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Monster Bash: Zombie Country's a Scary Place (submitted by Phil Fasso)

I've been on the convention trail for more than 3 years now, traveled everywhere from the Big Apple to Baltimore, from Chiller to Cherry Hill. In my travels, I've been to cons that rated everywhere on the scale from the good to the bad, and on a few occasions, to the scarily incompetent. On June 23, as my flight left from Long Island, NY, I was about to experience a few firsts: my first Monster Bash, and my first trip to zombie country itself, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Walking into Monster Bash, I was quickly greeted with a very cluttered hotel front lobby. A shirt vendor was setting up to my left; up ahead to my right sat Kyra Schon, the lovely Karen Cooper of Night of the Living Dead fame; and directly ahead lay the registration table, jammed uncomfortable with little space to get around it to the dealer rooms. This was a very cramped setup, which caused problems later in the weekend when the crowd got thick. Producing my receipt, I got my pin-on tag. I have to say, I prefer the bracelet route to the pin, because I don't like poking holes in the chest of a good horror design. Pinning it to my shirt sleeve, I had to twist my torso every time I entered a guest or dealer room.
Heading down a long hall to my left, I soon discovered that the guests were set up in individual hotel rooms. Because the guest list wasn't large, this didn't present much of a problem, but it would have been better if all the guests were in one big conference room, as is the case with bigger conventions. My first stop was a very old friend of mine, Kevin McCarthy (and at 94, I mean very old). Kevin is my favorite celebrity, and senile as he is, he always has a certain charm to him. Unfortunately, he didn't have an undershirt on beneath his pullover sweater.
Across from him was the Creature from the Black Lagoon himself, Ben Chapman. Ben was not only selling pictures, but with each purchase, he was offering a copy of his Creature contract from the 1950s, two photocopied articles about him, and what he affectionately referred to as "Gilly Bucks." A nice grab, if only because it was something different. Unfortunately, McCarthy and Chapman's tables were too close together, and this became a problem on Saturday, as fan volume increased.

Next stop was the dealers rooms. There were two very smaller rooms selling nothing of real note, and one larger room. This larger hall held the same problem that plagued this convention: everything was too tight. I'm a big man, and navigating through the tables and fans was nightmarish at best. The tables sported the normal fare of toys, collectibles and literature, and as I was in zombie country, I treasured my purchase of a 300 page book dedicated to movies of the undead.

I then went to meet Richard Kiel, who made me feel small. He also made me feel pain, as he wrapped his gigantic paws around my head. After this, it was off to meet Bill Hinzman, the famous cemetery ghoul from Night of the Living Dead . We talked with great affection about his NOTLD knockoff Flesh Eater, but I passed on a picture with him. Hinzman is renowned for dressing up as the ghoul at cons, so I would wait til Saturday for that.
Last, I grabbed an autograph from Kyra Schon. I was a little star struck, I must admit. I got her to autograph the iconic pic of her, and conversed with her about how it was taken outside, and her character is confined to the house. Romero had her take it during a lunch break, for you trivia fans. As with all the stars, Kyra was gracious and kind.
I caught a shuttle back to my hotel, and immersed myself in zombie literature and Pittsburgh pizza for the evening. Early the next day, I made my return. Chilly Billy Cardile is a local celebrity in Pittsburgh, and was the reporter in NOTLD. He was appearing only on Saturday, and showed up a little late. Fortunately, I was 2nd on a line of about 5 people; sharing a room with him was Elvira, and her line was at least 80 people long. Cardile was grateful that I came to visit.
Having met Chilly Billy, there was one more order of business. I zeroed in on Hinzman, who was dressed in full zombie garb. He commented that he liked my shirt from the previous day better, as it was an NOTLD shirt. I really wanted to tell him that I'd have been wearing it in a picture with him had he saved me the hassle of having to wait til Saturday to get it. But Hinzman was amiable, and I chose to be too.

I left long before the party for Forrest Ackerman. The beloved nonagenarian was a no-show at his own convention (note to Forrest: next time you schedule hip surgery, make sure it's after your own show!). As he obviously wasn't going to sign my Howling poster, I saw little reason to partake in the festivities.

As a convention, Monster Bash turned out to be squarely all right. Spacing issues plagued the entire proceedings, and the guest list, though tailored to fans of the undead, admittedly was not for all tastes. But I got a great book and met some really kind celebrities I'd never met before. And it's always a pleasure to see Kevin McCarthy, that charming old stud. Would I go again? I'm not sure, but I had fun, and that's really all I can ask from any convention.

Be cool, Phil Fasso

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