Texas Frightmare Weekend 2011: Meeting Clive Barker
On Friday and Saturday, Days Two & Three of the 2011 Texas Frightmare Weekend, I was covering so much and running around so hard that i didn’t know whether I was coming or going. You might recall that on Day Two I covered the Red Carpet Event, press conferences, and meeting with some fellow horror website owners. But that’s also the day I met Clive Barker. That’s right; for a few hours on Friday I put away my press badge and became a fan. I stood in line for almost 3 hours to meet the man who Stephen King dubbed “he future of horror.” What’s so cool is that while standing in line I started chatting with other people standing in line and we all talked about our favorite Barker movies and books and talked about why Barker means so much to each of us. It was a great “bonding of fans” moment. When I finally met Barker I was blown away just being in his presence. Ever since I read his BOOKS OF BLOOD back in the early-mid 1980’s I was hooked. Even at that young age I knew I was reading something special; that I was reading a man who was gonna change the face of horror forever … and he did. Clive Barker redefined the way we all look at the horror genre; horror could be erotic and beautiful and more visceral, gory, and disturbing than anyone thought. Sure present day authors and filmmakers may have gone beyond what Barker was doing back in the early-80’s, but it was Barker who showed us it was possible.
I put in a request through the press coordinator to interview Barker but I was told he recently had throat surgery and wouldn’t be doing any interviews. I was disappointed but just glad he was still appearing at this year’s convention. When I finally got in front of him I was just blown away. Clive Barker is horror royalty. The worlds he’s created and horrors he’s put on screen will outlast us all. I brought with me my First Edition hardback copy of IMAJICA and my poster of HELLRAISER that I bought back in the late 1980’s (besides Barker, I also had Doug Bradley and Ashley Laurence sign that poster). When Barker saw my copy of IMAJICA his eyes lit up. I told him that IMAJICA isn’t just my favorite book that he wrote, but it’s my favorite novel of all time. I continued with how it’s the perfect balance of fantasy, horror, eroticism, and magic and I just couldn’t imagine how taxing on him it must have been to write. I could’ve been imagining this, but I think Barker blushed a little before telling me that IMAJICA was also his favorite novel. It took him 14 months of writing 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week to complete it. Wow; I suck … it takes me that long to write a 600 word short story LOL!! (not really; but you get the point).
Then Clive Barker asked me if I have a favorite passage from the book. I told him I just love it when Gentle and the other characters travel through the Dominions until they finally meet god, Hepaxamendios. Barker then starts explaining to me the breakdown of the name “Hapexamendios”: “amen” and “dios”, he says with a smile, are “pretty self-explanatory.” But “hapex,” he explains “means an event that only happens once.” If you’ve read IMAJICA this makes a lot of sense, especially in regards to the great Reconciliation. Let me tell you that I was in heaven!! Here I am standing in a hotel conference room with literally hundreds of people standing behind me waiting to see and meet Clive Barker and he’s sitting in front of me talking about my favorite novel of all time!! I was having a friggin’ conversation with Clive Freakin’ Barker!! I was giddy and felt like I was experiencing my first crush, my first kiss, and the first time I had sex all rolled into one big experience!! Think about it: Here’s a man who just recently had throat surgery and couldn’t even hold his head all the way up. He committed to the convention and went way above and beyond. He took the time to meet with every one of his fans, shake everyone’s hand at least twice, and even took the time to talk to all his fans, even at the risk of great discomfort. Plus after he took a short 15min break, Barker’s publicist made the following announcement: “Clive just told me that he’s not leaving tonight until everyone standing in line gets an autograph.” I was in the front of the line, but holy shit … there were literally hundreds and hundreds of people standing in line. It never ceases to amaze me that horror actors, filmmakers, and authors consistently always go out of their way to meet and talk to all their fans. I’ve never felt rushed with any horror celeb I’ve ever met.
I then signed up to get my picture taken with Barker by a professional photographer. I couldn’t resist. Now remember, I met Barker (when he signed my book and poster) on Friday night and the photo op was at 3pm on Saturday. The line went fast and Barker was sitting on a stool and everyone took a turn standing next to him getting a fantastic picture. When it was my turn I walked up to him and I saw his eyes open with recognition. He then said to me, “Are you enjoying that signed 1st Edition of IMAJICA,” and then he winked. I shook his hand again and babbled out some kind of geeky, “I’m so thrilled to meet you again” crap. I was completely amazed that after seeing literally hundreds and hundreds of fans on Friday he remembered signing my copy of IMAJICA and talking about Hapexamendios.
Clive Barker is a 100% class act and someone who deserves his success. He also struck me as having a tragic side: The person in front of me, Ryan, asked Barker what his greatest challenge is when writing. Without hesitating he responded, “Getting out of bed each morning knowing that I have a 12-14 hour day of writing in front of me.” Some people laughed at this answer but I found it very telling. A lot of people think being a professional writer is an easy life; ya write a few hours a day and BAM, you’re a millionaire. Barker’s eyes tell a different story. At that point I just wanted to give him a big hug and thank him for the sacrifices he’s made to create his art and share it with all of us.
Every horror celeb I met at both the 2010 and 2011 Texas Frightmare Weekends have been class acts and great individuals. They’ve all gone outta their way to show their fans how much they appreciate them. But meeting Clive Barker will always stand out as a life-defining moment for me. That might sound overly dramatic but I truly mean it. Barker forever changed the face of horror and re-defined it not just for a new decade (the 1990’s) but for a new millennia. Sure he’s found a great level of success with his art, but looking into his eyes tells a different story; one of a man who has also made a lot of sacrifice to share his art with the world. Barker is a true Horror Renaissance man and I for one am grateful and feel like a better person for having had met him … even if it was only for a very short time. Clive Barker makes this world a more interesting and magical place.
In its time, this, his house had been a place of great souls and great ambition, where all commonplace debate had been banned. If you wanted to talk politics or tittle-tattle you went to the coffee house; if you wanted commerce, to the Exchange. Here only miracles. Here, only the rising of spirit. And yes, love if it was pertinent (which it was so often); and sometimes bloodletting. But never the prosaic, never the trivial. Here the man who brought the strangest tale was the most welcome. Here every excess was celebrated if it brought visions, and every vision analyzed for the hints it held to the nature of the Everlasting.
– Clive Barker; IMAJICA
I’ll never forget my brief encounter with Horror Royalty and I’ll always be indebted to the Texas Frightmare Weekend for making this meeting possible!!