Two Sundays ago I went to something called Monsterpalooza. I heard about it because the film director and monster lover, Guillermo del Toro, tweeted on Saturday that he attended. I did two seconds worth of research and found that it was a three day event and I still had a chance of attending and tickets were available. I was so excited and let me tell you, it's been awhile since I was this excited about an event.
There was to be a panel on Godzilla featuring the original Godzilla actor, Haruo Nakajima, and the original Godzilla creature sculptor and fabricator, Keizo Murase. There was going to be another panel on puppets in film and television.
This sealed the deal for me so I apologized to my writers group for missing yet another Sunday meeting and bought my ticket.
I decided to drive there and it wasn’t until after I arrived that I realized I could have taken the L.A. Metro Gold Line to the Pasadena convention center where it was held. I was too excited to do the research I normally do. (I like taking the train.)
As soon as I entered the parking lot I saw others like me. Monster lovers. Specifically monster lovers. Not anime, not comic book characters, not superheroes. -Just monsters.
I can't directly put my finger on this feeling I had of being exactly in the right place; a place where I was surrounded by people who also shared my enthusiasm for Godzilla and demons and aliens from outer space.
I went alone and this turned out to be good because I was able to explore at my own pace. I was able to observe in my own way. I like being alone, especially when I’m exploring.
The hustle doesn’t discriminate.
This was the first time I went to a thing where cult celebrities sit at a table and sell their autograph and this was a great lesson for me.
My way of being an artist often has me sitting at tables waiting for people to buy my work. In addition to that I help my husband by working the door at his events. I sit and take money and have to listen to people complain or give their opinions about the cost of entry or how they think nightclubs ought to be run. During these times and during my day job of teaching young people I have to feign interest in things I have absolutely no interest in. Like most humans, I spend a lot of time feigning interest in things I have no interest in. It’s humbling for me as an artist that's done as much work as I have and I had been feeling rather low about it all.
But here were these people we make assumptions about (that they live at least some sort of charmed life), waiting patiently and with grace for people to come up to them and give them a mere thirty bucks. There weren’t throngs of people waiting in line for autographs. I walked by several times to find familiar movie/television actors sitting alone, staring at their phones and looking up occasionally with a smile to possibly lure someone to their table.
Vincent Price’s daughter, Victoria Price, was there. She seemed really cool and had a good way of interacting with people who shared stories of their love of her father. It must be weird and hard to live the life of someone valued for the sake of someone else; whether that be a beloved parent linked to pop culture or a character they played as an actor.
I'm a fan.
I had no intention of purchasing an autograph at first, I don’t like autographs, but I soon decided that I needed to commemorate the fact that I was in the same room with the man who was Godzilla, my gender-neutral hero since I was about four years old, and he was very old. (Born in 1929!) When would I have this opportunity again in this funny little life of mine? I chose a color photo of Haruo Nakajima he had for sale, one where he was laughing and appearing to be entering or exiting his Godzilla costume, which he then signed. I also purchased a protective cover. My phone was taken away from me and I was told to pose for a photo while he shook my hand.
I’m so thankful (recently) for Guillermo del Toro, (historically) for Goya and for all of the many artists over time who also loved to depict monsters. I’m thankful for my art history classes for showing me that my proclivity for depicting and observing these sometimes goofy and seemingly unsophisticated art subjects has a rich and valuable history.
That being said, I have trouble associating myself with monsters and art because of the often terrible work that is done. Monsterpalooza showcased some terrible art. What’s worse is that the stuff that was selling most were reproductions of monsters found in pop culture.
Deviant Art is filled with art like this. Many teens I teach are obsessed with recreating images of monsters people know and they grow addicted to the praise they receive NOT for the work being original but for how well they recreated the familiar subject.
I don’t like that at all, but I understand it. Especially when it comes to young artists. I get it. It can be a stage of learning.
The cool thing is that monsters can allow us to be original. A monster is distinctly outside of what’s normal. With monsters, an artist has liscence to go nuts and I wish I saw more of that within the world of “monster nerds.”
I always credited TV for my interest. -Monster movies of the 50’s and 60’s that were on TV in the early seventies, during the day when I sat in front of it. Sesame Street started a year before I was born. My dad has always been a horror movie fan. Probably all of these things turned me into the monster fan that I am but who knows? I always felt like more of a monster than a human, or maybe I just would rather have been one. Monsters always seemed better than humans.
A long time ago someone told me I was abducted by aliens as a child and another person, not so long ago, said that I'm actually from another planet. I haven't been able to prove either theory but I take them both as compliments.
I had such a nice time that Sunday. I wished there were even more booths than there were to display more monster art, makeup tricks and memorabilia. I look forward to attending again, next year.
As I get older my experiences that are truly and honestly one hundred percent “fun” are usually moments that take place during increments of an hour or so at a time. Human adulthood is a whole lot of hard work and super boring stuff and filled with non-monster loving people defining what is and isn’t valuable or important and I think I’ve grown way too used to it. I think this is why I found myself needing to write about my time at Monsterpalooza, in order to try and aggressively embrace and accept the fact that for whatever reason, I always was and always will be a monster lover.
My name is Linda Lay and I'm an artist, a writer and a teacher.