My brain clicked off again.

It was nearing one am, and I still hadn’t met Tarantino or Rodriguez. I hadn’t seen Cameron or the gang in a couple of hours either. By this point, I was well lit, feeling physically how the entire event had seemed to me mentally.

Time skips ahead for me now, and suddenly I’m standing on a couch, leaning against the armrest and talking to Quentin. I don’t know how I got here, transported near the door and actually hanging out with the man. And I honestly don’t remember what we were talking about, only that he was on his way out, flanked by Chris, Jason Ralph and Cameron, and I was grabbing him before he left. “I wanted to say that my wife and I—“

“Amy Lynn Best?” he said.

“Yes, right,” I said—fuck it; there was no reason to continue getting weirded out at this point. “We put together a care package of movies shot in Pittsburgh, ours and a few others.”

Tarantino actually paused and shook my hand again. “Dude, that’s the coolest thing anyone’s ever done for me. I cannot fucking wait. Thank you!”

Then he was gone and a few minutes later we’d be leaving too.

I don’t remember how we got home—or, rather, to my parents house. We live an hour outside of Pittsburgh and there was no way either of us would be able to drive that far, as lit as we both were.

I don’t remember much beyond the Tarantino handshake.

We regrouped the next morning and made our way towards the CamOp offices the next morning, both of us wearing our gratis “Land of the Dead” t-shirts. The surreality had followed us into the daylight of the next morning. The premiere was on the cover of every paper. At the few stores we stopped in, people stopped us and asked us if we’d been there last night.

“Did you see any of those famous people?” they asked.

“Yeah,” we replied, without elaborating. The memories were still too flimsy. We didn’t want to give them away.

Part of me, and I’m vaguely ashamed to admit this, felt a little above it all. I was in a Big Lots in a rundown suburb of Pittsburgh, buying a soda and recovering from being a minor celebrity myself. My head was still ringing from the previous night’s revelry. I didn’t want to share it with anyone who wasn’t there. It was like I had just been initiated into a secret society. In actuality, as reality would slowly descend later and reveal itself to me, I had been a guy who attended a big party with 800 or so other people. But at that moment, I was still feeling a little like royalty, so sue me for the arrogance. When would I feel this way again?

Cameron never made it to the office that day. He and the others would end up at Greg Nicotero’s parents’ house later that evening, to send off the A-Listers. Though I never got to meet Rodriguez, I didn’t feel cheated. How could I?

Cam did tell me a couple of days later that he, Jason, Chris and Quentin had hung out on the roof of Déjà vu for an hour that night, smoking cigars and escaping the crowds. Quentin quizzed them on the buildings, lit up for the night. Pittsburgh has a beautiful skyline, it can’t be denied. Cameron pointed out one of the hospitals, and to Quentin, it was like a Christmas tree. “See, hospitals can look magical if they’re lit right,” he said. “Fuck, I have to shoot a movie here.”

Quentin told Cameron that he’d gotten caught up in the entire night too. So had Robert and the others. They hadn’t been celebrities in that audience; they’d been fans. They’d come as fans to see “Land of the Dead” with the creator—just as the rest of us had. The entire premiere, courtesy of CamOp, had become the great equalizer. For 80 minutes, everyone in that room, whether they’d walked in that way or not, was nothing more than a zombie-movie geek. The next day, we were writers, or janitors, or millionaire filmmakers, or website designers, or phone company employees or whatever the hell we were in our Clark Kent disguises.

But the night before, we were laying our tithing at the feet of the man who had created something that hadn’t existed before him—whether I’m referring to the “zombie genre” as we know it now, or simply the movie “Land of the Dead”, it doesn’t really matter. It was a shared experience that will probably rattle in our brains the rest of our lives.

Pittsburgh had never seen something like that before. It may never see something like that again. This is what I’m talking about when I refer to it as history.

[Special thanks goes out to Eric Molinaris from Tom Savini’s Special Effects Make-Up Program, and the outstanding students Kevin Kirkpatrick, Ryan Cooke, Katie Etchill, Travis Escamilla, Tim Estes, Nathan Montalvo, Liz Oliveri, Melissa Corrado, Selenia Rios, Rich Staib, Chris Callihan, Jerry Gergely and Francine Mendicino]

Photos courtesy of CamOp.

Posted on July 19, 2005 in Features by

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