Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Johnny California: Son of Monsterpalooza

 by JB

Let us go forth to the place where all of our dreams have become commodified...

As befitting Scary Movie Month, I once again sallied forth from my throne at the palatial West Coast offices of F This Movie! and made what is fast becoming a yearly pilgrimage to “Son of Monsterpalooza.” It's in Burbank, right by the airport!

I am no travel expert, but I am really coming to love the Marriot Burbank Airport Hotel as a venue for the annual “Son of Monsterpalooza” Con. The Con has been there for many years, so the people who run the show are familiar with the venue and clearly know what they are doing. There is adequate parking. The staff is very friendly. The rooms are quite nice (Eucalyptus shampoo? Yes, please!) and the water pressure in the shower is impressive. The hotel is clean and orderly, and there are plentiful options for food and drink nearby. A monster’s got to eat.
FIRST QUIBBLE: This was my first Con in a scooter, so a quick word about the hotel. There are no rooms on the first floor. This is a pity because, as I discovered during my 35 years of staying at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare for Beatlefest, getting a room that does not require waiting on an elevator for an entire weekend is a big perk.

IN CASE YOU’RE ALL WONDERING: Rooms 204-208, 214-218, 244-248, and 254-258, inclusive, are the rooms to request if you are EVER staying at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare.
At the Marriot Burbank Airport, a bank of three elevators take guests to their rooms. One never knows which elevator will be the one to open first. Unless I was poised at the middle elevator when it opened, getting into the left or right elevator was always a race. Twice, I was “half in” and the door closed hard on my knee. Ouch! How about setting the door to stay open for maybe MORE THAN FIVE seconds, Marriot? Because once these things taste human blood, they are never satisfied.

On Friday, SoM’s hours are 6pm to 11pm and this is clearly the best day to go; I found the lines and the crowds oppressive on Saturday and Sunday. I guess many people work on Friday and figure they will just attend on the weekend. More Friday for me, suckers!

I met some wonderful people waiting in line on Friday. An enthusiastic amateur make-up artist/Mom had turned her daughter into “Zombie Barbie.” Problem is, they thought the Con started at 11am on Friday, so they both woke up crazy early to do the make-up, only to arrive almost eight hours early. “Zombie Barbie” had to endure lunch and the unforgiving California sun in her make-up.

Another person in line kept telling us that on Saturday, he was going to "cosplay" as Pitbull. Unless he actually meant “Zombie Pitbull,” I wondered if he actually knew where he was.

I ran into “Zombie Barbie” on Saturday, and her mother had modified the make-up to look more like one of the vampires in From Dusk to Dawn. I wondered how early they needed to get up to pull off that one.

I ran into Edgar Allan Poe and commented on his amazing outfit. His response? “This old thing?"
Certainly, one highlight of my weekend was encountering a traffic jam on the convention floor and having no clear path to scoot... when suddenly, Bill Mosely jumped onto the back of my scooter and shouted, “Go, man! Go!” I don’t often find myself at a loss for words, but the only thing that came out of my mouth was, “Hello, Mr. Mosely.”

Similarly, at one point I almost ran over Felissa Rose. Really, the real Felissa Rose! In my defense, I was distracted. SPOILER ALERT: If she intends to walk the convention floor, it should NOT be with her dick out. I’m just saying.

SECOND QUIBBLE: Some celebrities were out on the show floor, and others had little private rooms to themselves. I know celebrity has its privileges, but I was a bit disappointed that I spent two days at a Con with Sam Raimi, Cassandra Peterson, and Linda Blair... and never saw them once. Boo.

TRIVIA NOTE: Sybil Danning is unexpectedly tiny in person! Must be the magic of the movies.
Speaking of Felissa Rose, I briefly considered purchasing a PROFESSIONAL PHOTO-OP with the combined cast of Sleepaway Camp in costume. I’m on a fixed income, so I could not justify the 200 bucks it would have cost, but I so wanted a picture with them. I planned to pose holding a 2 X 4 and a box of wood screws.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE CON: As often happens, the one screening, panel, or guest that I didn’t originally care much about wound up being my favorite. Late Friday, I barely squeaked into the theater before Sid Kroft's session. For those of my readers born after 1975, Sid Kroft was the architect of my generation’s dreams and nightmares. He created H.R. Pufnstuf, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, Lidsville, The Bugaloos, Land of the Lost, Far-Out Space Nuts, and Donny and Marie.

Here, Enjoy a free taste on me:

The first taste is always free.

Sid Kroft is a natural storyteller, and he regaled us with over an hour’s worth of priceless anecdotes. His early puppet shows were so popular, he wound up opening for Judy Garland on her last concert tour. The Pufnstuf show was loosely based on a show he wrote and designed for the Coca-Cola pavilion at the 1968 Texas World’s Fair. Yes, Sid smoked a lot of pot! At one point in the 1970s, Sid and his brother Marty had 20 separate shows playing on network television.
Although I purchased a few pins and a groovy Frankenstein's Monster popcorn bucket, the prices at "Son of Monsterpalooza” made me glad that my collecting days were over. Although it might be a symptom of my advancing age, I found some of the prices, especially for autographs, to be... ridiculous. In the spirit of the old man railing that "Candy bars used to cost a nickel!", I flashed back to my first Con, a “Monster Rally,” which Midnight Marquee magazine organized in Alexandria, Virginia back in 1995. For two hours on Sunday, all the celebrity guests gathered in the ballroom and signed autographs... for free. One of those celebrity guests was Christopher Lee.

“The Old Witch" was the cartoon host of EC Comics’ The Haunt of Fear (She may have been the Cryptkeeper’s sister.) In the spirit of "The Old Witch" I find myself magically transformed into a similar cartoon ghoul, “The Old Fogey.” I scare the shit out of you and all of your friends by reminding you of HOW GREAT THINGS USED TO BE!

A nickel.


  1. It seems your move to California has increased your convention / festival / screening options, or do many of these hit the Chicago area as well?

  2. Well, Chicago still has Flashback Weekend, Days of the Dead, Beatlefest, and the Music Box Theater, but no town shows movie love like LA and Hollywood. It’s an embarrassment of riches. On any given night, should I choose to make the drive, there are between 5-10 rep screenings, special pop-ups like Cinespia, the Academy museum, the New Beverly, and Universal Studios.