Fright Rags founder Benjamin Scrivens stops by today to tell the story of how he met, and hung out with, George Romero. This is a great story that's all the more awesome to me being that I was at the same hotel party that this meeting occured at. At the time, Ben didn't know who I was and I didn't know who he was - pretty cool that years later we've become buddies and he's telling this story on my blog, eh?
By the way, if you want to read about my experience at the same party, you can do so by clicking here.
(Ben, George, and Justin)
My first encounter with George Romero was about 5 years ago. Actually, it had nothing to do with him at all. At one of the conventions we were at, I had a customer come up to me saying that there was a guy in the autograph room that wanted to see me. Apparently he had seen my shirts and was interested in talking business. I was given a name, brief description, and made my way over to the room.
Come to find out, he managed a few of the celebrities that were at the show. He liked our shirts and saw an opportunity for us to design some for Charles Cyphers, a client of his. I thought it sounded like fun (especially since Halloween is my favorite film), so we exchanged numbers and agreed to touch base the following week.
I was excited, of course, but these things rarely pan out, so I wasn’t getting my hopes up. However, the following week, he called and we immediately started working together on the Charles Cyphers design. A few weeks later those shirts were in production and he mentioned that another one of his clients is interested in shirts as well. When I asked him who, he simply replied, “George Romero”.
Whoa...did he just say George friggin’ Romero??
I was now talking to not just any manager, but George A. Romero’s manager. He and George were really interested in having shirts made up for them to sell at convention appearances. So, shortly after our talk, we got to work on some designs that ended up becoming the line of shirts he is still selling to this day. However, even months after work had begun on the Romero shirts, I still had never actually met the man himself. But that would soon change...
To my surprise, George Romero was at the top of the line up to appear at the next Monster Mania, the following May. At this point, we had already made arrangements to be there ourselves, so to say I was excited would have been an understatement. Giddy as a schoolgirl was more like it. A few weeks before the show I spoke to his manager again as he needed to order shirts for the appearance. I noted how great I thought that George would actually be there, but tried to downplay my excitement so as not to come off like I was dying to meet him (which, of course, I was). But he told me that he’d be happy to introduce me. Just the thought of it was enough to put visions in my head, but again, I wasn’t getting my hopes up.
That Saturday night after the show we were doing what we always did - hanging out in the lobby. With me was my friend Justin (of Nightowl Productions) and we were talking to friends when I received a phone call. It was from Romero’s manager telling me they were in his room having a party and that I should come up. Never one to turn down an open invitation like that, Justin and I made our way – ok, darted – toward the elevator.
When we got to the suite, the door was closed and no one was in the hallway. However, you could hear some music and noise inside. I knocked a couple times and, in almost an instant, the door opened a crack. Peering out the door was a rather large gentleman that did not look friendly...at all.
“Um, Chris called me up here.” I gulped.
The door opened wide. “C’mon in”, he said. “Drinks are over there.” And he pointed to the bar in the corner of the room. I barely heard what he said, not only because of the noise, but because I was trying to take in what was in front of my eyes.
People, everywhere...the place was packed. But not just by anyone. Among others, Doug Bradley was in the corner nursing a drink, Ashley Laurence was trying to talk to someone over the noise right next to me, Richard Brooker was showing off his gymnastic moves to a group by the couch, and Joe Pilato was massaging some young lady’s tonsils with his tongue by the window.
And then I saw him...but barely. In the corner of the dining area was George A Romero, completely surrounded by people, all of which wanted his attention. There was no way I could even get close to him, let alone meet him.
Just then Chris (his manager) came up to me and said, “Glad you’re here man, I’ll introduce you to George.”
“But he’s got a crowd of people around him.” I said.
“So?” Chris said, unfazed.
At that point I knew it didn’t matter. We were in. As we approached the dining area, the sea of people surrounding George parted as they saw Chris coming. We followed in his wake until enough people moved aside that we could see George just sitting there. Scotch in one hand, lit cigarette in the other. So fucking cool.
“George,” Chris said, “I’d like you to meet Ben. He’s the guy who does your shirts.”
George looked up with a grin on his face and made as if to “bow” to me. No shit. That’s exactly what he did. I said, “No way man, I bow to you!” and I did the same. We laughed, shook hands and he told Justin and I to take a seat.
Now, the only place to sit was about a patch of carpet about 10“x 10”, but we made it work and squeezed in at George’s feet. And for two and a half leg-numbing hours, we talked about everything from the music in Night of the Living Dead to the poor distribution of Bruiser. And at no time did he ever seem tired, ungrateful, or even try to break away from the conversation. And I think he may have sat there with us all night if security hadn’t kicked everyone out shortly after 3am.
Out of all the conventions I’ve been to, and all the “celebrity” experiences I’ve had, meeting George Romero remains at the top of my list. The man is the epitome of class and grace. It’s one thing to have met him at all, but another to have had the chance to sit and talk to him like we did. I will cherish that memory always.