We all have those people we always would have wanted to meet, people who have done great work in the military, politics, public service, and of course, those who influence us in the realm of fiction and imagination. Being an aspiring storyteller, one director who has been a great influence on me is John Carpenter. I had been wanting to meet Carpenter for some time, and yesterday marked a satisfying conclusion to that quest spanning some six years.
Not only is Carpenter an auteur of the horror genre with such classics as Halloween and The Thing, but he has also explored romance with Starman, comedy with Big Trouble In Little China, action with Escape From New York, satire with They Live, and suspense with Assault on Precinct 13. Carpenter is easily in my top ten favorite directors, nestled alongside other masters such as Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, and Hayao Miyazaki. I came close to meeting the director before, but sadly missed my chance back in college.
I had started to frequent horror film conventions in high school and soon found myself going to a little place called HorrorHound. At such places, I met figures like Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Lance Henrisken, even Jamie Lee Curtis. One convention however, I missed the chance to get my ticket. I think it may have been school, concerns about money. For whatever reason, I just didn’t pick up that ticket while I had the chance. The star guest at that convention was John Carpenter.
I didn’t exactly feel dejected. I had assumed there would be another chance. After-all he was only 63. What could possibly happen? At that time I don’t think it had quite sunk in that life, sadly, has an expiration date.
The last few years were eventful, from graduating college, to starting my book, to moving out of the country and into the city. Our friend over at Monster Legacy was even lucky enough to catch one of Carpenter’s live shows on his recent musical tour. However, last year I began to wonder if my chance to meet the director had passed me by. I blew the chance, I thought. That was my one opportunity to meet Carpenter and I’ll never get it again.
Then I got a message on social media. Carpenter was appearing at The Grove in Los Angeles to sign copies of the recently released book on the making of Big Trouble In Little China, possibly my favorite film by the director.
I think what persuaded me to take the chance was the passing of Leah Adler, mother to another favorite director Steven Spielberg. I frequented Leah’s restaurant, having eaten there some five or six times I had planned to go again upon the completion of my seventh draft of my novel to celebrate. I figured it would be a better idea to wait and not spend too much money. I also had a fantasy of taking my family to the restaurant and meeting the hostess. Neither of those things will ever happen. Ironically, I missed those opportunities for the same reason I missed meeting Carpenter back in college.
Was that just who I was, I wondered? Was I just the kind of guy who played it safe?
Yesterday I finally threw my arms up with a resounding “Fuck it.” In death Leah taught me it was okay to take a chance, to fly off the handle and just go for it every once in a while. Yesterday I went for it. I rolled up a poster, brought a couple of copies of the book for some friends, and called into work. I took the day off.
I left for The Grove at eight twenty and waited for the next six hours. I explored some of the stores, got a ten dollar bag of candy, jotted down some notes on various books and scripts, and waited. I could barely sit still as the clock ticked ever closer to two o’clock. Perhaps I had missed something and wouldn’t be able to meet him after all. Something had to go wrong, right?
No. On this day everything went right. I was towards the front of the line on account of being early. It was moving fast so it would only be a few moments for us to speak while he signed the books and poster.
There was a question I always wanted to ask Carpenter.
“When are the Coupe De Villes having a comeback tour?” For those who don’t know, that is Carpenter’s band which he had with Nick Castle (who played the killer in Halloween) and Tommy Lee Wallace (who went on to direct Halloween III and It). The trio are referenced numerous times in Carpenter’s films, and even did the incredibly fun theme song for Big Trouble In Little China.
Carpenter laughed and said “Nah man. We’re too old.”
He signed my poster and books. I told him thank you and wished him a pleasant day, and he wished me the same. In an unexpected perk, I was able to get a quick picture taken with the director to commemorate our brief encounter.
I know I’m still young at twenty eight years old, but the last few years have been urgent and fearful for me. I am about a third of the way done with the ride that is life, maybe a little more, maybe a little less depending on the choices I make. But I head towards death with not the same optimism I once had. As chances pass my by in life I really wonder if that is the end and no other opportunities will present themselves.
What happened yesterday taught me that there is such a thing as second chances. If I can get a second chance at meeting as talented an artist as John Carpenter, who knows what other opportunities will present themselves? I just need to keep my eye out and do what I did yesterday, and not be afraid to seize those moments.