Reviewer: Zep the Bear
July 29-30, 2016
I grew up watching horror and monster movies on television that were hosted by an assortment of regional icons like Big Chuck and Lil’ John, The Ghoul, The Son of Ghoul, and The Cool Ghoul. My favorite was always Superhost. His show featured 3 Stooges shorts and Godzilla movies. I’ve been in love with both ever since.
It was a truly magical time. I was 10-years old. The only thing that mattered were weekends, scary movies, and pro wrestling. (Okay, maybe things haven’t changed that much for me.)
Anyways, I first started seeing flyers for MONSTERFESTMANIA! about a year and a half ago. I greedily snagged the first one I ran across. It has been living on my refrigerator door since as I counted down the days to the event.
Saturday, July 30 (Day 2)
8:22 AM: My pal Wayne picked me up. We grabbed a bite at the insanely good breakfast spot, The Blue Door Cafe & Bakery. If you live in the area, it is a must-visit restaurant. All ingredients are locally sourced and all dishes, including baked goods, are made from scratch. Trust me on this one.
Now that our bellies are full, we are ready for some scares.
10:25 AM: The first booth we stop at is chock full of vintage copies of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. I hard-eyed an issue that had King Kong on the cover. However, it was a high-grade edition that was slightly (!!!) out of my budget.
10:44 AM: I bought some Muck Monster Hot Sauce from a local vendor based in Hartville. It is legit.
10:55 AM: My friend and I each take our turn shooting a “baby crossbow” at a rubber zombie head in an attempt to win a valuable prize. Turns out we stink at archery.
11:14 AM: The Cleveland Memories lecture featuring Mike Olszewski. I’ve seen Olszewski lecture at comic book conventions before. Dude has a crazy encyclopedic memory for Cleveland television and radio. He spoke at length about Dorothy Fuldheim, Lynn Sheldon, Don Novello, Capt. Penny, Woodrow the Woodsman, the Mad Daddy, and Ghoulardi/Ernie Anderson.
He pointed out that early television was primitive and depended on talent to make it viable.
To illustrate Ghoulardi’s rebellious spirit, he told a great story about him riding his motorcycle through the station and into his boss’ office.
Needless to say, this pissed off management. A memo soon followed:
There will be no motorcyle riding in my office.
He noted that even though Ghoulardi was an absolute original, Anderson used to do an hour of news each day before the Mad Daddy‘s radio show and was clearly influenced by his delivery and demeanor.
Olszewski peppered his lecture with some fun, but obscure, video clips of the performers he spoke about. It made for a layered experience.
12:00 PM: The Ghoulardi panel featuring Mike Olszewski, Tony Isabella, The Son of Ghoul, and Mike Monahan.
Mike Monahan opened by commenting that if one wanted to know what Cleveland television station WJW was like in the 1960s, they only have to watch the TV show Mad Men.
“Roger Sterling is Ernie Anderson.”
The panel went on to contextualize the time.
The Cold War, Vietnam, Space Race, and the Civil Rights Movement were things your parents worried about.
Photograph courtesy of NorthCountryPublicRadio.org
In 1964 the only thing kids cared about were The Beatles and Ghoulardi. He was must-see television.
Tony Isabella remarked that Ghoulardi was “Mad Magazine in the flesh.”
Monahan pointed out how Anderson would deconstruct television in real time live on the air. If there was a mistake off-camera, Ghoulardi would call the person out in the moment.
Son of Ghoul: “Ghoulardi was believable because he was real. He would cut down movies or tv personalities. It was all ad-libbed. He was your crazy uncle.”
Olszewski told a great story about Anderson getting upset at management over budgetary cuts so he gave his boss’ home phone number out live on the air.
Son of Ghoul felt that Ghoulardi helped the city heal after the assassination of President Kennedy.
The was a neat discussion filled with lots of cool tidbits. It was obvious that everyone on the panel is passionate about Ghoulardi.
1:04 PM: The Addams Family reunion. Ivonna Cadaver (horror host), Lisa Loring (“Wednesday Addams”), and Felix Cilla (“Cousin It”) composed the panel.
This discussion felt like it never really got off the ground. Cadaver didn’t seem entirely comfortable in the role of interviewer. And Lisa Loring did not seem like she wanted to be there.
The one saving grace was Felix Silla. He was incredibly gracious and charming. He has had a long, interesting career so he had a number of compelling and hilarious anecdotes to share. He had worked on some major films and television programs over the years. (I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to ask him for stories about his experiences on Star Wars.)
The panel abruptly ended about 30 minutes early when Loring stood up and announced that she had to “go to the bathroom.” Umm…ok?
On paper, it was a cool idea but the personalities never quite jelled.
(Show organizer Michael Savene has since posted an explanation on the MONSTERFESTMANIA! Facebook group page about the panel. Lisa Loring has been suffering upper and lower back pain that will require surgery to relieve. Despite being warned against traveling to Akron for the event, she did so because she did not want to disappoint convention attendees. It is rumored that MFM! was her last ever convention appearance. The staff at Super No Bueno would like to wish Ms. Loring the best of luck and a healthy, pain-free future.)
1:48 PM: Found a table filled with bootleg videos for sale. Scads of pro wrestling.
“Big” Tex McKenzie. The Love Bros. “Bulldog” Bob Brower. Bruiser Brody. The Kangaroo Bros. Pampero Firpo. “Big Cat” Ernie Ladd.
I’m in heaven.
1:58 PM: I ran into former MTV personality and film and comic book star Toby Radloff, Genuine Nerd, as he poured through boxes of magazines. He was gracious enough to pose for a picture with me.
Photograph by Wayne Palmer
2:12 PM: The Son of Ghoul 30th Anniversary Tribute panel. It was composed of Mike Monahan, Mike Olszewski, and The Son of Ghoul.
This was a fun panel. It was filled with lots of memories and plenty of video clips.
SoG (real name Kevin Scarpino) ran through how and why he got into the hosting game.
He recalled interviewing The Monkees, Chubby Checker, Gary Lewis, the cast of Lost in Space, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Paul McCartney over the years on his program.
He shared some great memories of his former sidekick, Fidge.
He even touched on his old game show, The Son of Ghoul’s House of Fun and Games. (Fun Fact: I was a two-time winner on the show.)
When asked the key to his longevity, SoG replied, “I never look beyond the next 13 weeks.”
The panel concluded with a bang as Scarpino was presented with not only an award from the convention organizers but also one from Sen. Sherrod Brown and President Barrack Obama.
3:08 PM: Costume contest. I gotta say, this is the first convention costume contest in which none of the participants sucked. There were cool, inventive costumes in both the children and adult divisions.
Photograph by Wayne Palmer
I also had the good fortune of meeting a horror host named Dr. Dark. He did me a solid and hooked me up with a vintage My Pet Monster. Check out his Facebook page here and show him some love. He’s a good dude.
MONSTERFESTMANIA! was a fun, well-organized event. The panels were fast-paced and informative. The vendors came with a wide variety of cool merchandise at reasonable prices.
There were a couple cancellations by out of state talent but that is to be expected with events like this.
And don’t tell anyone that I said it, but a little birdie told me that MONSTERFESTMANIA! will be returning in 2017.