Thursday, April 3, 2014

Monsterpalooza 2014: Back to the Bat Cave -or at least Bob's Big Boy!

Karen: Howdy friends. You might have noticed that I've been absent from our comments for a few days. That's because I headed out to Burbank, California once again to enjoy Monsterpalooza! This annual celebration of all things monstrous has become a great escape for me and my pal Larry and this was our third year meeting up at the show. This time we decided to get to Burbank early and we enjoyed spending the morning and afternoon of Friday, March 28th, exploring the area (since the show wouldn't start until 6 pm).

We headed out that morning to Griffith Park, intent on finding Bronson Canyon, the site where many films and TV shows have been shot, perhaps best known to people as the hidden exit of the bat cave on TV's Batman show. Larry and I trekked the short distance up a trail towards the caves, only to have two park ranger trucks pass us by headed in the same direction. We wondered what could be going on. We soon found out. The rangers had yellow tape in hand and were getting set to close off the caves to visitors! We asked what the problem was, and they told us a tractor digging on the other side had come across human remains! Holy crime scene, Batman! We asked if they could please let us snap a few pictures before they taped it off, and they obliged. We were sad that we could not go into the caves, but at least we had a chance to see where the Batmobile would come racing out on its way to Gotham City.
Bat cave prior to crime scene shut-down

Bat cave post Rangers
Robby Reed's Dial B for Blog has a nice article on the Batman TV show and discusses how the Batmobile was filmed exiting the narrow Bronson Canyon cave, if you're interested in learning more.

We went up to the Griffith Observatory and enjoyed a tremendous view of smoggy Los Angeles. Unfortunately the observatory itself wouldn't open for another hour yet, so we headed off to do some shopping. Right in Burbank are two shops that would send any geek into spasms of delight: Creature Features and Halloween Town. Creature Features had an incredible selection of figures, toys, CDs, books -you name it. They were also hosting an Outer Limits art exhibit that had some absolutely stunning sculptures and paintings. Here I am with a friend (courtesy of FX whiz Greg Nicotero):

Halloween Town is owned by Rob Zombie, and there are actually two store just blocks apart. One is a costume shop and the other -the one we went in -has a little bit of everything. There were t-shirts, toys, Halloween decorations, posters, you name it. I wound up buying two t-shirts, a King Kong shirt -I'd been trying to find one - and possibly the coolest t-shirt of all time:

We had lunch at a historic Bob's Big Boy restaurant. It was the oldest family-owned Bob's still around -been there since 1949! The burgers were delicious. I hadn't been to a Bob's Big Boy in more than 20 years, so that was fun. I think they may be just a west coast phenomenon. Anyone know?

So what about the show? As usual, it was a feast for the eyes. There were so many amazing and fantastic things to look at, it's hard to know where to begin. It always feels like half-trade show, half- fan convention. There are plenty of booths with make-up vendors, sculptors and artists plying their trade, and effects houses showing their work. There's quite a few celebrities just walking around too. Friday night we saw actor/director Jon Favreau and his family just taking it all in like everyone else. Friday night was fairly low-key for us this year -we mostly spent it looking around the dealers' room. I did however get an autograph from Haruo Nakajima on my War of the Gargantuas lobby card. Mr. Nakajima not only played Gaira, the green gargantua, but was the original Godzilla, and played him in several films. He also did the duties in other films, like Rodan. He's the godfather of Japanese monster men! So it was an honor to meet him.

Saturday is always the busiest day of the con (like most cons). We sat in on three really fun panels: the first was a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Creature from the Black Lagoon! Actress Julie Adams was there, along with the underwater Creature, Ricou Browning. Gorilla man and all-around great guy Bob Burns rounded out the group, as they discussed the making of the film, the monster suit, the process that went into the design of the Creature, and a lot more. The second panel I saw featured Garner Holt, whose production company creates animatronic creatures for all sorts of customers, including Disney! His personal story was quite amazing. The final panel of the day once again featured the inimitable Bob Burns and was a video tour through his various Halloween shows that he's done over the years. He was joined by a group of folks, all talented FX professionals, who have worked on the shows. It was hilarious and you can tell how highly everyone thinks of Bob and Kathy.
Bob Burns, Ricou Browning, Julie Adams

Saturday night was a special treat: we got to see the original Creature from the Black Lagoon in 3D! It looked fabulous, the 3D effects were solid, and the whole crowd was very into it. Larry and I made sure to bring popcorn, as you can see. The bag was appropriate as well!

Sunday's big highlight was the War of the Gargantuas reunion panel. Mr. Nakajima was joined by Russ Tamblyn for Q&A with the fans. Kenji Sahara, who played a scientist in the film, was feeling under the weather and only came out at the end of the panel for photographs. Tamblyn was hilarious, recounting that he only took the role because it was a chance to go to Japan and he assumed no one would ever see the film. Little did he know it would be shown over and over again in Los Angeles ( I saw it many times on KTLA growing up and it quickly became my favorite Japanese monster film) and many other cities. Tamblyn also said, to the room's delight, that he ad-libbed much of his dialog, such as his character's remarks about the college students who saw the gargantua 'being on acid.' This didn't go over well with American producer Henry Saperstein but there wasn't much to be done about it as they had to get the film done quickly. Nakajima answered questions through an interpreter and so it made things slightly more difficult. He said he based his movements as the gargantua off of wrestlers. He also said that when he would finish a film and he thought he'd done a good job, he'd reward himself with some sake! But overall, playing the monsters was very hard work.
Russ Tamblyn, Haruo Nakajima, Kenji Sahara
Monsterpalooza is one of those shows where you just never know what you're going to see, but you're constantly blown away by the high degree of skill and artistry. I can't possibly show you everything but in the pictures below I hope to give you a taste of what you might experience. It's a wonderful show and the show staff and the Marriott staff are all fantastic. Can't wait for next year!


Edo Bosnar said...

Karen, wow! Thanks for the report and all the pics. Although it's too bad you couldn't go in, I actually love the Batcave photo with the crime scene tape in front of it.
Also really cool that Nakajima came all the way out for the show, especially since he's well into his 80s, isn't he?
And that's an excellent photo of you with the Creature in a matching T-shirt (unlike like that absolute fiasco previously when you took a pic with King Kong in a Godzilla T ... :P). Speaking of T-shirts: oh, man, I so want that "Duel in the Desert" shirt.

Humanbelly said...

Best. Field Trip. Ever.
Wow Karen-- MUCH credit to you for planning the extra, thematically-connected side trips as well- there MUST be some sort of side-career opportunity percolating for you along those lines-!

Bob's Big Boy? Nah, they're all over the place, although they franchise out with other names, sometimes. Mishawaka, IN had one called Azar's when I was a kid. There was one here in nearby Takoma Park, MD for many years-- reknowned for it's late-night Breakfast Buffet (heh--HBWife & I courted over more than a few of those-!).

Man, getting Nakamima's autograph-- that might just outweigh your Joe Biden acquisition. Heck, Joe B might even want Mr N's autograph, come to think of it-!


Garett said...

Awesome Kirk vs Gorn shirt Karen! And I like that Frankenstein monster figure at the end.

dbutler16 said...

I HAVE to get one of those Kirk vs. Gorn tee shirts! The Batcave would be awesome to visit, too bad for all the yellow tape.

I haven't been to a Big Boy in over 20 years, myself. We used to have one here in Rochester, NY, and it was one of my favorite restaurants as a youngster, but alas, it is long gone. I can't remember the last time I've seen a Big Boy, other than in your picture. I still have some of the Bog Boy comics, though. :-)

Anonymous said...

I don't think we have any Big Boy restaurants up here in least I've never seen one. That shirt is pretty cool...any chance we can see a pic of the King Kong shirt? I love that big ape!

Mike W.

J.A. Morris said...

Thanks for the recap, looks like a great trip. The last time I recall seeing Bob's Big Boy in my area was rest stops in DelMarVA back in the late 80s. Johnny Carson would often joke about them, that's my primary point of reference for Bob's.

Gary said...

Here in Michigan they are called Elias Bros. Big Boy. Still go to them occasionally.

lilbaggie said...

We used to have a house in the Studio City Hills not too far from Bob's and would frequent it quite a bit. Always a fun place to eat and people watch.

FYI, in case you didn't know, Barris' Kustomz is just a little bit down the road (continue west on Riverside) where the "real" Batmobile resides (or at least one of them does). It was on the way to my son's pre-school and we'd occasionally stop in to check it out. George would be there every now and then. Really friendly guy. KITT the Knight Rider car resided there too.

Graham said...

Would love to have seen the Batcave.

Down here, Bob's Big Boy is called Shoney's Big Boy. Same big guy with a burger in the doorway when you go in. I guess it's a regional thing, but Shoney's used to be one of my favorite restaurants when I was a kid.

Fred W. Hill said...

I worked for Bob's Big Boy in the San Jose area from 1986 to 1988, the first year as a cook, the next two as an assistant manager, and was switched around amid 4 restaurants in the area, including the one next to the Winchester Mystery House, which was only about a half mile from my apartment. I believe that was shut down long ago; I left California for Florida in 1990.
Cool pics, Karen, and Robbie's website is a hoot!

Anonymous said...

Usually monsters and horror in general ain't my cup of tea but you look like you really had a blast there Karen!

Man, I woulda loved to line up just to meet Mr. Nakajima - Godzilla himself! He must have some really interesting stories to tell. I'd probably be so excited I'd ask some silly question like 'gee was it hot in that suit?'!

- Mike 'Gojira rules!' from Trinidad & Tobago.

johnlindwall said...

Awesome report as always! i live is San Diego and have never heard of Monsterpalooza! I really need to check it out next year.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon is my favorite Universal Monster! I would have loved to meet Ricou Browning! i knew his name even as a kid, probably from reading Famous Monsters of Filmland. To see the movie in 3D -- WOW,

I grew up eating at Bob's Big Boy here in socal. My favorite part was the free Big Boy comic book you would get each time! They were small in size and not lengthy at all, but I just loved them so much. I remember my disappointment when we'd visit and the same comic that I'd already read was still there. Oh the travails of childhood!

Karen said...

Edo: Nakajima-san is 85! But he seems to be doing well. I saw him all over the hotel, in the restaurant, etc, so he was getting around well. He came out on stage and said in English, "I love you!" and everyone went nuts. All of his other responses came through an interpreter. But he seemed to be having a good time.

And yes, now I can wear an appropriate T-shirt for a Kong or Mighty Joe Young panel!

Kirk vs. Gorn shirt: Isn't that the best thing ever? I'd never seen that before. I wore it Friday night and got a ton of compliments on it (mostly, "Where did you get that shirt?"). I don't know where Halloween Town got it -if you're interested maybe you could contact the store.

Bob's Big Boy: Thanks for sharing all your stories about Bob's! I had no idea he was all over the country. I just remember seeing him as a kid in California and assumed it was a regional thing. And I forgot about the comic books! This is one thing I love about doing the blog -the interactions we have here. Very cool!

The Nekkid Frankenstein: That ugly beauty is the work of the very talented Mike Hill and was described as the dessicated Monster found after his end in "House of Dracula." I think it may even play a role in a movie project Mike is putting together, so stay tuned.

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