The author with Tara Reid. Photos by the author
A great philosopher once asked, “How do a whale and a shark have sex?” Just kidding. Tara Donna Reid said that. Tara is known for saying a lot of ridiculous things, but if you weren't aware of her movie career, I wouldn't be surprised. After appearing in movies like Josie and the Pussy Cats, American Pie, Van Wilder and The Big Lebowski, she starred in flops like the unfortunate reality show Taradise and drank herself into oblivion. Last year, some genius decided to cast Tara in the SyFy channel film Sharknado, giving her a new life as a professional mess.
It was the job Tara was born to do. Although the TV movie aired only last summer, it has already become a cult classic thanks to its campy, over-the-top combination of lousy special effects, sharks and a tornado. Thanks to its "success," Tara was signing autographs at the Days of the Dead Horror Convention in Atlanta on February 8.
It was held at the Sheraton in downtown Atlanta; when I walked in I was hit by the cumulative body odour of hundreds of Juggalos and grown men dressed as Leatherface and Michael Myers. I asked some fans where I could find Tara, and they directed me to the room where the convention’s biggest celebrity guests were signing autographs.
A Tara poster greeted me as I walked into the room, and Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider was posing for a photo with a fan who had paid $30 to meet Dee Snider, but I didn’t see the real Tara anywhere. I asked a polite man dressed as a latex vampire where I could find her, and he pointed me to a long line at the back.
Tickets to meet Tara had sold out before the convention started, but some of her fans seemed angry as they waited in line. One of them, a young lady named Darbella Knight, informed me that Tara had left early the night before without warning, which Darbella took as the ultimate insult. “I think that train wreck left early to go to a bar and drink,” she said, “but I’m standing in line now because I paid for it."
Gary, another fan, agreed with Darbella's sentiments. “I came here last night to meet her, and I promised to give her a shirt promoting my website YesZombies.com, but she left, and I’m stupid to wait in line again. She is such a train wreck.”
The group behind me seemed pleased to wait, though. “I’m in line mainly because I loved Van Wilder,” a fan named Bruce said. “It’s one of my favourite movies, comedy-wise, from the 1990s.” (It was filmed in 2002.)
Xinwen, standing next to him, was perhaps less passionate: “I don’t know why I’m standing in line, but I don’t remember her or any of the actors. I’m from China, so.”
Xinwen (left) and Bruce
When the line started moving, I caught a glimpse of the Reidster in the flesh, and I started to wonder what it would be like to meet her at last. Would she be mean? Would she be a snob? Would she immediately want to be my best friend and would we go to get drinks later? Then a guy wearing a gas mask jumped the line, interrrupting that train of thought.
Finally, it was my turn to stand in front of Tara and ask her to sign my movie still from The Big Lebowski. She asked me what I wanted her to write on the picture and how to spell my name. I told her to write that we’re BFFs because it’s always been my dream to be her best friend. She laughed and told me no one has ever asked her to write that before.
Then her people ordered me to plop down next to her and take a picture. Since I'm overweight, I looked morbidly obese next to Tara, who is probably half the size of an Olsen twin. But after thanking her for her time, I got up and was full of all the glee, rainbows and unicorns I knew I’d feel after meeting the girl who played Melody in Josie and the Pussy Cats.
Darbella Knight, who wasn't pleased with her meet-and-greet with the Reidster.
Tara’s other fans had mixed feelings about their time with her. Tara was “quiet and smelled like alcohol," according to Darbella.
"They put all these pictures up on the Days of the Dead Website where she looked voluptuous,” Darbella said. “She’s still cool, though, but I think everyone is nice when you pay to meet them. Someone needs to feed her.”
After speaking with a few other fans, I decided to see if I could have a brief interview with Tara. Her assistant told me Tara declines interviews because she would hate to tarnish her image and the media is comprised of haters, so I waited for him to go to the bathroom and then I asked Tara if I could interview her. She said she'd love to speak to me.
“Did you enjoy being in Atlanta this weekend?” I asked.
“It’s been weird,” Tara said. “I’ve met a lot of amazing, fun people. Crazy outfits, crazy personalities. No. Do not put the word weird [in the article]. Everyone has been lovely and just so sweet. You included. You are so sweet.”
She then asked me if I had watched Sharknado. “It was so bad, it was good,” she said.
“It was just bad,” I told her.
“Right? You’re the only person who has been honest about that. But I’d be a fool not to play in a movie like that with that title.”
Her manager saw me talking to her and ran up to inform me that that Tara needed to sign a bunch of extra posters before she left the convention. She went through the stack of photos of her until she reached an American Pie poster of her in a bikini. She stopped and then glanced up at me, a depressed look on her face.
“I look so different,” she said.
“That was 1998. Everyone looks different than they did in 1998,” I told her.
“Yeah, that was 15 years ago.”
“Who cares? It was 1998.”
Tara cheered up. “You really are sweet!”
After this awkward exchange, I decided to leave Tara at her table. It's always exciting to speak to a celebrity, but I couldn’t help feeling bad for Tara – she seemed oblivious to the fact that her so-called fans perceived her as a train wreck. Yet, at the same time, she recognised that she was no longer the hot blond bombshell that had 15 minutes of fame in the 1990s. Like watching Sharknado, hanging out with Tara Reid is uncomfortable and hysterical at the same time. No wonder she's been resurrected as a camp icon.