Monday, May 17, 2010

Farewell To Heroes, Pt. 2

Ronnie James Dio passed away this weekend. He was a man short in staure, but with the voice and heart of a giant. He fronted band such as Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and his self-titled band Dio.

Dio's voice was amazing. He could sing like an angel one moment, then, on the turn of a dime, change his voice to an evil growl. A friend of mine in college (who was into New Wave,mostly) said Dio's voice scared him. "He sounds like the Devil."

Dio's lyrics were often filled with metaphors and symbols. His songs were about Good and Evil, faraway realms and the innermost feelings of one's heart, fantasy and grim reality, and about dreams, and making them come true. His work was a grand mix of Light and Darkness.

Dio was also the first to use the famous hand sign known as 'The Horns'. Some PMRC-types swear it was a salute to Satan, but Dio actually got it from his little old Italian grandmother. The 'Maloche' was used both to protect one from the Evil Eye and to inflict it on others. I wonder what Grandma Dio would think about a sea of metalheads using her signature move at a concert.

Dio, though accused of being evil (like most Metal practitioners during their careers), did good works, including the recording Stars, sort of a Metal response to We Are The World. As mentioned above, for every song Dio wrote about darkness and evil, he had one with a positive message...Wishing Well and Hungry For Heaven come to mind.
Dio's music was a big part of my childhood, and adulthood, actually. I can renember hearing Rainbow's Man on the Silver Mountain on the radio when I was a young beast, and I also recall being very pleased with his work in Black Sabbath when he replaced Ozzy Osborne (I'm one of the few who actually like the Dio years better than the Ozzy years of Sabbath , so let the hate mail begin). I have fond memories of playing pool in my basement, listening to Sabbath's Mob Rules, and, of course, Heaven and Hell, a masterpiece of Metal, in my not-too-humble opinion. I, of course, ran out to get his solo stuff when he left Sabbath...I'm still not tired, 20 years later, of Rainbow In The Dark ( though my favorite cut off that album is Straight Through The Heart). When I took voice lessons in college, I used a music book of Rainbow's Rising during class to sing songs from. I followed him through the years as he rejoined Sabbath, left for solo-land again, and rejoined Sabbath yet again. I felt bad when I heard he had stomach cancer, and was relieved when news got out that he was doing better...then, last Sunday when news got out that he died, it was like a shadow passing overhead. Like Frank Frazetta's passing, it felt like something that has always been around in my life has left...but, I guess, their work, their pictures and songs, will still be with me, and others whom they've touched. The world is diminished, but there's a new skald singing songs in valhalla, and there's a new artist to paint wondrous works on the walls of the mead halls in Asgard. Hail Frazetta; Hail Dio.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Farewell to Heroes Pt. 1

This has been a bad week for me concerning celebrity deaths. These things don't usually bother me much, but two that have passed on this week were heroes of mine since I was a kid.

The first was Frank Frazetta. Frazetta, for those who don't know, was the Heroic Fantasy artist, period. He'es probably best known for his covers for the Conan books of the 70s. His work also appeared on album covers , most famously Molly Hatchet's. The painting to the left, The Barbarian, is my favorite, and a print hangs in my living room. Besides setting the classic scene of victorious warrior with his 'spoils', take a moment to really look at this work. The mound of corpses and the woman are a bit hazy, but as the eye travels upward, the central figure is in sharp focus, commanding attention. also, the hazy sky behind reveals dark images, perhaps of his future, or his past. It is a work of art that fairly hums with power and vitality.

Another favorite of mine is The Death Dealer. Instead of the typical Grim Reaper, we have an armored avatar of Death. His axe is scythe-like, and the carrion birds in the sky behind him tell his role. Like The Barbarian, even though the main figure of the piece is still (for now), there is a feeling of power and dynamism to it, as if at a moment's notice he could spring to destructive action, hewing down all in his way.

As a kid, I was mesmerized by Frazetta's work. I'd stare for what seemed like hours at his works, wishing I was in those worlds. His dangerous warriors, his fearsome beasts, his curvy, sensual women, they all fairly burned with life and power, a feat many other fantasy painters with their stiff, posed paintings could never, ever match. Frazetta's work, much like that of author Robert E. Howard ( who's tales were illustrated by frazetta's paintings, more often than not), was something I came to appreciate more as I grew older. I could better appreciate his masterworks as I began to understand them better. Frazetta suffered a series of strokes in his 70s, and lost use of his right hand. What did he do? He taught himself to paint with his left hand. Left-handed, he could still out-paint , well, damn near anyone.

If anyone is interested, check out the documentary Painting With Fire. Shot a few years ago, it's a great picture of a great artist.

Frank, you'll be missed.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Texas Frightmare Weekend Pt. 2

Texas Frightmare Weekend was a great time. In addition to the celebrities inside, outside was a hearse and shock rod show. I got to talk to some of the hearse owners, and they were all cool guys. One gave me a frisbee and a bunch of pens with his tattoo shop logo on them (gotta love swag..and check out Ink Pushers Tattoo Emporium if you're ever in the area).

Pictured here is the vehicle for a haunted house attraction in Arlington, Zombie Manor.

The back of the Manor wagon.

Care to go for a ride?

The hotel restaraunt had a special menu made up for the event...I, of course, had to have the Frankenstein Burger.
Besides the celebs, hearses, and food, there were dealers selling t-shirts, books, DVDs, jewelry, clothes, CDs, and there was even a tattoo artist present. Among the treasures I took home : a mini-poster of Dawn of the Dead, signed by George Romero, a DVD of Tromeo and Juliet signed by Debbie Rochon, and a t-shirt from the Rue Morgue magazine booth (the best magazine about horror in culture, in my not-so-humble opionion). There were also showings of various films, but since I was only there for the day, I passed on the viewings this time around. Maybe next year!
TFW was fun, and money and time willing, I may just go for the whole weekend next year. I'll definately be back in some way or another. If you're into horror, check oit out next says the Beast.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Texas Frightmare Weekend Pt. 1

Texas Frightmare Weekend was held at the Sheraton Hotel in Dallas this weekend. I went on Saturday. It was the first horror convention (or any kind of convention) I've attended, and it was a blast.

Here, the Zombie Walk participants close in on the hotel.

They're getting closer....

Kim and I got to meet Elvira (Cassandra Peterson). She was nice, and she still looks great.

George Romero, the man behind Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Creepshow, and many others. Meeting him was a highlight of the show for me.

Me with Debbie Rochon ( Tromeo and Juliet, Terror Firmer, Colour From The Dark, The Good Sisters, etc.). Debbie is not only a fine actress and a beautiful woman, but she's also a very nice person. Meeting her in person was very cool.

More pictures and creepy stuff to come...