The last time I attended a Mad Monster Party event was back in 2014. While it was both a memorable and entertaining weekend, that year’s show was marred with a few, shall we say, hiccups. Not this time! Well, if there were any issues, they weren’t evident to me and that’s a very good thing.
Mad Monster Party (MMP) rolled into Charlotte, NC for the fifth time over Easter weekend, from March 25-27, 2016, returning to the Sheraton Charlotte Hotel. Thousands were in attendance to celebrate all things horror, sci-fi and fantasy spanning all of pop culture history. Celebrity guests, artists, and vendors lined the the walls of the hotel’s convention/ballrooms as visitors enjoyed countless hours of browsing, shopping, collecting, learning, and obsessive fandom worship.
As always, Joe Moe (one of the three event organizers) was on hand at all times, checking in on all of the artists and vendors, laughing it up with the celebrity guests, overseeing special events, and getting to know as many visitors to the show as possible. “This is year five! We’re celebrating our fifth anniversary here in Charlotte. I am so pleased! It’s been wall to wall with people. The mix of celebrities is incredible and, of course, the mix of attendees is always amazing. It’s like family.”
Stefan Kapicic (the Eastern European actor most notable in the US for his role as Colossus in this year’s Deadpool movie) was all smiles, like a kid in a candy store. “As a matter of fact,” said Kapicic, “this is my first convention. So I am really excited. It’s really cool. People are coming up and we get the chance to talk and it’s pretty interesting.” Just watching Kapicic’s interactions, you could tell how much fun he was having. “This is like my dream come true. I’m a really big comic book fan so having a chance to be a part of the X-Men and to be Colossus is definitely like my childhood dream come true.” It’s a wonder I accomplished anything this weekend, as I could have stood and listened to this man speak all day. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a sexy accent.
Though she co-starred with Jamie Lee Curtis in John Carpenter’s Halloween, actress PJ Soles was impressed by the variety of fans who showed up to meet her at MMP. “I am blown away by how many Ramones fans there are here!” Soles starred in the cult classic Rock and Roll High School with the Ramones. I told her that my first hamster was named after her character, ‘Riff Randell’. “Are you kidding? That’s a first! I’ve met quite a few people who told me that they named their daughters Riff, but never a hamster.” We also took some time to dish on her Stripes co-star Bill Murray. “He tried all kinds of things,” Soles laughed, when asked about the egg-beater scene. “He would even call my hotel room at all times of the night to mess with me.”
Malcolm McDowell was as charming as you’d expect, and quite proud of his latest project, the acclaimed television series Mozart in the Jungle.
Nichelle Nichols, ‘Uhura’ from Star Trek fame, smiled, “I love this. I love to meet all of the fans.”
Even Boba Fett himself, Mr. Jeremy Bulloch, was enjoying some fan time. Signing autographs and posing for photos in front of his table, Bulloch told tales of the Empire Strikes Back days of old. He even had a few words to say about the latest installment, The Force Awakens. “Those two young people, the leads (Daisy Ridley and John Boyega) are the driving energy there, just pushing it forward. I really enjoyed it.” His wife chimed in, “He just watched it again on our flight over here!” They are the most adorable couple, by the way. If you haven’t met them yet, you should.
Said Moe, “I fanboy over all of them, but it’s in a different way because we’ve known each other for so long. But when we get together on these rare occasions, we get to celebrate the new work that people are doing. It’s quality time that you don’t get to spend with people, usually.”
“I’d like to say that it’s a ‘good business’, but really what it is, is a big party! And we are the fans,” Moe spoke proudly yet with a childlike grin. “It’s a fan-first convention; made by fans who turned into movie makers and other professionals, trying to put on the kind of show we’ve always wanted but with none of the stuff that we didn’t want. That’s what makes it unique.”
One example of such uniqueness was artist Barry Crawford, better known as The Clay Guy. His display of miniature characters from damn near every movie and television series ever made, caught my eye and stopped me in my tracks. I had to know more.
“I do these sculpted figurines,” said Crawford. “They’re all hand made. I make the original and then make a rubber mold of that original sculpture and then I hand paint them, like all that you see here.”
“Start to finish, I usually do this type of sculpture in two sittings of 2-3 hours each. And then I have to make the mold. Then it’s time to turn out the duplicates. Then the painting can begin,” Crawford laughed. “There are quite a few steps to it. But every since I was a little kid, it was all Play-Doh and modeling clay. It’s just something I always loved doing. And Mad Monster Party has been great so far.” Hear that, kiddos? Embrace those imaginations and never stop playing…er…creating!
“That’s the thing about horror fans and genre fans,” said Moe. “Stamp collectors and coin collectors don’t mint coins and make stamps. But, horror and fantasy fans, they want to create things. They want to make movies. They want to participate through other creative means whether it’s art, writing, makeup, film making, acting, and so forth. They want to be a part of it all. So it’s really a special fandom.”
MMP offered plenty of ways for fans to be a part of their favorite genres this weekend. From film screenings and live music, to costume contests and a pageant, karaoke, costumed photo-ops, countless Q&A panels, and more. And, in honor of Easter Sunday, MMP held an egg “decayorating” contest, as well as a very special Easter egg hunt for the children, featuring actor James Duvall as one of his most memorable film characters, ‘Frank the Bunny’ from Donnie Darko. It doesn’t get any better than this!
Well, for me it did. There was one moment that shines above all others…getting to meet the master himself, George A. Romero. There aren’t enough words to express how humbled and excited I was. We had the opportunity to talk, but my micro-recorder wasn’t set right (nervous hands at that point). Maybe that’s what was meant to be. Our conversation can be just that…ours. All you need to know is that it was a dream come true.
All in all, Mad Monster Party was a huge success. The location was easy to find, as was parking. The hotel offered many amenities, but there were plenty of other food and drink options within walking distance. Even with the crowds, this venue was much more spacious than the last one I attended. And, there seemed to be more volunteers on hand, or at least friendlier and more-informed volunteers on hand, which always helps. MMP is an extremely affordable convention by comparison, especially when you consider the ease of access to the special guests and the amount of things offered to entertain even the youngest chill-seekers.
I eagerly look forward to Mad Monster Party Charlotte in 2017. Perhaps this time I will book a room at the host hotel and do things up right!
Thanks for reading! If you have photos from Mad Monster Party Charlotte, please share them with us in the comments, on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter account. See you at the next con!