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This article was published 19/11/2021 (273 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
At long last, the time has come to again don your proton pack and fire up your Aurascope; Ghostbusters: Afterlife, originally slated for release in July 2020, officially opens in movie theatres across North America this weekend, following multiple delays associated with the pandemic.
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In the original Ghostbusters, Bill Murray talks up the bright future of the ghostbusting business: “The franchise rights alone will make us rich beyond our wildest dreams.”
Among those most eager to take in the flick, which sees Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Sigourney Weaver reprising their roles from the spooktacular franchise’s first two entries, Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II (1989), are Winnipeg Ghostbusters, an officially licensed fan club whose members scare up money for charity, while decked out in their best, phantom-fighting garb. Which reminds her: on her way out of the Cineplex, Sharon Blady must remember to park her slime blower, if she has designs on stopping anywhere on the way home.
"Seriously, I can’t count the number of times we’ve been at one charity event or another when, after it’s all over, I pop into a grocery store to grab something for dinner and a person calls out, ‘Hey! Who ya gonna call?’ because I forgot I was still in costume," says Blady, who some readers may recognize as Manitoba’s former health minister, having served under NDP premier Greg Selinger from 2014 to 2016.
"The thing is, I’m so comfortable in my suit that by now it almost feels like a second skin."
Former next-door neighbours Kris Rutherford, 37, and Adam Giardino, 34, are the co-founders of Winnipeg Ghostbusters. The two haven’t lived side-by-side for a few years now but when they did, they typically started planning an impressive, Halloween display that straddled both their properties a good five months in advance.
One October they turned their front yards into a facsimile of Jurassic Park; another time they riffed on Nintendo characters. In 2016, upon discovering their mutual affection for the Ghostbusters movies, they went in that direction, dressing their lawns up with inflatable, green blobs, terror dogs and, you know, the odd, Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
Rutherford was three years old when he began watching The Real Ghostbusters, a Saturday-morning cartoon that aired from 1986 to 1991, which led him to the live-action movies. Giardino guesses he watched Ghostbusters for the first time on VHS at age five; yes, he hid under the blankets during some of the darker scenes, such as when a possessed Dana Barrett (Weaver) announces, in a demonic tone of voice, "There is no Dana, there is only Zuul."
Halloween that year coincided with Comic-Con at the RBC Convention Centre. Since they were both in costume already, Rutherford and Giardino thought, why not head downtown for a couple hours, before doling out candy to neighbourhood kiddos? While they were perusing the convention’s various booths they bumped into Blady and her son, Heiko, 13 at the time, both of whom were also dressed like ghostbusters. (Blady, a teenager when the first Ghostbusters hit theatres, fondly remembers standing in line with friends to buy tickets to the blockbuster, an Oscar nominee for best special effects and best original song.)
"We kind of gave each other a thumbs-up, acknowledging our respective get-ups,’" says Giardino, seated next to Blady and across from Rutherford at a downtown food court. "Kris and I introduced ourselves, posed for a few pictures with them and, before going our separate ways, mentioned our Halloween display, saying if they wanted to drop by later that night, they’d be more than welcome."
Blady did just that. Soon, the three became fast friends, occasionally hooking up for a bite or game night (Monopoly: Ghostbusters edition anyone?), or gathering to watch a Ghostbusters movie or three on DVD, during which they would invariably trade lines back and forth. Incidentally, the year they met was also the year Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, starring Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, came out.
In 2017 Rutherford viewed a documentary titled Ghostheads that, according to a review, "explores the extreme side of Ghostbusters fandom." Naturally, the film showcased devotees who had rejigged the family vehicle as the second coming of the Ectomobile, the red-and-white transport with the famous, no-ghosts ensign on the driver’s side door. It also touched on groups around the world that were raising money for charity in the name of the supernatural comedy.
"Immediately I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do,’" says Rutherford, whose wife Nicole is also a card-carrying member, proving yet again that the couple that slays spectres together, stays together.
In the summer of 2018, close to a year after he reached out to Ghost Corps, the Columbia Pictures subsidiary that sanctions Ghostbusters chapters, Rutherford received a package in the mail, indicating his application for a Winnipeg branch had been accepted. His initial reaction? It was time to go shopping.
"They’re actual, one-piece, military flight suits," Rutherford replies, when asked about his and his cohort’s tan-coloured ensembles, upon which each has sewn assorted patches and personalized tags consistent with what’s seen on screen. "We get them from Marway Militia on Sargent (Avenue). They weren’t in stock the day I went down, and when the clerk said she’d be happy to order one in for me, I told her, ‘Uh, you might want to make it 20.’"
Since its formation three years ago Winnipeg Ghostbusters, with a current membership of 12, has raised just over $4,000 for a variety of charities, including the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba and Madox’s Warriors, the latter named for an eight-year-old Winnipegger who lost his fight with cancer in 2014.
In a "normal" year, they attend events such as the Teddy Bears’ Picnic, the Pride Winnipeg parade and Transcona’s Hi Neighbour Festival. Owing to COVID, however, the majority of their appearances in the last 20 months were either curtailed or cancelled outright, including private bookings at birthday parties, where a paid honorarium, again, goes to charity.
"Every event we attend is invigorating," Blady says, crediting her son, also a member, for designing the group’s Winnipeg-centric logo, which combines the no-ghosts insignia with a red maple leaf and military-type striping, the latter a nod to the NHL Jets shoulder crest. "I don’t care how tired I am at the end of the day, or how bad the weather might have been — and we’ve dealt with some wet, rainy conditions for sure — I go home on such a happy note. People of all ages seem to get such a kick out of seeing us in our outfits, with all our gear… it’s just been a super-cool thing to be part of."
OK, that’s great to hear, but what about the real, paranmormal deal? What we mean is, would Winnipeg Ghostbusters affiliates, some of whom were guests of honour at a Ghostbusters: Afterlife premiere last week in Fort Macleod, Alta., ever entertain the idea of spending an evening in the Hotel Fort Garry’s infamous Room 202, the haunt in which a male and/or female apparition are purportedly spotted in every now and again?
"I’ve heard about it, and have always thought how much fun it would be to get dressed up and do a photo shoot there," Rutherford says.
"It would be interesting, there’s no doubt about that, but if you’re asking me, they should be the ones paying us to show up, versus the other way around," Giardino adds with a chuckle, pausing to shout, "Us!" to a passerby who, a second earlier, yelled out, "Who ya gonna call?"