Monday, May 31, 2010

Mars on the brain, and vice-versa

Scientists have recently changed their hypotheses about how canyons and troughs were created on Mar's northern polar ice cap, and NASA has just released this picture of that chiseled cap:

When I saw that image, it reminded me of an over-sized brain. That sent my mind's eye into the space between my ears (and there's a lot of that), speeding through the cosmos of my childhood memories, and I remembered seeing this other giant brain Martian brain image:

The memories and associations our Earthling brains form can be be a pretty sweet thing!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wonderfest & the Rondos, Pt. 6: The Nausea

Are you sick of me posting about Wonderfest? But I haven't even gotten to the best parts! The Rondo Award ceremony, the displays of masks, model work, vintage monster toys and vintage magazine art-- and best of all, my whack collection of crazy-cool friends I saw!

Well, my birthday is coming up and I'm gonna take my "Max gets spoiled" pregorative to early-- today you get to see and read all about me (urrg, glug) getting my Rondo Award!

The 2010 Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards Ceremony

Okay, the presentation for "Best Horror Blog" started off with an unintended laugh: Host David Colton, who was assisted by comedienne Lynda Wylie, said the winner was "The Drunken Shrunken Head"-- after several in the audience shouted out "SEVERED!", he said, "I'm the one who's shrunken!" (This a comment on the fact that David wasn't as tall as his co-host.) Then he added, with a sly-but-good-natured-poke at my online campaign for votes, "I don't know if Max Cheney is here, as he didn't want this award."

Comic actress Linda Wylie and host David Colton.

Well, nothing on Earth or in Hell would have kept me away-- but in order to have my full strength and dexterity as a severed head, I had to show up attached to my robot body:

I wore a sporty new leopard-skin hat, in case some in the audience failed to recognize my name but thought my fez was familiar!

Photo by Gary Prange.

Then Jane assisted me in putting a matching fez on "my leetle frien'," as Al Pacino might introduce HIS Rondo in Scarface, if he'd had one in that movie.

Look! Mini-Me!

Like David Colton, I was lucky to be assisted by the very funny and lovely Linda Wylie, who crawled under the table on my behalf! No, not to slap me awake from a alcohol-induced stupor, but to become a certain famous puppet speaking in his trademark squeaky falsetto...Here's what happened, from the sketch I wrote (with a little assistance from my friend Jeff Pripusich):


To quote a sage philosopher, Sandra Bullock, "Did I really earn this or did I just wear you down?"

I'm very surprised to be the winner of this year's Rondo Award for Best Blog. I had fully expected my friend Pierre of Frankensteinia would win. He had some impressive celebrity endorsements such as his endorsement by Tim Lucas of Video Watchdog.

But I had a celebrity endorsement of my own. It flew under the radar, but it produced hundreds of votes and brought me success. I'd like to introduce that celebrity to you now.

(ELMO pops up.)
Elmo sometimes looked a little drunken himself. Photo by Gary Prange.


Hello, drunken severed head!


Hello Elmo! Thank you for your endorsement!


You're welcome! My followers are legion and they follow my every command! I told them to copy and paste my e-mail ballot and send it in, and they did!


And because of you, I won!


Yes, you did. You owe me BIG time!


Yes I do!


You still haven't sent me the check you promised!


Hush, felt face! I'll get it to you!


You don't understand! I need it to hire protection! Tim Lucas is sending me death threats!


I'll get it to you tonight! So, do you like my Rondo Award?

ELMO: looks like Jimmy Durante on steroids. I never heard of one until you contacted me. What is a Rondo Award for?

Well, I've been thinking about it, and I think it's FOR this: Killing Easter Peeps!
(MAX pulls blue marshmallow Peeps from a box, starts smashing them with his award--fragments fly everywhere.)
Die! Die! Die!


Die, evil Easter candy, Die! (to MAX) Can I have a piece of that Peep? I'll take a wing!


(He feeds ELMO some pieces of Peeps)


Nom nom nom!

Kids! When you're done playing with your food, a Rondo makes a good "sky god" to frighten your monster toys with!
(Waves Rondo above a Frankenstein figure)
GRRR! RRLLL! Pay no attention to the severed head behind the microphone!


So, blog boy, how does it feel to have a Rondo?


Well, I'll tell you!
(Begins singing to the tune of "Everything's Coming Up Roses")

Take it, Elmo!

(Singing to the same tune)

Thanks Elmo! (aside, impatiently) I'll get you that check!
(MAX bops ELMO on the head, knocking ELMO out of sight)
See you later!
[Then I named everyone I was grateful to-- here's where you check to see if YOU made the cut of names I could recall:]

Photo by Elizabeth Haney.

The following people gave me the encouragement and/or assistance that made my blog a success: Terry Ingram, Raymond Castile, the UMA, Pierre Fournier, Chris Davis, Joe Moe, Richard Olson, John Cozzoli, Jim Bertges, Ted Newsom, Don Glut, David Colton, Laura Chiaramida, Diane Irby, Sparkle Plenty, The Roads of Autumn Dusk blog and The Skull and Pumpkin blog.

And especially my patient and supportive wife Jane, who I wouldn't trade for a group marraiage to [magazine publishers] Donna Lucas and Marion Clatterbaugh, and three clones of Meghan Fox! Although that would make a good idea for a reality series...Anyway, thanks everyone!

[Then I was off to change into my less-bedazzling, more lumpen, clumsy, everyday android body. Later in the ceremony, I was asked to speak about my late friend Linda Miller, who the "Linda Miller Fan Artist of the Year" Rondo Award is now named for. I talked about her impressive watercolor technique, her persistence in spite of her serious vision troubles, her wit, and her generosity with her many friends scattered around the country. I got a lump in my throat and it was just a bit hard to speak...Soon after that, all the nominees had received their awards and it was all over but the photo-taking.]

"Tell us we don't have to give these back!"

Lynda Wylie, on the far right, seems stunned by the camera flash.


After the ceremony came the fitting end-- to me! Or nearly so-- fellow nominee Tim Lucas shows what happens to people who beat him in the blog category:

I was all choked up by his emotional reaction to my win.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wonderfest and the Rondos, Pt. 5


Ever seen any at a restaurant? I don't mean waiters who are slow, have a bad attitude and aren't focused on what they're doing. There's too many of them. No, I mean the rare kind- REAL, brain-eating zombie waiters! Well at the 2010 Wonderfest Banquet, they were on hand! (And on foot, and on leg, and on head, and any other part they could sink their teeth into!)

Here's a few pics:
They WERE kind enough to feed folks before trying to feed ON them.

Photo By: Terry Pace

Here, two of our living dead servers menace Wonderfest guest and scream queen Linnea Quigley!

I'm happy to report that Ms. Quigley survived intact. Like a beautiful cake in a baking contest, she was just too pretty to consume! Me, however-- well, I'm just lucky there's any of me left!

At the end of the banquet, these two ghouls above actually brought some Jello brains to the table where the celebrity guests were seated. Blood ran out of the mouth of the zombie waiter on the right, and hit at least one plate! Still, celebrity guest William Stout (noted artist and the production designer for Return of the Living Dead, among others) gamely ate a piece anyway!

Above: Zombies, Linnea Quigley, Bill Stout, and brains on a plate.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Wonderfest and the Rondos, Pt. 4

I have SO MANY pictures to share from our recent vacation spent at Wonderfest, that I'm going to break them into categories.

Today I'll give you a tour of "The Old Dark Clubhouse," the hospitality room for fans of classic horror that is set up each year at whatever horror con is hosting the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards. It is a gracious and very generous gift by host Gary Prange, a moderator at the Classic Horror Film Boards. Presiding as hostess each year is the ever-evanescent and charming Donna Lucas, the publisher of Video Watchdog magazine.

I think you'll get a kick out of the following photos, even if you aren't a "Monster Kid" in love with classic horror films of decades past, and weren't alive when magazines sold the items represented in the decor of The Old Dark Clubhouse. Take your time and savor all the stuff that makes The Old Dark Clubhouse a visual treat for all who enter therein!

(As usual, if you want to see any photo larger, just click on it.)

A popular part of the room-- the bar:

A working (!) piece of Frankensteinian equipment, built by Mr. Prange:

There had been a working Jacob's Ladder-style piece of equipment, too, but this year it gave up the ghost.

We were up on the sixth floor, but that didn't stop gawkers from looking in:

The entrance to the bathroom:

When you entered, a voice from hidden speaker said, "Welcome to the Inner Sanctum."

With the bathroom (bat room?) we have-- not surprisingly--reached...the end!

A typical day here at home

Yesterday struck me as a quintessential day for Jane and I. Jane reads a lot, and is now reading Human Sacrifice in History and Today, by Nigel Davies. I'm reading a book on the history of novelty and practical joke items, called Cheap Laffs: The Art of the Novelty Item, by Mark Newgarden.

Late at night we'll watch Craig Ferguson and maybe a classic episode of genre tv-- such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which is what we watched most of this past week. Or something from our dvd and tape collection, like some weird old Czech film, or some cult 60s shocker. Perhaps a silent film-- last night we watched two short comedies from 1927, starring nobody you ever heard of.

And maybe we'll worry aloud, like we did last night, whether our pet one-eyed garter snake Plissken, living in a tank near the TV, is eating enough. (He's fine.) It'll just be me, Jane, and our 2 cats on the couch, our gargoyle collection staring down at us from a bookcase. And if it's like last night, it'll be foggy outside.

Life is good.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Interview with FM's ever-scintillatin' JESSIE LILLEY!

I'm excited that the venerable Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine (an influential part of my childhood) is being revived, and that the new editorial team of Jessie Lilley and Michael Heisler are at the helm. Editor Lilley, known for her work as the original publisher of Scarlet Street magazine and more lately for work with Mondo Cult, gave me a nice interview about classic FM and the FM that's coming. It follows the picture of her below--enjoy!

P.S. Here I thought "scintillating" had somethin' to do with smelling good. But no! Reader Yura Nidiot told me to look it up, and I find it means "giving off sparks" and "animated." (Well, that's Jessie, too!) Reminds me of a toy robot I once had...


New Famous Monsters editor Jessie Lilley.
PHOTO BY: Terry Wagner

What's going to be fun about this for you?

Everything, though I think the most fun will be working with both Philip Kim and Michael Heisler. I’ve been doing this kind of work for 20 years now, first with Scarlet Street, then RetroVision, Worldly Remains and now Mondo Cult. Juggling Mondo Cult and Famous Monsters is a bit dicey, to be sure, but so far it’s working. I’m just glad our print schedule isn’t the same; I wouldn’t have time to sleep!

In Phil and Mike, I’ve found two people who are as excited as I am about working on the venerable Famous Monsters. Phil refers to himself as the New Caretaker of Famous Monsters of Filmland. I like that. It shows respect and humor at the same time. He knows what he’s gotten himself into and happily found the perfect Editor-In-Chief in Mike Heisler—another biting wit who keeps me on my toes and gives me enough rope to hang myself.

What is going to be the single biggest challenge or risk about it for you personally?

The most challenging part of this work is also the most exciting: keeping the name of Famous Monsters alive and true to its origins while bringing it into the current day in a way that will reach both the older readers of FM and the younger horror fans that may not yet be familiar with the magazine. The prospect of engaging those young minds, and teaching as well as entertaining them is daunting and exhilarating at the same time. I love monster kids, whatever their ages, and this puts me right into the thick of them. The risk? I’d think that was obvious; finding out I’m not up to the task. It’s the old story about the comedian who dreams that he walks out on stage to thunderous applause and laughter only to find that he’s forgotten to put on his pants.

I’m sitting in the Editor’s chair of Famous Monsters of Filmland, a magazine that is only a few months older than I. If you think about it, I’m Editor-In-Chief on a magazine [Mondo Cult] that unabashedly crows about its Castle of Frankenstein roots, while simultaneously being Editor at FMOF. These, for me, were the Big Two monster mags of the 60s. It’s a huge juggling act and the risk is only to my own ego. If anyone thinks I don’t worry about that, they haven’t been paying attention to me over the last two decades. No one wants to look ridiculous; but these worries only push me to perform at the top of my game so I can keep the chair and make my Uncle Forry proud. It’s a risk I’m delighted to take.

Name one genre film, new or old, you could write about endlessly and it would never get old.

That’s tough. On the one hand, there really is only so much one can say about a film, the story it tells and those who are telling the story. On the other hand, 52 years later this magazine is still telling new stories about films that have been around in some cases for a hundred years and been written about—endlessly. You’d think everything would have been said. In fact, as years go by and outlooks change, new insights can be gained from established work. These films reflect the changing times—I’ve found monster flicks of yore to represent the villains in real life that are oft times too hot to handle in the main stream. Not every one of them, by any means, but more than a handful fall into that category. The established villains of society are addressed directly in the monster movies, but they’re dressed up as wolf men, vampires, Freddy Kruger type characters and the rest.

Here in the 21st century, the gloves have come off and the rapists, murderers and other of society’s dregs are slammed head on in both film and television, not to mention the nightly news and CNN. Some of today’s horror flicks carry on the tradition, though much of the splatter and gore is something I find to simply be shock value, with no real meat to the story itself. This leaves only a small number of films under your “new” category that would qualify, if you will. A long answer to a short question, no? My point is, I can’t choose just one. I can write about the classic horror films endlessly and they never get old for me. Based on my current mindset, I would say if push came to shove and I had to make a choice, I would choose The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. It’s rich in societal and political commentary from start to finish and one can take almost any line from the film and run with it.

Former editor Forry Ackerman was known for his enthusiasm and eccentricities. How do you compare with him in those terms?

Forry and I shared a love of music. I can’t count how many times I found myself singing the old songs from the turn of the last century and later, with him. Sometimes we even managed a half-assed harmony and though neither of us is a particularly good singer, we were always very enthusiastic. When I write, I like to have music playing. It can be anything from Bach to the Stones, Stewart, Michael Jackson, Mozart… whatever suits my mood at that moment. I’ve been told over the years that this is odd—all that noise is a distraction. Not so for me; music is a stabilizer that grounds and permits me to concentrate on the work at hand. I also find it difficult to work without a cat around. There are four of them that share our home at the moment, and their antics give me a much-needed break more often than not when I’m up against it with a deadline. A purring cat on my lap has the effect of breaking through a block or clarifying a thought. I don’t know if these habits are viewed as eccentricities, but they’re the first things that come to mind.

What themes of classic FM will continue on? Will the latest incarnation be aimed at an all ages audience like the Warren/Ackerman FM?

Do remember we’re not recreating the original; we’re carrying the name further into the 21st Century. If Michael puts some nostalgia into these pages now and again, I doubt anyone would complain, but this is 2010 and not 1962. Some of the things Warren Publishing did back in the day probably wouldn’t fly in this era.

As to the second part of your question, that's for Michael Heisler to answer, ultimately, but I’ll weigh in on it for the sake of clarity. If you’ve followed my work at all, you’ll know that I don’t believe in censorship of any kind so when I work on a book like Mondo Cult, the idea of watching one’s language is out the window. I’m of the opinion that the English language is limited enough without further hobbling a writer but telling him or her that there are words they’re not permitted to use because it might offend someone. That being said, this isn’t my book, so I will behave myself in polite company as my mother taught me to do. I expect
Famous Monsters will be just fine for younger readers as it always has been in the past. The difference you’ll find will no doubt be a slightly more sophisticated prose over all. Just another part of being in the here and now, Max—the kids are far more sophisticated today than they were when you and I were growing up. Famous Monsters didn’t talk down to its audience in the 50s and 60s; it won’t talk down to its audience today.

Here's one I think may be a toughie. How do you translate the spirit of a magazine printed (mostly) before cable television choices and even before video cassettes into an age of a million choices and greater exposure?

You cover the subject—in this case, monsters—the same way, while adding space for DVD and Blu-Ray, video and computer games and whatever else comes along. FM did that early on with models and make-up kits and other merchandising—that’s all any of this things are; peripheral industries that grew up around the monster and that a lot of people enjoy. You may not have had prerecords in the 60s, but you certainly had television and there was always room for horror host coverage in the pages of
Famous Monsters. Not tough at all in my opinion. Just know your subject and where you came from and the spirit will remain alive.

Jessie, how will being a woman editor for a magazine with a majority male audience make your approach different than a male editor?

I’ll give equal time to photos of good looking guys!

If I came to your house, what monster movie memorabilia or collectibles would you show me?

There isn’t much, you know? I’m not a collector. I guess I could show you my complete runs of
Scarlet Street (the ones I published anyway), RetroVision, Worldly Remains and Mondo Cult. I have a couple of awards collecting dust around here that I’d probably show off as well. Other than that, the only thing of note that I have is a book full of autographed photos. I collected these over the years from the people I’ve interviewed and a couple of folks that I never interviewed but met or got to know since 1990. Oh! I have cartoons of me drawn by Gahan Wilson, Frank Dietz and Lance Tooks that I’m very fond of so I’d no doubt point those out. And of course, if they came out from under the bed, you’d see the cat collection as well.

Many thanks from one cat-owning, monster mag-loving classic horror fan to another, Jessie.

Above: Jessie Lilley and Frankie the Cat.
PHOTO BY: Lynda J. Williams

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wondefest and the Rondos, Pt. 3

Got time to post only one pic before sleeping, so it'll be one of the funniest:

This was taken at "The Old Dark Clubhouse," a hospitality room for fans of classic horror. (Named in homage to the 1932 film The Old Dark House, natch.) On the left is HARRY KNOWLES of Ain't It Cool news and a young classic horror fan named Forrest having fun with swizzle sticks. I could hardly take the picture because I was laughing so much!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wondefest and the Rondos, Pt. 2

Home at last. Slept 12 hours today! Got up after noon. Attending cons is always an exercise in sleep deprivation.

Well, I have to leave shortly, but I thought I'd post a few pics first. I took both my robot body prosthetic (clunky but powerful) and my more human looking regular android body prosthetic-- which is often unreliable. I wore the robot body to the awards ceremony-- you'll see it later-- and the android one to everything else, which you'll see below.

Here's my general reaction to my good fortune at winning the Rondo Award:

An amazing tribute by superfan Elizabeth Haney to the magazine art of Ken Kelly:

A giggling gaggle of Rondo winners:

Building the Universal Monster Army vintage toy display:

More to come!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wonderfest and the Rondos, Pt. 1

Live (almost) from Louisville!

First image today shows my Nickelodeon Applause Gun being used against me after I shared it with a fellow Wonderfest convention attendee:

Here's my Voodoo Queen Jane, and I, the Maxster:

Me and Frankie:

Still on the road. More text and many more photos to come!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Frank Frazetta passes away

1994 AP file photo of Frank Frazetta.

I am very sorry to note that artist Frank Frazetta has died this week at age 82.. He was one of the top genre painters of the 20th century.

I believe he surpassed in influence the Hildebrandt brothers and Maxfield Parrish, three other top fantasists of the last century. His work in comics, magazines, posters, record jackets and book covers (especially the magazine and book covers!) helped shape my imagination as a child, and strengthened my fascination with fantasy and horror.

I encourage you watch the documentary on Frazetta's life, Painting with Fire.

In tribute I present some details of his paintings, two of his early comic panels, an entire Kong painting, a lighthearted illustration, and an ironic final one.


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