On the morning of Saturday July 15th, my son, Luke, and I arrived at the Crowne Plaza in Rosemont, Illinois wondering what to do first. This was the 24th G-FEST (Godzilla Festival) and my 15th. For me, it’s never been just a convention but more a family tradition. Luke’s been to just about every one since he was born (he’s 13 now) and my four kids together have participated in every G-FEST activity imaginable. We’ve submitted models, participated in the costume contest, Luke won first place in the video game room last year and Alex (my eldest) got the blue ribbon in a Kaiju poetry contest when he was six. My kids and I were so entwined with G-FEST that it was actually painful covering it for this site during the years Alex had outgrown Godzilla, as indicative of the three-hanky sob-fest I posted HERE. Apparently my kids, themselves, weren’t immune to it either. My daughter, Jade, who was more or less dragged to these events growing up said that when she saw the end credit scene of Skull Island (where the existence of Rodan, King Ghidorah, and Mothra were revealed) she was flooded with nostalgia over G-FEST.
How do I love thee, Godzilla? Let me count the ways…
For a monster-loving kid like me growing up in the ‘70s, giant Japanese monsters represented the pinnacle of entertainment. Those glorious films were just about the only thing worth staying inside for back at a time when kids actually wanted to be outdoors. Of all the notable behemoths to have ever graced the silver screen, there were none I revered more than the “King of Monsters” himself, Godzilla. The moment his iconic roar filled my living room I’d be transfixed, especially if he was up against my second favorite kaiju, King Ghidorah (sorry, Gamera, but you were a distant third). Back then it never occurred to me that I was cheering on a guy in a costume as I’d fully embraced the idea of giant monsters roaming the earth and Japan just happening to be the only ones “lucky” enough to see them. Adolescence ushered in the grim reality about “men in rubber suits” and it wouldn’t be until years later that I’d gain a true appreciation for them. The reality is, these folks gave rubber-suited monsters an edge in the personality department that many of the stop-motion ones lacked. This was especially true for those played by the quintessential suit actor himself, Harou Nakajima. Nakajima has the distinction of playing the original Rodan, one of the Gargantuas (which I did a retro piece on last year), and Godzilla from 1954-1972 among others. Needless to say, when I learned that the eighty-eight-year-old legend would be attending Days of the Dead’s 2017 Indianapolis show, I knew I had to be there!
Once again fans of Godzilla and giant Japanese monsters converged on the Crowne Plaza hotel in Rosemont, Illinois to celebrate G-FEST (Godzilla Festival). This marked its twenty-second gathering and my twelfth in a row as what started out as a fun event to take my Godzilla-obsessed six year old son, Alex, to had since become a family tradition. My last three kids would follow in Alex’s footsteps and over the years we’d partake in just about everything the convention had to offer; art contests, kaiju poetry, costuming, model-making, and the film festivals playing at the nearby Pickwick Theater.
My ten year old son, Luke, and I arrived today for G-FEST XXI . In the ten years I’ve attended the Godzilla Festival, I’d never seen the registration line so long on a Friday. Last year I attended over ten conventions, most outside of my sweet home Chicago with poor G-FEST getting a quick stop-over on its final day. This year would be the opposite as I vowed to avoid virtually every other event and focus solely on one of my favorites.
I have been a giant rubber monster fan for as long as I can remember. I have so many fond memories of Saturday and Sunday afternoons watching the latest exploits of Godzilla or Gamera as they fought the newest monster foe bent on destroying the Earth. The one creature feature that always stood out though as the coolest of the Japanese giant monster movies was DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, from 1968. The funny thing is though, that as a kid, I never remembered the plot of the movie; I just remembered the last 15 minutes or so that featured the very best of what Toho had to offer in an over-the-top monster battle.