You have operated Video Wasteland for many years. Could you explain
what Video Wasteland is for the readers?
The answer to that question is a bit complex, but here goes. Video
Wasteland started in 1987. Every city at that time had their own
independent, or “mom and pop” video stores and we had some really well
stocked stores in and around Cleveland. I would trade used video tapes
with other collectors around the country. Like any enterprising guy
working an endless series of crappy jobs, if I couldn’t trade with
somebody, I’d happily sell them a copy of whatever I had for a couple of
bucks profit and use that money to buy more videos that stores were
It was right around 1990 when I noticed that the chain stores were
really starting to put the mom and pop video stores out of business. I had
a room full of VHS tapes, laser discs, and thanks to friends overseas, PAL
(foreign) tapes. I had the idea to start a video store that rented out
nothing but “drive-in” stuff and cater to more of a niche market since
you could go to any sterile chain store and rent mainstream films. I have
no idea how it originally came to me, but with mom and pop stores starting
to shut down left and right and me doing a good business selling video
tapes, I struck on the idea to rent video by mail and just make it a part
time job for extra money. I worked the early shift at a print shop at the
time, so I was home by 3:30 pm in the afternoon and figured I could have
phone hours from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm. The Video Wasteland Rent-By-Mail
Service was off and running.
Over time, more and more merchandise was added to the mix and we
started selling original movie posters and collectibles. Eventually DVD
took over video and we were selling more stuff than renting video through
the mail so we started to phase out the rental end of business until we
finally closed it down in 2002 or 2003. By this time, we changed the our
name to Cinema Wasteland to better represent a broader selection of stuff
we sold rather than just a 4x7” black plastic box with some tape inside
Your annual film fest and horror movie fan gathering up in
Cleveland has lasted several years. How long have you done this?
Before I even got started with the VHS thing in 1987, I attended
various conventions within a few hours of home. At the time, there
wasn’t a generic horror convention in every city or every weekend of the
year. There were comic book shows, film and collectible shows where I’d
pick up the merchandise we sold through the mail, western shows, and just
a couple of fan conventions geared towards horror and sci-fi films. I
attended and enjoyed all but the western shows since I wasn’t much
interested in the 1920s, 30’s and 40s Hollywood westerns. I loved the
others and especially enjoyed traveling to the very few horror movie show
where you could meet up with a few actors, show the vendor’s room, and
drink away the night with friends. The only problem was that most of the
conventions were slap dash affairs and not very organized. They opened at
10 am in the morning and closed at 5 pm in the evening with nothing to do
until the next day in between. I’d complain to friends that they needed
to offer fans more to do for their admission money. They’d tell me to
“run my own show” and the seed was planted. As the rental end of
business started to slow down when DVD hit the market I figured why not
run a drive-in movie show that celebrated the same things I always
celebrated with my video rental service and represented the merchandise I
The Cinema Wasteland Movie and Memorabilia Expo started to become
reality in late 1998. By this time there were six or seven different
horror movie shows running around the country that I knew of and attended
but no show that celebrated all the things that made the drive-in and
drive-in movies so much fun to me all my life. Seemed my little B movie
niche was still my little B movie niche, so I started looking for a venue
in the Cleveland area. I wanted to run a hotel show that offered
everything I liked about the shows I attended for the past 15 or 20 years
but put my own spin on things and make sure films and events lasted all
day and night. No downtown hotels though. Parking should be free and it
should be close to the highway and food. Everything fell together and we
held our first show in September 2000 at the Holiday Inn in Strongsville,
Ohio. Now, here we are 16 years and 30 shows later at the same hotel. And
we’re still the only show in the country that celebrates the drive-in
era. It was a niche market show when it started but these days it’s
known world wide and fans come from every part of the world to attend our
three day weekends.
I assume you have some great stories to tell surrounding the
I do. An entire books worth if I get started. By doing our own thing
for so long, I’ve held reunions for movies that no other promoter would
think of running, had so many guests that have never done a convention
before, and I was able to get all of my mentors in this business to my show
at one time or another so they could see for themselves what it is I do
here in Cleveland. It’s certainly not rocket science to promote and run
a film show, but you have to stick to your guns to put your personal stamp
on it or you’ll look like dozens of conventions we set up as vendors at
that have zero personality. I’ve done two or three shows in a row more
times than I cold count over the years and by the end of the third show, I
couldn’t tell you what shows we just did. They all look and feel exactly
the same to me and none of them seem to try very hard as long as they can
draw attendance enough to pay the bills. Not trying to look or feel any
other convention out there is all I really ever try to accomplish with a
Cinema Wasteland show. Regulars tell me I’ve accomplished that in spades, but I’ll
keep giving it my best all the same.
You have brought in some big names in the horror industry?
It’s a B movie show, so I’ve had a ton of what fans would
consider big names in the B movie end of things. Several of the
groundbreaking producers and directors from the 1960’s and1970’s - the
only true time the independents ruled Hollywood - have done my show. Guys
like David Friedman, Herschell Gordon Lewis [Herschell
Gordon Lewis bio - click here], Bill Grefe' and Ted V. Mikels
were all mentors to me and legends in their own right. They taught me
showmanship and how to “sell the sizzle” to the fans. They’re big
names to somebody like me and fans of the drive-in. But I’ve also been
able to attract people I’d consider mainstream actors. People regular
film fans would know. Actors like William Forsyth and Steve Railsback have
also done my show and had themselves a good time.
You have also brought in several independent company people?
Far too many to count. That’s the nature of the show I run and a Cinema Wasteland
show has become a mecca for independent film makers, actors, and
production companies. A Cinema Wasteland show is like the infamous
San Diego Comic-Con… only on their catering budget. We don’t attract thousands of fans
all wanting to catch a peek of the next gazillion dollar superhero movie.
We attract hundreds of people all wanting to make their own movie for a
couple thousand bucks and the people who work on those types of films.
Yet you have never acted in or produced your own horror films?
My own film? No. Although I’ve written a couple of scripts over the
years and almost sold one or two of them, I enjoy the other end of the
camera, and have worked as a sound, video, and film editor on various
projects for other people for over 30 years now. I’ve had small roles in
several indy productions dating all the way back to my high school years.
Seems I get a call whenever somebody needs a big guy to play the monster,
the killer, or a heavy in a small role since I can’t commit a ton of
time to these things but can always find a day or two to help out. And I
have appeared as myself in documentaries, DVD extras, and TV shows. But
no, I’ve never made or produced my own little indie film. I’ve taken my
chance at losing my investment money on starting my own business, running
my B movie film show, publishing a couple of books and various other ways
over the years.
Who are your favorite personalities in the horror realm?
I’ve made a ton of friends over the years. Everyone from behind-the-scenes people to make-up artists, producers, and actors. But when it comes
to “personalities” nobody can touch the pioneers who created what
we’ve all come to love about the heyday of the drive-in’s. Although I
only met him a few times, Sam Arkoff (AIP) was a one-of-a-kind
personality. Roger Corman [Roger
Corman bio - click here] is always worth meeting if you get the chance,
and mentors like Ted V. Mikels and the team of David Friedman and
Herschell Lewis [Herschell
Gordon Lewis bio - click here] - the pair that made the first “gore film” when they
unleashed Blood Feast on the world in 1964 - were always willing to take
time out of their day for “that film kid from Cleveland”.
What people would you like to bring in that have not been
brought to the fest yet?
As the Cinema Wasteland Movie and Memorabilia Expo heads towards it’s
20th anniversary, I’m amazed at just who I keep finding that fits the
show and has never done an appearance of this type before. Surprising
myself at the people I uncover is half the fun, so I’ll just keep on
keeping on and surprising myself at who I next get to talk to.
What is the webpage url?
All things wasteland can be found at:
You were also a big wrestling fan at one time, but have lost
interest in this? Why?
I’ve been a wrestling fan since I was a kid way back in the late
1960’s and watched IWA wrestling on local TV. Then it was Florida and
Georgia in the late 70’s when me and my brother would chip in to pay for
cable TV every month, and then WWF in the early 1980’s. Wrestling
started to lose me for the first time in the late 80’s when Vince
McMahon put everyone in stupid face paint and silly bright colors. I
picked up wrestling again in the early 90’s with ECW (first Eastern,
then Extreme Championship Wrestling). WCW sucked but WWF was on a roll in
the mid-1990’s through the early 2000’s, and then they lost me again
when they started losing all of the guys that made them so much fun to
watch during that last big “era”. These days, I click wrestling on
every once in a while to see if it catches my attention, but so far, I
haven’t been able to get back into it. I just don’t like the fact that
they spend so little time wrestling and so much time acting like a bad
Popularity-wise do you see wrestling as on its way down and
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Sure, the ratings are down and the numbers are there for everyone to
see, but as long as there are 10 to 16 year old boys, there will be a
market for whatever crap Vince McMahon or whoever gets a TV time slot is
Anything else you would like to add to this interview?
I’ve been in the “movie” or “memorabilia” business for 29
years now. I never actually set out to start or become a business yet here
I am almost thirty years later changing with the times and still enjoying
myself more now than the 18 years I worked for somebody else. Sure, like
so many other small business people I know, I’m just one major illness
away from bankruptcy but if given the chance, I wouldn’t change a thing
with my life and what it's become. I’ve had so many opportunities I never
thought possible with what I do, have met and become friends with so many
talented people, and continue to set goals for myself that I strive to
reach every day. I got lucky.
Never let anybody tell you “that won’t work” or “how in the
hell are you going to make a living doing that?” Life is short. Make the
most of it!
Thanks for the interview