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. Check out Part 1 here. You wouldn’t want to miss a thing.– P.F.
Of Drunks, Misses and Monkeys
The madness continued for Fasso on Days 2 and 3 of the Mad Monster Party. Read on…
Applebee’s with X Chris, and a Photo Op with a Drunken Alex Vincent
Day 2 wound down with Cristal getting an autograph from Felissa Rose, and my attempt to interview Amanda Wyss (which I’ll detail below). Fasano and I wanted to head back to his place and rest up, knowing we also wanted to return for the “rave” Mad Monster was boasting. We got in some more quality best friend time on the ride back, and watched some of the show Banshee, in which Fasano had done some acting as an extra. With a night ahead of us, we headed back to meet up with X Chris at the Applebee’s across the street from the hotel.
X Chris regaled us with stories about his crazy ex-girlfriend and I enjoyed the food much better than I had at Broadway Billy’s. Fasano prattled on about how he wanted to get back into acting (I’ll touch on that later). This was probably my favorite moment of the entire weekend. I rarely get to sit with some of my best friends and just enjoy hanging out, talking about our lives and having fun. This was the perfect moment for just those things, and I had a ball as we conversed and laughed.
We returned to the con to find out the “rave” was a bust. It was extremely loud music (this coming from a thrash metal fan, mind you) played to about a half dozen folks in bad costumes, who were dancing around like goofballs. We headed inside to the bar, where Cristal and her friend were in conversation with last year’s Miss SCarolina. As I stated above, I don’t speak sign language, so X and I peeled off and went to the karaoke party (side note: Mad Monster wants to get cute with the titles of every event, so technically it was a scaraoke party). We hung out for a few songs, because few singers were choosing spooky horror titles and they were all lousy singers.
Returning to the lobby, I espied one of the greatest gifts to all mankind: a drunken Alex Vincent. The kid star of CHILD’S PLAY was bombed beyond recognition to the point he couldn’t stand straight and could hardly walk. His eyes were bloodshot and I’m pretty sure I could smell the booze on him from across the lobby. I’m not here to blow up anybody’s spot, and we’re all entitled to have a good time, but I couldn’t write this con report without making mention of it.
Especially because of the photo Fasano took of Cristal with Alex Vincent.
To put this picture in context, Vincent was on his way to take a leak. He swooned in the direction of the men’s room and I joked to Fasano that we should snap a pic of him when he comes out. Fasano was all over the idea, and told Cristal, who ran up to the men’s room door and waited to pounce. Vincent came out and turned the wrong way, headed down the hallway to guest rooms. He quickly course corrected, and once he did, he wasn’t alone. Cristal actually jumped into the picture with him, and I’ll have photographic evidence of this as long as I live. And I’ll be laughing about it the rest of my life.
Jeff Burr is Awesome
Another cool guy I wanted to meet and potentially interview was Jeff Burr. He’s mainly famous for being a “sequel guy” with STEPFATHER 2, LEATHERFACE and PUMPKINHEAD II: BLOOD WINGS to his name. My friend Dominic Mancini reps Jeff, but Jeff was doing his own thing at Mad Monster, including pulling up in his own car Friday while Fasano and I were catching some air. Jeff was sitting next to R.A. Mihailoff, a natural pairing given the LEATHERFACE connection, and Dom had suggested I say hello. I introduced myself, and Jeff was not only grateful that I knew Dom, but gracious enough to offer me a free 8×10 and photo. “Hey, any friend of Dom’s!” he said in that Georgian accent of his, and I was most appreciative of his generosity. He and I discussed how he’d be at the NJ Horror Con in two weeks, where I’d meet him again and score a really fun interview.
Amanda Miss and Darwin’s Ape
The other interview I was hoping to snag that weekend was Amanda Wyss. She made a bunch of appearances in great 80s fare such as FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, BETTER OFF DEAD and of course A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. She also co-starred in SHAKMA with Roddy McDowall and a live baboon, which feeds me a whole other line of questions. I also figured I’d snag an 8×10 from her, as I’d never actually met her before (hard to believe I’ve been doing this con thing since 2004, and there are still some people I’ve somehow never encountered). Wyss was sitting with a group of ELM STREET franchise people, and man has she held up well.
I was scoping her table out Saturday night, waiting for a lull in her line. I was literally taking steps to approach when who walks down the way but X Chris. I love X dearly, I really do, and he’s a big part of the reason I took this trip in the first place. But he stood there talking acting with Wyss for almost 20 minutes (See what I was saying about timing in Part 1?). Stanislavsky this and my school play that and blah blah blah until some fan actually came up and X graciously mentioned he shouldn’t get between Amanda and pleasing the fans. X is chatty, but X is also sneaky, and invited me over to introduce me and set up an interview for Sunday. She seemed more keen on doing an email chat than an in-person, but X used that X Chris charm and it looked to be on. Great!
Only it wasn’t great, because it wasn’t on. Wyss and the rest of the ELM STREET crew were at a Q&A Sunday afternoon, and when she got back she was packing her stuff so she could get to the airport. This interview wasn’t to be. Which wasn’t totally discouraging. In a few cases, including that of Boyd Banks, I missed interviewing someone at one con and got him at another. And X was already trying to talk Wyss into attending the Mad Monster Phoenix con this July, and I’ve never been to Arizona. Hey, you never know.
There was still time to kick around before the con ended, and we needed to find stuff to keep ourselves occupied. I kept trying to talk Fasano into talking with low budget filmmaker James Balsamo. James’ output both as director and actor is so far below the Quality Equator it hits the South Pole, but I also understand there are people who’ll invite over a group of friends, crack open the beer and have a hoot to SHARK EXORCIST. It’s not my cup of beer, but if Fasano wanted to kickstart his acting career, this wouldn’t be a bad place to enter. But Fasano waffled, and I got bored watching him do so, so I was off to the other room.
Remember how I mentioned Fasano’s statue of Darwin’s Ape? It was on my mind as Sunday wound down. In that other room I found something to interest me, a very realistic looking chimp mask. The people from CatchMeKillMe Productions were hawking copies of their new super low budget indie MONKEY FARM, and as Fasano and I tried to con one another into buying a DVD, he got sneaky and asked the director for an interview. So I broke out the recorder and had a brief but lively chat with Ian Messenger, self-taught indie director from Phoenix. Ian was nice enough to hand me a free copy of the flick for review (or maybe you’d consider him nasty enough, given the quality of the film and my review, but hey, random kindness is random kindness. I’ll never knock that).
The Buffet to End It All, and the Romero Retrospective Gets Some X Inspiration
It’s always kind of sad for me when I’m at a con during those last few hours on Sunday. Many of the stars have headed out to catch flights, the vendors are physically packing up their goods to roam on to the next show, and it gets eerily quiet. I’ve been good with closure during my life, but it can get a bit depressing watching the end. Fasano and his daughter were tired, X was counting stock and putting shirts in boxes, and I was exhausted. As we sat and waited for X in the lobby on a comfortable couch, watching people check out of their rooms, Fasano and Bella struck up a conversation with R.A. He said he’d return as he headed to his room, but he disappeared into the warm southern eve and I only saw him again two weeks later at NJ Horror Con. A certain listlessness fell over us all, and would carry over to our stop at the Chinese buffet across the street from the hotel.
I don’t know quite why Fasano is so obsessed with this particular buffet. He was pushing it all weekend, and he and I are big eaters, so I didn’t put up a fight. I lost 70 lbs. last year, so I don’t eat nearly as much as I did in my heyday, and there was no way I was going to take full advantage. Fasano and I reminisced about the time he, I and this gal Kaufman were at a buffet and I said, “Fasso doesn’t get full. Fasso gets even!” So I did my best to put down three plates, as I didn’t want to embarrass my standings.
The four of us recapped some highlights from the weekend, which led to a conversation in which X said Tom Savini had mellowed since I’d seen him last at a show. I’m of the mind that Savini would never agree to let me interview him, but X said I might have a better shot at it now. This struck a chord in me, and I brought up the Romero Retrospective, my series of reviews with folks who’d collaborated with Romero. I mentioned that getting a chat with George was once supposed to be the keystone, and that with his death it would seem the whole concept would forever be a failure. But then it dawned on me that in Romero’s absence, the Retrospective was even more important to DE than ever before. This conversation was on my mind a few weeks later, when I inducted George Romero into the Hell of Fame. I don’t usually admit it, but X Chris is a genius with great insight. Thanks, X.
Soon after, Fasano was dropping us off at the airport. X and I sat waiting for the plane, as I brandished my new convention bag admiringly. For the first time in a long time, I felt good about the convention scene. This show had been a shot in the arm, and I was legitimately jazzed about the circuit. If anything, as I boarded the plane back to NY, I knew that shows could be fun again, given the right company of friends and the right attitude from the people running them. The people who run Mad Monster Party have come a long way from those first few rocky shows, and they’re now at the point where they put on a fine show. It was a joy to attend all three days, and I never thought I’d say that about a convention again. I applaud them for finding a way to get their fanbase excited, for assembling a nice guest list and mostly for respecting those who came out to meet some of their horror favorites. The folks at Mad Monster have their ghoulish hearts in the right place, and I thank them for giving me not only the reason to take a vacation, but for leaving me with so many memories that I’ll look back on fondly for years to come. I’m looking forward to the next show already.
I spend three days at a con, and I’m likely to make some observations. Those observations don’t always fit into the structure of a convention report, but I like to share them anyway. Consider the following list an addendum of incidents from the weekend that struck me for one reason or another.
Some general observations
- The first two Mad Monsters I attended were fraught with all the flaws a new convention will suffer: some disorganization, things not running on time, staff that doesn’t have answers. I’m happy to report Mad Monster has come a long way. This show was a smooth endeavor, with a well-organized approach and a staff that could answer questions. It’s worlds improved from where it once came, and I’m content to acknowledge for myself the promoters have taken into account what they needed to change in order to grow, and have executed. This is not always the case, unfortunately, as some shows actually get worse as they get bigger. Not Mad Monster. Kudos to you fine people, and thank you.
- With a guest list of just under 30, Mad Monster party was just the right size. Unlike the sprawling mess at Walker Stalker or the gridlocked monstrosity that is Chiller, this show can handle a number of fans without it being humongous. The list leaned toward ELM STREET and James Cameron films, but it had enough names outside of those for fans interested in other films. Fans looked generally excited, as I’m sure many of these stars were new to the area. I’m beginning to think 30 or so is the perfect guest list size for a show, and Mad Monster satisfied.
- For a guy who loves film, X can’t handle a camera phone. As part of the staff, he got free photos with Road Warrior Animal and Mick Foley, which he promptly obliterated from his ancient phone.
- I never need to buy another horror shirt again. I have probably over 100 of them, and should start clearing out the older ones I never wear. Yet somehow I ended up with several Mad Monster shirts. Which I won’t complain about, though, because Mad Monster had a sweet selection of their own shirts that spun off 80s horror icons.
- The Soskas will really get up on their table to hug fans on the other side. I would’ve loved to be a fan of theirs for this reason alone, but I don’t enjoy any of their stuff. Talk about taking “fan friendly” to new, huggy extremes.
- The Soska sisters also don’t want to be bothered when away from their table, as evidenced by the 10-foot-tall bodyguards flanking them on either side every time they ventured away from their table.
- If you’re a female who’s been in an ELM STREET movie, you probably still look really good. Amanda Wyss, Lisa Wilcox and Tuesday Knight join Heather Langenkamp on the list of Freddy victims who look mighty fine 30 years later.
- A quality selection of vendors were at the show. Several sellers hawking shirts, Vinyl Pop figures and the usual fare, as well as some more offbeat products, offered a nice cross-section of merch.
- Speaking of, I found an awesome new convention bag that I almost talked myself out of buying. I’d been toting around the same bag for 10 years, since the Texas Frightmare I attended, and it was never really made to last more than one con. A sturdy, sizable bag with a flap showing off characters from all three films in Romero’s Dead trilogy was a steal at 40 bucks, but I almost passed anyway. X advised me I wasn’t spending money at the con and hadn’t been to one in ages, and that was all I needed to get the bag. See, I told you X is a genius. Thanks, X!
- It was a lot more fun to watch X last time I did Mad Monster, when he was out on the floor, running around and putting out fires in all directions. This time, X was behind the merch booth, a waste of his natural energies but a surefire way to make sure your books are accurate and your tees are moving. X has become a part of this show, and Mad Monster should appreciate the hardworking, dedicated guy he is. He actually makes the show a better place, and that’s legit.
- The gross product of North Carolina apparently is restaurant food. In three days, Fasano and I ate at a Five Guys, a barbecue joint, an Applebee’s and a Chinese buffet, all within walking distance of the con hotel. And those were just the places we hit while at the con.
- Like NYC, NC has a rating system for its restaurants. Unlike NYC, which grants letter grades, NC doles out specific number grades. I have no idea what would differ between a 98 and a 95, but I sure am curious.
- I don’t get to see Larry DeVincentz enough. He’s a great guy and a huge George Romero fan, and I occasionally see him at cons where he’s selling memorabilia. I was happy to buy him a drink at the show and quench his thirst.
- A lot more people speak sign language that I ever would have expected, including Felissa Rose and her children, and last year’s winner of the Miss SCarolina beauty contest. At one point I felt like the only person in Charlotte who didn’t know how to use it.
- As long as Mad Monster runs conventions in the area, I’ll always have reason to visit Fasano once a year. Thanks again, Mad Monster, as I don’t see my best friend nearly enough.
- Conventions can be fun. I’m sorry I forgot that, but jazzed that Mad Monster pointed it out to me after years of con burnout. I really do look forward to the next Mad Monster show.