Donna and I with Rondo presenters Nurse Moan-eek (Linda Wylie) and David Colton.
It was an unusual Wonderfest for Donna and me, but also a very happy and successful one. Aside from two brief meetings with Sara Karloff, who had a very warm handshake and seemed a genuinely nice lady, I didn't meet any of the guests. That's not why I go to Wonderfest; I go to see those friends I am not able to see at any other time of the year. I didn't get downstairs to the Dealers' Rooms till an hour before they closed on Sunday, and I didn't cover all the ground or buy a single thing -- with the exception of William Stout's must-have new book LEGENDS OF THE BLUES, which I arranged to obtain from him in advance. I saw Lee Meriwether (my favorite Catwoman since 1966) from afar, thought to myself that I really didn't have anything to say to her that she wouldn't have heard at least a millllion times before (I mean, Donnie Waddell had already played the 4D MAN card), so I decided to keep our happy relationship as it was: real but unrealized, and all in my mind.
A large number of the people we usually see at Wonderfest weren't there this year. No Bob and Kathy, no Frank and Trish, no David J. Schow or Larry Underwood or John Davis, and a few of the Nashville contingent showed up stag, leaving their better halves at home. Most significantly, Gary L Prange wasn't able to host his Old Dark Clubhouse for personal reasons, so Donna and I accepted to pick up the slack by hosting a hospitality suite for our group of friends. We dubbed it The Kogar Suite, in honor of the great ape Kogar and his keepers, our dear friends Bob and Kathy Burns, who have always been as central to the friendships formed at this convention as a family hearth. We informed them of our plans and they provided us with a disc of photos pertaining to Bob's career as the mighty gorilla Kogar -- including his encounters with Elsa Lanchester, Fred MacMurray, Glenn Strange and Rat Pfink a Boo Boo -- which we used to decorate the place, along with other adornments. Chris and Lisa Herzog, who took the other adjoining room and helped out with the suite, brought along a wondrous assortment of monkey-related things, including a monkey piñata (which Lisa called "the monkey autopsy" after hollowing out its belly and filling it with candy) and that perennial game of skill and patience known as Barrelful of Monkeys (in red and green), which -- before the weekend ended, had joined hands and were literally swinging from the chandeliers).
Donna and Lisa Herzog, who painted this fearsome likeness of Kogar for our Wonderfest suite.
With a small select group of early arrivals, including Rondomeister David Colton and his wife Eileen, we toasted Bob and Kathy and our other absent friends. The first surprise of the weekend concerned an absent friend. Literally for months and months, there had been a lot of backstage whispering going on because Jessica Lentz was preparing a surprise 50th birthday party for her husband Jerry, which was going to be the centerpiece of our suite's Saturday night activities. When Jessica and her daughter Erin arrived, they brought plenty of food with them to be refrigerated... but alas, no Jerry Lentz. Not feeling well, he opted to stay behind in Nashville. Even after the beans were spilled to him about the party plans, he didn't feel well enough to attend. But Jessica didn't want to disappoint Erin, whom she thought would enjoy the show, and Donna introduced her to some of our annual sushi pleasures at Sapporo in Bardstown which, I repeat as I do whenever I mention it, offers The Best Sushi in the World.
Me with Jessica "JL2" Lentz, whom you may remember as our Inside Back Cover model in VIDEO WATCHDOG 165!
As I look back over the weekend, it seems even blurrier than usual and I seem to be having a harder time than usual recovering from it, so I must have had a wonderful time. I certainly had a marvelous time at the Eleventh Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards, about which David Colton was a wee bit trepidatious because the majority of acceptances this year were going to be absentees who sent in videos... but it was still a very entertaining program, thanks to the complementary chemistry of the tuxedoed David and his comic foil Nurse Moan-eek (VW's own Linda Wylie). I was especially pleased to accept awards for Writer of the Year and Best Themed Issue (for VIDEO WATCHDOG's DARK SHADOWS round table issue) and to see my pal Stephen R. Bissette inducted into the Rondo Hall of Fame by fellow artist and dinophile Bill Stout. I thought for sure that Bill and I would have an intensive one-on-one conversation about a project we've been discussing for a couple of years now, especially since the weekend was immediately preceded by a sudden flurry of excited emails from Bill, but sadly, that conversation didn't happen. He was present and involved in other discussions of earth-shaking import, however. I almost missed saying goodbye to him, as I found him hastily packing up to catch his plane as I finally made it downstairs to his table. He is due back for Vinylfest in July, however, and I hope to see him then.
Chris and Lisa Herzog, MONSTER KID HOME MOVIES producer Joe Busam, Rondo-winning artist Mark Maddox, Yours Truly and Ted Haycraft discussing something or other in the Louisville Crowne Plaza's Suite 572. Photo courtesy of Abigail Yates.
I spent most of my time talking with Chris and Lisa, VW 171 cover artist Mark Maddox (who bailed early and did not say goodbye - he will be dealt with later), Frankensteinia blogger Pierre Fournier and Denise Gascon, Max "The Drunkenseveredhead" Cheney and Jane Considine, sushi neighbor Rodney Barnett (who's on some kind of jungle girl movie kick), Danya Linehan and Mike Parks, Ted Haycraft, Donnie Waddell, Carrie Galloway, Melinda Angstrom (who arrived on Sunday night and joined Donnie in a hilarious, extended comedy pas de deux), Ethan Black and newcomer Abigail Yates... In fact, as Donna noted later, there were more women in the hospitality suite than she remembers ever seeing. We counted seventeen. I did not have sufficient time to speak with the charming Belle Dee, the dimpled Terry Pace, the zennish Scott "Belmo" Belmer, the itinerant Steve Iverson or the injured Dave Thomas, which I regret. I'm a bad host; I can help provide the space for friends but I'm not so good at circulating. I tend to sit in one place, get into conversations and delight as they widen and deepen.
Anyway, a lovely time as always, over much too soon. The Kogar Suite was a great success and it shall be again.