Hong-cubines, Acoustics, and the Speed Dating that Never Was



Mad Monster Party, Charlotte, NC


March 23-24, 2012 at the Blake Hotel





The Blake Hotel, home to Mad Monster Party con




I’ve been to so many cons, many on repeat trips, that it’s easy for me to get jaded on them.  From Chiller to Monster-Mania, Horror Hound to Horrorfind, I know the layout and what to expect before I hear the show dates have been announced and the first guests have been inked.  So going to a first time show is always a breath of fresh air.  Sure, I expect hiccups along the way, but it’s a brand new opportunity to go someplace different, experience new things, and be invigorated.  When the place is Charlotte, NC, I get the chance to spend a weekend with my best friend of 25 years Fasano, and there’s a 26 foot long pizza buffet involved, even a terrible show would still make for a great time.  Fortunately, Mad Monster Party was a great show, that offered a mix of convention standards on the guest list and some new faces, and lots to do outside meeting celebs.  It was also poorly run, but given the overall experience and the fact that this was their first show, I can forgive.


I usually run convention reports chronologically, but I’m breaking format here.  X, Fasano and I packed a lot into two days, and it made more sense to break the report down into themes.  The report also ran very long, so I had to break it down into two parts.  Here’s Part 1, which includes the tales of my dad’s rants, X’s fear of flying, the Hong Horror Show, interviewing and acoustics, and the speed dating that never came to be.  And we haven’t even gotten to Rutger Hauer yet.




The trip down




Stock shot of Laguardia Airport



My dad is a strange man.  I don’t feel bad saying that, because I love him dearly, but he’s not like anyone else I’ve ever met.  I’d asked him for a ride to the airport over a month in advance, and he only checked with my brother a few days before, and that only because we were all at his house and I had to remind him.  We’d scheduled for him to pick up X and me at 9 a.m. so we’d have plenty of time before our plane’s 11 a.m. departure time.  When talking to Dad the day before on my coffee break at work, he suddenly sprung it on me that he had to make a physical therapy appointment by his house at 9:45.  So he would pick us up at 8 instead.


This on top of X saying he was going to take the LIRR into Jamaica, and catch a shuttle to Kennedy Airport.  The only problem was, we were flying out of Laguardia.  Thank God that X realized before we headed out.  This also meant he was there to experience Dad’s oddball conversations, including a colorful tirade about the Jets signing Tim Tebow as their backup QB.  Despite all the hitches, we sailed through to the airport without hitting any traffic.


And arrived at 8 freaking 30.




Forty Licks keeps me happy on the trip



This left me plenty of time to acquaint myself with X’s freak out.  X is deathly afraid of flying, and watching him go pale and start to tremble as we waited for several hours to board the plane was quite a sight.  It should have been unnerving, but I had my iPod queued to the Rolling Stones, and “Tumblin’ Dice” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” kept me on a high.  Forty Licks has just that number of songs, but even then, I would end up looking at my watch and realizing we still had a long time to go.


When we finally got the call to board, watching X walk the ramp was an amazing new sight.  Because ours was a short flight, X was unable to take any of the drugs that would ease him.  Tensed up like a coil, X made it down the corridor like a pro wrestler, rolling his neck, stopping frequently and breathing like a dragon.  I felt bad for him, but he did take the window seat and kept the blinder down, depriving me of the view I so love when I fly (oddly, X had chosen for us to sit in separate rows, both at a window, but he had to reseat us when he printed the boarding passes, and he blew it).  Tucked between X and a fat guy, I again thanked Jagger and Richards for “19th Nervous Breakdown” and “Gimme Shelter.”


But hey, X was the one who suggested we fly this time, instead of trying to convince me it would be quicker to drive.  And our plane never hit a deer.



Christine and the line



Christine's ominous grille




The first thing greeting us when we went to get our passes on Friday was the 1957 Plymouth Fury from the movie CHRISTINE.  Fasano’s pic proves that it’s still a beautiful car, and it was sitting right outside the doors to the ticket table, running with exhaust fumes pumping into the hotel.  I’m not a science guy, but I know that CO fumes in a closed location can lead to death.  So I wasn’t so hot on hanging around in that lobby.  We went straightaway to the desk, and X spoke to the staffers.


A sure sign of a poorly run show is when the press pass list doesn’t include everyone who’s supposed to get a pass.  The head guy with the moustache didn’t have our names down, but X had the confirmation email.  He didn’t have the good sense to say “Three,” when moustache man asked how many passes we were to get, which didn’t thrill Fasano.  He hadn’t mentioned trying to save money on a pass in the months leading up to the show, but suddenly wanted to lock his wallet.  This would’ve saved me the commotion that was about to take place, but hey, that’s part of the story.


The guy sent another staffer off to find out about what to do for press passes, and she promptly returned to explain we would get day passes and have to go through the process tomorrow.  That’s a terrible way to do things, and I gather it was decided on the fly, as nobody knew anything at this con.  Mr. Moustache told X that he and I had early entry, but not to use them because 40 staffers would stop us along the way.  WHICH DEFEATS THE WHOLE CONCEPT OF EARLY ENTRY, by the way.  Again, signs of a poorly run show, and certainly a new show.


At a quarter to 6, we three hopped on line to get Fasano a bracelet.  When the hour hit, X decided he would go scope out the con, and Fasano opted to go check on his illegally parked car.  This left me standing alone online to witness the MMP way of distilling tickets.  Moustache yelled out that anybody with pre-paid passes should come forward, and what was a line became a chaotic mess of bodies.  Most interesting was when he called out that anybody paying with a credit card had to go upstairs and find Ed.  Who Ed is, I have no idea, and why he was upstairs with a credit card machine instead of at the ticket table will forever remain a mystery.




Christine pouring exhaust fumes into the lobby



Adding to this disjointed mess was that they’d cut off the line at the hotel doors, for no apparent reason.  I looked out to see Fasano standing out there, too timid to say he’d already been in there and should be allowed back in.  Thankfully, someone had shut Christine off, so I wouldn’t die by asphyxiation in Charlotte, NC at a poorly run horror con.  As I tried to make my way toward the desk with hopes that Fasano and his wallet would join me so he could buy his own ticket, X texted and told me to get up there.  What he said next astounded me:  Rutget Hauer and Chris Sarandon had no lines.


Hey, Fasano is a big boy.  Let him handle getting his own ticket and finding us.





When I attend a con, I’m usually only interested in meeting the guests.  I realize there’s a whole other world of events at most cons, and that many horror fans go for the full rounded experience.  But full disclosure, I don’t dig most of the alternate stuff.  Q and A’s bore me, because I can talk with the celebs directly when I meet them.  Screenings are just watching a movie I could watch at home, especially because many cons project them off DVD or Blu-Ray (though watching a 35mm print of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, with Gary Streiner providing a running commentary, is a life changing experience).  I’ve been to a sum total of one “meet the celebs” dinner party, and aside from Texas meatballs, it was awful, with the “cool kids” stars sitting together, and the “nerds, geeks and dorks” fans huddled at other tables.


Given my attitude, it may surprise you that I actually wanted to take part in a number of events at Mad Monster Party.  The difference here was this show had some unique stuff, and I wanted to get the fullest out of it.  Besides, 11 hours over two days meant I could get all the signing and interviews done and have several hours to spare.  That, and this was the first convention ever to offer the Hong Horror Show.




Lo Pan laughs at X's lack of rhythm



X had pointed out The Hong Horror Show about a week before our trip on the MMP webpage.  The description sounded oddball and appealing, so once we got Hauer and Sarandon, we headed into the auditorium, just a few minutes late.  We snatched some front row seats just as the show started.  Hong is a lunatic, an engaging jokester who played the whole thing for laughs.  Dressed in the Party City version of a Lo Pan outfit from BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, he regaled the audience with one liners and anecdotes from his films.  Accompanying him were his concubines, three presumably local girls dressed in belly dancing outfits.  The Hong-cubines, as I affectionately renamed them, brought up participants from the audience, including X, to read a Jack Burton line in a contest.  The winner (unfortunately not X, even with his Jack Burton tank top) read a scene with Hong, who kept ripping on him about jumping on Hong’s lines.  But he was richly rewarded in the end with the Hong Award, which amounted to a lap dance from the Hong-cubines.



X and the Hong-cubines



Sadly, I have no pictures of this.  My camera takes awful pics in auditoriums, and Hong was charging 30 bucks at his table to pose with him as low budget Lo Pan in front of a green screen, and I wasn’t paying that.  The show itself was so popular that MMP added a second showing on Sunday.


Midnight on Friday, X and I attended the Spooktacular magic show, which wasn’t exactly spooktacular.  I admit I was drained from a few days without sleep and the dark auditorium, but the show would have been solidly mediocre even if I’d been at peak.  Watching a girl not really get sawed in half by a blade which had red paint visible before it started to spin doesn’t do the trick for me, though X said he’d seen a worse magic show on Long Island.


My favorite event was the speed dating that never was.  As no staffer knew anything about the show he was working, a number of them pointed out several wrong locations for the signup sheet.  X found it accidentally, and we and Fasano signed up.  Let me point out that X is in a long relationship, and Fasano was married.  But it was all for fun, and the chance to meet some new people, so we all left our cell numbers, and awaited a text that would give us the location.


I’m still waiting for that text.  Maybe I’ll get it in time for next year’s show.


At midnight on Saturday, X and I sat in on the Bikini Contest run by Girls and Corpses magazine.  The less I say about this, the better.  It was a grueling affair, run poorly by the magazine’s owner, an disengaging twit who had no idea how to play a crowd.  When 15 girls are in bikinis and males in the audience are groaning to leave 10 minutes in, that’s a feat.






My main goal on Saturday was to get interviews.  I’ve conducted a number of them the last four years, and they’re my favorite part of running Death Ensemble.  I always get jazzed when I’m standing next to someone who’s been in movies and he or she is answering questions I put together.  And more often than not, guests at a con are willing to do them.  People love to talk about themselves, and horror celebs are people, so more often than not they’ll agree to talk if time permits.




Mears is one cool dude... who I couldn't interview



Of course, sometimes outside factors get in the way.  The Derek Mears case, for instance. I was hanging around his table late Friday night, awaiting a moment to ask him for an interview, when someone else did just that.  Derek is a great guy who truly appreciates every fan who wants to meet him (to the point where a few years ago, when his Jason high was in full swing, he posed for pics in the hotel bar at a show), and I know he’d make for a great talk.  But his agent screens his interviews, for fear he’ll get overexposed.  As if overexposure for any actor is a bad thing?  He and I chatted briefly, and I dropped my DE business card, in the hopes that somewhere down the line I’ll snag him.  Hey, as I told him, on my end it never hurts to ask.




Photo proof that John Russo was willing to speak with Phil



Although I was sure it would hurt to ask John Russo.  Co-author of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD’s screenplay with George Romero, and director of such fare as John Amplas’ MIDNIGHT and Debbie Rochon’s epic Christmas slayer SANTA CLAWS, Russo is his own man.  He peddles all sorts of NOTLD oddities at high prices (though everything is a “show discount,” which means $400 becomes a still astronomical $200 for returned checks from the Latent Image), and he’s the only horror star I know who sells grave dirt.  I milled around his table for a while late Saturday and when someone mentioned Rochon, I jumped at the chance to tell Russo I’d interviewed her recently, as a segue.  Now, I fully expected Russo to shoot me down, as he’s not always the kindest of celebs, and at first he did, as the acoustics weren’t up to par.  But then an odd thing happened.  He asked me how long it would take.  When I told him just a few minutes, he shocked me and agreed.  And so I got an interview with John Russo.  You should note I ask him about almost everything but NOTLD.  His answers, well, they could only have come from John Russo.




X interviewed Patty Mullen in makeup



X conducted our second interview, with FRANKENHOOKER star Patty Mullen.  This took a while to set up, as his first attempt was thwarted when she headed off to get her makeup from the film done.  Though that presented a cool aspect, as X interviewed her as the Frankenhooker, purple wig and all.  X wasn’t satisfied with the job he did, as she abruptly said it was a go between signing autos, and he forgot some of his questions.  But he’s too harsh on himself.  I was just happy to have X do his first piece for DE, as I’ve been trying to get him to write for the site since its inception.




As always, Dee Wallace



We ended our rounds with my interview with Dee Wallace.  As Saturday was coming toward its close, she was drained from two days of signing, and asked if I would be around tomorrow.  I wouldn’t, and Dee being the loveliest celeb I’ve ever met, she agreed.  I’m sure you can find her answering every question you’d ever think of a thousand times on the net, so I took a different route:  I focused on the number of famous directors she’s worked with.  Dee gave me some great answers, and I’m beyond pleased that I finally got to interview my favorite horror actress.



Okay, that’s it for Part 1.  Join us soon for Part 2, in which the fog takes over Charlotte, I meet Sarandon and others, and Rutger Hauer asks, “WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS???”


You won’t want to miss this!



-Phil Fasso

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