Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Nostalgia for an age yet to numb

The September of My Years: A Weekend Trip Down Memory Lane at the Nostalgia Convention

"Come meet Hollywood celebrities & get their autograph!"

(September 17-19, 2015) - It was the best of times, it was the Fest of times. After a mentally grueling week at the social services factory (aka, The Public Library), I came home Friday night longing for escape from the harsh realities of the Here and Now. Maybe it was the words of one of my library regulars, a Beatles-obsessed middle-aged recluse, ringing in my ears. "I don't care much for the Modern World," she explained, when I asked her that day why she loved the Beatles so much. "Those were happier days back then [when the Beatles were together]." (Hmmm, maybe minus the Vietnam War, the Manson Family murders, and the MLK rioting. I'm just saying, everything's relative...) So it was that I similarly sought solace in a blast from the past, and what better way then to head out for a late-night run through the 10th annual Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention (MANC) being held at the Hunt Valley Wyndham, Thursday through Saturday.

Nostalgia Con merchadise: anything and everything from the past!

Amy and I made a preliminary "recon run" Friday night on the upstairs (free admission, free-range vendors) level of the Wyndham, where a similarly Beatles-obsessed Amy bought 31 (!) Fab Four buttons and guitar picks and a Yellow Submarine postcard from one elated nostalgia vendor. "I have to get Ringo buttons to wear when we go see his All-Star Band at the Lyric in October!," Amy rationalized. (Point taken!)

Fab fare at the Memory mart

Neither Amy nor I go to these conventions to get autographs or selfies with the celebrities in attendance. It's just not our thang. Plus, it's expensive. We leave that to friends like Dave Wright, who took advantage of this year's cinema and TV Land celebrity bounty - Lee Majors, Richard Anderson (89 years old!), and Lindsey Wagner (a youthful-looking 66!) of The Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman series; Hammer-and-Bond Babes Martine Beswick and Caroline Munro, as well as Hammer Horror Honeys Veronica Carlson and Suzanna Leigh; and Barry and Stanley Livingston and Tina Cole of My Three Sons, among others (Angela Cartwright, Dean Stockwell, Tempest Storm, et. al) - by bringing his Hammer Glamour book to get signed by the well-preserved, still-sexy starlets.

Marcus Hearn's "Hammer Glamour" book

Of course, Dave couldn't resist the "hands-on" experience of also posing with his film femme favorites, as well (that Dave is such a poseur!):

Caroline Munro & Dave Wright

Martine Beswick & Dave Wright

Dave Wright & Suzanna Leigh

Likewise, fanboy Tim Finnerty (erstwhile drummer and current bassist of Middle River rockers The Krudz) and his fanboy-in-training son Patrick were also there, with Tim scoring a much-coveted selfie with Lee Majors and Richard Andersen. "I had to, because I always kick myself for missing these opportunities," Tim confessed, adding that he missed the chance to get "a Polaroid sitting in the Batmobile with Adam West for just $15!" a few years ago when he unwisely decided to catch an Ace Frehley concert instead. (He's never forgiven himself.)

Bionic fanboys Tim & Pat Finnerty with Six Million Dollar celeb Lee Majors

The Finnertys have Richard "Oscar" Andersen's back

89-year-old Richard Anderson  is still rocking the Celebrity Nostalgia Trail!

The Bionic Man and Woman were definite highlights of this year's MANC, with special edition program guides for sale and some fans ever donning costumes in homage to their idols.

Bionic fans do the Robot Dance

Dave Cawley & Gina Houten get ironic with the Bionics

Steve Austin edition guide

Jaime Sommers edition guide

No, Amy and I prefer posing (for free!) with our fellow nobodies, peeps like Dave Wright (for once not wearing an Iron Maiden t-shirt)...

Dave Wright, Tom Warner & Amy Linthicum

...and  Big Dave Cawley, King of Memorabilia (who made sure that he stepped away from the table selling Jerry Lewis memorabilia so that he wouldn't be asked for autographs!)...

The Gruesome Twosome: "Men about town" Tom Warner & Dave Cawley

But Amy and I do love looking at all the toys, games, books, comics, magazines, records, DVDs, movie posters, and assorted memorabilia from our youth that are on sale. For instance, Amy spotted a Shari Lewis and Lambchop word descrambler toy she remembered playing with as a toddler. It was called the Shari Lewis' Magic Answer Cards, though Shari and Lambchop have nothing to do with it except appearing on the box cover.

Shari Lewis Magic Answer Cards

The game asked questions and if you couldn't guess the answer, you placed a cheap piece of plastic with holes in it over the Answer Board to reveal the answer, as shown below:

Automatic Answer Board

It's...it's magic! Oh, the games people play!

And speaking of magic, dinosaur-loving Dave Cawley was amused to see a vendor selling a vintage Strange Change Machine, the late '60s Mattel toy that heated up blobs of goop in a "Time Machine" and turned them into miniature dinosaurs. Or not. "My dinosaurs always came out as blobs!" Dave admitted.

Mattel's Strange Change Machine toy

The Strange Change "Time Machine" created these creatures

Of course, no one needs to create dinosaurs anymore. They're all over the place now - but today we call them "Republicans"!

Watch a 1968 Strange Change Machine commercial.

The same vendor also had a box of "Banned Dukes of Hazzard Confederate Flag Zippo Lighters." Since the Hazzard boys and their General Lee wheels are now politically incorrect, I didn't see any takers. (He'd probably fare much better at the  Dundalk Heritage Festival, where a vendor quickly sold out of Confederate flags this summer!)

Amy looks for good-value rock & roll items at these conventions, like the aforementioned Beatles merchandise, or anything to do with retro music formats, like the Vinyl Forever vendor who "repurposed" records as candy bowls and album covers as handbags.

Vinyl Forever!

I tend towards dumber fare like a bootleg of the 1975 Golden Harvest-Australian Film Development Corporation kung-fu co-production The Man from Hong Kong, starring Jimmy Wang Yu and one-time Bond George Lazenby (who also starred in Golden Harvest's 1974 martial arts movie, Stoner, opposite Angela Mao), and comic book collections like DC's Blackhawk - the latter an ill-advised purchase, as it was the later edition of the racially stereotyped flyboys battling Commies in the 1950s rather than Nazis in their '40s glory days).

"The Man from Hong Kong" was the first Australian-Hong Kong co-production

Blackhawk & Co. battled Commies and killer whales in the '50s

Did I mention that Blackhawk was somewhat racially insensitive? Early version of Blackhawk team member "Chop-Chop"

We spent quite a bit of time chatting with first-time vendor Jennifer Vanderslice of MoonGlow PR and Beatles Freak Reviews, who brought a half-dozen interesting Fab Four books to the convention. I ended up getting the latest book by "Beatles scholar" (doncha just love that term? Who knew in 1964 that one day scholarly tomes would be written about the lovable Liverpudlians?) Robert Rodriguez, Solo in the 70s: John, Paul, George, Ringo, 1970-1980.

Rodriguez's previous critically acclaimed books include Fab Four FAQ, Fab Four FAQ 2.0, and Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock 'n' Roll. (Like I need another Beatles book - I still haven't gotten through Mark Lewisohn's Tune In - The Beatles: All These Years! - but, hey, it's an easy and fun read!). Rodriguez's book picks up where FFF 2.0 left off, detailing John Lennon's fight to stay in America against the forces of the Nixon administration, the lawsuits against the Beatles' business associates and each other, unreleased recordings, the promo films, covers of Beatles songs by other artists, bootleg releases, and whatever else is left to say or ponder about the Fabs.

Jennifer Vanderslice with Scott "Son of Dennis" Wilson

Right next to the Beatles Freaks table was another first-time vendor. There, a friendly couple from South Jersey was manning a booth selling books about old-time radio and television stars. I wish I could remember the husband's name, because he was the author of several books about radio stars like Jack Benny, George Burns, and Bob & Ray. We talked about Jersey beaches, Jersey-style hoagies, and even my t-shirt depicting the Dundalk waste treatment facility known affectionately to locals as the "Golden Eggs." (They had never seen such a beautiful shit plant!).

The Golden Eggs

The wife commented that I looked like Matt Smith from Doctor Who.

"Spot on, mate!" Matt Smith approves of the Tom Warner comparison

"Really?" I exclaimed, not used to getting compared to anyone other than Martina Navratilova or Bill Maher. "I think I love you!" (I should have bought all their books just for that compliment alone!)

Jennifer Vanderslice recommended going downstairs into the big dealer's room to talk to Scott Wilson, son of Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson, who was there to promote his memoir, the quite sensibly named  Son of a Beach Boy: My Dad, Dennis Wilson. (See Jennifer's review at her blog Beatles-Freak's Reviews.)

The Legendary Chick Veditz

Also downstairs in the big dealer room was Harry "Chick's Legendary Records" Veditz. Chick was once again manning his massive sports and memorabilia trading cards table, ably assisted by his wife Arlene and their son John.

Chick's Legendary trading card table

The recently retired Chick is a true sweetheart. He gave us two "Buying Records Cheers Me Up" Peanuts t-shirts, as well as lady-sized tee for Amy commemorating Chick's Pre-Retirement Party at The Ottobar (see "Of Chick, Coddies & Camaraderie").

Adam Turkle-designed tee commemorating Chick's August 31, 2014 Ottobar Party

After spending way too much time looking over seemingly every item on offer in the dealer's room, we headed back upstairs to head out. But on my way to the exit, I overheard a familiar voice. I'm horrible when it comes to recollection, but something in the voice rekindled memories of my days as a tech writer in suburban Cubicle Land. Looking up I recognized a familiar-looking face.

"Are you Bill?" I asked. "Didn't I work with you at..."

"Tom Warner! How you doing man?" said the familiar face, now recognized as none other than Bill Horn, my old friend and co-worker from the mid-'80s when we worked  for Display Data and, later, Convergent Dealership Group, in Hunt Valley. This was back in the pre-Regal Cinemas, pre-Wegmans, pre-everything era of the Death Valley Mall, when the mall was as dead as vaudeville and you could almost imagine tumbleweeds blowing through its lonesome corridors. Back when Convergent had enough money to hire the Pointer Sisters to sing the "Convergent Theme Song": "We work for Convergent/And the times are urgent...and I think I like it, like it!" No, really. I was there.

Amy looked surprised and I blurted, "We used to work together at a computer company..."

"Display Data," Bill chirped. "Right across the parking lot here at Executive Plaza."

Display Data dudes Bill Horn & Tom Warner

Bill was an IT guy who has since gone on to get two graduate degrees in creative writing. He was helping a buddy out with his table on this fortuitous day. Long story short, we caught up best we could and made plans to get together for a Tech Throwback happy hour with former co-workers at Display Data/Convergent. I miss those days in Hunt Valley. I hadn't seen Bill since I left the company in 1992.

I remember Convergent had a newsletter and one issue had us both getting shout-outs in the "Dubious Achievement Awards of 1989." Bill's 1974 Dodge Challenger got him the nod for "Worst Wheels," while I snared "Too Cool for Words." No, really.

Like I said, it was a weekend of nostalgia for happy days past. Maybe not as far back as the Beatles spinster' lady's "happy days" but good enough for me. Thanks for the memories, Nostalgia Con!

My only regret is missing a special appearance by Jerry Beck, the celebrated Animation Historian and author of such critically acclaimed books as The 50 Greatest Cartoons (1994) and The Animated Movie Guide (2005). Beck presented a history of the Popeye and Betty Boop cartoons at the convention, a talk I'm sorry I missed!

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Blogger Martin Grams said...

It was a great show and the attendance keeps growing every year. Most shows it's about the $60 autograph and photo ops but this show most celebs are $20 and clearly there for the fans, taking time to answer questions. And I agree... vendor room rocks!

1:46 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I liked your Weekend Trip Down Memory Lane at the Nostalgia Convention. I used to go trip with my friends always in the vacation and would have some great memories.

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