Tuesday, May 29, 2007

WONDERFEST Slide Show Pt. 2

WARNING! During Doctor Gangrene's live Creature Feature presentation of MONSTER ON THE CAMPUS, an actual monster will run amok through the audience! (Uh-oh, looks like Bob Burns has been smoking that wacky coelacanth tobacky in his pipe again!)

Dr. Gangrene (Larry Underwood) and associate Frank Dietz investigate a coelacanth of their own between clips of the 1958 Universal-International favorite. Sorry for the dim quality of the image; Wonderfest needs to do something about their stage lighting.

In between bouts of escalating mayhem involving special guest John Goodwin as "Dr. Princent Vice," the room rocks to the swingin' sounds of The Exotic Ones! Here's their drummer "Space Fink" turning their music into a minefield of traps and snares!

Lead guitarist "Zoomga" (or is that "The Tartan Phantom"? -- I always get 'em confused) lent his brain-melting licks to Zacherle favorites "Dinner with Drac" and "Happy Halloween," as well as Exotic originals like "B-9 Robot" and, of course, Gangrene theme song "The Doctor is In." Meanwhile, "The Purple Astronaut" vamps on keyboards.

Bassist/vocalist "Mr. Ghoul" adds some bottom to the perilous proceedings as Bob Burns undergoes a terrifying transformation offstage. Had a great time talking with Mr. Ghoul in the Old Dark Clubhouse.

Uh-oh! The Monster's got Nurse Moan-eek!

All ended happily, however, and I seized the opportunity to pose with my new favorite horror hosts. Dr. Gangrene's CREATURE FEATURE is presently airing quarterly on the CW Network. I've seen their first broadcast in this new format, featuring the Amicus film THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, and it's fantastic and fully deserving of national exposure! You know what Monsters HD needs besides a more frequent turnover of new titles? A weekly horror host! Here's the team that could do it. I got a chance to spend some time with Nurse Moan-eek (Linda Wylie) in the Old Dark Clubhouse and she's such a sweetheart! Not only is Linda an inspired comedienne -- I hope she'll continue to be part of the Rondo Award presentations in years to come -- but she's got an amazing positive energy about her that turns any room she enters into a happier place.

But other people found their way into the Old Dark Clubhouse as well. On Saturday night, Max Cheney (The Drunken Severed Head) burst into the room and cautioned us that, if we were so equipped, we might want to get together whatever mace or sharp objects we might have on hand, because the room was about to be invaded by a sinister visitor...

He erupted into the room as a vision of black, exuding an aura of brimstone and vindictiveness. He moved among us as a figure of diabolic judgment, causing women to weep and grown men to cower (see bottom right)...

It was none other than the Brazilian horror icon Zé do Caixao, aka Coffin Joe -- a role originated onscreen by Jose Mojica Marins, but now passed on to none other than Rondo winner Raymond Castile!

His eyes flaming with hatred for all humankind, his talons poised to deal out his own cruel brand of justice, he stalked among us, calling us "Rats!"

As his eyes turned on me, I felt my blood turn to ice. He ranted and raved against not only us, but our entire species, and just as his sinister soliloquy -- in Portuguese! -- reached its crescendo, he extented a claw in my direction and...

... faded into thin air! My camera caught his dissipating essence just before it evaporated from the room!
Raymond got a huge round of applause for his performance, but he didn't stick around for it. Max had to lure him back to the room to take his bows, out of costume, and I gave him all possible praises. I've met Jose Mojica Marins and Raymond has nailed the character of Zé do Caixao perfectly. I also think his Zé costume is better than the original. Raymond is starring with Mojica in the long-promised third part of the Coffin Joe trilogy as the young Zé do Caixao; his scenes have already been filmed, and I can't wait to see it.
On Sunday, Donna and I attended David J. Schow's 16mm screening of the OUTER LIMITS episode "The Mutant," the one featuring Warren Oates as the mutant with fried egg eyes. I didn't get the resemblance as I was standing there, but check out this shot of Mr. Schow, which Donna took to capture Dave's handiwork with his homemade Gillman tie knot.

But Mr. Schow wasn't the only Sunday night banquet celebrity to arrive in such sartorial splendor. The ever-debonair Frank Dietz showed up sporting a special Rondo boutonniere, crafted by Dr. Gangrene's personal prop meister Ethan Black.

Here's a closer look.

The banquet had a Conan or barbarian theme because a couple of the artist guests, Gary Gianni and Mike Schultz, are experienced Robert E. Howard illustrators. Their presentations documented in images how other artists had inspired their approaches to their work, and the extent to which they relied on photographic templates -- fairly interesting, but the two lectures really couldn't compare to Dave Conover's talk on WAR EAGLES last year, or Kathy Burns' slide show of her and Bob's trip down under to participate in the filming of KING KONG.
Now here's a barbarian I guarantee that Gianni and Schultz have never drawn:
Waddell the Freebooter!

That's Donnie Waddell, of course, adding to the Sunday banquet festivities. During the dinner, Dave Conover (as Grog) stomped around the room and grabbed pie off some people's plates and dunked it in other people's coffee. Here's Grog hovering over the heads (and plates) of 2005 Monster Kid of the Year Joe Busam and Joe Busam Jr.

Incidentally, like his father, Joe Jr. is an animator and he made use of the Old Dark Clubhouse to preview a computer-animated logo he's designed for Monster Bash, lovingly done in the style of the 1940s Universal spinning globe -- fabulous work!
To be honest, this year's banquet festivities were a disappointment. After the usual prize drawings and a couple of Conan art slide presentations by Gary Gianni and Mark Schultz, Wonderfest CEO and toastmaster Dave Hodge proposed that we all make bids to compel our favorite fall guys to participate in Karaoke humiliations for charity. Robert Picardo stole the show with a lyrically retweaked version of "I Got You Babe" that poked fun at Sonny and Cher's divorce, and Kathy Burns and Nurse Moan-Eek added cute choreography to a version of "Stop! In the Name of Love" performed by Dave Hodge's wife (who clearly had never heard the song before), but it just seemed wrong to have Bob Burns, Donnie Waddell and Dave Conover tackle "The Monster Mash" when Zacherle himself was in the room. (Zach had actually proposed during Saturday's Shock Theater panel that everyone on the dais sing "The Monster Mash" as a tribute to the late Bobby "Boris" Pickett, but no one took him up on it. After the trio's admittedly silly rendition, I offered good money for Zach to step up to the mic and do it properly, definitively, magnificently, but he demurred.) By my count, the whole debacle was over after five songs.
This is just my opinion -- shared by many, but still just my opinion -- but I feel the Karaoke for Charity idea failed for a number of reasons. One: the Wonderfest vibe is actually contrary to the stick-it-to-'em "fraternity initiation" vibe that Dave likes to promulgate at the banquets. Two: Wonderfest is pretty much a cash convention and, by Sunday night, everyone's coffers were much too spent to be properly charitable. And Three: we'd already paid for the banquet -- now we're supposed to raise additional funds for Dave's favorite charity?
The Karaoke was a stinker, but it wasn't about to ruin anyone's evening. We pushed Sunday night as long as it could go -- closing down the Old Dark Clubhouse for the second night in a row and actually reconvening an ongoing conversation with Dave Schow, Harry Hatter, and Mike & Danya Parks in our room. I wish it could still be going on, but it folded around 4:00 am. By the way, I'd love to have a picture here of Gary Prange in the Old Dark Clubhouse, but he wouldn't move his can of pop away from his face when I tried to take one.
Oh, what the heck! Here he is, ladies and gentlemen: Gary Prange!
A few hours later, after waiting half an hour or so in the classical music-scored halls of the SHINING-like Executive West hotel, I rang Schow's room to rouse his butt into keeping his breakfast date with Donna and me. Got to spend a little time in the restaurant afterwards with Bob Burns and Donnie Waddell. In the hotel corridor, After a leisurely breakfast, Dave Schow, Donna and I happened to bump into Dave Conover who agreed to snap some commemorative shots with our camera, including this classic "thumbs up" pose. (By the way, PLEASE don't tell anyone that DJS gave the "thumbs up." Bad for his bad boy image.)
Then who should happen by but Max the Drunken Severed Head, whom we promptly coralled into a commemorative pose:

Kind of makes you want to remake THE BOOGIE MAN WILL GET YOU, doesn't it?
Last person to be encountered on the way out the door -- most appropriately -- was the very emblem of the Wonderfest warm-'n-fuzzies, Donnie Waddell.
DJS is in full YOU'LL FIND OUT mode here, but I just let my real feelings for Donnie show through. One of the nicest and funniest people in fandom.
Our weekend flew past in a blur; Donna and I slept relatively little, going to bed later and rising earlier each day of the convention, as we tried to drink in more and more experience to remember fondly in the weeks and months ahead. And now it seems as though it all happened long ago, which I suppose is the work of these photographs, distancing me from a past that is actually quite recent. It's hard to believe that I was standing in the presence of some of these people only yesterday morning. All in all, a great weekend -- not a complete success, as I've said, but, in some ways, more profound than last year's Wonderfest.
At least from where I stand.

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