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Monday, July 17, 2017

George Romero

George Romero died. These are words that I knew I would eventually have to write but never wanted to. I found out when my wife called me to let me know. God bless her she knew I would be upset and wanted to either be the first to tell me or make sure I was okay. The world is a little less tolerable today than it was yesterday.

There are people who knew Romero and will have great personal stories. But like most of us I only knew him thru the movies that he made. I remember staying up late to watch Night of the Living Dead when I was younger. It was a staple on most of the late shows due to being public domain. That is the movie that got me hooked on zombies and Romero. As I got older I discovered Dawn of the Dead and later Day of the Dead. These weren’t just horror movies. They had a message and characters that made you pay attention to more than just the gore or scares. He cared about the story he was telling and made us care.

Over the years I’ve discovered that I experience movies differently than most people do. When I find a movie that I like I tend to watch it again and again. Each time is a distinct experience that I’ll remember the next time I watch. When I watch Night of the Living Dead I’m not just seeing the familiar characters on the screen, but also remembering all the good memories I’ve made while seeing it. I remember sitting on the couch with my Dad during one of the many late shows. There was also the time I piled a couple of my friends in a car and drove all the way out to Vandergrift Pennsylvania to see it on 16 mm at a drive-in. It was a cold, rainy evening and it played with three other movies including Romero’s The Crazies. This was such a great night.

Dawn of the Dead is my favorite movie and I’ve watched it a couple hundred times. I get some strange looks when I tell people that, but it is true. When my wife asked me what I wanted to do for our fifteenth wedding anniversary I said, “Go to the Monroeville Mall”. For the uninitiated, this is the mall where they shot the movie. Five years later for our twentieth when she asked me guess where we ended up? She is a lovely and patient woman who understands me or at least tries to.

One of the best days of my life.
A few years ago I did get to meet Romero when he did an appearance at a Tattoo parlor in Pittsburgh. A good friend of mine let me know the event was happening and again my lovely wife agreed to the three plus hour road trip. I’ve been to a lot of conventions and met a dozens of people involved in my favorite movies. I also used to do a podcast for my old website and have had many phone conversations both before and after the interviews. I’m not the kind of guy that gets star struck or nervous. But when I saw him sitting on a couch with Tom Savini talking to fans and signing stuff I froze. I was in awe of him and never got to tell him how much his movies meant to me. Even when he tried to talk to me about the other signatures I had on my posters I could barely spit out any words. He had a longer conversation with my wife then with me.

So now we are living in a world where there will never be another Romero movie. Where his fans can’t ever let him know how much enjoyment he has given them. There won’t be another interview with a new tidbit about an old favorite film. On a personal note, the next time I watch Night, Dawn, or Day will be the first time after he died. That isn’t a memory that I ever wanted to add.

© Copyright 2017 John Shatzer

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