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FRIDAY-SUNDAY

In 1973, director William Friedkin turned a horror potboiler, William Peter Blatty’s novel The Exorcist, into a movie masterpiece. It was the same trick Francis Ford Coppola had pulled off the year before, taking a popular genre novel—in his case, Mario Puzo’s crime saga The Godfather—and massaging it into cinematic art. Friedkin’s achievement is more remarkable, however, because his film’s success largely depended on the believability of a child’s performance. Forget The Exorcist’s weighty themes about Good and Evil, its gruesome special effects, its impeccable performances by veterans Ellen Burstyn and Max von Sydow; if that little girl hadn’t been able to play extremes—lovable moppet one minute, vomiting demon the next—the film would’ve tanked. It didn’t, of course, though the kid who saved Friedkin’s bacon, Linda Blair (pictured), has been paying for its notoriety ever since. Although she’s continued acting—surviving a 747 disaster in Airport 1975, a deformed killer in Hell Night, and perverted prison guards in Chained Heat—she will always be remembered for her dexterity with a crucifix and her facility with a Ouija board. Now and forever, Blair is horrordom’s crown jewel, the star of Chiller Theatre’s traveling horror, sci-fi, fantasy film and TV memorabilia expo. Oh, there are other notable attendees—Frank Gorshin (the Riddler on the Batman television show), Lou “The Incredible Hulk” Ferrigno, Washington-based attorney and horror scholar Douglas Winter, and Famous Monsters of Filmland cover artist Basil Gogos—but it’s to Blair (who may not be able to appear all three days), still a bombshell, that attention must be payed. From 6-11 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21, and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22, at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, 2799 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington. $15. (800) 233-1234. (Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa)