Eric Caidin dies at 62; movie memorabilia maven, grindhouse connoisseur
Eric Caidin, an impresario of pulp and collector of film memorabilia whose Hollywood Book and Poster Co. was a mecca for movie fans for nearly 40 years, has died. He was 62.
FOR THE RECORD
An earlier version of this story said that Caidin died in Las Vegas.
Caidin died May 18 in Palm Springs, where he had been attending a film noir convention. The cause was an aneurysm, said John Kantas, manager at Hollywood Book and Poster and a longtime friend.
A beloved figure in the film fan community, Caidin stocked hundreds of thousands of old movie stills, posters, scripts, lobby cards and other ephemera at the store he operated in various locations on or near Hollywood Boulevard from 1977 until it closed about five months ago. Quentin Tarantino, J.J. Abrams, John Landis and Joe Dante were among the regulars who often browsed the racks and stacks holding Caidin’s eclectic collections.
Caidin also was a fixture at fan conventions, where he sold merchandise, spoke on panels and arranged appearances by such cult-movie favorites as Hershell Gordon Lewis, the filmmaker called the “godfather of gore,” and actress Maila Nurmi, best known as Vampira in cult filmmaker Ed Wood’s “Plan 9 from Outer Space.”
He shared his love of B-horror or grindhouse movies as cofounder of the Grindhouse Film Festival at New Beverly Cinema. LA Weekly once described it as the “best movie night for people with bad taste.”
“Eric’s shop was for decades the epicenter of movie love on Hollywood Boulevard. He was a savant when it came to old films and grindhouse pictures,” said screenwriter Larry Karaszewski, who cowrote the screenplay for “Ed Wood,” the 1994 biopic that starred Johnny Depp.
Caidin started showcasing low-budget exploitation films at various venues around Los Angeles in the 1980s with tributes to such filmmakers as Lewis, John Waters and Russ Meyer. “We did the first major Ed Wood festival ever done,” Johnny Legend, the rockabilly musician and promoter who cofounded the Grindhouse festival with Caidin, recalled in an interview last week. “All the Ed Wood people, including Vampira, were there.”
In 2002 the festival found a permanent home at New Beverly Cinema, now owned by Tarantino. Over the years it has drawn die-hard fans of the grindhouse genre with obscure titles like “Switchblade Sisters” and “The Sinful Dwarf.”
“Eric loved all films … but had a real soft spot for the horror-sci-fi exploitation picture,” said Brian J. Quinn, who manages New Beverly Cinema and helped Caidin plan the Grindhouse film nights."Like a lot of us, he grew up on monster movies. These were the films he loved most.”
He once appeared at a protest against violent movies dressed up as Leatherface, the villain from “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” He was part of a counterprotest, defending sleazy slasher films for their purportedly cathartic value.
His passion for the genre was reflected in his shop, where the determined collector could find rare items such as a poster for “Blood Feast,” the gory 1963 Lewis feature about a psychopathic caterer that is often described as the first “splatter film.”
The films that most enthralled Caidin were “bad in a good sense,” Legend said, “meaning terrible but hysterically funny all the way through,” like the 1988 horror-comedy “Killer Clowns from Outer Space.”
His shop was also one of the places “Star Wars” fans flocked to in 1983 to find posters for “Revenge of the Jedi,” the original title of the film that George Lucas renamed “Return of the Jedi” before its release.
Born Dec. 7, 1952, Caidin grew up in Beverly Hills immersed in movie culture. His father, Stanley Caidin, was an entertainment lawyer who collected movie memorabilia and owned the rights to “Stagecoach” and other classic films.
Caidin was 25 when he opened Hollywood Book and Poster with financial help from his father. It quickly built a following with its wide array of movie material and old TV scripts that sold for $1, popular among writers trying to learn the craft.
The store became a hub for Caiden’s wide and varied network of friends who shared his manias, which included Lucha Libre-style wrestling. He collected and sold Mexican wrestling masks and organized wrestling matches as side shows at rock concerts.
“The shop was more his clubhouse than his business,” said Quinn, who worked behind the counter before he began helping Caidin run the film festivals. “For people into B-movies, wrestling, and rock ‘n’ roll, it was a place to pop in.”
Caidin moved his memorabilia business online last year but was preparing to reopen in Burbank this year.
He is survived by a brother, Robert.
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