Friday, July 15, 2011

Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention: 2010 Recap

A fan of Zorro dressed up in costume for the event.
At the time I write this, preparations for the 2011 Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia convention will be under way. The dealer room is completely sold out (as usual, we have a waiting list) and all indications point to this year's show being the best ever. Last year the convention was held at the Hunt Valley Marriott, a hotel best described as a country club and the first time we utilized the hotel's large ballrooms. Prior to this, the event was held annually at The Clarion in Aberdeen, Maryland. But realistically, unless the hotel redesigned the facilities with rubber walls, we outgrew the hotel and had to move to large facilities. And I am proud to say that of the 22 conventions I attended last year, MANC was one of only two with a growing attendance. In fact, the attendance has grown every year since it began in 2006.

Mary Ethel, who runs the front registration desk every year.
MANC has an agenda: to help preserve nostalgia and promote museums, fan clubs, historical societies and preservation efforts. After all -- and let's be frank and honest here -- it's an aging fan base and a declined economy we're fighting. If someone doesn't keep it going, who will? And since two conventions this year are closing doors, MANC will (hopefully) carry the torch.

Mixing all breeds of nostalgia, the convention centers on silent movies, pulp magazines, fifties and sixties television, old-time radio, pre-code classics, comic books, vintage movie posters and more. Rather than focus on one particular genre, MANC promotes all forms of nostalgia. At past MANC events, Ken Stockinger hosted a fascinating look at glass slides ("Ladies, please remove your hats..."). Michael Hayde and Derek Tague presented video clips of Dragnet spoofs. Michael Henry talked about the Vox Pop program. Buck Biggers, co-creator of Underdog, talked about the creation of the popular cartoon character. Fred Berney talked about the retro children's program, Big John and Sparky. Pete Klaus offered us a retrospective of The Phantom, a creation of Lee Falk. Author Brian Taves gave us a glimpse into the personal and professional career of P.G. Wodehouse.

One of the vendors who attend every year with goodies.
Besides presentations and seminars, MANC also boasts more than 200 vendor tables, a drive-in movie theater outside the hotel in the parking lot, a charity auction to help benefit the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, a movie room screening classic films 24 hours a day, and old-time radio recreations on stage.

If you are still with me, allow me to share some of the great moments and photos from last year's event. The Fifth Annual Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention. I am certain after reviewing the recap below, you'll want to check it out for yourself. And you should. It's like Disneyland for those who want to wear a 'coon skin cap or do the hola hoop. I cannot list everything (we have almost three things going at the same time all three days), but here's a sample.

Fran Striker Jr. and Terry Salomonson on the morning of the opening day just as people arrive.

Bill Parisho, a fan of James Bond and sixties spies, offered us rare behind-the-scenes video clips of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and thanked the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement for their permission to do the presentation. Of course, the audience got the joke. Rob Farr of Slapsticon hosted rare Buster Keaton film shorts that even the die-hard Keaton fans probably never knew existed. Don Ramlow hosted a slide show documenting the history of Astounding Science Fiction Magazine (1939-1960). Author and historian David Saunders offered a slide show presentation of his own displaying the pulp art of H.J. Ward, giving the audience to understand the complexities that went into created the oil paintings featured prominently on the cover of pulp magazines. Fran Striker Jr. sat up on stage with historian Terry Salomonson and discussed how his father created The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet. That presentation was so packed it was standing-room only. 
Movies are certainly a treat, especially when attendees were given the opportunity to see House of Wax (1953) with Vincent Price in eye-popping 3-D. Glasses were provided and the paddle ball sequence really rocked!

Marsha Hunt looks over a book given to her by a fan.
Actress Marsha Hunt, one of the celebrity guests of the weekend, attended a screening of Thunder Trail (1937) and then came on stage to talk about her scenes after the movie concluded.

Joel Blumberg, host of Silver Screen Audio, chatted with Mark Goddard (Lost in Space, Johnny Gringo) and Will Hutchins (Sugarfoot) to discover what it was like to be cowboys on television. Other celebrities took their turns throughout the weekend, scheduled, to do a Q&A on stage and answer questions audience members wanted to ask.

Don Ramlow directed two superb old-time radio dramas on stage complete with microphones, scripts and sound effects. A "lost" episode of The Mysterious Traveler and a "lost" 1934 Lone Ranger broadcast that revealed a different side of the Masked Man. (for more information about that particular Lone Ranger broadcast, click here.)

Jack French and cast in rehearsals of The Mysterious Traveler.
Leah Biel introduced For the Record, an original and highly-praised documentary about record collectors and collecting. Also screened was Alex Flaster's documentary on Moe Berg, the famed baseball player who served the U.S. Government during World War II in a capacity that surprised many baseball enthusiasts. 

The Three Stooges impersonators showed up to perform fake wallpaper skits, slam pies into people's faces (but only to those who asked to be treated to such a spectacle), and posed for photos with fans. In previous years, Abbott and Costello impersonators entertained the crowds.

Sample of what people were able to find in the Vendor room.

Sample of what people were able to find in the Vendor room.

Neal Ellis and co-hosts Chris Holm, Leah Biel and Prof. Mike Biel broadcast live from the event over Radio Once More. Some of the seminars (but not all of them) were broadcast live for the benefit of those who lived too far away to attend. Listeners called in from Hawaii, Canada and Finland.

Author Jim Rosin attended the convention, not only offering an inside look at television's The Invaders and Peyton Place, but interviewed the leading stars of those programs, Roy Thinnes and Ed Nelson. Since Rosin was instrumental in arranging for the celebrities to attend, he asked to interview them on stage and the spotlight was all his. Thinnes had never attended a convention before, and MANC marked his first autographing for fans.

Author Jim Rosin and actor Roy Thinnes at MANC 2010.
Will Hutchins (Sugarfoot) shares a laugh with his fans.

Dawn Wells (Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island) was a joy to spend the weekend with. She spoke to everyone, answered their questions, made the crowds laugh and enjoy the show, and posed for photographs. She even offered a tee shirt with a ballot box.

Mike Amowitz and Dawn Wells pose for the camera.

Dawn Wells signed autographs all three days for fans who lined up to meet her.

The Drive-In movie of the weekend was The Brain Eaters (1958), a classic science fiction film rarely seen on television and never commercially released on DVD yet. Ed Nelson, the star of the movie, was our weekend guest so it seemed only fitting that we screen the movie. Right before the picture started, viewers were treated to a pie fight put on by The Three Stooges, a vintage cartoon and a couple movie trailers.

Karen Lerner displays Radio Spirits products.
Chris Holm gets the Three Stooges treatment.
Photos, lobby cards and memorabilia for sale.
Members of the Solar Guard fan club.
Gene Carpente, comic book expert, chats with a customer.
Mark Bialek of the Drive-In Exchange takes care of customer requests.

For the crowd that came to watch the movies, the theater screened such rarities as a 1956 Bob Hope Christmas special with Mickey Mantle, the uncut preview print of Pardon Us (1931) with Laurel and Hardy, unaired TV pilots with Dale Robertson and Roy Thinnes, and Edgar Kennedy film shorts, among others. The rarely-seen Trucolor print of Springtime in the Sierras with Roy Rogers was a highlight -- a film print that will not likely appear or Turner Classic Movies on the Westerns Channel in the near future.

This year's event is sure to draw an even bigger crowd and a number of magazines have jumped in on the action. Scarlet: The Film Magazine, Monsters From the Vault and the Non-Sports Update will be offering back issues for sale as well as special subscription rates. The charity auction offers movie props seen in the original Night of the Living Dead (1968), an autographed photo with Elizabeth Taylor, dinner tickets with some of the celebrities (a rare treat when you consider the bidding includes dinner for two!), vintage comic books, and other autographed memorabilia from Hollywood celebrities. The event room and movie room have been relocated for everyone's convenience and are now twice (if not three times) the size of last year's, to ensure ease with electronic scooters and "no more standing room only."

Celebrities this year include Patty Duke, Karen Valentine, Davy Jones, Tony Dow, Billy Gray, Lauren Chapin Charles Herbert and Jimmy Hunt.

This year's convention dates are September 22 to 24, 2011. The hotel rooms are expected to sell out and the dinner banquet tickets for Saturday night might also sell out (which means dinner tickets for the first time in six years may not be available for sale at the convention). The convention web-site, for more information, photos, complete schedule of events and everything you need to know to book your room is www.MidAtlanticNostalgiaConvention.com

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