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Actor Michael Biehn says EP-CON promoter stiffed him on part of guarantee fee; cops called out

By Leonard Martinez
Published On: Sep 17 2012 02:11:18 AM CDT
Updated On: Mar 06 2014 12:24:32 PM CST
EL PASO, Texas -

To paraphrase his co-star’s catchphrase from “The Terminator,” Michael Biehn won’t be back.

He won’t be coming back to El Paso, that is.

Biehn, known for his roles in "The Terminator" and "Aliens," attended this past weekend’s EP-CON at the El Paso convention center to sign autographs and meet fans on Saturday and Sunday but will be leaving Monday with some bad memories of the city. His wife, Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, also attended the show.

The couple said the promoter of the show, Julian Lawler, did not fulfill the terms of their contract. A copy of the contract, which was shown to ABC-7. stated Biehn was guaranteed to be paid $12,000 by the promoter at the official end of EP-CON.

“They stiffed us for $6,500,” Biehn said in a phone conversation late Sunday night. “We were irate and unhappy. I sat for three hours after the time I was supposed to leave, waiting to get paid. I’ve done a lot of these shows and never been ripped off. I have a contract with Julian."

Things got heated with Jennifer having words with Lawler.

"He (Lawler) kept sending this heavy-set guy to move me around. I got into it with him. No punches were thrown but the police got called in," Biehn said of his confrontation with a man he said was about 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds. "I sat with police officers for about three hours, waiting to get paid.”

Jennifer and her husband said Lawler did not make an effort to work out how Biehn could get paid the rest of the amount, perhaps even through a series of payments.

“I would love for them to clear it up, and maybe an apology,” Jennifer said.

Lawler said he tried to pay Biehn but that Biehn didn't want to be paid how Lawler was going to pay him.

“We were trying to pay him early but he didn’t want to take a check,” Lawler said in a phone conversation late Sunday night. “We were using our revenue to pay some of the actors. Our attendance wasn’t as great as I thought it would be and he didn’t want to take a check. He wanted cash. So I paid the other actors and by the time, I guess he changed his mind, I was out of funds. So I’ll have to pay him later.”

Lawler said Biehn would be paid in the next few days when the event is streamed.

“So we should be fine. We’ll get caught up,” Lawler said.

A post on EP-CON’s Facebook page Sunday night stated “So here's the best part!!!! Anyone who didn't get to check out EPCON 2012 live, you can check it out on iTunes for $1.99 so if you missed it, you get a second chance....stay tuned!!!!!”

“Talking to the Biehns, they’re not exactly the nicest people on the block," Lawler said by phone. "They had a confrontation with the event manager at the convention center.”

Biehn said Carol McNeal was the one cutting checks for the event and that she was “rude.” McNeal is director of Facility Sales and Marketing for the El Paso Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) which operates the convention center.

“She’s very nasty,” Biehn said. “Rarely have I ever been treated that way. We were just trying to be paid and sitting there."

CVB officials issued a statement Monday afternoon disputing Biehn's assertion that McNeal was rude to him.

"This is not factual. Ms. McNeal at no time spoke with Mr. Biehn or had any direct or indirect interactions with him. Ms. McNeal is only responsible for approving payments made from box office funds and is not involved in Mr. Lawler’s obligations or his failure to pay the talent. As reported by KVIA, Mr. Biehn was physically aggressive with venue event staff, at one point forcing his way in to the secured venue box office. Police were brought in to help secure the box office and prevent further aggressive actions towards venue staff.," according to the CVB statement.

It’s not a case of Hollywood actors pulling an attitude, Biehn said.

“There’s no ego,” Biehn said. “I didn’t take lunches. I gave away a lot of pictures and autographs to kids and people in the service.”

Biehn said other actors and some EP-CON workers were partially paid or not paid at all. (Editor's Note: The phone call interview with Lawler dropped out. Subsequent calls went to his voicemail inbox, which was full. A text and email were sent to Lawler asking him to comment on Biehn's claims about other actors and workers not getting paid. A comment by Lawler on those claims has not been received.)

Biehn said what happened to him and others does not look good for El Paso.

"It's a stain on your city," Biehn said.

The El Paso Convention Center operates the venue box office, selling tickets to the event. The funds received from ticket sales were held by the Convention Center on behalf of Lawler. At the conclusion of the event, these funds were made available to Lawler to pay event expenses.

The CVB said in its statement that Lawler's event expenses, including amounts owed to various guests, were greater than the amount of funds held by the Convention Center in event ticket sales.

"The Convention Center issued payments on Mr. Lawler's behalf for expenses approved by Lawler. Once the available funds were exhausted, the Convention Center was no longer able to issue payments from Mr. Lawler's event funds," according to the CVB statement.

Late last week it was announced that Dave Prowse, the actor who physically portrayed Darth Vader in the Star Wars films would not be making it to EP-CON even though he had been featured on event fliers and on the event's website and Facebook page for months.

Early Wednesday, EP-CON organizers announced via their Facebook page that Marina Sirtis, Prowse, and McKenzie Westmore were no longer coming, as well.

"McKenzie Westmore is still filming Face/Off and cannot get away....even though she made every attempt to attend. It's unfortunate but we still have plenty of awesome guests!" the Facebook post stated.

Prowse, however, told a different story.

"Please note Dave is not appearing at EPCON in El Paso," a statement read on Prowse's website on Wednesday. "Dave had not heard anything from the organizer and we removed the event from this appearance page ages ago. The show organizer has been aware that Dave is not a guest at the show for a while. We sent several requests to the organizer to inform ticket buyers that Dave is not attending the show so that fans do not show up to see Dave and be disappointed. They did not do that. We requested again today that they post something to ticket buyers and they posted that Dave is a last minute cancellation, which is not true. We posted an explanation to fans on the EPCON facebook page, but our post was deleted and we are now blocked from posting the explanation again. If you are a ticket holder for this show, please accept Dave's apologies for any inconvenience caused, but this is the fault of the organizer and not Mr. Prowse."

A later post on EP-CON's Facebook page elaborated on Prowse not appearing at the convention.

"For the record, Dave Prowse did not cancel on EPCON 2012....we've hand some problems with his overall arrangements and we knew for some time that his trip was not going to be possible....but we held out hoping it could be arranged last minute. But alas....it didn't work out. All of our obligations to the Sith Lord will be met and hopefully we can schedule him another visit to the Sun City. Stay tuned!" EP-CON said in a Facebook status.

EP-CON was a recipient of the City of El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department's (MCAD) KicksArt grant funds in 2011 and 2012.

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