Saturday, October 9, 2010

An Annotated Guide to The Zombie Chronicles

by John Scoleri

The Zombie Chronicles was an illustrated 8.5 x 11 fanzine devoted to the zombie cinema of George A. Romero published between 1995-1996. Edited by Keith Milford, six quarterly issues were produced. While it was narrowly focused, to be sure, it was a very nicely designed fanzine that I'm proud to have contributed to. As it remains undocumented on the web, I wanted to correct that oversight, particularly in that the name has since been appropriated for a number of zombie stories, anthologies and direct to video drivel.

Volume 1 Issue 1
May/June 1995, 8 pages

The Dead Walk! Editorial
Dead Reckoning by Keith Milford
Exclusive Interview with Bill "Chilly Billy" Cardille
Dawn of the Dead: What Went Wrong? by John Milford
Living Dead Legacy (real-life zombie folklore)
Dawn of the Fan by Brooke Perry
Zombie of the Month (Dawn's airport zombie)
ZOMBOREE cartoon by Dan Wedeking

Notes: Right off the bat Milford served up some meat for zombie fans to gnaw on. Cardille's interview gives a nice perspective to Night that was fresh at the time of publication. Milford contributes his reasoning as to why the films have lasting power, while Perry specifically details how Dawn changed his life. John Milford offer his reasoning for why things went awry for the characters in Dawn of the Dead—and while the easy answer is that's the way George wrote it, he provides an interesting analysis. The zombie folklore is obviously filler, and the one-panel zombie cartoons were never to my taste, but they certainly didn't detract from the other content.

Volume 1 Issue 2
July/August 1995, 10 pages

Interview with the Zombie: David Emge Part One by Keith Milford
The Last Time I Saw Night... by John Milford
The Other Day of the Dead by John David Scoleri
Dead Reprints Gazette
Zombie of the Month (Dawn's zombie Stephen)
ZOMBOREE cartoon by Dan Wedeking

Notes: With this issue, I think TZC established its legitimacy. Keep in mind this was before the days where everyone turned up in an audio commentary, or on the convention circuit. The Emge interview is clearly the centerpiece of the issue, and a nice treat for Dawn fans. John Milford offers up an almost stream of consciousness analysis of Night. My piece on Day was a revision of an article I originally wrote for our Scream Factory NOTLD 25th Anniversary tribute, and the DRG is an article on the skeleton rented for Dawn that was subsequently believed to be real human remains.

Volume 1 Issue 3
September/October 1995, 10 pages

Interview with the Zombie: David Emge Part Two by Keith Milford
Night of the Living Dead... The Opera?
TZC Emergency Broadcast Network - News
Dead Reprints Gazette
TZC Quotes Crypt
Zombie of the Month (Night's zombie Johnny)
ZOMBOREE cartoon by Dan Wedeking

Notes: The conclusion of the Emge interview dominates this issue as well. The article on The Opera is primarily a press release with information about the Pittsburgh production. John Milford discusses Romero having created a new genre of horror films. The DRG is an article from a Florida paper about the filming of Day in Fort Meyers, Florida. The quotes include blurbs from fans of the first issue, including Joe Bob Briggs.

Volume 1 Issue 4
November/December 1995, 10 pages

A Cut Above the Rest: Various versions of Dawn by John David Scoleri
Reviewing Squonk Opera's Night of the Living Dead: The Opera by Terry Thome
TZC Review (Japanese Dawn Perfect Collection LD) by John Scoleri
Dead Reprints Gazette
Letters From the Other Side
Zombie of the Month (Day's Bub)
ZOMBOREE cartoon by Dan Wedeking

Notes: As with my piece on Day, the lead article was a revised and updated version of the Dawn portion of my TSF article. The NOTLD Opera gets an actual review this time out. The DRG is a great lengthy feature article from the Philadelphia Inquirer on the making of Day.

Volume 1 Issue 5
January/February 1996, 12 pages

Interview with Keith Wayne Part One by Brooke Perry
Dead Reprints Gazette
TZC Review (Document of the Dead) by John Scoleri
A Horror Movie Character's Survival Guide compiled and edited by Keith Milford
Skeletons in the Closet: Night of the Living Dead by Keith Milford
TZC Emergency Broadcast Network - News
Letters From the Other Side
Zombie of the Month (Night's zombie Karen)
ZOMBOREE cartoon by Dan Wedeking

Notes: Brooke Perry provides the first of an important two part interview with Keith Wayne, as it sadly turned out to be his last. The DRG is another lengthy piece, this an interview with Romero during the making of The Dark Half from the Miami Herald. The Survival Guide seemed somewhat out of place, as it doesn't directly tie to Romero's films, but with the increased page count, who's to complain. Skeletons provides some interesting trivia about NOTLD, most of which is now common knowledge.

Volume 1 Number 6
March/April 1996, 12 pages

Interview with Keith Wayne Part Two by Brooke Perry
Remembering the Dawn by Rees Savidis
Is This A Zombie I See Before Me by Adam Burton
Dead Reprints Gazette
Zombie Psychology by Jeffrey Kauffman
Letters From the Other Side
Hero of the Month (Night's Ben)
ZOMBOREE cartoon by Dan Wedeking

Notes: Fortunately the zine survived long enough to run the conclusion of Brooke Perry's conversation with Keith Wayne. Rees Savidis provides another fan's take on Dawn. Adam Burton delivers an interesting comparative analysis of Shakespeare's Macbeth and Romero's Living Dead trilogy. The DRG is an article on Roy Frumkes' Document of the Dead documentary from the Philadelphia Inquirer. Jeffrey Kauffman's piece is an extremely brief explanation of the positive psychological impact of watching Romero's dead trilogy. The coming attractions box notes the next issue would be an anniversary issue, and include "Dawn of the Dead—the midnight movie experience."

There was hope that the zine would continue, but it was not meant to be. While there were certainly still numerous cast and crew members that could have been interviewed, one can also argue that there was only so much to be said about three films. In preparing for this article, I was able to contact Brooke Perry, one of the zine's other key contributors, to discuss his experience writing for The Zombie Chronicles.

JS: I assume you also connected with Keith Milford through AOL. How did you come to write your first article for the premiere issue?

Brooke Perry: Keith and I met on the original horror message boards on AOL back in 1994. In fact, we were two of the old school members on the "Modern Horror" boards (as were you, if I recall correctly). After discussing a mutual love of zombies, Keith contacted me about starting up his own zine and asked if I wanted to contribute. I jumped at the chance, naturally.

JS: How did you connect with Keith Wayne for the interview you did with him? Was that his last?

BP: Yes, it was indeed his last interview. I'm thinking of contacting Joe Kane if he updates his recent "Night of the Living Dead" book and offering him the material to include.

I had watched the Joe Bob Briggs NOTLD reunion and they mentioned Keith lived in Carey, NC as a chiropractor. I called directory info for Carey and found his office number. I called, got him on the phone, told him who I was and asked for an interview. He was very polite and enthused and gave me his home number. We set a date for about a week later and I recorded the entire conversation on a micro-cassette, which I still have. What happened was very, very tragic and it was Keith Milford who actually informed me that Wayne had taken his own life. When the two issues of TZC came out, I sent copies to Keith's widow Brenda. She sent me a very nice card back thanking me and mentioned it would mean a lot to his children. I got quite emotional reading that card and I still have it. During the interview, Keith was talking about future plans to dabble in film and tv again. He spoke fondly of his medical practice and his power lifting and weight training. There was no indication whatsoever that anything was wrong. He was genuinely thrilled and humbled that I had gone to the trouble to locate him. I never got to meet him, but I do have an autograph of his courtesy of Bob Michelucci. Having done that interview still means the world to me.

JS: It's great that it's out there for fans, however it does deserve to be seen by a much wider audience. I was fortunate enough to meet Keith at the 25th anniversary Zombie Jamboree in 1993. He (and most of the surviving cast members, really) was so gracious to be on the receiving end of so much love from the fans. My lasting memory of Keith came when I gave him a copy of our 25th anniversary tribute magazine, as he insisted that I sign it for him. That certainly caught me off guard, and when the rest of the cast members followed suit I was suitably embarrassed and proud. His death came as a complete shock, as he really did seem revitalized by all the attention. A truly sad loss, as so few fans had an opportunity to thank him directly for his contribution to Night.

Did you have any other articles for TZC in the works when it folded?

BP: I was trying to pin down Lori Cardille for an interview. Keith had provided me with her number. I also wanted to do a series of articles on the soundtracks to the Romero zombie films. I had an address for John Harrison at the time, which would have provided material for Day of the Dead.

JS: That's my favorite Dead score — I would have loved to read that interview, too! The last piece I submitted was the first in a series of wish-fulfillment articles describing my idea for a toy line based on Romero's zombie films. I went into great detail on the characters and their accessories (all the main characters and featured zombies that you would expect), vehicles (Ben's truck, the WGON helicopter, and John's helicopter) and playsets (the farmhouse, the mall, and the underground bunker) that would make up the line. What's particularly surreal is that as I write this, I have a case filled with licensed figures such as a 12" cemetery zombie from Night, three zombies from Dawn (zombie Stephen, the airport zombie and the hari krishna zombie), and two from Day (Dr. Tongue and Bub). Go figure.

Did you ever have a chance to meet any of the Milfords?

BP: Sadly, no. They always seemed like a great bunch of guys. Even though I was sad that they folded the zine to pursue other interests, I still have the utmost respect for what they accomplished. I couldn't have done it.

JS: I know you've also been published in Scarlet Street, Carpe Noctem and Film Threat. What other subjects have you written about?

BP: I've written extensively about the music of Star Trek and horror films in general. Music is a love of mine. Richard Valley, the founder and editor of Scarlet Street, lost his battle with cancer a few years ago. The magazine now operates under a different title. Scarlet, I believe it's called. They still have several film reviews of mine that, sadly, were never published.

JS: What else have you been up to these last 15 years?

BP: I've taught theatre, film and English at a couple of universities here in the southeast. I'm also a participant in a theatre company called Pillar of Fire. It's a spiritual collaboration between us and Ray Bradbury, who is our mentor and inspiration. We perform stage versions of his stories as well as staged readings of other genre authors like Bloch, Lovecraft, Bierce, George Clayton Johnson, Richard Matheson, etc.

JS: Sounds very cool! Folks can check out the Facebook page here.

BP: Lastly, I'm also in a band called Mos Teutonicus. Doom metal with tastes of thrash thrown in is what you'd call us, I guess LOL. Our gimmick is simple: I write songs about our favorite horror movies. Nothing politically or religiously motivated. Just fun horror stuff. So far, I've written songs based on The Devil's Rain, Shock Waves, Maniac (Lustig), Fear No Evil, Men Behind The Sun and The Beyond. We also have a track I wrote for our buddy Ken Foree, a fast punk track simply titled WGZK (World's Greatest Zombie Killer).

JS: Glad to hear you're still finding ways to wave the horror flag. Looking back, what do you think it was it about The Zombie Chronicles that made it so special?

BP: It was a true DIY effort, which I loved since I was still reeling in my punk days from the 80's, LOL. I even created home made flyers that I would pass out at metal and goth concerts, wherever I thought there would be an interest. It was fun spending phone time with Keith brainstorming ideas for the zine. His enthusiasm was contagious.

JS: I recall that about him, too. It was clear the zine was born out of a true passion for the films. Hopefully he'll stumble across this article and we can capture the Milford perspective as well. Thanks Brooke!

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