Thursday, August 1, 2019

G-FEST XXVI Part Three: No One Has Ever Said That to Me Before

What has gone before:

My son Eddie and I are attending G-Fest.

Saturday was going to be our “playing hooky” day of the convention. Traditionally, that’s the day with the biggest attendance and the greatest difficulty in getting to the panels and into the dealers room and other areas. Additionally, because the temperatures were in the 90s for most of the convention, it could get unpleasant in many parts of the hotel. The individual hotel rooms were fine. I’m sure many of us staying there had cranked up the air conditioning. However, between the constant opening of outside doors, the number of people attending the con and the tight confines of some exhibit and movie rooms, it got steamy.

Eddie had gone online to buy tickets for an afternoon baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates. We had gone to Wrigley Field on our previous visit to G-Fest and had a great time at that legendary ballpark. Unfortunately, neither of us took into account those ninety-degree temperatures.

I went to the Chicago Fire Oven for the breakfast buffet. Unlike my previous meals at the hotel restaurant, I was less than enthused by the quality of the food. Maybe it was the restaurant, maybe it was the head getting to me.

Back up in the hotel room, while Eddie went to some G-Fest stuff, I did a little bit of writing and watched the last half of Godzilla Battle Royale on the in-house TV channel. According to information I found online, this somewhat bizarre movie was a “professional fan-film” made with suitmation and other effects. It was directed and produced by Billy Dubose."

The acting was enthusiastic. The cast included Robert Scott Field, who was so excellent in 1991's Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, and, in a small but pivotal role, Akira Takarada.

The movie manages to feature dozens of monsters, some lifted from actual movies and some original creatures. The action is very fast-paced, almost dizzying in places. The film totally won me over when Queen Ghidorah entered the fray. The movie is apparently available online, so I plan to watch the whole thing as soon as I get a bit of free time.
The drive to Wrigley Field was longer than expected but uneventful. As we had done on our previous visit, Eddie and I parked in one of the neighboring pop-up parking lots. These are residential spots, mostly driveways, made available by local businesses and residents. We paid $45 for a spot close to Wrigley Field and our later dinner with some friends of mine. We were assured we could stay there as long as we liked and that was, indeed, the case.

Wrigley bills itself as “the Friendly Confines” because it’s not a large stadium. Yet, on this visit, as on our previous visits, the fans couldn’t be nicer. You could strike up conversations with just about anyone. I was complimented on my “awesome mustache, dude” and talked with another fellow about how nice would be to have air-conditioned restaurants in Wrigley that weren’t exclusive to well-heeled club members.

At one point while Ed and I were inadvertently sitting in the wrong seats, we were next to a group of Spanish-speaking fans. Noticing Eddie’s Cleveland Indians hat, we talked with one of them about our hometown and other baseball cities. I told the young man I enjoyed hearing him speak Spanish with his friends. He was astonished:

“No one has ever said that to me before!”

He was used to people getting angry because he was speaking another language near them. I told him that was nonsense, that this mix of culture and language was America, was what our country was really about. Eddie chimed in with the observation that many of the Cubs and Pirates players were from Spanish-speaking countries.

Baseball is America’s game because it’s inclusive. The players and the fans can come from anywhere, brought together by their love of the sport. Our racist president might seek political gain with his fanning the flames of hate, but real Americans know it’s he who is the aberration. I have no doubt history will bear that out.

The next time some bigoted lout tells someone to go back to where they came from, remind them we all came from someplace else. Maybe also direct them to the Hell they so richly deserve.

If you think that above statement was heated, you should have been at Wrigley that afternoon. There was no relief from the heat. There was even a fight in the bleachers. Since the Cubs were blowing away the Pirates, Eddie and I decided to leave those friendly confines and head for one of the neighborhood (and air-conditioned) bars to watch the final innings there.

Following the game, he went back to our car long enough to change our sweat-soaked Wrigley Field shirts and head over to Grassroots Grill and dinner with Alan and Pauline Weiss, who live in Chicago not far from Wrigley.

Alan is an old friend from back in the days when I lived in NYC and worked in the Marvel offices. He has long been one of my favorite comics artists, though I don’t believe we ever had the pleasure of working together. These days, he mostly does commercial art but is still interested in doing comics.

Pauline had a multi-faceted career in comics, working for a number of companies as an editor and manager and more. These days, she’s an IT executive for a major company.

Outside the restaurant was a street festival. As Alan would later tell us, pretty much once winter is gone, the residents of Chicago switch to summer garb and start holding such festivals. On our way to the restaurant, Eddie and I saw a young woman write “FUCK ICE” on the street. Resist, my people, resist!

The Grassroots Grill is located at 3747 N Southport Ave. The place is nice and made for conversation. The menu has all sorts of tasty drinks and foods. Alan, Pauline and Eddie and I had a great dinner talking about our old comics buddies, the state of the industry and so much more. Obviously, Eddie didn’t know many of the people that we talked about, but, every now and then, he enjoys hearing about his dad’s checkered past.

Alan and Pauline live in the neighborhood, so they were heading in the same direction as our car. After we parted, Eddie and I made the decision to drive to the wondrous Pickwick Theater to catch the evening’s showing of Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (1965) starring Nick Adams, Akira Takarada and the stunningly beautiful Kumi Mizuno. It was time to reconnect with G-Fest.

Here’s the Internet Movie Database summary of the film:

Aliens from Planet X request the use of Godzilla and Rodan to fight off King Ghidorah, but have a better use for the three monsters.

The Pickwick is a classic movie theater. It’s big with the kind of old-fashion decor that used to make going to the movies an event in itself. The seats were some of the most comfortable theater seats I’ve ever experienced. I take pride in only dozing off for a couple minutes during the movie. Some of my fellow G-fans probably spent more time snoozing than they did watching the movie.

Monster Zero is a pretty cool film. Even with the dubbing, there’s a clear connection between Adams and Takarada. The latter sometimes calls the former “my greatest enemy and my greatest friend.” I wish Adams had lived to make more movies with Takarada.

The connection between Adams and Mizumo is steamy. His love makes her realize what life should be and why some things are worth dying for. Their romantic pairing is among my favorites of all Godzilla movies. I come to these films for the monsters, but those monsters are always better when there’s a good human story being told next to the action and mayhem.

When we got back to our hotel, Eddie and I learned that our friendMartin Arlt, who puts together G-Fest’s monstrously terrific panel programming was named to the G-Fan Hall of Fame. It’s an honor that he certainly and richly deserved. Congratulations, Martin!

I was exhausted after our Saturday of baseball, too much sun, good friends and a fun movie. If we watched any of the hotel’s in-house kaiju channel, I don’t remember it. I slept the sleep of the just. Or, at least, the sleep of the “got nothing left.”

I’ll be back soon with the final chapter of this G-Fest convention report. See you then.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

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