By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
It was a dark and stormy night. Inside the Virgin Megastore, a man in a hooded sweatshirt staggered through the DVD aisles, his face corpse gray, flecked with bits of blood and gristly black beard.
There was a rustle through the gathered crowd, which moaned with appreciation as a zombie woman in a wheelchair arrived. Severed arms had been affixed to the handles of her motorized wheelchair. More bloody body parts rested on her lap. Dried blood had caked around her mouth. She had striking auburn hair and a curvy, zaftig figure and full Cupid’s bow lips, which put me in mind of a Pre-Raphaelite painting — of a zombie.
It was the first Los Angeles DVD signing for Shaun of the Dead, and clips from the movie played silently on video monitors: Shaun and best friend Ed fighting off a zombie woman in their backyard, mistakenly believing she is drunk; Shaun and Ed pummeling zombies with pool sticks at the Winchester tavern; Shaun and undead Ed playing video games in a shed. A song piped in from the Megastore’s speakers: "If you leave me now, you’ll take away the biggest part of me, ooh ooh oooooooooh-no! Baby, please don’t go . . ."
My friend Nicole and I fell in line under the stairs with a handful of other zombie lovers. "I was hoping that the DVD’s zombie audio commentary would be ‘Mmmmmmbbrrrraains . . . mmmmm,’" said a fan named Simon. Simon wore a "Chewie Is My Co-pilot" T-shirt. A woman fussed with her little girl, whom she had dressed in a homemade Shaun of the Dead top — white baby tee with a red necktie. As far as costumes went, zombies were fairly easy. Basically, they were us, only deader.
"What would you rather be," I asked Simon-the-Chewie-Fan, "a zombie or a vampire?"
"A zombie," he answered briskly.
"Do you like zombies that much?"
"Do they define you?"
"Yes," he said, then paused to reconsider. "Wait. Can I be any vampire? Can I be Spike from Buffy?" Spike was British and sexy in a way no zombie could ever be.
"Of course you’d be Spike," said a guy in a black beanie embroidered with the instructional slogan "Aim for the Head."
Simon Pegg (who co-wrote the movie and plays Shaun) and Nick Frost (who plays Ed) arrived. Would there be a Shaun of the Dead 2? Or a Bride of Shaun of the Dead? "No," said Pegg, "we feel that Shaun’s journey is over." What are his favorite scenes? "I quite like the Bloody Mary scene with the woman in the backyard, the one where Shaun meets his first zombie. Although the scene where I shoot my mother is moving as well. Especially since the woman who plays her really does look a lot like my actual mother."
"That’s your Oscar clip," offered Nicole, quivering faintly beside me.
"Right!" the men laughed heartily. Pegg straightened and smoothed his black "Zombaid" T-shirt.
"I like Ed in the shed," added Frost, who in the film ends up a zombie. Tonight, both he and Pegg were clean-shaven and smelled of cologne — not at all maggot-y. The ring of hungry fans that had tightened around us groaned impatiently.
"Would you rather be a zombie or a vampire?" I asked.
"Hmm," said Pegg, pretending to fiddle with his blond goatee. "Hot chicks? Or eat the flesh of the living? Little choice, really. Vampires get to be slick and sexy. They get to wear black all the time. Zombies just decompose."
Fans shuffled forward in line. Posters were signed, DVDs autographed. Love letters and fan art were handed over. "I love them," Nicole whispered, grabbing my arm, "I love them. Did I mention that I love them?"
Pegg signed my copy of the Book of Revelation, which I had brought along on apocalyptic impulse. "To God," he wrote, "I love this shit!" then passed the slim volume to his partner.
"Oh, good. I have things to say to Him. I’m not happy with my lot," said Frost, scribbling into the book.
On the other side of the Megastore, a pack of Virgin executives, dressed in dead serious black, looked on. "We are happy with the turnout of zombie lovers in L.A.," said one exec named Bob, surveying the store.
"A shame there are no actual zombies, though," I said absently.
"Oh, there are one or two."
Most of the stranded and near-drowned victims of this week’s diluvia have gotten their 15 seconds or so of celebrity — thanks to the orgiastic "team coverage" provided by L.A. television (reporting on rainstorms seems to offer the perfect level of intellectual complexity for our local broadcast-news puppies).
But then there was that poor 30-something guy in a drenched leather jacket Monday out on Sunset near Vine whose plight went almost completely unnoticed.
As I sat idle in a bottleneck, my wipers hopelessly sloshing the water back and forth, I could make him out standing in the middle of the eastbound left-turn lane. His aged Toyota had apparently been rear-ended by the gold Lexus behind him. As the snarled traffic honked away, he was furiously yelling and pounding the driver’s window on the Lexus, challenging the driver to get out. A half-minute later, the Lexus door finally opened and a dark-haired woman 10 years his senior and trundled in a brown knit sweater cautiously emerged.
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