Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
"LAST OF THE MONSTER KIDS" - Available Now on the Amazon Kindle Marketplace!

Monday, October 3, 2016

CON REPORT: Monster-Mania 35

JD, my podcast co-host and close friend, have been going to our local horror convention, Monster-Mania in Baltimore, for five years now. That’s enough time that a ritual – which is like a routine but you only do it once a year – to set in. He usually crashes at my place the night before, so we can get an early start Friday morning. We try to be out of the house around ten. Before hitting the highway, we always grab breakfast from the local McDonalds. Now, I avoid fast food in general and almost never eat at the house Ronald built. Yet I’ll admit the sausage biscuit and hash brown are guilty pleasures of mine. (I have, thus far, resisted the temptation of the company’s recent all day breakfast policy.)

Anyway, we usually get to our hotel around noon. Since the convention floor doesn’t open until four, we unwind for a while and follow up with a leisurely lunch. That way we’re nice and relaxed by the time comes to experience long lines and crowded vendor’s room.

That didn’t happen this year. We were cruising down the freeway, about an hour from our destination, listening to a playlist of Halloween related songs I prepared, and generally enjoying ourselves as much as we could. Until we heard an odd clattering sound underneath the car. About two minutes later, we heard a grinding noise on the car’s left side followed by a vibration. Pulling over to the side of the road, JD realized we had a flat tire. After attempting to refill the rubber tube, we noticed an errant nail protruding from the wheel. As a further insult, JD realized he didn’t have a spare tire. We were stuck.

After struggling to get a hold of JD’s road side assistance, we finally contacted a tow company and made them understand where we were. We waited two hours for the tow to arrive and take us to the nearest auto shop. This was actually the least trying part of the experience, as the mechanics at the shop were as speedy as possible. Next to the garage was a retro gaming store that had an original “Turtles in Time” arcade machine. The only lucky thing to happen that day were the two quarters in my pocket. We got about half way through the second stage before running out of lives. Those games were designed to eat quarters, after all.

Finally, after what had been a fairly stressful day, we arrived at the Hunt Valley Inn minutes before four. This left us little time to get to our rooms, unpacked, and unwind before the convention floor open. Maybe, considering our hungry and stressed moods, going straight to the ballroom, where the celebrity guests were waiting, wasn’t the best idea. There’s always one guests asking for too much and several long lines. Yet we always hit that area first, figuring the lines will be shorter on Friday evening. This proved true this Monster-Mania as well.

So who were the guests this year? Robert Englund, Amanda Wyss, and Ronee Blakley returned to Hunt Valley, after last being there only two years ago. David Arquette was originally meant to be the other headliner but he dropped out at the last minute, due to Alexis Arquette’s recent passing. Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, and Stephen Geoffreys were there, forming a “Fright Night” reunion. Shannon Elizabeth, Kristy Swanson, William Katt, Danielle Harris, and Bill Moseley were the other notable names.

We ended up at Chris Sarandon’s table first. I had agreed to grab his signature for my sister, who is a huge fan of both “Nightmare Before Christmas” and “The Princess Bride.” Sarandon’s prices were high. His handler was asking forty for a signature and an additional thirty for a photograph. Since I was getting two glossies signed, that equaled 110 dollars. Probably due to the still lingering stress from the tire incident, I couldn’t think of any good questions. Sarandon seemed slightly aloof. JD thought he was a jerk but that’s probably just because of the price. Notably, he didn’t shake hands, only fist-bumped, and frequently used Purell. Come to your own conclusions about that.

We next walked over to Kristy Swanson’s table. This was a big deal for me. I watched “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” a lot as a kid and am fascinated with “Deadly Friend,” a movie that so very nearly works. Swanson, meanwhile, has barely aged since the nineties. So I was nervous, something that almost never happens anymore at these events. Swanson is really nice, by the way, and happily answered my questions which were probably mumbled and scattered. I get the impression that her actual personality is not too different from Buffy’s. JD told me he stopped me from embarrassing myself but I don’t know if I believe him.

William Katt was at the corner booth and was easily one of the most gregarious guests we met that weekend. Katt has an easy going attitude. When I asked about working with Reb Brown on “White Ghost,” he happily shared several anecdotes about South Africa and surfing with Reb. JD and Katt discussed “Greatest American Hero” their mutual memories about the show. And I apparently surprised Katt that a theatrical remake of the show, potentially starring Adam Sandler, was in development at one point. (Katt's preferred pick for a big budget remake is Owen Wilson, which I can see working.) I imagine Katt would’ve been happy to chat even longer.

Continuing the “Fright Night” reunion, we next stopped at Stephen Geoffreys table. Obviously, I wasn’t going to ask the question I was really curious about. Namely, why he cut his promising Hollywood career short and spent ten years starring in hardcore gay porn. Instead, JD suggested the gleefully stupid question of whether he really thought Brewster was cool. Geoffreys seemed more confused then anything else by the statement. So we steered the conversation towards “976-Evil”  and "Sick Girl," both of which Geoffreys was interested in discussing. Over all, he strikes me as a down to Earth guy uncertain of what to make of his cult following.

Danielle Harris genuinely had the longest line in the room. Like Englund, she seems to be one of those horror/cult entertainers that always attract a big crowd. (Among the people in line was a family wearing shirts expressing their dual appreciation for Karen Carpenter and Harris. Because it takes all types to form a fandom.) The glossies on Harris’ table played up her status as a horror sex symbol. In four of the seven options, she was semi-nude. Figuring everyone would be asking about her “Halloween” appearances, I asked about working with Sylvester Stallone in “Daylight.” She said he was very nice. Harris is accommodating but generally nice. And apparently her hotel room was on the same floor as our’s, as we passed her several times over the weekend. (That’s not the only casual encounter we had with a guest. We passed Shannon Elizabeth in the lobby and said hi to her. Later, Englund, Moseley, and Geoffreys were all behind us in the morning coffee line at the hotel's Starbucks.)

After getting all the signatures we desired, we got dinner and headed to the dealer’s room. Being the kind of nerd I am, I mostly bought lots of toys. I grabbed the new Janine figure from DST’s “Ghostbusters Select” line, fulfilling my life long ambition to own an action figure of Annie Potts. I bought NECA’s Vasquez, Weird Al, and 8-Bit Freddy figures. After mulling it over all weekend, I grabbed the old Headless Horseman box set from McFarlane’s “Sleepy Hollow” line. These are just some select choices among the ton of goofy shit I bought this past weekend.

It wasn’t just toys either! One vendor was handing out pop corn and has bright blue hair moosed up into a wave shape. He was promoting a card game called “Movie Buff.” While not ordinarily my thing, his demonstration won over JD and I. I made my annual visit to the VHSPS’ booth, grabbing several titles I intend on reviewing over the next three weeks. As always, I had a blast talking with the booth’s owner, about topics varying from Doris Wishman and David Bradley. My favorite acquisition of the night was an original one-sheet poster of “Student Bodies.” Honestly, the guy had several posters I would’ve loved to go home with but the price and interest was right for that one.

I also ran into an old acquaintance. Dionne, the owner of Things2Fear, briefly ran a Halloween shop in my home town several years back. Her booth was filled with home made decorations, like a pie with a human face which JD had to go home with. She’s really nice and you should give her site a visit. Friendly encounters like that characterized the dealer’s room this year. I ended up having several lengthy conversations with a Universal Monsters enthusiast selling customized monster kits. I don’t get to discuss my love of classic monster movies with real people that often so that was nice. He ended up selling JD a cardboard box full of loose Sideshow figures, giving him a great deal.

We only visited two panels on Saturday. Kristy Swanson’s panel had its moments. Such as when she talked about how her nine year old son doesn’t entirely understand her job. When she told him she had to kick down a door, he asked if she had to pay for it. Over all, too often her questions boiled down uncertainty. The “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” panel, featuring Bill Moseley and Bob “Leatherface” Elmone, was better. Moseley likes to talk. Only about four questions were asked during the hour because Bill talks so much. Yet his anecdotes – about hiding during lunch breaks so he’d get paid more, how he became a “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” fan in the first place, and got the part of Chop Top – were priceless.

After catching a few photos with cosplayers, we more-or-less wrapped up the trip. JD was visibly disappointed in Monster-Mania 35. The three specific items he was looking for – a DVD of Full Moon’s “Dark Angel,” an Elvira standee, and a home-made mask vendor who was there last year – weren’t present. He was annoyed by the prices the guests were asking for and complained about them all weekend. I’ll admit, the dealer’s room was slightly disappointing. As much fun as we had at Monster-Mania 35, the tire incident on Saturday still cast a shadow over the entire weekend. We were both kind of grouchy throughout the entire visit and it seemed like every restaurant we visited was packed, with long waits. We cut the vacation early and went home after dinner on Saturday.

In conclusion, Monster-Mania 35 is unlikely to go down in history as my favorite convention trip. Not just because I spent a portion of the journey stuck on the side of the road, though that’s certainly a factor. However, I still had a lot of fun and came home with some really cool loot. Let’s call it even. Maybe next year will be better. Either way, visiting a hotel full of other horror freaks and some people who were in movies I like is still a fine way to kick off October.

No comments: