As a follow up to our special interview with Jake Grimbrother, the co-founder of Shock Stock, it only seemed appropriate that the next Deadhouse Interview be with his partner in crime, the toe crackin’ master himself, James “Bilo” Bialkowski.
If you’ve ever met the man, you know of his craziness, and for those of you who don’t….well, you’re in for a treat. Consider this part two of our Shock Stock coverage, which will more than likely include some recaps of this year’s forthcoming events. I may try and throw some other ideas around, but in the meantime, let’s get to the man they call Bilo.
First off, tell fans of the site a little about yourself.
James Bialkowski: I’m the guy that’s rockin’ your old lady while you’re getting drunk watching the hockey game with your buddies at the bar.
How did you first get into horror and grindhouse?
James: Being a kid raised in the 70s and 80s I was always a sucker for advertising – I’d see, hear and read about these movies via their campy media ads and it got my pre-pube blood pumpin’. Back in those days London had 3-4 good drive-ins. I’d be stuck in the PG section but it didn’t take much to look across the parking lot to see some giant titties and blood being played on the 2nd screen. Home video was the final hit of crack that I needed and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Many years ago, you and Cliff created Vagrancy Films. How did that come to be?
James: Cliff and I worked together at a Jumbo Video in the early 90s. In those days he was a real movie snob while I was a cheese hound. He moved to Toronto and that was it….I just assumed he was gone forever. Then 10 years later he came back to town and I’d hook him up with bootlegs. He’d pay with cash sometimes, or with credit at the local massage parlours but I didn’t care. I was happy to have him back.
One night I was sauced downtown out front of the Capital and we came up with the crazy idea to rent out an entire cinema and show a movie we always wanted to see on film on the big screen. The Rainbow gave us a space and we showed up with an uncut print of Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2. Close to 300 people bought tickets and the rest my friend is history. We did 1-2 shows per month for close to 5 years straight in those days. Christ, half the shit we played I’ve almost forgotten already but I know everyone always had a good time.
That crazy fuck Jake Grimbrother showed up at that first show. He ate a Tupperware bowl full of beef tripe, egg yolk and hot sauce just to get some DVD-Rs – THE FUTURE IS NOW!
What was your main inspiration to create Shock Stock?
James: To do a show on our terms without having to answer to someone else.
As many people know, Shock Stock is a much more intimate affair than the craziness of some of the bigger cons. Was that always the plan and will it stay that way, or do you hope to expand the weekend?
James: I’d love to see the show outgrow its current venue but I gotta be realistic, this is London here. 2013 was the year SHOCK went from a kind of flea market curiosity to actually looking and feeling like a real deal established horror con.
Who would be your dream guest for Shock Stock?
James: Dream guests you mean…
BREAKIN’ reunion! Lucinda Dickey, Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers and of course Shabba Doo. Wait, BREAKIN’s not a horror movie? Wait, WHO GIVES A FUCK! I’ve tried many times to try and get Lucinda to come to our crazy party but alas… she broke my heart just like she did in the 8th grade. “All I need is to get my boogie down”.
As I asked Jake, who has been your favorite guest over the years? And who was the most difficult?
James: Favorite? Jeez, Dyanne Thorne and her hubby Howard Mauer were amazing. So kind, so charming. Naomi Grossman and I still stay in touch and I consider her a really good friend after Shock Stock but the worst…. I won’t say ‘cause I’m not someone to kiss and tell (yeah right!) but we did have one guest who asked us to do all her photos, signed off on them and then said she didn’t authorize them so I threw them in the trash right in front of her. Not to mention she stayed a few extra days in the hotel but hey….I’ll let people guess.
What were your thoughts on continuing Shock Stock after the low turnout of the initial event?
James: Shock Stock I was the best received least attended convention of 2011. It’s easy to throw blame around…. First the Hilton Hotel fucked us and we were forced to change the date, we put it together in less than four months, but like you said it didn’t come together in terms of attendance. We sold out a screening of The Evil Dead but like 80% of the audience was fucking clueless to the fact that the cast was in town all weekend signing autographs and meeting fans. Not sure where things fell apart in terms of how we promoted it.
As the main guest booker of the show, how have you maintained the balance of bigger stars more known to the public, and the guests that bring in the diehard horror community?
James: Not sure I have actually… Every year people seem to post how happy they are with who we got but there’s always a few sour dingleberries who want guests that we will never book. I should note that most of these people who complain about who we book don’t even go to Shock Stock.
How incredible was it for you as a fan to be able to put together the Goblin show in 2012?
James: A lot has been said about that show but for me the actual gig was eclipsed by Jake and I actually doing shots of Patron in the penthouse of Station Park (the official Hotel partner of Shock Stock). The initial plan was just autographs and perhaps a quick set…. The idea of a full show came together as the months progressed and I was stoked it all came together.
Finally, what would you say to the “sad sacks” who are still on the fence about Shock Stock?
James: Seeing as most of them live in Toronto, I’d ask them if they’d ever heard of a car, bus or train!
Well, there you have it. I want to thank both James and Jake for taking time out of their busy schedules to speak with me and give the fans an insight into the madness they both contain as they go about making Shock Stock such an incredible and memorable event each and every year.
Once again, if you haven’t gotten your tickets (and what the hell are you waiting for?!?) you can grab them by going to The Official Scumbags Page and remember, this year’s event is only a few short weeks away. See you all there, and Long Live The Horror!