The Mad Monster Party 2017! Part 1

Kids, it’s late July and if you’re anything like me, you’re feeling the twinge of Halloween already. It’s not upon us quite yet, but it’s across town and has our addresses in its GPS. Every year around this time, I make a big to-do about the first Halloween merchandise that I spot in stores, and a couple weeks ago, I finally made my first sighting of the year. Right in the middle of the candy isle in a new grocery store that just opened up, I spotted one lone box of Halloween Reese’s Cups. Thing is, the other candy wasn’t ready yet. It was just doing its candy thing, hanging out, enjoying summer. But right in the middle, was one box of orange and black horror. I know the feeling, little buddy. I know the feeling.

So, let’s celebrate monsters! Specifically meeting some, in this year’s coverage of THE MAD MONSTER PARTY!. I’ve created a handy place on the site where you can go back and read about all my past years covering this particular convention. It’s become one of the things I look forward to the most. Right in the middle of March, when I’m bummed out that the holidays are over and I’m facing the dread of confronting many more months of humidity before I’ll get my next spooky fix, is a gathering of like-minded fiends.

In past years, it’s always been held in Charlotte, NC, usually at the same hotel. I’m partial to the usual location and didn’t care for it too much that one year when they switched to a different venue. This year was a wonky one too, now located in Rock Hill, SC, but it didn’t diminish the fun and collection of memories. Also on the upside, Rock Hill is a much closer drive.

As mentioned in every other installment of Mad Monster Party, every year, I enjoy the guest lineup, but there is always THE BIG ONE. The one guest that I would make that nearly two hour drive to see even if they were the only person there. And this year was no disappointment at all. I’ve been petitioning the organizers of the con for the past few years to get Felissa Rose, star of Sleepaway Camp. She’s hands-down one of my favorite scream queens, and is amazing to her fans. I’ve had many fun interactions with her on Twitter and she’s been placed firmly in my Bucket List for quite a while. AND THIS YEAR IT HAPPENED!

 

As it happens every year, I know going in who my BIG ONE is, so once I enter the con, I make a bee-line straight to their table. She was every bit as cool as I thought she would be, and as it turns out, we have a few acquaintances in common, but more on that in a second. At the table next to her was Mark Patton, star of A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2, the most highly underrated entry in the franchise, in my opinion. It’s also the one known for certain, not quite so subtle…themes. Mark also holds the distinction as being possibly horror’s first ever Final Guy.

 

They were sat next to each other because they’re also starring in Family Possessions together, directed by an acquaintance of mine, Tommy Faircloth.

Family Posessions

Later that evening, we had a screening of the film with some of the cast. Some of it was actually shot near where I live. It was hardly the first time I’ve seen my town on the big screen, but it’s always cool when it happens. The film’s doing well on the convention/award circuit, so I suggest checking it out if you’re just looking for a solid little ghost story. Also later that day, I went to a Q&A with both Felissa and Mark. Folks, if you ever get the chance to meet either one, get on that. They’ve been around the block and have done a thing or three. Plus, they’re both just fun as hell and are down for having a drink with their fans.

Judith

Down the hall, was another pair that were a HUGE highlight this year — JUDITH O’DEA AND RUSS STREINER! AKA, “Barbra” and “Johnny” from Night of the Living Dead, some old black and white movie about a bunch of hungry drunk people or something. I guess it was some kind of big deal. Actually, as I write this, George Romero passed away about a week ago, and I’m incredibly bummed about it. I met him as well at last year’s convention, and he was every bit as nice as you would want him to be. So was George Kosana, who played Sheriff McClelland, who unfortunately also passed away not too long ago. I’ve met him several times over the years and bought a t-shirt from him once. We’re losing too many good ones these days.

O’Dea and Streiner are fantastic. If you ever do a con, make a point of waiting for some of these lesser known stars to have a clear table. I’ve had so many great interactions with down to earth so-called “C-listers” (although a lot of them are “A’s” in my book), and they’re often the most gracious and engaging. Judith and I spoke for quite a while and swapped stories back and forth. In the end, she didn’t even charge me for the autograph. Such a nice lady and arguably one of the first scream queens.

Streiner

Russ was also incredibly nice although I didn’t get a chance to speak to him for quite as long. I did get both of them to record Station ID’s for my radio show though, and both were incredibly happy to do it. Russ really went for it and made it his own. Tune in some Saturday night and maybe you’ll hear it.

Dead autographs

Alright, that’s going to do it for this installment. Part 2 should be up in a couple of days, involving more celebs, beer, bagpipes, a candy bar, and a hot Nazi. Now I’m going to go see if I can figure out where I put the key to that damn gas pump. Or maybe not. Don’t worry about it. I doubt we’ll need it.

Stranger Tweets: Episodes 1-3

Right, so tonight’s post was supposed to be entirely different. I had pictures and outlines and a whole night ahead of me of second guessing, re-editing, and hating every creative decision I made. Fun!  So when I found myself needing some background material to watch while I wrote, it occurred to me that it would be the perfect time to finally tackle a series that I’ve been putting off for far too long: Stranger Things.

The entire thing is one giant case of “I KNOW, I KNOW”. “But Deej, you haven’t seen Stranger Things yet!!???” (I KNOW) “But, it’s set in the ’80’s!” (I KNOW) “It’s got a John Carpenter-esque synthy score!” (I KNOW) “But, it’s…it’s got monsters and Winona Ryder and everything you love!” (I KNOW…well, I actually didn’t know about the Winona Ryder thing)… I KNOW, I KNOW!!! I’m horrible! I’m terrible, and no, I haven’t seen damn Twin Peaks yet either, so you can get off my back about that one too.

So I ended up course correcting and decided not only to start watching the show, but do a bit of a live Tweet and share my play-by-play reactions to losing my Stranger cherry. I only did the first 3 episodes, but had a blast with it and had a few people join me.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s below. I didn’t include any replies or ensuing exchanges. Instead, these are just my original tweets in the order that I sent them. Of course, if you know anything about Twitter, the most recent ones appear at the top of your Twitter feed and not the bottom. So yes, that means that I screen captured every one of them and re-ordered them for easier reading, so that you can start at the top and make your way down, in order. I’m not an animal. Please excuse the dodgy formatting and weird spaces here and there. After all that chopping up and pasting, it was a little harder to line things up than I anticipated.

For those of you who missed it, if you join me TOMORROW NIGHT (hint, hint — @DarkEntriesDJD — hint, hint), you can have the live experience and play along. We’ll obviously be picking up with Episode 4 and will probably also knock out 5 and 6. If you reply, so will I. I’ll send something out sometime before I start (it will honestly be fairly late) and hopefully the crowd will grow a little from the 5 or 6 people that joined in tonight. This was a totally impromptu thing just a few hours ago, but seeing as this season only has 8 episodes, I have a feeling I may do another, longer series immediately after I’m done with this one (coughtwinpeakscough), and hopefully increase the following.

I don’t think I have to say that this is a little spoilery and some of it will only make sense if you’ve actually seen the show. And I ‘m not entirely sure of the point of even posting this here, aside from giving you a tease of what live Tweets may look like in the future. Also, it allows those of you not on Twitter to at least not be completely left out. Enjoy. I’ll just be over here sitting in a closet, having a conversation with a wad of Christmas lights.

EPISODE ONE

Episode 1-1Episode 1-2Episode 1-3

EPISODE TWO 

Episode 2-1aEpisode 2-1Episode 2-2
EPISODE THREE

Episode 3-1Episode 3-2

Going through Transformations at The Slaughtered Lamb Pub

Well, Hell’s bells, here we are. FINALLY relaunching this thing after what, a year? By the time you read these words, it will be just past Memorial Day. Obviously, there is no better way to celebrate the coming of summer than talking about some crap I got up to last Halloween. Let’s honor our fallen soldiers by writing cuss words on pumpkins.

Last October, I spent the weekend of Halloween in New York. The original plan was to go up and finally have dinner with some old friends who I only know from the internet, but that fell through, so I literally spent four days wandering the streets of New York alone by the light of the full moon. Ok, so I’m not entirely sure that a full moon was on that weekend, but it makes for a much better story, so we’re running with it.

This trip was full of firsts. Not only was it my first time in the city, but it was also my first experience with Airbnb. I’m sure mileage may vary with that site, but my experience was pretty positive. On the day I arrived, I had to swing by the Times Square area to get the key to the apartment where I’d be staying. I’m fairly well traveled, but I won’t lie and pretend that heading into THE CITY alone for the first time didn’t give me mixed feelings. It was about 80% excitement and 20% “FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, DON’T LOOK LIKE A TOURIST, YOU’RE FROM SOUTH CAROLINA AND EVERYONE WANTS TO KILL YOU. JUST PLAY IT COOL, MAN. PLAY IT COOL.”

But of course, it wasn’t that bad. It was not what I expected and exactly everything I expected all at once; a lot of people (A LOT) and tall buildings. I know none of this is new to some of you reading this right now, but if you’ve never been there, just know that you may think you’re prepared for how big the buildings are, but until you step out of the subway and onto the street for the first time ever, you’re not. I mean, just LOOK AT THIS SHIT. Come on, now.

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After taking loads more pictures and a confused subway ride up to Washington Heights, I settled into the tiny 2-bedroom apartment that would be my home for the next four days. The guys I stayed with were incredibly cool and just happened to work in the film industry, so making that contact was an added bonus. They were brothers and each had their own bedroom. I had a key and slept on a futon in the living room. All of us just came and went on our own. My entire time there was spent looking up the best places I could find that would allow me to get the most bang for my very limited buck. Yes, if you want to go all out, New York can be incredibly expensive, but it can also be pretty cheap. I pretty much lived off of Chinese takeout and $1 pizza slices.

But let’s get to the real reason why we’re here. One thing I knew I had to cross off my list was stopping off at The Slaughtered Lamb Pub. It would end up becoming the highlight of my trip and my go-to spot for my last two nights in town. I probably don’t have to tell you what its inspiration is, but if you’re one of the few people not lucky enough to have seen one of the most important werewolf films ever made (I’d say one of the most important horror films ever made), then you need to get on it. Yes, of course, I’m talking about An American Werewolf in London. Actually, I take that back about you not being lucky. I’m a much bigger fan of The Howling, but I’m incredibly jealous of anyone who gets to see it for the first time now. And if you don’t know The Howling either, God bless you. Please keep reading this site. Much will be discussed about it later.

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The Slaughtered Lamb Pub didn’t disappoint. The bartenders working the both nights that I was there were incredibly cool, and after a little conversation and playing the “lonely out of towner” card, they hooked me up with a free shot here and there. Since this was the weekend of Halloween, they even wore gory makeup and got into the spirit of things. My first meal there was a burger and fries and it was solid. Highly recommended. As for drinks, all of the specialty ones were werewolf themed. This joint COMMITS to their motif, folks, as we’ll see more of later.

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After looking at the drink specials, I settled on “The Transformation”. It was $12 worth of deliciousness, and lets just say, gets the job done. I had to limit myself because of cost and because these things sneak up on you. After a couple, I nearly felt the desire to run to the closest zoo, strip down naked, and steal some kid’s balloons.

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The bar also had pumpkins lined up on it with pens nearby in case you wanted to leave messages for future guests. Here’s my contribution, an inside joke/enterprise that I’m trying to get off the ground with Brian of Review the World and Bill of Casserole of Disaster as my partners.

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Another highlight was this table top Pac-Man game that I remember from my youth. I kind of wanted to play it with someone, but couldn’t find any takers. I guess I’ll take this time to talk about some of the other patrons. Of course you had your drunk locals in costume, but I also struck up a conversation with another out-of-towner sitting at the bar. He was an older gentleman who had moved to New York about 20 years ago. We both agreed that despite their reputation, New Yorkers, while they are more direct and don’t have time for the Southern hospitality that I grew up with, they really aren’t all that bad. Seriously, in the four days I was there, nearly every single person I interacted with was incredibly polite and helpful, especially once they found out I was from out of town and it was my first time in the city. But, I didn’t come down with the rain yesterday. I know there are bad sides of town (there are everywhere), and I was careful when walking at night alone. But if you’re just looking for good conversation, I’ve found that booze is a constant and can grease the wheels of social interaction just about anywhere, and with almost anyone.

My last night there, I also got to know a really fun couple of sorts; two best friends, a girl and a guy. She was an Australian lesbian and he was her Irish gay best friend. The only reason I mention that is that someone, somewhere has to have written a joke about an Australian lesbian, a gay Irish guy, and a Southern straight man all walking into a pub with a lycanthrope gimmick.

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So that was the upstairs scene, but the real action is downstairs in The Dungeon. CHECK IT OUT!

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The Dungeon has several rooms, including a game area. It’s a fantastic, dimly lit place full of An American Werewolf in London references and comfortable seating. It was actually not too populated the both nights I was there, so I had plenty of room to roam around and take pictures of the previous “guests”.

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I seriously can’t recommend this place enough if you make yourself into the city. I spent my last night there hanging out until the wee hours of the morning, talking music and film with a strange assortment of characters, including a Colombian guy who barely spoke English, but who was high on life. Because we were going the same direction home, we shared a subway ride and swapped life stories. He got off before me and I then took this tired subway selfie.

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This guy was also waiting on his ride.

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The night ended with me getting off the subway to make the short walk down 181st street to the apartment where I was staying. A bug-eyed nutball was walking along the sidewalk, getting in people’s faces and yelling, “I want some coffee! Give me some fucking coffee!” I nearly told him I thought he’d had enough and should probably dial it back a little or switch to decaf. It was 3:00 in the morning for Christ’s sake.

In the end, I drunkenly stumbled to my temporary home, high on too many Transformations and Halloween, and dreamed of Nazi zombies with machine guns. And that was how I spent my last night in New York.

Welcome to the new Retro Ghouls

Hey kids! Welcome to the relaunch of the newly named RETRO GHOULS! Would someone like to tell me how in the holy hell I let nearly a year go by between the last post and this one? I mean, I’ve been busy, but I certainly didn’t mean to let that happen. SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED since the last time I’ve written something. I’ve traveled, finished up several semesters of college, moved…TWICE, and had loads of experiences that I can’t wait to share with everyone. And by everyone, I mean the thirteen people that might actually make a point of reading this.

So, I don’t know about you, but I am so jazzed about what I have planned here. Expect accounts of my travels, reviews, and collaborations with a few guys that you should know by now. Oh, and I’ll finally keep some old blogging promises from over a year ago (*coughGialloprojectcough*).

You’ll notice that I’ve cleared away some of the cobwebs, slapped a fresh coat of paint on the place, shortened the name, and shifted some things around. I have a feeling I’ll keep tweaking it here and there, and as always, we’ll have an emphasis on the spooky. Oh, and there is a story behind the name, which I’ll get to later.

I’m sorry for such a long delay, but after a few false starts, we’re here. It’s much like my attempt to get into this mosh pit. Eagle-eyed viewers will spot me bopping in and out of the outskirts of it at around the 40 second mark. This was at a WolfsBlood show. They are Columbia, South Carolina’s infamous Misfits tribute band, fronted by my buddy and former bandmate of mine, Bubbs Ruebella.

If you’re new to the site, feel free to explore. I’ve got a good place to start. How about my first new post? I went to New York for Halloween and DID WEREWOLF STUFF.

An Ecto Cooler Internet Summit!

Once a year or so, I take part in an internet meeting of the minds, in which some of the coolest guys in the cyber realm fly down to North Carolina and spend a weekend consuming weird movies and even weirder junk food. Those of you who have kept up with this site and my other work know us and what we’re all about, but for those of you who actually need an introduction, read on. You’re about to see shit that will turn you WHITE.

I’m talking of course about Brian of Review the World, Bill/Will of the newly launched Casserole of Disaster (formerly of Veggie Macabre), and Ben of The Juggernaut’s Cave.

The whole thing went down a few weeks ago and has already resulted in a flood of content on all their respective sites. I encourage you to click HERE and HERE and witness the beginning of a disaster of biblical proportions.

I’m going to start out with one of the highlights of the trip which was me experiencing one of the most important rites of passage of every young man’s life – my first can of Ecto Cooler. As big of a Ghostbusters fan as I’ve always been, I somehow went my childhood and teenage years having never consumed a single box or can.

But, dreams come true! Not the kind involving floating, sexed up ghosts, but if you’re looking to score some green Hi-C as part of the marketing to what I’m sure will be one of the biggest franchise disasters in cinema history, well, you’re in luck, you nerds! Bill came through!

So sit back, grab some Twinkies and marshmallows, and help yourself to video evidence of me and the boys enjoying our first Ecto Coolers of 2016. For some of us, it was a blast from the past, one of us became a man, and one of us, well, didn’t like it so much. They can’t all be winners. Check it out:

Ecto Cooler selfie

But wait, there’s more! Later that evening, Ben got the genius idea to use his culinary skills to reduce the stuff down to ACTUAL SLIME. We didn’t have a Statue of Liberty handy, but we did have copious amounts of alcohol, a cell phone, and a little scientific curiosity. Let’s see if we can make this thing dance. We got the TOOLS! We got the TALENT!

There’s a lot more where this came from, guys. Watch this space in the next few days to see more food reviews, a trip to Old Salem, and hot sauce (UH OH). Also, check out their sites to get their sides of the story, which are probably more eloquently written than mine and already posted in a much more timely manner. Thanks for reading my attempt to write about fruit juice on two hours of sleep.

The 2016 Mad Monster Party! Part 3

Welcome back to the last installment of my coverage of this year’s MAD MONSTER PARTY! Let’s wrap this thing up! If you haven’t yet, check out Parts 1 and 2 to see what’s happened so far.

It was a big thrill to talk to Kenny Caperton of the NC Myers House again. We have a few friends in common and have met a few times before, but I always look forward to finding out what he’s been up to. I finally got to score a VHS copy of his film, Honeyspider. That isn’t the only format it’s available in, but come on; of course I went with the VHS option. I haven’t watched it yet though. I’m saving it for a proper review closer to, appropriately enough…Halloween! If you never have, you have got to check out the site as well as his interviews and TV appearances. This guy is living the dream! In the meantime, here’s the trailer:

I had one last proper guest to knock out before I left. Of course, I would loved to have had more time and money to get much more done, but well, this one was a quick and cheap operation. Get in, make a memory or three, and get out before you get kicked out. But, I ended up saving one of the best for last: Eileen Dietz! For those of you who are unaware (shame on you), she’s most known in horror circles as the face of Pazuzu, the demon that possessed Reagan in The Exorcist, but she’s actually quite a prolific actress who has appeared everything from the original Helter Skelter, a Happy Days episode, Halloween II, Creepshow III, and even an episode of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!

As I mentioned before, by this point, the day was wrapping up and it was time to pack up and leave. In fact, as I approached Eileen’s table, she was doing just that. We chatted as I helped her fold up her table cloth and pack up the last of her things. Her assistant had already split, so there was no one around to take a picture. So, we snapped a couple of quick, blurry selfies:

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But, that’s not the best part! Folks, she was actually selling her very own brand of pea soup and I got the last can!


I’ve snagged a few cool collectables at conventions before, but this one will go down as one of those “the house is on fire and I can only save a few things” saves. Yep, that’s me, standing out in the yard holding nothing but my cat, Squeakers, and a dusty can of autographed pea soup I bought off a cult horror celebrity.

After that, I walked her out and at that moment, it hit me how surreal it was that the face of one of the most notorious cinema demons ever was chatting with me about her hassles with taxes and the healthcare system in this country. We were just two people, walking down the hall, making small talk about all the annoying shit of life. I’ve actually kept in touch with her and had some great conversations since. It was one of the best and most unexpected ends to a convention I’ve had in a long time.

That’s it, folks! I’m going to end things with an assortment of random pics I took around the convention floor, including the costume contest from later that night. Enjoy! Thanks for hanging in for all three parts of this.

Next up, I visited some notable internet buddies a couple of weeks ago and the whole thing quickly dissolved into a blur of hot sauce, angry geese, and Ecto Cooler. I’ll tell you all about it soon. Stay tuned, nerds.

The 2016 Mad Monster Party! Part 2

Last weekend, I spent some time with some best buds and fellow bloggers. Weird food and drinks were consumed, videos were shot, little sleep was had, and things got ridiculous. It will result in quite a bit of content that I’m going to start posting here very soon. Trust me, it will be worth the wait. But, tonight, I’m going to knock out Part 2 of my coverage of THE 2016 MAD MONSTER PARTY!

When last we left off, I’d been talking shop with Louis Tripp of The Gate. Just to the right of him was Derek Mears (aka Jason Voorhees) from the Friday the 13th remake. If you’ve seen the fantastic documentary Crystal Lake Memories, you may have heard it mentioned that he’s the nicest guy in horror, and I can certainly attest to that, despite my feelings about said remake. I got lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time talking to him and we chatted at length about all the different roles he’s had and what it’s like to spend so much time under prosthetic makeup. The dude was the definition of cool. He was selling autographed hockey masks and machetes, but I didn’t have enough scratch to score one of those. Instead, I got this:

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Thing is, buying that autograph also entitled you to a free picture with the dude, but we got so busy talking, that I totally forgot to get my picture taken with him. You owe me a photo op, Voorhees.

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A couple tables down, I finally got to meet a living legend and one of the reasons why I went to this con in the first place – Henry Manfredini! It was a serious thrill, and the guy is cool as all hell. We talked quite a bit about film scoring in general and some of his influences. I asked him all about the disco theme from Friday the 13th III and he told me the story behind how that was put together. If you ever get the chance to chat with this guy, take it. You won’t regret it. Dude’s got some stories.

It was around this time that I decided to make the rounds of the vendors and check out a few other guests. I walked by quite a few folks that I didn’t talk to at all (mostly due to dwindling time and money, as the con was ending for the day VERY SOON), but it was incredibly cool to be in the same room with so many stars. In the span of a couple of minutes, I walked right past Malcolm McDowell, Nichelle Nichols, Chyna (R.I.P.), and a few others.

Circling back around, I returned to the main floor, where I made a point of speaking to Dee Wallace again, who a few years ago, was responsible for one of the coolest celeb encounters I’ve ever had. It was her first time at Mad Monster and my buddy, Bill, of Casserole of Disaster (formally of Veggie Macabre), wasn’t able to make it that year. I told her what a fan he was, so she insisted on calling him on MY cell phone. She left him a message, which he didn’t get until hours later. If Derek Mears is the nicest dude in horror, Dee Wallace is hands-down the nicest lady.

So, once I got a chance to speak to her, I told her I was the “phone call guy” from a couple of years ago, and she totally remembered it. Once again, Bill wasn’t able to make it this year, and you guessed it — PHONE CALL! Again, a message was left and an amazing memory was made. I like to think this is the start of Dee Wallace and me having a regular “thing”.

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Speaking of repeat performances, I then made my way over to see PJ Soles, who was a guest at the first Mad Monster ever. She and Stephen Geoffreys were the 2 main reasons I went that year, and I told her that story, including the part where she kissed me on the cheek. She didn’t quite remember that, but she was incredibly cool and snapped the picture above, even after I awkwardly told her that I totally still have a major crush on her. Feel free to track down my account of the first time we met (if you can find it), if anything, to monitor the progression of my hair loss.

You know what, since good things come in threes, I’m going to stop right here, and we’ll come back in a couple of days for Part 3 of this thing. Yes, I know that wasn’t the original plan, but trust me, I’m saving the best for last. Here’s a teaser: Michael Meyers and pea soup!