By midlandsmovies, Apr 2 2017 04:55PM
Midlands Movies Mike heads to The Warriors UK Conclave Event in Birmingham.
About ten to fifteen years ago I was in London one night with my good friend Ralph Sinclair when, after a heavy night out, we grabbed some dirty takeaway and headed back to his flat to see out the night. “Have you seen this?” he asked as he held up a DVD copy of The Warriors. “No”, I replied and he shoved it in the player.
Well, 90 minutes later and I had found one of my favourite cult films of all time. Maybe because we had staggered our own way back across London but Walter Hill’s 1979 classic will always have a special place in my heart.
And I’m not the only one by any means. The film is loved by fans all over the globe and is one of the few films (not yet) saddled with a “modern” remake or reboot. With this worldwide affection, it was therefore great to see that the cast were heading to the Midlands for a convention in Birmingham.
Organised by Victor Wright of UK Conclave, a local fan-group, the event was scheduled to start on April 1st and this was no joke.
So I decided to head down. And who should come with me? None other than the kind friend who introduced me to the film in the first place. Grabbing my partner in crime Ralph Sinclair, we met at Birmingham’s Bullring before navigating the short bus ride out to Edgbaston cricket stadium for the event.
The cricket ground was slightly a strange location but its large function rooms provided much space for the attendees and from the outset the fans gathered. Maybe cricket aficionados at the ground could taunt certain visitors with “Warwickshire – come out to play-ay!!” Joking aside, we got there early around 10am and after sorting tickets we entered the venue to see what was on offer.
Even though the doors had been open for a mere hour the friendly and helpful crew informed us that the Warriors jackets merchandise had already sold out. Already sold out? It was 10am! And as we walked in we could see why. The Warriors fans are obsessed and I’m proud to be one of them. It feels like you’re in an underground gang and like Ralph did to me all those years ago, you only show the film to those you trust and think would like it.
After a walk around we saw the main cast which included Michael Beck (Swan), Dorsey Wright (Cleon), David Harris (Cochise), Thomas Waites (Fox), Terence Michos (Vermin), Brian Tyler (Snow), Deborah Van Valkenburgh (Mercy) and Kondrad Sheehan (from The Punks – the roller-skating gang). I went to speak to the organiser Vic who was a difficult man to track down. Being the fan I am a decided to buy a t-shirt. The guy who sold me it was incredibly passionate about the event, explaining that fans from all over Europe had been here. I thanked him and later find out the man is none other than Vic himself!
So how did such an event come to be I asked?
“Well, I was at another convention and met Michael Beck. He kindly signed my collections of Warriors comics”, explains Vic. “We got chatting and stayed in touch and after years of planning various events myself, I spoke to him about the possibility of a get together in England. This was their first ever visit as a group and I was inspired by their recent reunion in Coney Island in 2015.”
The lines for signatures and photos were long but moved swiftly and those sold-out jackets were getting a pummelling from the stars’ pens. As we moved around the convention there were plenty of stalls, fans and cosplayers enjoying all the delights. From cupcakes to posters, the event even had a smattering of people getting the Warriors logo as a tattoo! We watched as one fan headed to http://www.bigwillstattoos.co.uk (based locally in Lichfield) to get the wings added to his back. A huge fan indeed!
The costumes were great and Vic had secured original Warriors vests used in the movie as well as a selection of original, foreign and alternative posters designed for the movie’s promotion, anniversaries and by fan artists as well. The crowd had their own costumes and not just Warriors wannabes too. We saw a Baseball Fury, a couple of folk from the Electric Eliminators (with appropriate yellow jacket and patches) and two brave folk as the purple waistcoat-wearing Boppers. One guy could have been in The Orphans with his green t-shirt and ripped blue jeans but I suspect that was just coincidence. With my hairline I suggested we should have got hold of a motorised cart and gone as the Turnbull ACs but our prep time was short.
What else was there? Well there was a full 2-day programme of sessions and although we couldn’t attend them all we decided to head across to an actor’s workshop hosted by Thomas Waites. The workshop was already underway when we arrived and we entered the room to find all the participants lying on the floor with the lights out. The room was the size of a leisure centre hall and we lay down with them to find out what it was all about. I thought it may have been a mix of tales from the set alongside helpful hints about staying focused, night-shooting and how to approach action. However, Thomas focused more on relaxation techniques and being “at one” with yourself. As the participants fed back their experience of his meditation technique, the “cult circle” he had created was certainly one of the weirder experiences of the day.
Funnily enough we later saw him practising the same meditation techniques at his signature stand. We noticed his head popping out from behind his desk as he lay on the floor with his eyes closed. Certainly an eccentric character, it should be noted that this is the actor who fell out so badly with the director he was booted off the film. He’s certainly calmer today, that’s for sure!
During a break, we returned to the stalls and Ralph decided to experience the “3-D Parrot” – a company that scans your body and creates a lifelike statuette of yourself. After stepping into what looked like a time-displacement chamber from Quantum Leap, Ralph returned to find a perfect model of himself captured in 3 dimensions. Taking a few weeks to render the model in sandstone, Ralph suggested that when he got his miniature model he could recreate a scene from Honey I Shrunk the Kids.
But the highlight of day 1 were the panel sessions. This first hour-long talk included Michael Back, Terry Michos and Brian Tyler with the audience getting to hear some behind-the-scenes trivia and stories not shared in public before.
Michael Beck explained how extras in the large conclave gathering scene were often bored by the constant waiting around and often failed to show up on later nights. Filming at 1am with long periods between set ups, the gangs looked different from night to night so to maintain consistency, the film company offered regulars the chance to win prizes through a raffle if they kept showing up. He added he wasn’t sure that any of them were actually handed out though! Beck continued by saying he enjoyed filming the fight scenes – especially the bathroom brawl – but the set-ups, as with all movies, were a little time-consuming.
Brian Tyler added that he was adamant there should be no sequel or reboot (which received a HUGE round of applause from the agreeing audience) and after asking what he thought his character would be doing after that night, he joked he would probably have to work in social services.
Beck said he thought Swan and Mercy would be surfers on the West Coast then went on to explain how he came to get the part. After training in London, Beck gave details about how that very un-New York City background meant he couldn’t get an audition for a role. He was described as that “British theatre guy” but the director then came across the film ‘Madman’ in which Beck starred with a little known actress (at the time) called Sigourney Weaver. This fruitful bit of luck then saw him securing the lead role for which he said he was eternally grateful for.
Further trivia included the fact that Mercy wore her hair over her eye during scenes after Beck caught the actress with a baseball bat in one of the scenes in the subway. And not just that, a further injury occurred when the actress then broke her arm. Now you know why she wears the coat in the second half of the film too!
The panel explained that the infamous clinking bottles by was conceived by David Patrick Kelly when the actor saw a man who hung out on the emergency stairs of his apartment block who often berated passer-bys “when he was loaded”. He would clink the bottles on his fingers and the actor believed it would fit perfectly as the Warriors’ villain taunted the film’s heroes.
Finally, Beck’s favourite scene was the subway car sequence when the prom guests get on. “A favourite part of any actor’s career is often when no words are said and that was a joy”.
Terry Michos’ favourite line was Vermin’s “How much longer we gotta wait? We might be here forever, I'm sick of waiting for trains!” and he said his favourite scene was filming with the Lizzies as he “got to spend the day kissing pretty ladies”. However, he hinted it was the “other guys” who got the real off-screen action. We didn’t dare probe further. He also explained his casting which, like Beck, was down to some luck as well after Tony Danza pulled out to film the 70s TV show Taxi. We’re so glad he did!
And with that we headed back to the main hall to chat to some of the locals fans of the film. We met AMK paintings who do cult canvases whilst Mark and John at Future Chronicles were doing Warriors-related photo sessions. An amazing photo-realistic painting of Swan was created by Martyn Rotherham of Square Orange Art and finally we talked writing with horror author Mark Cassell.
And so we departed yet fans were still enjoying everything including more panels, deleted scenes screenings, director’s cut shows, photo sessions and even some singing (!) throughout both days.
On the way home with our energy levels high we discussed Birmingham-based gang names (my best was The Brum Dingers whilst Ralph’s The Aston Villains clearly trumped that) and I can only add a big congratulations to the organisers for getting such a much-loved film and its stars over to the Midlands for people to enjoy.
Many regional fans of the film did indeed come out to play and Cyrus would be proud of the coming together of different people to enjoy the cult classic. Did they dig it? Definitely.
Midlands Movies Mike