This past weekend I finally got to see the annual Chicago Oddities and Curiosities Expo at the Odeum in Villa Park. The event proudly proclaims itself geared for “lovers of the strange and unusual” and features taxidermy, specimens, artwork, and just about anything bizarre. My teen daughters, Leia and Jade, joined me and although the event took place both on Saturday and Sunday, our schedules only permitted Saturday a.k.a. one of the hottest days on record. The unholy mix of southwestern temps and midwestern humidity made for an uncomfortable journey but, in the end, we all agreed it was worth it.
Imagine if you spent the the last twenty years meeting annually with a group of like-minded friends for a weekend of fun. Sure, these gatherings were comparitively small, but that was the beauty of it. The atmosphere was relaxed and everyone had an opportunity to participate in the numerous activities provided. Each year you’d see the same faces and even if you didn’t know their names, they somehow felt like family.
Now imagine your intimate group suddenly becomes four times larger. The comfortable venue you’ve always used swiftly becomes claustrophobic and overheated. Navigating the dealer’s becomes a frustrating fight for survival and finding an empty seat at a popular panel a luxury. Where once you’d stay the entire weekend and feel sad when it ended, now you’re anxious to leave. Such is the plight of my beloved G-FEST (Godzilla Festival); an event that appears to have fallen victim to the Legendary Godzilla, himself.
Quick disclaimer…if you clicked on this looking for something related to the quintessential Slasher, Jason Voorhees, you’ve come to the wrong place. I’m not discussing “Friday the 13th” series of films but rather a lesser known television series of the same name. The show ran on a Chicago UHF station called WPWR-TV Channel 50 from October 1987 till the summer of 1990. It had absolutely nothing to do with the hockey-masked killer but an antique store called “Curious Goods.” Unfortunately, the heirlooms sold at this shop were anything but “good” since its former owner, Lewis Vendredi, made a pact with the Devil thereby cursing each and every one of them. Once Lewis’ deal goes south and he’s inevitably claimed by Satan, it’s up to his benefactors, Micki (Louise Robey) and her cousin Ryan (John D. LeMay) to try and reclaim the evil objects. Once safely in tow, they’re locked up in a basement vault; not unlike Ed and Lorraine’s artifact room seen in The Conjuring series.
This blog was originally titled “Physical Media’s Last Stand” but I thought it too pessimistic. And when it comes to this topic, there’s plenty of cause to feel that way. The MPAA recently revealed a staggering 50% drop in sales as the rise of Streaming services takes hold. I’m sure I speak for my many of my fellow lazy fans that it’s a lot easier pushing a button than getting of our butts to pop on a disc. However, anyone who’s spent 20 minutes scrolling Netflix only to finally give up in frustration knows that what we like isn’t as accessible as the modern world would have us believe. For horror fans like us, there are plenty of cause for us to continue coveting physical media. In fact, despite the current Blu-ray apocalypse, some of the most amazing upgrades and rare titles are being released – though you may need to look beyond Amazon.com to find them. There are several companies out there fighting the good fight and today, I’ll be highlighting a few of the ones I think are worthy of our support!
Do you remember what you were doing on the night of Saturday, June 16, 1979? I sure do. Here in Chicagoland there was a bit of fanfare regarding a new horror host hitting the airwaves via our favorite UHF station, WFLD Channel 32. For a young monster movie fan like myself, the idea of watching them on prime time was a gift in and of itself. Having them presented along with hilarious parody songs, skits, and sound effects took it to an even higher level. Even before the big night, I recall my parents discussing the new talent at the dinner table. “Oh, you’ll probably love this Son of Svengoolie,” my mom said, looking up from the Chicago Tribune’s entertainment section. “Your father used to watch his dad back when he was on TV.”
Who doesn’t love Paul Rudd? The seemingly ageless actor has been inspiring laughter for nearly two decades; long before joining the Avengers as Ant-Man. My family and I try meeting as many MARVEL stars as we can so when C2E2 (Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo) announced Rudd as one of their featured guests it was one happy day at the Fuentes household. I immediately started working the necessary overtime while hovering over their website waiting for the tickets to go on sale. My diligence paid off and I bought ours (both photo op and autograph) just before they completely sold out. C2E2 would eventually add an additional day and I believe those were gobbled up as well. Was it worth paying more than a car payment to meet Paul Rudd?
It was Friday afternoon when MeTV’s horror host sensation, Svengoolie, arrived at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2). As soon as I was alerted of this by his Producer, Jim Roche, I rushed outside to meet them. It’s rather surreal seeing Svengoolie in broad daylight but there he was; patiently waiting as Jim and his Director/cameraman, Chris Faulkner, prepared their supplies and equipment. C2E2 is always a frenetic experience for the crew and this year they were adding merchandise sales to the mix (T-shirts and posters). I’ve had a bit of experience selling Svengoolie shirts at past appearances such as Flashback Weekend and Nightmare on Chicago Street but this would be a lot more demanding. Consequently, I’d be “knighted” as temporary paid staff for his Friday signing. With Svengoolie armaments in tow, it was time to kick-off his two-day appearance at C2E2.