How I Spent My Winter Vacation

By Kurt vonRoeschlaub

Well, Ken asked for B-Fest reports and since I currently seem to be stuck “between projects” I figure I might as well get it down while it is still fresh. I’ve noticed that the memory of who was present where has already faded, so let me apologize in advance if I left anyone out. I’m pretty bad with names to begin with, much less connecting them to people I technically never met before and handed to me en-masse. Since I’m going to screw up and get a lot of people pissed off at me whatever I do, I’m not going to even pretend to remember what was going on around me. I’ll be happy to kick myself for you if I forgot to put your name in here, everyone made a great impression and there is no one I regret meeting.

In case anyone is reading this and wondering what to bring, here’s a list of things that we brought and what was useful.

Friday, 4:45 (3:45 Chicago time): We wake up and finish the last minute packing (mostly hard-boiled eggs and other things that are better kept refrigerated as long as possible. Minor stuff kept delaying our departure until 5:45.

6:30 (5:30 Chicago time): At the airport in good time, and with half an hour to spare. Oops, maybe not. As we reached the counter the ticket agent nearly has a fit and rushes us off to gate 12 where we are the last people on the plane. Note to self: Southwest Airlines likes to actually be at the end of the runway at the time on the ticket. Since it was a meal-free flight we have Animal Crackers for breakfast. And that odd juice that seems to be a hybrid of Orange and Grapefruit juice, probably so they don’t need to bring both on the plane, it tastes like a bad version of whichever one you ordered.

7:30 Landed at Midway. Walked 75 miles from the gate to the train.

9:00 Finally arrived at the correct stop. Note to self: Next time pay the extra $30 and land at O’Hare. I was worried about our cell phone working but the Sprint offices were across the street, and I didn’t think they would have the guts to not have a cell covering that. I was right and talked to Ken, he left to pick us up. When I got to the entrance to the trains I found that there were a few dozen people waiting for a bus and panicked that we might miss each other (not a problem as they all left almost immediately). I called back to find out what Ken’s car looked like and Andrew of Badmovies.Org answered. I consider myself lucky that he was thrown off by my not being Canadian so I was able to acclimatize to him in small doses.

I also discovered that I had been paranoid about nothing. The temperature in Chicago while we were there was warmer than New York, and I had delayed my haircut for over a month for fear of facing the cold with a bare head. Instead I just got some really bad hat-hair.

9:15 Ken arrived. He helped us get the bags in the car and we took off. My first impression, and one that the rest of the weekend bore out, was that Ken is one incredible guy. He basically put himself out to an incredible degree for a dozen or so people who were, for all intents and purposes, complete strangers.

9:30 Arrived at Ken’s place. Andrew told my wife she was pregnant and she thanked him profusely for reminding her. A big mistake as she was then reminded once an hour from then until we left. While he was definitely over the top in every way imaginable, Andrew was also an incredibly nice guy. Good thing since he could probably break my neck with his left pinky if he wanted to. I can’t remember who else was there when we arrived, but as the crowds shuffled in and out we were reminded that Rob (of OTH) had a superfluous third nipple, and also met Alan, Mark (a.k.a. Apostic), Joel, Sue, another Andrew, and . . . yick, here’s where I get in trouble.

It was Sue’s version of B-Fest that convinced my wife to come (don’t worry Sue, some day she may forgive you), and they seemed to hit it off rather well. Sue was a lot of fun, and reminded me (both in looks and scathing sarcasm) of Caroline Rhea. I didn’t mention this to her for three reasons: 1. She probably got that a lot, 2. She might hate Caroline Rhea and be insulted, and 3. She might have been Caroline Rhea slumming it at B-Fest under an assumed name.

We finished watching the Lou Ferigno version of Hercules and then put on “Rock n’ Roll Nightmare.” As the credits started to roll the director’s name came up. My wife gasped, “John Fasano? I dated him in high school!” There was a bit of discussion as the credits continued to roll, then she gasped again. “Frank Dietz? I went to high school with him, tool!” Later she also recognized two of the actresses. We were determined to buy a copy, but Ken gave us an extra copy. Did I mention what an incredibly nice guy he is? We will be showing it to some close friends who introduced these people to acting. Hopefully they will repent.

We then watched “Ticks” and, at an opportune moment I surprised Ken with three Jabootu beanies I had made when my wife wasn’t watching. They were pretty rough prototypes, but I think I’ve worked out how to make them with a minimum of fuss.

Just before we left Ken put on a clip from “Sextet” involving Timothy Dalton, a Neil Diamond song, and the reanimated corpse of Mae West. I may never watch a Bond film the same way again.

Rob and Alan of Oh the Humanity! loading their trunk, and Adrew of giving advice.  Also Sue reflected in the window. 4:00 Packing started. Wow was there a lot of food. With three cars we just barely fit everything in. The Stomp Tokyo fluorescent orange cups had to be removed from the box and placed on top of the coolers in the back of Ken’s car. This made following him fairly easy. Rob and Allan gave us a ride to the hotdog stand for a quick lunch/dinner before the fest, and the last time we really got a chance to talk as a group.

5:15 Arrived at Northwestern. Ken’s kindness had been poorly repaid as there were about ten people ahead of us on line, and they nabbed the first two rows. Ken was stuck in the third row, I took the seat behind him, Rob and Allan were on my right (my bad side, so I missed a lot of what they were saying, sorry guys) and Joe behind us. I didn’t get a chance to see much of where the others sat, as everyone would get up during the breaks, but the Stomp Tokyo people seemed to have shown up and taken position back a few more rows.

6:15 B-Fest started a bit late, but it gave us ample time to get settled in. I was surprised at how much room there was to spread out, but I was pretty thankful for it as the night progressed. If it had been as crowded as it was during Plan 9 for the entire time it would have been impossible to get any sleep.

Hmm, well obviously that's Alan in the back and Andrew on the right, but everyone else is pretty much too blurred to make out. I guess I should fess up, it was at this point my wife and I gave Ken the Jar-Jar Binks lollypop (his tongue is the candy, so people are expected to French-kiss him). Andrew found this fascinating and spent the rest of B-Fest going to town with his impersonations.

Daddy-O – Well, it was bad, but it was something you could sit through. It didn’t lull, so we could sit back and enjoy the bad acting and disturbing steam-room scene without getting bored. I still have no idea why the titular singer felt the need to wear his pants up to his armpits, or how a nightclub can stay in business with so few people coming in. Yeah, that Daddy-O sure can bring in the kids, when he sang there was a whopping six couples present. One of the stranger parts of the film is the main female character who, when she first appears, lets everyone know what an annoying reckless sleaze she is. Because of this, Daddy-O suspects her of being the person who ran his best friend off the road and killed him. When he finds that she wasn’t the killer (it was David Letterman, don't ask) for some bizarre reason he suddenly takes a liking to her. “Sure you nearly killed several motorists, ran me off the road, and got me arrested for manslaughter, but you didn’t kill my best friend so you must be okay.”

Invasion of the Saucermen – Everyone know the remake of this, “Attack of the the Eye Creatures.” This probably introduced the most running gags, especially the crotchety old man running people off his land (and with a disturbing fondness for cows). Kudos also belong to the brilliant aliens that built their ship entirely out of magnesium and thermite. A second steam-room (sort of) scene involving an overweight middle-aged man appeared in this film. I wasn’t too fond of the trend.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes – Sorry, I’ve seen this so many times, and the print was in such bad condition, I decided to go to sleep right after the third steam room scene of the evening (this time with overweight middle-aged orangutans). I had been up about 18 hours at this point, and decided a bit of rest for the later films would be worth it. We slept in the last row which was much more comfortable than the stage, but also much louder (must be the acoustics).

House on Haunted Hill – I roused myself for this one, and it’s an interesting flick. I’d heard much about it, but had never actually seen it myself so I had to get up and watch it. My wife woke up just as it ended (and was reminded by Andrew, who was running behind schedule, that she was pregnant) and was disappointed she missed Vincent Price.

Previews – Much fun, especially the very short promo for “The Thing With Two Heads” that ends with Rosey Grier telling Ray Milland’s severed head to shut up. There was also “Tron” and “The Black Hole” trailers which reminded me just how cheesy they had been. There was one trailer that had a killer shadow on the wall for several seconds, so I shouted out “Do ‘rabbit’.” Nobody seemed to really notice, but I mention it because it was one of the few times I thought of something funny to say before the scene was over. I was clearly out of my league with this bunch.

Wizard of Speed and Time – This was a flashback for my wife who used to show this film at the local library during film marathons. I’d never seen it before, though, and I have to say that it really is great.

Plan 9 From Outer Space – What can I say about this you don’t already know? The audience participation has almost become cannon, though it seems the rattan contingent is starting to see the error of their ways, as few people failed to vote for wicker.

Dracula 1972 A.D. – My wife decided to sleep through this one. I dozed in and out, mostly watching from the stage corner where we were hiding. I just want to know why only stupid people show up in these films. If you have spent your whole life preparing to become a vampire, when you finally get your wish do you: a. fill your coffin with books that were just cluttering the den, b. make sure there are lots of silver items in your apartment, c buy thin curtains that don’t close all the way, or d. all of the above? Pauley Shore would have made a more competent vampire than this guy.

Jungle Hell – Saw it already. Got a good four hours rest, instead. Oddly it only lasts 80 minutes when you aren’t watching the film. It might have been worth it for the look on the other viewer’s faces, but not when the alternative is sleep.

Gavotte – Opened my eyes long enough to watch this one and wonder why it was made. My take is that it is an expose of the indignities placed on the proletariat by the bourgeoisie upper class. Either that or the director thought angry midgets were funny.

Tomb it May Concern – Since the above lasted five minutes I was still on stage, so as soon as I determined that Abbot and Costello were not going to show up and kick these guys butts for stealing their act I went back to sleep.

The Quest – Except for a few scenes, I only caught the stunning end in which the badly beaten Jean-Claude Van Damme comes back from certain defeat to arise victorious. What an incredible plot twist! I managed to trip over a number of people getting back to my seat. I think I also stepped on Alan (sorry).

Creature from the Haunted Sea – I don’t care what the IMDB says, that was Kate Mulgrew. Okay, so maybe she was 6 when it came out, but damn it, it was her! Apparently a captain tries to steal treasure from a Cuban general (as a casino owner he is above suspicion?!?) but the Cuban general seems to have a ring of +4 summon cannon fodder as the soldiers he is with die at a prodigious rate without ever reducing their number. The aforementioned Kate Mulgrew clone sings a nearly interminable yet atonal song, oddly right through a gun battle. Worst of all, it’s narrated by the comic relief. I suspect the trailer would have mentioned a “cast of thousands” too, since even amongst the main cast there were plenty of roles to go around.

I Want a Job – Silly, and clichéd, but not appalling. It did however give Andrew the chance to exclaim “Missa want a job!” Apparently job interviews in the 40’s involved a lot of personal humiliation, then again, so do job interviews today.

What is Communism – Absurd, and at first laughable. It is a pretty silly bit, then they show a live execution and a few mass graves. It’s kind of hard to keep laughing with that on the screen and I have to wonder if we really can tell the difference between a staged film and newsreel footage of someone dying anymore. I was disappointed at how fast I recovered from the mass death on the screen as I was already laughing again by the start of the next film. For the record, one of those mass graves looked an awful lot like a Nazi mass grave I saw during a holocaust retrospective. I’m not questioning the existence of Communist mass graves, just the filmmaker’s access to pictures of them.

It Came from Outer Space – Cheesy and in 3D, my eyes hurt by the end of this film. I think I was the last person in the theater to recognize the professor from “Gilligan’s Island.” I suspect the glasses since I normally see people even when it’s just a resemblance (like Kate Mulgrew above). A bunch of aliens kidnap his friends and his wife, duplicate their appearance, and steal their clothes and all he does is ask people not to get mad, and break up the posse out for alien blood. I kept asking why the aliens behaved so badly yet threatened to blow up the earth at the first sign of hostility on the part of the local populace. If I were the lead I'd at least have pointed out they were asking for a lot more trust than they were showing, but for some reason the character just goes on agreeing with them. Eh, whatever.

Son of Blob – More sleep. I’ve seen this a dozen times. I did catch the end, but wished I hadn’t, it was exactly as I’ve always remembered it.

The Raven – So edited it made no sense (not that the unexpurgated version did). Every time I thought Bella Lugosi would reveal his motivation they cut to another scene, so it seems he was just a nut in the short version.

During the break we finally went down to the cafeteria and had brunch. I needed protein! Sugar and lack of sleep had pretty much sapped any hope of a second wind.

Red Nightmare – Silly. Since I missed the beginning during the break and was rather surprised to see Jack Webb at the midpoint. As with the previous movie I can understand why the authors were so paranoid, the Cuban missile crisis was still fresh in people’s minds, but they seemed to gloss over the fact that most of the “evils” of communism had little to do with economic reform and plenty to do with the people in charge.

The laser pointers got especially annoying during this film. Since this had the most at any one time, I’d say there were probably three people with them. I think that was more than enough. I was assured they were not nearly as annoying as last year, which makes me wonder how any of them survived the beating they surely got afterwards. Laser pointers can be funny, and sometimes were used to great effect but overuse is painfully bad. For those of you lacking the ability to tell the difference:

Not Funny
Flashing “SOS” at the top of the screen as the monster sneaks up behind someone. Pointlessly lighting up an actor’s eyes.
Putting the cupid hearts on an actor while he is having a mano à mano conversation (especially one where the dialogue could be double entendres). Wandering aimlessly around the screen looking for a cigarette or bulb to “light.”
Pointing out a bizarre or misplaced background set piece. Pointing out an actress’s cleavage. We probably already noticed that.

Quartermass and the Pit – I love this film. I guess I’m just oddball in that I prefer the plot and character development over action or effects. I had never seen the last five minutes before, so it was a nice chance to find out what the hell happens.

Teenage Cavemen – Slow and boring, I wish I had slept through it. A group of cavemen argue over whether the law forbidding them to cross the river should be ignored when food becomes scarce. The strange part is that, even though everything he is warned about turns out to be true, and all his companions die, in the end the teenager is made out to be “right.”

Wizard of Speed and Time – Yay.

Slime People – My wife started rooting for the entire cast to be mangled and killed. Never had a more ignorant bunch of morons survived a monster film. Every plot point would immediately be dropped as soon as it was introduced. The slime people can only be killed with spears? Well, leave all the spears behind and keep your gun instead! The salt is dissolving the fog shield? Give up on that track and go wrestle the slime people instead! Sheesh.

Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! – An exploitation film so over the top that I didn’t even realize the cutting off of the actresses heads was a framing problem. If it had actually been filmed that way it would have fit in with the overall tone fine. Once the framing was fixed I had a little trouble enjoying the film since the kidnapped and bound girl looked just like my sister. I thought it was just me, but my wife confirmed there was a strong resemblance. I’ve got to get a copy of this for her.

Clean-up was pretty fast. There was a moment of panic when Ken asked me where I made the reservations, but fortunately the hotels were not crowded, so a five minute call on the cell phone and we were booked for less than it cost the people who had made reservations (let that be a lesson to you). It was then off to the hotel with Rob and Alan. Rob was feeling rather sick, and since we were starting to fall apart ourselves my wife and I decided to skip the party at Ken’s and just have a quick snack at the hotel restaurant before sleeping like the dead.

The following morning we showered a second time (nothing like sitting in the same clothes for 32 hours to make you feel slimy) and called Ken. Rob and Alan weren’t up yet so we left a message at the front desk for them and took off for the final staging area: Ken’s mom’s house.

I was rather intimidated, sitting on a sofa surrounded by such visionary greatness as the Stomp Toyo people, Andrew, Joel, and Apostic. Dr. FreeX was actually deigning to look at me and say “hi.” I just sat there in stunned silence. Fortunately my wife was not as overwhelmed and had the nerve to actually talk with these people.

We ended up watching “Starcrash” and afterwards I begged Andrew to show “Drunken Wu-Tang” just so my wife could experience the Watermelon Monster. If you have downloaded that clip from Andrew’s site, the full screen version is ten times as funny. Unfortunately it was time to go all too soon.

While we were dating, my wife had a number of friends who always kissed her goodbye. I'm not sure if it's stranger that she did this, or that I had never even seen people do this outside a movie before. Either way, whenever my wife kissed one of her male friends goodbye I would immediately come over with my arms open as if expecting a kiss also. A harmless prank until B-Fest. As Adrew Borntregger said goodbye to my wife I walked over with my arms outstretched and, for the first time, someone actually took me up on it. No, I didn't get a kiss, but I did get a bear hug that would have been more at home on When Animals Attack and I'm not sure if my back will ever really recover.

Ken then drove us back to the train, there was an uneventful ride back to the airport, and a long wait for the plane. Because of the danger of freezing rain the pilot was asked to fly as fast as possible, so even though we ended up leaving fifteen minutes late due to ice on the wings, we arrived home exactly on time. Very carefully timed to ensure I would miss nearly every minute of the Superbowl.

Was it worth it? You bet. No matter how exhausting the experience may have been, and even if it did eat the entertainment budget for the next six months, it was still a huge heap o’ fun. Great people, a great time, and more snacks than a 7-11. Unless the new arrival keeps me busy, I’ll be back next year.