In 2008, during the heyday of Universal Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights and as a writer then for the now defunct Fangoria, I spent my first significant amount of time with Mr. Hooper at the Eyegore Awards, HHN’s now abandoned award show (a celebration of Universal’s horror lineage). Tobe was on hand to present an Eyegore Award that night to Eli Roth, if memory serves, in addition to having licensed that year his classic film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre for the creation of a park maze of the same name. Following the former, as we collectively indulged in the event’s open bar and catered food, my dear friend Dan Madigan, screenwriter of See No Evil, lucha libre historian and long-time friend of Tobe’s, introduced us.
While I don’t recall the initial conversation, what immediately struck me about the man was his handshake. It was solid, and he looked me in the eye while doing it. He was refreshingly present, and very “non-Hollywood.” Perhaps not a surprise given his Austin, Texas upbringing. A few pleasantries later, and Tobe invited us to accompany him in a studio van down to the backlot, in order to experience the Chain Saw maze. So off we went, and arriving to the attraction, which was already in operation, our Universal handler halted the line of hundreds eager to enter, so that our entourage could do so.
With Hooper playing our Pied Piper, for thirty minutes we explored the grisly maze, with Tobe gleefully taking out time to offer acting advice to the scare actors Universal had hired to play the iconic characters he’d created some thirty-four years prior. In hindsight, I’m not sure who this moment was more surreal for: the horror-obsessed thespians who were receiving a surprise visit from the maze’s patriarch, for me in touring a maze with the same, or for Tobe himself, who for a half hour was able to play in a three dimensional environment extrapolated from the fever dream he’d created on celluloid.
Finishing the maze, we poured out of the exit, eager to explore the rest of the park, although Tobe had other ideas. As we loaded into the van I looked out to see that he hadn’t joined us, and had instead moved to the head of the halted line, where for the next twenty minutes he shook hands, signed autographs and mingled with fans.
Because after all, The Saw is Family, and while the late Wes Craven once fondly mused of Hooper’s film, “What kind of Mansonite crazoid could have created such a thing?”; Tobe had indeed also created a family, as evidenced by the adoration not only showered upon him that evening, but over the course of the majority of his filmic career.
You will be missed, Mr. Hooper. Thank you for the nightmares.
– Sean Decker