Mad Monster Party, Charlotte, NC
February 16-18 at the Hilton Charlotte University Place
Ed. note– I made Mad Monster Party a three-day affair this February, and that’s a lot to pack into one con report. So I’m splitting it into two posts. You’ll find a link to Part 2 at the bottom of this post. Read on, as you wouldn’t want to miss a thing.– P.F.
The Vacation I Needed
I owed myself a weekend away.
I hadn’t taken a vacation in over a year. I was living to work instead of working to live, and that lifestyle was working me over. After one final indignity from ownership, I channeled my inner Fasano and gave the main owner notice the next day. I don’t usually jump without a net, but I was rolling the dice on me, and I felt high. A few weeks passed by as I served out my term, and toward the tail end, I decided I was going to take that weekend away I owed myself. I was going to Mad Monster Party.
Sometimes circumstances converge to sweet perfection. My best friend Fasano lives outside Charlotte, and told me I could crash for the weekend; another friend was taking care of my ticket to the con as a present; and X Chris was working the show at the vendor stand. I’d get to hang out for three days with two friends I really love, and at no point would I have to run a restaurant. All I had to do was cover my air fare, which was reasonably priced, even though I was making up my mind with less than a week til the trip. I didn’t even have to consider the pros and cons. I was going. And I’m ecstatic I did, because for the first time in ages, I had a great time at a con.
If you’re want to skip straight to the con stuff, instead of reading about all the personal intricacies of my journey that I find interesting, feel free to skim down. I won’t hold it against you.
The Flight and Fasano
My travel down was a smooth trip. My sister Sarah had agreed to drive me to the airport, so even that was a cinch. I’d worked the night before, so I found myself a comfortable seat in the waiting area and pumped Slayer’s Show No Mercy album into my ears. As I eased into my seat, even the pumping thrash metal couldn’t stop me from relaxing, something I haven’t done in months.
Boarding was a little strange, as they had Zones 1-3, but my pass said Zone 4. But that was no real obstacle, as everything was moving along with ease. So much so, I actually slept on the flight for a bit, which was a first. X’s shuttle had just picked him up, but Fasano had called out of work with a fever, so 10 minutes later, I was riding out of the airport with my best friend.
Fasano’s been my best friend for over 30 years, and if you ever meet him, he’ll smile as he regales you with stories about my legendary eating. We shot the breeze on the way toward his pad, catching up on a lot of stuff. And then he asked: Did I want to go to his house, unpack and unwind before we ate? Oh Fasano, that’s a rookie question! To Cici’s Pizza! Unfortunately, Cici’s wasn’t quite the same experience it was the last time Fasano and I did damage there. Maybe I was looking through my taste bud’s eye from the point-of-view of a fat man, but now that I’ve worked a number of years in the industry, the mere existence of a pizza buffet isn’t enough.
After a mere three plates and one for dessert on my part, we headed to Fasano’s new apartment. I met his girlfriend Cristal (more on her later), brushed my teeth and passed out on Fasano’s couch for a few hours. I woke at just about the time we were to head back to Charlotte for the con, and grabbing a Diet Coke out of his fridge, I noticed Fasano’s old Darwin’s Ape from our high school days, the same one on the back cover of Van Halen’s atrocious OU812 album. I had no idea I’d have a throwback to it two days later.
I have to admit, I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to feel about going to a con after all this time away from the circuit. My last few experiences had been unimpressive at best, and atrocious at worst. As we took the ride from Fasano’s apartment, complete with an obscene phone call from his brother Ralph, I felt good. I was rested, and knew that even if the show was awful, the experience would be great.
Fortunately, the show was far from awful. In fact, it was great! When we arrived, the line to enter the con downstairs was long, but once the con opened up, it moved quickly. Heading down the hallway to the celebrity rooms/ dealer rooms, we found X hawking tee shirts. It was awesome to see him in action, but I liked it better the last time I attended, when X was roaming the floor, putting out fires and doing his Mr. Showtime routine. Locking him up in a room was a misuse of his powers, but he was into the role, and sold quite a few shirts in my presence over the weekend.
As Fasano and I headed to the first room on our right, I was thinking of NJ Horror Con. That show had a similar layout with most of the action in two rooms at a 90° angle. This hotel was set up pretty much the same, and the familiarity set my mind at ease. NJ Horror was a good con, even if I wasn’t quite at my best to make the best of it. This would be all right.
On this end of the room, R.A. Mihailoff was the big attraction as soon as we walked in. And I mean BIG, as he dwarfs me and I’m Big Evil. On the outskirts celebs sat at tables with rows of dealers in the middle of the box. All the action was on the far end, where the Soskas had lines for most of the weekend. Ken Kirzinger from FREDDY VS. JASON was tucked in that far corner, and he attracted a lot of fans as well. I sometimes forget that for people in areas outside of the bigger cities, a con such as Mad Monster might be the first opportunity to meet a lot of these celebs; that always blows my mind, as I first saw Krizinger at a local show in NJ back in 2005. It’s nice to see fans have this kind of excitement, the kind of jazz I myself sported a decade ago.
I wasn’t interested in meeting the Soskas or Kirzinger. But there were a few horror stars I had high hopes to interview, and one of them was at the far left corner of the other celeb room.
Felissa Rose Faces the Slayer
I was very particular in picking out my shirt the night before my flight. I’d let my laundry pile up, but some rearranging piles of clothing revealed my South of Heaven album cover Slayer shirt. This was to attract the attention of Felissa Rose. A few years back at Scare-a-Con she’d shouted out to me from her table about the Slayer shirt I was wearing then. I found out later that day that she had produced the three videos off Slayer’s Repentless. So when Fasano and I swung by her table on Friday night, the first thing she commented on was my shirt. Big Slayer fan, run blog, would you be willing to do a short interview? Why yes, she’d be quite willing.
A trip out to Five Guys for dinner, a swing by Chick-Fil-A to pick up 30 chicken nuggets for X, and there I was, standing near Felissa’s table. I have no idea why I still get timid sometimes in these situations, especially as Felissa had already agreed to an interview, but fortunately she saw me and called me over. And so now I can say I’ve interviewed Felissa Rose, and that it was AWESOME! She’s a lot of fun, and even though I was more interested in chatting Slayer than SLEEPAWAY CAMP, she didn’t mind. She even called over some kid in a Repentless shirt, which only added to the fun, crazy vibe.
Felissa also offered me an interview with her new film DEATH HOUSE’s co-writer/ director B. Harris Smith. Here’s a little cautionary tale regarding time management. I knew nothing about him or his career, so I wanted to look him up on IMDB before I chatted him up (and avoid looking like an ignorant fool in the process). But Friday night was going late, so I could always get him Saturday. But Saturday was a little busy, both for the con and me, so I could always get him Sunday. No harm. Except that he wasn’t at the con on Sunday. The moral of this story is obvious: Never put off an interview til tomorrow when you have your voice recorder in your pocket today. If Smith and I ever end up at a con again, I’ll make sure to hit him up then.
Boardwalk Billy’s, the Fasanos and the Hearing Impaired Experience
I hadn’t seen Fasano in years, but it’s been even longer since I’ve seen his parents. They moved to NC a few years back, and for whatever reason, they wanted to go to the con. I think Mr. Fasano just wanted to hang out with me, because I’m so cool and all and I swear he misses me. I got out of bed and showered later than I had planned, but I wasn’t the one holding things up. Fasano hadn’t gotten back to his pad with his daughter Bella yet, and once he did, there was a forever long, going-nowhere back-and-forth about how we were dividing the driving, and who would be in each car. After 30 minutes of this, I started to get frustrated and pushed everyone for a decision. A few minutes later, Fasano, Bella and I popped into Mr. Fasano’s luxury ride, with Mrs. Fasano riding in Cristal’s car.
Mr. Fasano is funny. For some reason, he’s always been fascinated with me (there was that one time the two of us and Fasano went out to lunch and he was happy to find out I wasn’t a barbarian). I get a kick out of him too, even more so now that he’s older and a resident of NC. I was happy I got a photo together with him, to capture the experience.
That wasn’t the only memorable experience, though. Cristal is deaf, and I hadn’t been around anyone deaf since high school, when my neighbors were a deaf couple. As we were all at the con together, we decided to do lunch at Broadway Billy’s, one of about a thousand food joints in the compound. I knew Cristal’s girlfriend would be joining us, and that she too was deaf. I didn’t know that two of Cristal’s other friends who were also hearing impaired would meet us.
I’m embarrassed to admit that the situation made me uncomfortable initially. It felt weird not to understand all the sign language, and I let it unnerve me to the point where I felt like it was two segregated groups sitting down for lunch. That lasted for about 15 seconds, when I realized I was a sensitive, empathetic human who would have to make some adjustments in order to communicate. I could feel comfortable with the hearing impaired group. I could not feel comfortable with the mediocre service and long wait for very unspectacular food at Broadway Billy’s. We should’ve gone to one of the other 1,000 places to eat in the compound.
You can read about the exciting adventures that involved a drunken Alex Vincent, a killer monkey suit and how a trip to the Chinese buffet led to George Romero’s induction into the Hell of Fame in Part 2!