NOTE: AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS BLOG IS AN EMBEDDED PODCAST WHICH HAS AUDIO FROM MONSTER BASH. My regular podcast, Stay Cool, Geek is approximately the first 42 minutes with the remaining audio dedicated SOLELY TO MONSTER BASH! So please, listen in! Thanks!
I remembered when Ron Adams, organizer of the annual Monster Bash Monster Convention, emailed me to inquire if I'd like to show my independent film Son of Ghostman at his annual event. Not only that, he wanted to show it on Saturday night, in a prime slot, and had rarely shown a "new" film at his event.
I was honored, thrilled, and immediately said yes. I knew that physically making the event was going to be difficult, but regardless, I'd be there in spirit.
Then I started thinking about Lugosi. Bela Lugosi. The man who would become synonymous with the character Count Dracula. The man whose movements I'd recreate ad nauseam as a small boy in the northwestern suburbs of Illinois, a place where the wind howls loud and the scent of looming monster danger always seems to be in the air. Monsters have a way of invading the Midwest, whether that be Chicago or Cleveland, and they've come to capture the hearts of thousands of fans for generations. I was one such fan.
My film, a tribute to horror hosts, is every much a nod to those indelible characters as it is Svengoolie. Without Lugosi, I may have never discovered acting in a way that compelled me to try it. Even now, at age 36, horror hosts and the classic monster movies effect me in a way I don't totally understand. They just have a hold that I can't comprehend, one that comes and goes with the seasons, but always finds a way back into my heart.
And so it was, after a stirring bout of nostalgia, that I booked my flight to Pittsburgh and settled in for Monster Bash. I was unaware of what to expect, who I'd see, or what I'd do. No matter, I was going.
After a short ride to the hotel, I barreled out and was immediately hit by a few classic monster cars...including A DRAGULA! Possibly just as exciting was "The Creature Car." Now seriously, who doesn't want a car with the Creature from the Black Lagoon etched onto the side? I know I do!
I readied myself and entered the hotel wondering where exactly to go. Luckily, I didn't have to look long, as the giant visage of The Wolf Man menacingly stared down at me. My heart sank, and the memories of my monster past hit me like a sledgehammer.
The Wolf Man has always held a special place in my heart, and specifically the portrayal of Larry Talbot by Lon Chaney jr. is just wonderful. His Father, Lon sr. always gets a ton of credit for being a horror icon, and rightfully so, but there's something about the soft, yet tortured face of Chaney jr. that always stuck with me. He knew he was a menace, cursed by the bite which changed his fate forever.
Walking into Monster Bash, you were greeted by full-size replicas of the infamous three... Karloff. Lugosi. Chaney jr. Of the three, Lugosi was easily the closest to reality, striking his hypnotic pose. I remember being entranced by those eyes, the cape, and the voice. Bela's phonetic pronunciation of Count Dracula's dialogue added a regal, otherworldly tone that stayed with me forever. He truly was an icon, and I was glad to see him out front where he belongs.
Almost instantly, people welcomed me with warm embraces. There were handshakes, congratulations, and even unsolicited hugs that I begrudgingly accepted. Even the Grinch can appreciate a warm hug... besides, I may have traveled alone, but within minutes I felt like I had a new monster family.
The highlight of that first night for me was Joel Hodgson's "Riffing Myself" which was hilarious in its truth. Believe me, if you haven't seen Joel's senior picture, you're missing out. The show concluded with Joel bringing out Arch Hall Jr. for a public apology of sorts. I say sorts because Joel, just like Count Dracool, got his comeuppance. A classic joke for a classic audience.
I wondered into the bar and the rest of the night became blurry with new friends, shots of tequila, monster conversations, and more tequila. Monster Bash was off to a roaring start.
The next day was filled with trepidation, as anxiety kicked in and all sense of perspective was lost. I calmed myself, knowing full well I had many hours to kill before the screening of Son of Ghostman. I suppose I could have traveled back into the bar, but why do that when a dealer room filled with collectibles awaited me inside?
I probably walked those aisles twenty times over the next few hours, expertly deciding on just what I wanted to buy. Well, truthfully I wanted to buy the full-size head sculpts of the Wolf Man and Frankenstein, but settled on a slew of DVDs and CDs. Specifically, I finally got my hands on a Dvd of Uncle Forry's Ackermansion documentary, something I long wanted to. Forry was a monster icon, and his influence and promotion of the genre cannot be understated. Forry opened his home to all manner of people for over 30 years, proudly displaying his unparalleled monster and science-fiction collection. Forry even came into possession of one of Bela Lugosi's ACTUAL ORIGINAL Dracula capes... a possession best seen in person. In fact, Forry had even entertained one young man in his home many years ago...
I also bought a Hammer Dracula CD, knowing full well that the ominous voice of Christopher Lee calmly explaining the tale of Dracula would fill my home for many Halloween seasons to come.
Also, what would a Monster Convention be without proper pin attire? I chose this classic and cool Wolf Man button to commemorate the weekend...
Monsters, horror hosts, and oddities seemed to be at every corner, and I reveled in their dedication and beauty. Here are just a few...
The time for the screening came, and I happily introduced Son of Ghostman for the 150+ guests in attendance. It was hard to describe showing the film to a group of people who grew up with monsters and horror hosts. I desperately wanted their approval, and am happy to report that it seemed I achieved it. The movie experience was filled with laughter and well-wishes from everyone in attendance, something not lost on me. All because this guy, Ron Adams, took a chance and put Son of Ghostman into his DVD player. I simply can't thank him and his family enough.
Best of all, I got to go to a convention and screen my movie with my Father in attendance. He proudly wore a Son of Ghostman shirt, and yes, we even hugged.
That alone was worth the trip...
As for Monster Bash, I hope to go again one year, and perhaps I'll be able to repay Ron by bringing something bigger and better to the convention. Either way, I'll be there, because the monsters have always been there for me... until next time...
LISTEN TO MORE ELABORATE, AMUSING ANECDOTES FROM MONSTER BASH BELOW, STARTING AT MINUTE 42