One month after a Southeast Texas zombie invasion that promised a Battle of the Bands contest paying a $10,000 grand prize to the winner and various other giveaways, participants are still waiting to receive their winnings. Zombie Voodoo Fest 2012, promoted by Emerging Magazine figureheads Ricky Buxton (aka Stefan duBois, aka R. Carroll Buxton) and wife Cher Ferroggiaro (aka Cheryl Lynn Buxton, aka Cherie Lynne Buxton, aka Cherilyn Ferroggiaro), is scheduled to have four events this year – one in Southeast Texas, which changed abruptly from Port Arthur to three different locations in Beaumont, and others in California, Virginia and Michigan. Beaumont was the first, held July 7 and 8; Michigan and Virginia are set for October. However, if the couple’s foray into the zombie fest business is any indication, participants at the remaining tour stops will get more horror than they bargained for after the zombies have come and gone.
Ready for an invasion
Buxton and Ferroggiaro began promoting Zombie Voodoo Fest 2012 in November 2011, announcing a two-day event complete with hoards of undead, model contests and expectations of more than 50 contestants vying for the event’s Battle of the Bands $10,000 grand prize. At that time, the Southeast Texas venue was in Orange. By the beginning of 2012, however, the venue had changed to Pleasure Island, slated for the first weekend in June, before it was ousted over failure to get proper permitting, according to Port Arthur Police Chief Mark Blanton. Next came Ford Park for a date in July, which changed yet again to the Montange Center before changing at last to The Gig on Crockett Street for a July 7-8 event. Zombie Fest’s agenda remained intact, according to the promoters, but in the end, more than just the venue changed.
To start, dozens of bands might have been expected, but roughly one dozen competed at the actual event. Also notably absent from the event as originally promised was the 5K Run for Education awarding the first-place runner “a $10,000 cash award,” Zombie Tag, guest celebrities, and a kids play area. And although initially stating the funds raised from Zombie Fest would benefit local public schools, the benefactor of the charity was ultimately changed to the Buxton/Ferroggiaro-owned International Children’s Art Network (ICAN). Labeled as a domestic nonprofit corporation, ICAN was registered with the Texas Secretary of State on Dec. 29, 2011, at an address in Orange, but is not accepted at the IRS as a tax-exempt entity and has not filed Form 990s to show the entity’s financial standings or divulge who is benefitting from the nonprofit’s services.
Also, funds promised to Beaumont participants have not been dispersed. Battle of the Bands winner Angel Siren had yet to receive any prize money or equivalent when The Examiner caught up with lead guitarist P.J. Disharoon this week, Zombie Wedding couple Trenton and Ashley (Wells) Barlow had yet to receive their promised honeymoon package, Hot Zombie contest winner Rachel Disharoon hadn’t received a penny of the $500 prize money she supposedly won, and The Gig was forced to collect money from tickets sales at the door of the event since Buxton and Ferroggiaro had failed to pay the venue prior to the event.
A zebra is a zebra
Buxton has been in trouble for dodging debt before, according to Public Data records. He has to his credit a theft of property by check conviction in 2004, theft of property by check conviction for a value of up to $20,000 in 1997, was ordered to spend 90 days confinement in Orange County in 2011 for “theft by hot check,” and was accused by the Bexar County district attorney of issuing a bad check to pay child support.
“I didn’t see that side of him before now,” Zombie Bride Ashley (Wells) Barlow told The Examiner. “He was so nice, and I remember being so grateful to him when he first talked to us about this opportunity. I wish I would’ve known better then.
“It was too good to be true.”
Barlow said she hadn’t planned on wearing zombie makeup for her big day until Buxton approached her then-fiancée and asked if the young couple was interested in sharing their blessed union with a few thousand (it ended up being at best a couple hundred) zombies and Zombie Voodoo Fest revelers. Strapped for nuptial funding and faced with an offer of a free wedding dress and honeymoon, the betrothed jumped at the offer.
“We were suppose to be on our honeymoon right now,” a very upset and pregnant Barlow said. “It’s a bunch of crap, and it hurts my feelings. It upsets me that we entrusted these people with our wedding and they did this to us.
“We fulfilled our part; we did what we were suppose to do. I would much rather have gotten married at a church or the Justice of the Peace even, but I trusted (Buxton).”
Barlow said she has tried to contact Buxton and Ferroggiaro numerous times but has gotten the run-around. She did receive a call Aug. 8 from Buxton, but Barlow didn’t get the response she was hoping for.
“He was screaming at me,” she said. “I didn’t know the band didn’t get paid but he accused me of spreading lies and such. He just kept yelling and cussing at me, so I hung up.”
Husband and soon-to-be father Trenton Barlow said honeymooning at this point is hardly worth the effort.
“It’s not worth getting stressed out about, or (her) miscarrying our baby over this – or anything else, for that matter,” he said. “When they changed the venue (for a third time) to the Montagne Center, it was already starting to sound a little fishy to me.”
Ashley Barlow said she was tired of fighting for what she was promised, too, and offered words of advice for anyone else doing business with the Buxton/Ferroggiaro duo.
“I would let them people know (Buxton and Ferroggiaro) are scandalous,” she said. “It was headache after headache dealing with them, and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.”
P.J. Disharoon from Battle of the Bands winner Angel Siren said they still have hopes of collecting their prize.
“We were promised a grand prize of $10,000 for placing first in the two-day Zombie Fest Battle of the Bands,” Disharoon confirmed to Examiner entertainment editor Chad Cooper. “As of now, no, we haven’t received any funds. I’m not directly dealing with (Buxton) as our bass player is (but) as of now (Buxton) has been telling the band that they are waiting 30 days to receive the money from the insurance company (to pay the band).”
The next episode
With the next Zombie Fest tour date set just over a month away in Michigan at the Bates Haunted Sawmill, venue owner Robert Drubin is getting a little leery of the arrangement since he has yet to receive any contract information or payment agreement from Buxton regarding the event.
“The guy isn’t up here yet, but I talk to him every couple weeks or so,” he said. “It’s a little weird that it’s getting close to the date and things aren’t done, but I don’t know.”
Drubin said he is going to question Buxton about what happened in Beaumont since he doesn’t want the bands at his venue to pony up the $50 entry fee to be a part of the Michigan Battle of the Bands if there is indeed no payout.
“(Buxton) has a lot of questions to answer,” he said.
Attempts to reach the couple through Buxton’s Texas cell phone, toll-free dialing listed for Zombie Voodoo Fest and Emerging Magazine, and a contact number for “Cher” rerouted to “The Rejection Hotline” were all unanswered as of press time.