Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Sunday, September 30, 2018

CON REPORT: Monster-Mania 41

Going into Monster-Mania 41, I knew it was going to be a significant one. Without piling on the personal information, my best bud and con companion JD has some new life responsibilities coming his way. Money will be a little leaner for him in the near future. (All for very good reasons.) So, as we hit the road Friday morning, it was with the knowledge that this very well may be the last Monster-Mania the two of us go to for a while. Yet the stars seemed to line up for this very occasion. Among the many guests attending the con this year was Cassandra Patterson, none other than Elvira herself. Elvira has been JD’s number one most requested guest ever since we started going to these things. Getting to meet the Queen of Halloween was a big deal for him.

I’m obviously a huge fan of Elvira myself. Yet I couldn’t help but find myself feeling more excited for him all weekend. The guest list for Monster-Mania 41 was by no means poor. Cult icons like Sid Haig, Kane Hodder, Bill Mosely and Robert Englund were in attendance, along with well-known character actors like Robert Patrick and Lou Diamond Philips. However, the only other guests I was really excited for was Sheryl Lee, Laura Palmer herself, and she cancelled at the last minute. It kind of went that way all weekend. JD was having the time of his life and I was trying hard not to be too much of a wet blanket.

The convention weekend began on an incredibly pleasant note. A relative lack of traffic meant we got to the hotel way too early. So early, they hadn’t actually finished setting our room up. The hotel was practically empty when we arrived. So we messed around at some local shops and got our traditional steak and lobster lunch. By the time we returned, the hotel lobby was full. And we all knew why. Horror fans can be pretty easy to spot. The horror shirts, tattoos, and punk rock haircuts tend to give them away. Soon, we checked into our rooms, unwinded for a bit, and headed down to the convention floor.

Stepping into any convention can be an overwhelming experience at first. Even after doing this for several years, I’m still not quite use to it. There’s hundreds of dealers, each one selling many different types of items. It’s a very noisy experience, the hallways being crowded even on the first day. Maybe that contributed to the slight sense of disorientation I felt throughout Friday evening and Saturday morning. I don’t know if this con was busier than usual or if my mental health has been more ragged lately, but I was feeling very anxious and uncomfortable for long stretches of the last two days.

But you don’t want to hear about that. After scooping around a bit, we headed down to the main ball room, where the guests would be signing. JD got a quick autograph from Mick Foley, a very gregarious figure who didn’t seem to have too much to say at that moment. Afterwards, we hit the dealer’s room. That’s when JD discovered something else he’s been searching for: A Coor’s Light standee of Elvira. He immediately grabbed it and we got back in line to meet Miss Peterson, which a decent sized line was forming for.

I assure you, Cassandra Peterson is an absolute sweetheart. JD chatted with her for a while, asking all the questions he wanted. When she asked where he wanted her signature on the standee, he sheepishly pointed towards the infamous cleavage. She laughed, jokingly called him “a pervert.” Naturally, we immediately set the standee up in his room that night, where it remained for the rest of the weekend.

I, sadly, did not witness any of this first-hand. Multiple people had asked me to grab Elvira signatures for them. The woman handling the money kept giving me conflicting information and I got confused. In order to prevent holding the line up, JD went ahead. By the time I sort things out, I was pretty frustrated so I just said a few kind things to Miss Peterson and posed for a photo. That was freak-out number one of the weekend.

The next signatures we headed for were mostly in the ballroom upstairs. Jonathan Ke Quan is, depending on your age and fandom, best known as either “The Goonies’” Data or Indiana Jones’ sidekick Shortround. For those that crow about Ke Quan’s Asian accent in those films is some sort of racially insensitive exaggeration: I can confirm that he really sounds like that. Figuring all the questions would be about “The Goonies” or “Temple of Doom,” I asked Jonathan about that pretty good episode of “Tales from the Crypt” he did. This conversation still ended up segueing towards the topic of Spielberg and Richard Donner. But I like to think convention guests enjoy hearing a question or compliment about things other than there best known projects.

I pulled a similar trick with Robert Patrick, who was situated across the room. I asked him about his early days as an action star in low budget Filipino films. He got really excited at just the mention, so that was cool. Patrick, by the way, projects a friendly and avuncular presence at odds with his tough guy appearance.

I also went down stairs to get Sid Haig’s signature. Despite having just filmed a new movie with Rob Zombie, a direct sequel to a film they made ten years ago, Mr. Haig did look pretty frail Friday evening. Nevertheless, he answered my questions in a detailed way. Of course, I had to ask about “Spider Baby,” a real fave of mine, and the process he used to get into such a bizarre character’s head. Apparently, Haig based Ralph Meryl on observations made of monkeys and young kids. JD, meanwhile, asked about the two episodes of “Batman” he did.

This preceded the second freak-out of the day. At some point after getting Haig’s signature, I realized I no longer had those three glossies in my hand. I searched around, re-tracing my steps, stopping at every table I could remember stopping at, to no avail. I straight up lost those three glossies. All I can figure is I put them down while picking up something else and they were either grabbed by someone else or tossed out. When I went back to Haig’s table, asking his handler if I had left the glossies there, Haig offered to give me a free replacement. (He then, in perfect Captain Spalding cadence, said “if you loose that one, I’ll break your fucking legs.”) I decided to try the same thing with Patrick and Quan. Each one understood and gave me a free replacement. So all three of those guys are super-duper cool in my book.

I had also promised my mom I’d pick up Lou Diamond Philip’s signature if he wasn’t asking for a ridiculous price. She’s a big fan of “Longmire” and that Imagine Dragons music video. Anyway, while getting that, I asked about his experiences working with Errol Morris on “The Dark Wind” and Larry Clark on “Another Day in Paradise.” Lou suggested Morris hasn’t made another narrative film because he’s so used to documentary directing. As for Clark, he said the director’s “entire life” is controversial while giving high props to Melanie Griffin and James Woods.

You’ll notice I mostly have pictures of my glossies in this post, instead of photos with the actual guests. In the years since I started attending Monster-Mania, it’s no longer customary for photos to be included with the price of the autograph. In fact, the photos are usually the same price as the autograph. Meaning you’ll have to spend double to get the complete package. I find it hard to justify spending so much and usually opt for just the signature. I guess some would consider a photo more personalized but I just prefer the autographs. This, of course, is not the fault of anyone at Monster-Mania.

So how about that shopping? On Friday, I grabbed some Blu-Rays from the Vinegar Syndrome table: “The Mutilator” and “Madman,” both of which I should’ve owned already. (I begged the company salesman to give “The Prey” a release but he seemed dismissive and stand-offish.) There were a few really cool, if small purchases. One booth was selling collectable pins of the Puppy-piller from “House II: The Second Story,” a movie JD and I love that is rarely merchandised. I picked up a signed, if admittedly somewhat rough, first printing of Richard Matheson’s “The Shrinking Man.” (One of the nicest things anyone said to me all weekend was that dealer saying I was obviously someone who loved and respected books.) I got a loose “Army of Darkness” Pit Bitch figure and an old McDonalds McNugget buddy.

Honestly, perhaps my favorite purchase is a really cool banner that combines two of my favorite passions: Halloween trick-or-treaters dressed as David Bowie’s various personas. That’s the kind of totally unexpected and super cool shit you find at conventions. Saturday, we made our required stop at the VHSPS, where I grabbed “The Supernaturals” and “Spookies.” I’ve only seen the latter and plan on reviewing both later in the month.

When I first step into the dealer’s room at Monster-Mania, I usually find an expensive item I really want. I then spend anywhere from the next few hours to the rest of the weekend deliberating if I want to spend that much money on said thing. Usually I crack by the end of Friday. I’ve learned that, if I don’t get it, someone else might. Last year, it was a table full of original theatrical one-sheets being sold dirt cheap. That guy was back this year but his prices had gone up considerably. Seems he realized the worth of what he had. Yet the poster for the very obscure, very strange documentary “The Hellstrom Chronicles” he had up captured my eye. After managing to talk him down on the price some – maybe the first time I’ve ever really haggled at one of these cons and, yes, it is exciting – I bought it. No, I still haven’t found wall space for all the posters I bought last year.

The second big purchase was a the eighteen scale action figure of Bruce Campbell’s Ash that McFarlane Toys made around Movie Maniacs Series 4. This is the same figure that sat in the long gone Suncoast I’ve written about before, that I spent many years envious over. You don’t always see these toys at conventions that often and, as the years have gone on, they are becoming rarer. So I went ahead and bit the bullet on the hundred dollar price tag.

JD’s main big purchase was Elvira’s signature but he did get some other cool shit. One of which is a very elaborate latex mask of some sort of skinless demon. He also got some toys of his own, including the Queen Alien NECA put out awhile ago. That’s another thing he’s been wanting for some time but never had the chance to pick up.

Something that did disappoint me about Monster-Mania 41 was the lack of solid panels. Instead of assembling, say, Bill Moseley and Sid Haig into a “Devil’s Rejects” panel, “Halloween” bit-player Nancy Kyes got her own panel. Or there was the guy who sang the “Lost Boys” theme song got a concert. And that’s cool and all, and probably a big deal for some people, but not of much interest to me. The only panel we caught was Cassandra Peterson’s. This, of course, was a delight. The crowd was engaged and Peterson was her usually bubbly, self-effacing, charming self. Sadly, that was pretty much ti for Saturday. For whatever reason, the dealer’s room closed at seven that night, when it’s usually open until ten on weekends. I don’t know what that was all about.

Last year, we stayed over into Sunday for the first time, expecting to get some good deals on stuff. We were disappointed to find that most vendors will still selling stuff at full price. This year, however, we managed to get a lot more bargains. I went home with two more posters from the same guy as before – beautiful one-sheets of “Thief” and “Damnation Alley” – and the guy literally gave me a poster of “A.I.” for free after that. Next, I grabbed some series one “Tortured Souls” figures for a decent price, as they are getting harder to find.

On Friday, I chatted with a painter promoting a locally produced anthology film called “The Black Hills Night Hike,” inspired by urban legends in and around Maryland. Aside form talking about Bava, Argento, and Soavi – all of which he had paintings inspired by – one smaller painting called my eye. It's of the Bunnyman, an urban legend from near-by Clifton, Virginia that I'm fascinated with. I couldn't quite justify the prices he was asking on Friday but he gave me a good deal today, so I went home with it. After that, JD and I got a magnificent brunch at the Iron Rooster and then headed home.

When I was experiencing Monster-Mania 41, I felt a little sour. There were some little annoyances and general changes that are systematic to the entirety of convention culture. But most of my problems, I think, had to do with my general mood.

Now, I’m finding myself looking back on some of the little moments, some of the neater things we found, and smiling. If nothing else, this convention was absolutely worth it just to see one of my closest friends fanboy out over a celeb he’s loved his whole life. If this does end up being our last convention for a while, that’s a pretty good note to take things out on.

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