearly was a movie close to Romero's heart. It tells a beautiful story, and I was crying like a baby during the end. It was awesome seeing so many faces that were in the Pittsburg crew. Films like this and Effects, show the family vibe, and how ahead of their time they all were. George's career was successful, but we'll always remember him as the Father Of Zombies. He continued with his craft, but I will always remember how epic and beautiful Dawn and Day were. These were films that I honestly see as one big movie, and were go down as my favorites for all time. He made iconic characters, and of course zombies that will go down in horror history.

George I'm going to miss you. Dawn, Creepshow, and Day were forever be favorites of mine. When I do get my Day tattoo, I'll be thinking of you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. There wouldn't be The Walking Dead if it wasn't for you. There wouldn't be the Night or Dawn remakes if it wasn't for you. Hell, most likely zombies wouldn't even be as popular as they are today because of you. Thank you for making a world that strangely enough was comforting and something you could get lost in. You were a family man, a gentle giant, and a true artist. Rest in peace darling, I know we'll see you again!!!

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