Boris Karloff used to call October his "busy season". Now it's mine, too. So, to kick things off as I head off on my two-plus month fall tour, I thought I would write about "scary" things. . .in particular, what I learned about joy and fear a couple of weekends ago at Scarefest, a horror convention I attended with 15,000 other people in Lexington, Kentucky.
As most of my dad's fans know, I am not a horror fan. As a kid, I couldn't bear the idea of seeing my wonderful, joy-filled dad hurting and maiming and killing people or, even worse for me, getting killed himself in myriad terrifying ways.
The first time I ever saw my beloved father play a villain, I was about four. My mom took me to see him star as Captain Hook in a Los Angeles production of Peter Pan. As my mother told the story, the moment he came on stage, I freaked out when I saw the hook. I thought something terrible had happened to his hand. I was so upset! I kept asking her whether he was OK. Then, when he started to be so mean to the Lost Boys, well -- that just put me over the edge. Apparently, I started to cry, and nothing my mom said could assuage my anxiety. I would not shut up! My no-public-displays-of-anything British mother was mortified, and finally had to resort to taking me backstage during intermission so that I could see for myself that my dad really was still my beloved dad.
While he comforted me, my mom took these photos, which captured my childhood trauma for posterity!
It wasn't until I was in my twenties that I finally made it al the way through one of my dad's scary movies. Even now, I still close my eyes at the gory parts!
So, what a surprise it was for me to find out that I absolutely LOVE going to horror conventions! First of all, as I've written before, I love the people! Honestly, horror fans are the sweetest, kindest, nicest people I have ever met.
I also love seeing all the costumes (well, except maybe the scary clowns).
I even love the fake blood and gore -- which, oddly enough, always makes me smile.
But what I love most of all, of course, is hearing the stories of what my dad meant to so many people. Seriously, how fortunate am I to be able to have my love for my dad reflected back to me by thousands of people through their stories of watching Vincent Price movies with their mom or dad, grandmother, grandfather, siblings, or best friend; their connection to my dad on screen, at his lectures, or cooking from his cookbooks; naming their children after my dad; or the awesome Vincent Price tattoos! To see and hear my love for my dad expressed in such beautiful and meaningful ways is one of the extraordinary gifts of having had a famous father -- and the one for which I am most grateful! It is PURE JOY!
But there is one question that has long perplexed me: What is this fascination with horror all about? Why are horror films and conventions becoming more and more popular? Recently, director Joe Dante said to me, "Who would have thought that the almighty Western would be toppled by the lowly horror film?" Not me, that's for sure!
I had the pleasure of meeting famed director George Romero at Scarefest, so I decided to ask the director of such horror classics as Night of the Living Dead about what scares him. He laughed, "Well, none of this! I've gotten all that out by making my movies!"
That jived with something else I read recently. Horror fans go into the dark to face their demons in a safe environment. Facing their demons on screen allows them to face their real demons with courage. My dad concurred, believing that horror films provided a necessary catharsis in a world in which we are increasingly inundated with news of real horrors.
On my refrigerator, I have a magnet with this Eleanor Roosevelt quote: "Do one thing every day that scares you" Lately I've been channeling my inner Eleanor and mimicking my new horror fan friends by never turning away from anything that scares me. When I do, I discover that most of the things I fear aren't true at all. My terror tries to persuade me of their truth, and I've often complied by creating my own horror anthology in my mind. Like most good horror tales, mine has many sequels, in which the same damn monsters reincarnate themselves over and over again!
Until recently, my bread and butter was running away from anyone or anything that triggered my fear. Now, instead of taking the Teflon approach to tough times, instead I pick up the phone, walk in the door, reply from my heart, take the long route, stop working, tell the truth, risk failure, speak my truth. Each I time I do, and the sky doesn't fall, I feel empowered to try it again.
If you've been reading this blog over the past month, you know that this past month has been an opportunity for me to face down some of my most terrifying inner demons. When I was in Lexington, I suddenly realized I've been trying to approach my life like my own personal Scarefest, taking a cue from my new horror friends not only not by being afraid of what scares me, but also by celebrating it, laughing at it, finding joy in facing it. It's kind of like a double negative. Facing our fears usually takes most of the sting out of them, and ultimately ends up erasing them.
In fact, my horror friends have given me a kind of road map for facing my fears. So, I thought I'd share what I've learned with those of you who are facing down your inner demons as well.
5. Find your tribe and enjoy one another!
Find your tribe with whom you can share your joys, your fears, your loves, your terrors so that TOGETHER you can step into the truth of your lives. Love what you love -- whatever it is -- and celebrate it. . .together! Together we give one another the strength to choose love, joy, life, hope and laughter. Together we go from surviving to THRIVING!
4. Say thank you.
My dad loved this disgusting-smelling remedy that came in a little green bottle called Campho-Phenique. He literally believed it could cure anything, and he never traveled anywhere without it. My Campho-Phenique is Gratitude. The thing is, as with any daily practice, you have to remember to use, to do it, to live it. At horror conventions, every single person who comes up to talk to me at horror conventions thanks me.
Let me say that again: Every single person thanks me!
Stop for a second. Imagine that. For doing nothing more than being born, thousands and thousands of people thank you. I am here to tell you that to be at the receiving end of so much gratitude is one of the most amazing and healing experiences I have ever known. What a privilege and a blessing!
We should all be doing this for one another.
Now, in my own daily life, I try to get up every morning and be grateful for my life and share my gratitude with everyone I meet by thanking them for what they do to me. When we live in gratitude, suddenly all the things that scare us seem way less menacing. Thank you is truly life's great cure-all.
3. Laugh at your fears.
At Scarefest, there was a roving band of scarily costumed creatures who went around the convention center . From time to time, one of them would bang one of the trash cans with a stick making an unholy noise. Inevitably someone would scream, while the rest of us anywhere in earshot involuntarily flinched. At first people seemed annoyed. But then suddenly, after one particularly loud bang, someone started to laugh. Others joined in. Soon we were all laughing. It was infectious. I think I laughed more at Scarefest than I have laughed in a very long time. I laughed all the way to, from, and through dinner with Amanda and Billy. I laughed with fans, with friends, with Sara. When I was a little girl, my uncle told me that, if something every really seemed scary to me, that I should find a way to find it funny and laugh out loud at it. i'd forgotten that. . .Scarefest reminded me that fear dissipates when we release the power it seems to have over us -- and laughter truly is the best medicine.
2. Is it true?
Some fears are harder to laugh at than others. We can cite the statistic that well over 90% of what we fear will happen never transpires, but when we're in the throes of deep fear, it can sometimes feel impossible to calm ourselves.
There's an amazing woman named Byron Katie, who has created four questions which we can apply to anything that clamors for our fearful attention.
- Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
- Can you absolutely know that it's true? (Yes or no.)
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
Sometimes when I get really scared, my dad helps me. I think of the literally millions of people all over the world who have been scared by my dad. My dad! The least scary man on the planet, and certainly the most loving. And yet he is known as the King of Horror, Master of Menace!
Well, fear is an even better horror movie actor than my dad, with a much longer track record! When I remember that, I usually am able to remember that this thing I am so afraid of really is NOT true. And then I do Katie's questions. And when I get to the fourth, who I would be without my fearful thinking, I get to. . .
1. Love love love.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to love. The people I meet at horror conventions teach me about love every day. Imagine that total strangers come up to you and tell you how much they love someone who you love. Imagine that they tell you all the things they love about him, how he lives on in their lives, the joy he has brought them, what a wonderful human being he is. Imagine getting to look them in their eyes and getting to say how much you love that person, too. Imagine getting to share love like that with total strangers. Well, I tell you what -- suddenly they are not total strangers anymore. We are connected by love.
Whenever someone signs up on our website, I thank them for becoming part of the Vincent Price Family. Those aren't idle words. When we connect in love, we become friends and family.
Imagine a world where we connected through love instead of fear, through gratitude instead of greed. through joy instead of anger. Come to a horror convention, and you'll find a pretty good model! Horror conventions are my mega-churches, and I am grateful to be welcomed with such open arms.
Scarefest? HAH! Lovefest is more like it.
Take that fear. . .Guess what? LOVE WINS!!! Always.