There was a surprising lack of zombies at the Walker Stalker con, a two-day celebration for fans of AMC’s The Walking Dead held at the Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture in San Francisco.
I found plenty of Ricks in sheriff’s uniforms, some Daryls toting toy crossbows, and an utterly disturbing amount of Negans. And a lot of the Negans were little girls, I guess dreaming of the day when they’ll be able to bash peoples’ heads in with a baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire.
Fortunately for me, makeup artists Sabrina Ozuna and Michelle Snyder of Siren SFX of San Jose, Calif., were doing zombie makeovers at their booth near the front of the hall. It was up to me to become the cosplay I was looking for.
Sabrina and Michelle were able to fit me in during a rare lull in business around lunchtime.
“We were slammed yesterday,” Sabrina said.
Now, I figured they were just going to draw some black circles around my eyes, slap some corpse paint on me and call it a day. Michelle ran her fingers past an assortment of latex gashes and wounds, but then she decided to give me the full rotting skull-face treatment. She started by gluing a latex mask to my face right over my beard.
“This is going to hurt like a sonofa___ when it’s time to tear this off,” I thought, but I was willing to suffer for my art.
I sat in the chair for a nearly 90 minutes. Michelle and Sabrina took turns messing up my face, while also applying faux gashes to a steady stream of customers of all ages.
“Bite wounds are really popular today,” Sabrina observed.
A crowd gathered around the table as I started to look more and more ghastly. Many of them had big smiles on their faces, happy to see the namesake of their favorite show, undead and in the flesh. Josh McDermitt, who plays the beloved and be-mulleted Eugene on Walking Dead even let out a “Whoa!” as he shuffled past me on his way to a panel.
After the mask had dried onto my face, the two makeup artists gave me several coats of paint with an airbrush like I was a classic automobile.
“You’re turning out too purple,” Sabrina said. “We ran out of the color we wanted. It’s called dirt and it’s beautiful.”
Michelle later found a color that met with her partner’s approval. The shade was called “The Walking Dead,” because, of course, it was.
As Michelle put the finishing touches on my new face, I noticed an endless version of Don McClean’s American Pie was blasting through the building’s sound system. Chevies were driven to dry levees and good ol’ boys drank whiskey and rye without knowing that those were essentially the same thing.
I rose from the chair, ready to eat brains and take selfies.
“This will be the day that I die,” McClean warbled repeatedly in case we hadn’t heard him the first time. “This will be the day that I die.”
Every month in “Shattering Conventions,” author Bob Calhoun crashes a new tradeshow, convention or conference looking for a way to fit in—even when he doesn't always belong. Calhoun is the author of "Shattering Conventions: Commerce, Cosplay and Conflict on the Expo Floor." You can follow him on Twitter at @bob_calhoun.