Five Years Later: The debacle that was Camp Blood

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AJLe
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Five Years Later: The debacle that was Camp Blood

Post by AJLe » April 13th, 2015, 12:49 pm

I can’t believe it’s been five years, but this show was one big “con” in EVERY sense of the word. For those of you who weren’t into the horror convention genre, here’s a little backstory: Somewhere around late 2009/early 2010, while looking for conventions on the internet, I stumbled upon what appeared to be the Friday the 13th fan equivalent of Woodstock, the Super Bowl, and WrestleMania – the Friday the 30th: Camp Blood convention. This convention, scheduled for August 13, 2010, was going to blow away all other horror cons in terms of guest list size – already boasting 60+ F13 guests (a number that would eventually balloon to over 90), and some of them who were ridiculously rare and had never done a convention before – like Harry Crosby, and Peter Brouwer. The promoter was John Grey, and buzz of this show quickly spread through the horror con message boards of the time. His (long since defunct) con website at FridayThe30th.com was a daily “can’t miss” visit to see what awesome guest he had dug up since. The website boasted corporate logos from New Line Cinema, Paramount, and on the talent side, Convention All-Stars, giving it an obvious feel of legitimacy. The message boards hosted at the (I believe, also defunct) Guts and Gory site, also had a few legit F13 celebs like Ari Lehman and Steve Dash posting about the show. At one point, the show got so big that I calculated that I would end up spending over four-figures on autographs ALONE. That’s not counting airfare, hotel, food, etc., that’s JUST autograph money.

In short, it was going to be THE horror con to end all horror cons! There was only one slight problem: It would turn out to be a total scam.

Looking back with a few more years of “Con” (in both senses of the word) experience, there were several red flags with the guest list alone: First of all, with the show being in Texas, the vast majority of the 60-90 guests would be fly-ins. Other than Chiller and The Hollywood Show, how may cons even book that many guests, let alone fly them all in? Second, the fact that they announced Harry Crosby, who is the son of Bing Crosby and a multi-millionaire investment banker, for his first con should have been a “too good to be true” sign as well.

But the first chinks in the armor came from F13 guests themselves in the months leading up to the show. I remember being at a local con that had Lauren-Marie Taylor and Bill Randolph booked. Randolph asked Lauren-Marie if she had heard about this big Texas con, and she gave him a dead-serious look and said “If you go, make sure you get your money up front.” I wasn’t privy to the rest of their conversation, but it definitely seemed like Lauren-Marie had heard some not-so-positive things about this show. There was another incident when a friend of mine saw Kelly Hu (who was booked for Camp Blood) at a show, said something to her to the effect of “I guess I’ll see you down in Texas”, and she had no idea what show he was talking about. There were also CONSTANT teases of huge new guest announcements (I know Kevin Bacon was repeatedly alluded to, but never officially named), and when the announcement dates would come and go with no news, he would have some lame excuse like he “is still looking for hi-res photos for the website”.

But even though these were other HUGE red flags, there weren’t total deal breakers. Guests have heat with certain cons and promoters, guests aren’t always up to speed with appearances their agents booked them on months down the road, etc. But then odd things started to happen that were much more tangible – In May 2010, fans started posting on the message board that when inquiring about booking rooms, the convention hotel (which was a big hotel right near DFW, IIRC) was telling them there was no convention booked for that weekend. After a day or two of message board chaos, John Grey comes on the board, announcing that the show would be relocating to “Sneaky Pete’s” – an indoor/outdoor banquet hall/restaurant five miles or so away. http://www.sneakypetesonline.com/

The reason he gave for the relocation was that the hotel objected to his announced music acts, and had broken his contract and booked a wedding that weekend instead. I’ve never heard of any other con getting bumped out of a venue three months out for a wedding before. But rest assured, he told us, the con would go off without a hitch, everybody was still booked, etc. People on the message board point out that the new venue has a much smaller capacity than the hotel, but John Grey assures us that guests will be seated both in the main banquet halls and in the adjoining outdoor parts of the venue. In Texas? In August? Sounds like a major logistical mess, and stupid planning, but as long as the guests show up, I can deal with sweating like a pig for a day or two.

Then by late June, people who were “in the know” about the convention scene were pointing out that many/most/all guests had not yet received flights or even signed contracts? This is when a lot of us fans started getting nervous – I’ve never been involved in cons other than as a paying customer, but common sense tells me that it isn’t common practice to advertise people for six months, than wait until the month before the show to start booking flights and sending contracts out. Then celebs (Adrienne King comes to mind) started posting on their own Facebook pages to confirm the fact that they didn’t have contracts yet. John Gray is largely quiet at this point, but a few of his message board sycophants play down the flight/contract stories.

Then in mid-July, people who booked at the NEW hotel, the one near Sneaky Pete’s, start getting emails from the hotel that their reservations have been cancelled due to the show no longer happening. John Gray has some mythical tale about a rival promoter “sabotaging” the show, and cancelling bookings, or some nonsense like that. Then people on the message boards start calling the hotel, and are told that the show is still happening, but at a new date. John Gray calls these people liars, but on July 21, just a little over three weeks before the show was to take place, the FridayThe30th website is updated to show the new dates of the Camp Blood show: May 13-15, 2011. Yes, less than a month before the show, he “postponed” the show nine months. It would have been more merciful to have just cancelled everything at that point, instead of giving some people nine more months of false hope, but John Gray would still insist that the show was happening, and that his critics and conspirators would eventually “have to eat crow” when this awesome show took place.

At this point, all but the truly naïve and gullable had long since seen through John Gray, but the damage had already been done. And people weren’t just getting burned on advance tickets (the show had put tickets on sale 8-9 months prior, so the window to file a CC or Paypal dispute had long passed), there were literally fans who had planned to fly in from England and the Netherlands posting on the message boards, who were now scrambling to change/cancel international flights on a couple of weeks notice. For me personally, I just shortened my stay in Texas, and made a vacation out of it anyway – got to see the Yankees come back from six down and beat Cliff Lee, toured Cowboys Stadium, and saw a F13 Triple Feature (Parts 1, 2 and 3) at the Alamo Drafthouse, so I still had a good time, just not the legendary convention experience I had planned for close to a year.

In the time between the show dates “moving” and the new show dates, the crap really started to hit the fan. Some of the big horror talent agents, namely Erin Gray (no relation to John, lol), started to make a stink, and every day names would magically disappear from the FridayThe30th site. But even though a ton of huge names were now gone (I think “we just have to work out the new dates” was a common John Gray excuse), we were still being told that the show would go on. There were even sob stories about sick relatives, possible divorces, etc. to distract fans from the obvious story that this show wasn’t going to happen – not in August, May, or 2057.

At some point, the webmaster of Guts and Gory (which was hosting both the Camp Blood website in their message boards), posted something that pretty much diplomatically washed his hands of the whole thing and disavowed association with Gray and his show. He deleted the Camp Blood forums, and on the FridayThe30th website, everything was deleted except for a simple “For questions about this show, contact John Gray at [email address]”

Some minor goods did come out of this debacle though: A couple of shows, Days of the Dead in Indianapolis, and another con in New Mexico (both of which had nothing to do with John Gray or Camp Blood), offered free admission to Camp Blood ticketholders as a make-good to fans. MonsterMania then booked their own Friday the 13th super-con in June 2011. Granted, it only had like a quarter to a half of the guest bookings that Camp Blood had, but all of their bookings were actually real, and their show actually took place. And the June 2011 MonsterMania still stands as my all-time favorite convention, and it might never have even gotten booked if it wasn’t for the Camp Blood scam.

There are a few lessons to be learned from this mess: The old “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is” theory is pretty spot-on. Also, if John Gray ever sneaks his way back into the convention scene, assume that everything he says is a lie.

A video clip of the local CBS station in Texas confronting John Gray, and his lame response:


A long (124 page) thread on the old From Dusk Till Con boards about the Camp Blood debacle:
http://www.fromdusktillcon.com/phpbb/vi ... f=31&t=434


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Re: Five Years Later: The debacle that was Camp Blood

Post by crowbar » April 13th, 2015, 1:06 pm

Interesting... I was hoping that this story ended with the con actually happening and being a travesty (IE Dashcon).

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Re: Five Years Later: The debacle that was Camp Blood

Post by Whole F'N Gigantor » April 13th, 2015, 1:11 pm

Well, it's been only 4 years as it occurred in 2011. Honestly this whole situation was f'ed up. John Gray had no shame about the situation, and honestly he's been the least of the worries in the horror community. Around this time, Sean Clark stepped up and took care of a few PR issues and essdentially became a hero and that lead to more promoters trusting him. Good for him.

From what I remember, the MM Friday the 13th show was one of the worst drawing shows in it's history. It also didn't help that Saturday Nightmares was doing their big show in East Rutherford that same weekend.

I was friends with someone at the time who helped facilitate a bunch of guests. The show was a "good intentions" show. But I think it also a quick cash grab . IIRC, it was originally going to be June then it was said to be September and then it went right back to being June.

I heard a rumor, while it was a quick cash grab, Dave was experimenting if he could actually do two a year. Which this show didn't make the money he was hoping, so Dave went back to 3 a year plan, which I still think, from a fans pov, is a little much. Business wise, he's doing fine. I have heard stories that say he's losing his mind and refuses to move because he wants to keep the show small. lol. Ok, if you say so.

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Re: Five Years Later: The debacle that was Camp Blood

Post by Greg2600 » April 13th, 2015, 2:15 pm

Wow, great story, albeit a crappy ending.
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Re: Five Years Later: The debacle that was Camp Blood

Post by AJLe » April 13th, 2015, 2:39 pm

Whole F'N Gigantor wrote:Well, it's been only 4 years as it occurred in 2011.
Well, technically the show never ocurred at all, but the originally advertised dates were definitely August 2010, and then it got "rescheduled" (actually cancelled, but Gray was kayfabing that at the time) for bogus dates in 2011.
Whole F'N Gigantor wrote:Honestly this whole situation was f'ed up. John Gray had no shame about the situation, and honestly he's been the least of the worries in the horror community. Around this time, Sean Clark stepped up and took care of a few PR issues and essdentially became a hero and that lead to more promoters trusting him. Good for him.

From what I remember, the MM Friday the 13th show was one of the worst drawing shows in it's history. It also didn't help that Saturday Nightmares was doing their big show in East Rutherford that same weekend.
I can't vouch for all of the shows before that, but I've personally been to MManias that have drawn MUCH worse. Just about all of the Hunt Valley shows since then have been spun as "smaller shows" and "more intimate", which is a polite way of saying "not many people". I don't know the finances of how much it cost to bring that many people in vs how much money he made, so maybe it was a case of "least profitable", but in terms of simply number of paying fans in the building, it is nowhere near his lowest drawing show.

And I did the double-shot and hit up Saturday Nightmares on the way home on Sunday. Granted, it was a Sunday, but that show didn't really draw a ton of people either, and the only F13 guests, IIRC, were Savini, Gillette, and Manfrendini.
Whole F'N Gigantor wrote:I was friends with someone at the time who helped facilitate a bunch of guests. The show was a "good intentions" show. But I think it also a quick cash grab . IIRC, it was originally going to be June then it was said to be September and then it went right back to being June.
I don't know any behind the scenes stuff, but IIRC the fall Hunt Valley show was always going to happen (and ultimately did), and the F13 show in June was an "add on" type thing. I think pretty much all conventions are "cash grabs", so I don't know why this one would be any different. All I know is that barring 3 cancellations, one of which was made known a week before the show, everybody he advertised showed up, so regardless of whatever his motivations for doing it were, he delivered on a great show. There were several rare guests who still haven't been booked anywhere else since that show.
Whole F'N Gigantor wrote:I heard a rumor, while it was a quick cash grab, Dave was experimenting if he could actually do two a year. Which this show didn't make the money he was hoping, so Dave went back to 3 a year plan, which I still think, from a fans pov, is a little much. Business wise, he's doing fine. I have heard stories that say he's losing his mind and refuses to move because he wants to keep the show small. lol. Ok, if you say so.
If he was more creative with his bookings, he could easily run another show or two. The problem is, he fell into a Walking Dead/Robert Englund/Batman Show/The Crow/Etc. rut where he was booking a lot of the same people, often even at back-to-back shows alternating between Cherry Hill and Hunt Valley, as if it was two entirely different markets. Between F13 and NOES alone, you have close to 20 films, so you could do a quality reunion of one major franchise film a show, and still have it fresh basically forever. But other than maybe the huge-draw fanboy names like Reedus, next to nobody can draw in the same general area on back to back shows a couple of months apart, yet Hagan fell in love with the Cherry Hill/Hunt Valley reruns for a while, and it definitely seemed to hurt Hunt Valley a lot more than it hurt Cherry Hill.


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Re: Five Years Later: The debacle that was Camp Blood

Post by class316 » April 13th, 2015, 11:01 pm

WOW quite the story. I am shocked Fridaythe30th never made it into this board. I too was initially expecting this con to happen in some form, but with a lot of let downs, ie no shows, cluster fucks, etc. I'm pretty sure if :joresky: were posting here at the time we would have had a thread about it.

Look AJle, here's a trip down memory lane for you. I found the site on the Internet way back machine.

Guest list: http://web.archive.org/web/200907261334 ... e30th.com/

Buy tickets: http://web.archive.org/web/201008251015 ... ickets.htm

The site with just his email: http://web.archive.org/web/201106150450 ... e30th.com/

More @ http://web.archive.org/web/201105010000 ... he30th.com

Money in an escrow account. Wow what a lie :smh: One thing I've noticed about scammers, it is in their blood to lie. Just like some people need drugs, some people need cigarettes, some are alcoholics, some just have to lie. They cannot help it. Event if they tell the truth they have to insert a lie into it. For instance when Rick Dyer (the guy who toured a Big Foot named Hank that he supposedly shot) admitted that Hank is a total fake, he still said "I really did shoot a Big Foot, but that's not it"

Good on all those horror cons for giving free admission to victims of this scam. I pity those who got stuck with airline tickets. I wonder if this guy got away with the scam. Although the money for admission that people would have paid him is just a drop in the bucket compared to travel costs that would have been lost.

Tell me something AJLe, did you buy tickets to that show? If so which ticket did you buy?

Also, would you have really dropped 4K on autos? Do you even have that kind of money to blow away :haeh2: not trying to mock you or anything just legit curiosity questions
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Re: Five Years Later: The debacle that was Camp Blood

Post by class316 » April 13th, 2015, 11:43 pm

class316 wrote: Also, would you have really dropped 4K on autos? Do you even have that kind of money to blow away :haeh2: not trying to mock you or anything just legit curiosity questions
I mean 4 figured, not 4K
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Re: Five Years Later: The debacle that was Camp Blood

Post by AJLe » April 13th, 2015, 11:49 pm

class316 wrote: Look AJle, here's a trip down memory lane for you. I found the site on the Internet way back machine.

Guest list: http://web.archive.org/web/200907261334 ... e30th.com/

Buy tickets: http://web.archive.org/web/201008251015 ... ickets.htm

The site with just his email: http://web.archive.org/web/201106150450 ... e30th.com/

More @ http://web.archive.org/web/201105010000 ... he30th.com
The scary thing is, I'm pretty sure that archived guest list probably features a few cancellations already. It already had the fake "postponed" 2011 dates on it, and off the top of my head, I definitely remember Peter Brouwer, Dana Kimmell, Kimberly Beck, and Steve Dash being listed at some point previously. I don't remember the exact number, but at its peak, I'm pretty sure they had over 90 people "booked".

And looking back, I don't know what amazes me more - how many people on that guestlist I've been able to get (which is significant), or how many people on that list have NEVER gotten booked anywhere - which is a smaller number, but still more than you'd think over five years of convention bookings.
class316 wrote:Good on all those horror cons for giving free admission to victims of this scam. I pity those who got stuck with airline tickets. I wonder if this guy got away with the scam. Although the money for admission that people would have paid him is just a drop in the bucket compared to travel costs that would have been lost.
That's what was truly crappy about waiting until right before the show to cancel - even if he HAD done the right thing and refunded all of the ticket money, people still would have been screwed on airfare. Even if the airline lets you cancel and get a credit for the fare, most airlines charge over a hundred bucks to make changes to your itinerary, so you're still losing money. And I'm just talking domestic flights - I can't imagine the hell the poor dude from the Netherlands went through with his airline.
class316 wrote:Tell me something AJLe, did you buy tickets to that show? If so which ticket did you buy?

Also, would you have really dropped 4K on autos? Do you even have that kind of money to blow away :haeh2: not trying to mock you or anything just legit curiosity questions
I bought the Platinum tickets, which I believe were $90. WIth the graph money, I'm certainly not rich, but with close to a year to plan ahead, I could certainly save up enough money to do a show like this once in a while. If a show with that many wants suddenly popped up this weekend with no notice, I'd be pretty much SOL, but with a year to save up, that's a different story.

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Re: Five Years Later: The debacle that was Camp Blood

Post by Shiningstar » April 14th, 2015, 1:29 pm

i attended TX Fear Fest the year before this event was to take place..i though it was a great con (with the exception of the "pro" photographer they had..many of the pro ops with Robert Englund with Freddy Claw was dark..my friend got a really dark print..but for some reason he didnt mind!) was hoping this one would be great..with all the drama going down..it didnt take place :(


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