The Monster-Mania horror convention returned to New Jersey this weekend, and for the sixth or seventh time, we were thurrrrrr.
Over the years, my visits to Monster-Mania have devolved from weekend-long adventures to quick trips through the dealer rooms. Even with a blockbuster celebrity lineup including everyone from Christopher Lloyd to Carrie Fisher, I had no plans on getting autographs, or even the inkling to stay more than my usual two hours.
But this particular visit was destined to become something different. A few of my “internet pals” were also attending, and though it broke every rule in the Official Matt Playbook, I’d grown too close to these guys to do my usual thing where I say “hope to see you there” and then spend the two hours hiding under a hood and sunglasses. (Nobody should be offended; I’ve pulled the same trick after spotting my sister in Target.)
My fears were unwarranted. These guys (and gal) were awesome. I was barely a foot into the hotel before running into Jay from The Sexy Armpit, who is one of those people you meet and swear you’ve known for years. The Sexy Armpit is one of my longtime favorite blogs – an “anything and everything” deal with a heavy lean on Jersey-centric pop culture. The guy behind it always seemed fifty times more talented than he knew, and too nice to be disliked by anyone. The real Jay was just the same. On the way home, as we were listing the pros and cons of our Monster-Mania experience, the only thing I could criticize Jay for was being taller than me.
Not two minutes later, we found John Squires of Freddy in Space, and his wife, Jen. You’ve probably picked up on my respect for John’s work, since he runs one of the few sites that I’ll mention without some bullshit unspoken mutual back-scratching code of webmaster ethics. I latched onto him years ago, on a much less sane internet, seeing him as one of the few who both “kept it real” and “just did it.” (For the record, when I put John in that category, I don’t think I would’ve put myself in that category.)
John is even funnier in person, and I think 85% of the people at the con knew who he was. We didn’t get to really know Jen until this weekend, but she’s awesome. And, as I suspected, she and Ms. X may actually truly be sisters. They’re our new favorite couple, narrowly defeating Sophia and the Japanese gardener.
Now, I kind of had to give you a long introduction to these people, because they will take center stage in the most important parts of this report. We’ll get to that shortly.
We remained a group for the first few minutes, but it was a little too early to be doing that thing where you turn the exchange of pleasantries into an all-night bond. After a few minutes, everyone splintered off to do their thing.
Course, my thing was the dealers’ room. (Well, dealers’ rooms would be more accurate.) If you came here hoping for candids of celebrities signing glossy photos, you’re gonna be disappointed. I didn’t seek them out, and the only ones I saw were by pure coincidence. (Thanks for almost knocking me over, Bruce Davison.)
Sure, 75% of the dealers’ wares are the same things you can find on eBay for lower prices, but here’s the catch: You’re not even aware that most of this junk exists until you see it here. That’s worth the premium.
Even if they’re not the ones I typically buy things from, the vendors that stand out best offer their own custom creations.
Among my favorite booths was this parade of Jason Voorhees masks, courtesy of Hockey Horror Mask. Despite my intense love for Friday the 13th, I’ve never been particularly passionate about “Jason mask” replicas. I can appreciate a good one if you shove it in my face and make me QC the amount of holes, but I never really seek them out. This booth may have changed that.
Check out the red and blue one. It’s incredible at face value, and even better once you realize that it’s based on how the mask looked in the promo materials for Jason Takes Manhattan. Freakin’ gorgeous, and if I didn’t end up spending all of my money on tequila, I’d be wearing it right now.
(A close runner-up is the icy green mask leading the second row, based on Mr. Voorhees’ “frozen” appearance in Jason X. Notice how I went with “Mr. Voorhees” to avoid using “Jason” twice in one sentence? I’m sharp.)
And who is this angry creature? Wow, it’s motherfucking Kyle from motherfucking Electric Zombie! Kyle has been a great friend to me/the site this past year, and was another on the short list of people I had to say “hi” to at Monster-Mania.
Kyle was selling his various awesome shit, which you should immediately go look at and buy. And I’m not just saying that because he gifted me a killer WWF pizza box. Kyle is an otherwise successful artist who mainly does this stuff for fun – which is very often a sign that the work will be killer. Here are a few things that come with my personal seal of approval:
The “Popclaw” Shirt. Intentionally or not, it’s so reminiscent of the vintage ‘80s Freddy Krueger shirts that you can no longer buy for less than $200.
The “Oddity” Poster. If I have it right, it features a demon busting out of a guy’s skull to share bubble gum. (Okay, it’s the MTV thing.)
The “Live Wire” Hoodie, which is great for people like me, who like to dress weird without looking like we’re trying to.
Sorry we never got to have that drink, Kyle. Kinda lost track of time for reasons that will soon become clear.
Now, I could tell you about each interesting item I saw at Monster-Mania, but it’d just end up being a Mad Libs version of my previous reports. Do I really need to add commentary to photo of a Ziploc-bagged Corporal Kirchner with a “CORPORAL KIRCHNER” Dymo label on it? The greatness of that is completely self-evident.
Besides, this time, I have bigger fish to fry.
Fridays are the slow at Monster-Mania. Saturday is the real heavy shit. With the sea of bodies at a weekend-long low, we kept bumping into Jay, John and Jen, never once submitting to the urge to tell them that they all had names with the same first letter.
We decided to go for a drink, which may have had something to do with my continual insistence that we go for a drink. Feel like I’m getting a little long in the tooth to tell tales of drunken debauchery on the internet, but if you’ll forgive me this one last offense, I think you’ll find that this was a special case.
The bar at the Crowne Plaza hotel holds a lot of nostalgia for me. My first Monster-Mania was back in 2005, and I’ll never forget watching Ari Lehman play the piano while drinking red wine, only for some drunk to scream/ask if he was “too good to have a fucking beer.” This story will hit harder once I remind you that Ari was the guy who played “bald boy Jason” at the end of the first Friday the 13th. Ten seconds of what could only arguably be considered screen time, and twenty-five years later, that happens. I love Monster-Mania.
So, we’re in there – all five of us. I should mention that I’m specifically excluding photos of my new friends, with the hope that they will extend me the same courtesy. God knows what I did in front of their cameras over the course of the night. You know it’s bad when “sweat profusely” is the best you can hope for.
Tequila was already on the menu, and I slowly realized that this supposed two-hour visit was not going to be anything of the sort. I think my sudden need for more and more tequila stemmed simply from the desire to remove the sense of doubt. I didn’t want to be in that terrible sweet spot where I’d spend two hours pacing in the lobby, trying to figure out if I’d sobered up enough to drive. I knew where this was going.
I admit that another part of it was the sad hunt for liquid courage. We were all getting along great, but for all I knew, I was a minute away from unconsciously drifting into Personality #7 – the one that just sits there silently and pretends to use his phone all night. I wanted to leave a good impression, not a typical one.
At some point, it was decided that we should eat. Thank God for this, because only in retrospect am I certain that so much projectile vomiting was avoided by the decision. Besides, the hotel’s restaurant was basically IN the bar. The party wasn’t over – it was just switching tables!
So we’re sitting at our table, eating, drinking, and talking about the kind of things that only people who run blogs could ever talk about. I’d kill for a tape recording of the conversation, because between the tequila and the subject matter, I’m sure I said something like, “Adsense is good if you like two bucks a month but two bucks a month adds up if you don’t pay attention to it for eight monthssss.”
This goes on for a while, and it’s all fun and games – but maybe not the kind of fun and games that’d be very interesting for random passersby to read about. That was about to change in a big way.
Enter: THE JOKER.
I’m writing this at 2AM, and we’re at a critical point. Part of me wants to get ‘er done while it’s still fresh. Another part of me thinks I should sleep and finish this when I’m more lucid. I guess, by the end of the next bunch of paragraphs, you’ll be able to determine which part won.
Monster-Mania has some cosplay, but not a LOT of it. It’s a quality versus quantity thing, though, because those who do go all-out… REALLY go all-out.
Which brings me to our friend, Joker. This wasn’t his first appearance at a Monster-Mania, but it was his first appearance at a Monster-Mania bar that I happened to be goddamned blitzed inside. As much as I’d like to take credit for what happened next, the truth is, only the urging of an entire applauding group could’ve made magic like that. With promises of free drinks, we encouraged Joker to sit with us.
And, my God, Joker did NOT disappoint.
The costume is amazing, but this guy wasn’t just “wearing the suit.” He was FULLY COMMITTED. He was THE JOKER. The Jack Nicholson Joker. The voice was raspier, but the lines were on the fucking money. AND he had a prop! That big long cane-gun-thing! He let us play with it and everything!
Now, under normal circumstances, this would’ve been amazing. But I want you to remember… this happened to a table full of people who’d already spent two hours drinking everything in sight. (Well, you know, to be safe, I really can’t comment on how much everyone else was drinking. I wasn’t keeping track. But I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that NOBODY could have appreciated THE ARRIVAL OF JOKER more than we did at that exact moment.)
Joker stayed in character even when he was BREAKING character. He told us of the weirder intricacies of his semi-professional costumed character business, but he never once dropped the charade that he WAS the Joker. That worked for us, since it meant that we never had to stop addressing him as “Joker.” A day removed from these events, and I’m still cracking up about it.
After 20 or 30 minutes of this, Joker threw us a curveball. A major curveball.
“You know, I do Freddy too. If you give me ten minutes, I’ll show you.”
Just like that, Joker was off. I think all of us had the suspicion that we wouldn’t be hearing from him again. But, no bother – he’d served his purpose and served it well. The moment had been marked. We were now a part of something special, and we all knew it.
Around this point, I knew that “going home” was out of the question. I excused myself to go book a room, and thankfully, the hotel still had a few left. (For you Monster-Mania fans who stick with Saturdays, that’s one reason to give Friday a try. It’s nowhere near as impossibly saturated.)
By then, my mind was gone. I was wobbly, and had no defense against making an ass of myself. So of course, it makes perfect sense that I wouldn’t be able to reach the check-in desk without practically leapfrogging over a fully-functional R2-D2. Holy shit, guys.
Its owner, who presumably controlled it by remote, was a sneaky bastard who knew how to stay hidden. So R2 just rolled around like it was the real thing, with absolutely no signs of anyone pulling the strings. Reaching for the proper response for such a moment, I was only able to face the crowd and yell, “WHO IS DOING THIS?!” Which, of course, offered so little context that all I received back were curious glances and rolling eyes.
Oh well. I secured a room for the night, because that thing with Joker was soooo worth being another $150 in the hole.
Just as I was reentering the bar, somebody else was, too. Our old pal, Joker.
Only, he wasn’t the Joker anymore…
OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.
FREDDY FUCKING KRUEGER.
Now, this guy made a great Joker, but it was easy to see that Freddy was his true passion. It was to the point where we had to tell Freddy to settle down and remember who was buying the drinks. Freddy was surprisingly open about what these “endeavors” mean for him, and while I wouldn’t betray the confidences shared between us and Freddy Krueger, I think it’s safe to at least point you to A Nightmare on Your Street, where the man-in-the-mask makes himself available for paid bookings.
Scoff all you want. I’ve seen this guy at several Monster-Manias, and he really puts in the effort. Goes well past costuming. When people want him to turn it on, he turns it on. Hell, at our last Monster-Mania, we caught him doing the whole freakin’ vaudeville act out in the parking lot, in response to one single car honk. This guy loves what he does.
Freddy stayed for a good long while. Perhaps too long, because it actually got to the point where it no longer seemed strange that Freddy Fucking Krueger was sitting at our table. Like, we’d branch off into comparatively tame and not-at-all Freddy-centric conversations, but Freddy was still right there with us. It was so bizarre-yet-normal that it would’ve only made sense if three of us couldn’t find our wallets after he left.
Thank you, Joker-Freddy-Guy. You turned something into something else.
We stayed until the bar closed, or at least very close to it. By the time it did, there were no more “official” Monster-Mania things left to do. The convention rooms were closed for the night. As is typically the case for Monster-Mania party people unwilling to go to bed, the action moved outside.
Right outside, actually. The entrance to the hotel always becomes a late-night outdoor party, and I’m still not sure how everyone gets away with it. There were bottles and cans everywhere. Even if it was no more sinister than a bunch of people hanging out in the last place they could get away with, you always feel like you’re one cop siren away from watching 200 drunks in black t-shirts clumsily storming the elevators.
There is nothing more sobering than seeing people fifteen times as sloppy as you. It was soon deemed “bedtime,” and we said our goodbyes. Hand were shook, plans were made. You know the deal.
Our room was on the eighth floor, and for the ten minutes we got to spend in it, it seemed pretty nice. I realized that there was a nine year gap between Friday night and the last time I stayed at the Crowne Plaza, which was one of those thought processes that could’ve only led to a depressing “shit I’m old” conclusion. Fortunately, something on the television was there to distract me…
Guys, I’m not exactly sure what we watched, but at the time, it was fascinating. And SO ANNOYING. “Super Brain” was a show, or more likely an infomercial, where some guy repeatedly told us that we hadn’t trained out brains to work to their full potential. He kept saying things like, “Imagine licking a lemon. Imagine how sour the lemon is. Even if you’re nowhere near a lemon, isn’t your mouth watering?”
AND IT WAS. I hated him for that! I was in no position to resist his screwy brain tricks. By then, I could still hear, and I could still kind of see, but any actual movement was completely out of the question. I was conscious but paralyzed, and here was this guy on the television, telling me to do math and taste imaginary fruit.
With my last waking breaths, I could only manage a barely audible “I hate… his hair.”
The next morning, guess who was the big idiot who paid an extra entrance fee just to spend 30 more minutes browsing the dealer room? It was a total walk of shame. Since we weren’t planning to spend the night, I was still wearing the same clothes, looking and feeling every bit like the kind of person who would wear the same clothes in public two days in a row. I looked and felt like an experiment to see how much sugar and salt a human could withstand without popping. Also, I think I had ten bucks left, tops.
Feeling guilty about losing track of Kyle in the midst of the previous night’s Joker/Freddy hysteria, I paid the Electric Zombie booth one last visit. Big mistake, because any drops left in my tank of “conversational charm” had long been drained. Our chat went something like this:
Kyle: What did you guys end up doing last night?
Kyle: You know, I’m moving to Florida soon. You will never see me again.
Matt: i taste lemons
Thing is, that last run-through of the dealers’ room was completely necessary. The thought of leaving Monster-Mania without my traditional “box of crap” sickened me. Tequila and R2-D2 threw me off track, but I couldn’t forget why I’d gone there to begin with.
So, I added those things to my pile. Most of the items are self-explanatory, except for the pink Stay Puft head, which I love to death. It’s basically a Madball, but bigger, and more fun to smoosh.
Overall, we had a blast, and it was great to connect with the forces behind Freddy In Space and The Sexy Armpit – sites that you should be checking out now and regularly. Thank you, J, J and J, for making me and Ms. X feel like we can be social once every six years.
Wow, this article is waaay too long. Let’s quickly wrap it up with a photo of an especially bewildered Hannibal Lecter: