Ten years ago, three young libertines calling themselves the Brotherhood of Bad Movies rolled out of rural Iowa and headed toward what had become a life goal for them after several years of reading about it on Andrew Borntreger's badmovies.org. That goal was B-Fest, the 24-hour b-movie marathon held the last weekend (usually) in January at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. This trio of youths had no plan, no money, no hotel reservations, and little more than a wing and a prayer to drive seven hours into unfamiliar territory, watch an entire day's worth of soul-shredding, synapse-fusing, face-meltingly bad movies. And maybe a few good ones too, depending on whose taste we're using as a yardstick.
Quick aside. We had Phoenix's seventh birthday party at our house, since we just moved this summer and finally have a house big enough to fit more than six people at a time in and nice enough to be worth showing to them. While Malorie was showing her cousin and said cousin's boyfriend around, I heard him say from the dining room where the movie shelves reside, “Man, this guy has some horrible movies”. When I later explained to him that despite my love of MST3K and the drubbings we give these flicks at B-Fest and parties at home, I own every single one of those movies because I enjoy it completely unironically for what it is. Which is when he said there really must be something wrong with me. He also expressed shock that one of his favorite movies, Roadhouse, was being shown at B-Fest this year, so clearly we're not that different. *glances at copy of The Beast That Killed Women/Monster of Camp Sunshine* Well, maybe a little different.
I guess that was a longish aside after all. Anyway, those youngsters attained their goal. They came, they saw, they were conquered. I don't know if you've figured this out by now, but those youngsters were me. Well, one of them was me. The other two were Brothers Fistula and Ferox. Since the Brotherhood is no more, I have dropped the Brother from my reviewing moniker, but such is the unpredictable evolution of a cinemasochist and online b-movie reviewer. It was an amazing trip, and I don't think it would be stretching credulity to say it was life-changing. B-Fest does something to you, and no matter how well-planned and extravagant later trips get when you have money and a little time to do some planning and a GPS to get you hither and yon smoothly, that first one sticks with you. There's really no way to describe it unless you've done it yourself. Then, at subsequent B-Fests, when you're hanging out with the other veterans, you can look each other in the eye and silently communicate with a knowing nod, I too, have been to the promised land, and it was good. The glimmer from the flaming 151 shot in the caldera of your Volcano at the Hala Kahiki will catch in your eyes, and no words are needed. Which is good because you have a crazy straw in your mouth funneling rum down your gullet as fast as you can suck it.
We had many grandiose goals throughout the years that we didn't really have the ability to attain at the time, like eating at the legendary Superdawg, a place spoken of in reverent tones by Andrew Borntreger as the B-Masters convened there every year. Just outside of Dubuque, Iowa, there's a liquor store called Family Beer and Liquor, which ever since that first year has been a running joke that one of these days we're going to stop and take a picture of the sign because who the fuck would call their booze emporium FAMILY BEER AND LIQUOR!? Alcoholism - bring the kids! This year, we finally stopped and took a picture of the place. We also went inside to discover that, despite the questionable name, it's an incredibly well-stocked place, especially if you're looking for beer, and is more reasonably priced than the liquor stores back home in Mason City to boot.
And for a number of years now, members of the B-Movie Message Board crew have played mini golf in the basement of a funeral parlor called Ahlgrim's. The course is free and open to the public as long as there isn't a service being held. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
We arrived at the Morton Grove Best Western around 12:30, having just gotten a call from Tim “Telstarman” Lehnerer and Sean Frost to say they'd already checked in. They were seated along with Tim's friend Meg in the shockingly comfy lobby chairs opposite the main desk, so I wasn't facing the clerk when she said, “Here's your keys and your book”. Book? What the hell? Has staying here become so complicated that it requires an instruction manual? And then I turned and saw it. Flesh. I cracked up, Tim, Sean and Meg cracked up in response, and even the clerk joined the revels. For those of you who weren't there to hear me tell this story every time someone asked what was with all the books, I shall make all clear to you, good readers.
Last year when we arrived, Tim, Sean, Malorie, and myself all went to a Half Price Books about ten minutes away from the hotel. I had explained to Tim my used book store method of going to the horror aisle and buying everything with a silly monster on the cover, and so he approached me with a book which, after the incident, neither one of us could remember the title or author of, and so resorted to calling it, “the cannibal restaurant book”. The cover featured a woman pulling the cover off a platter to reveal a severed hand. I declined to purchase this book on the grounds that, a)I already had a massive pile of stuff (half of which Tim had recommended to me anyway, mind you), and b)it wasn't a monster on the cover, just a crappy painting of a lady and a hand. Tim does not take no lightly, despite my buying plenty of his other recommendations, and so he spent the following year tracking down every copy of this particular edition, which has different cover art than the others (the really amazing thing is that there were four printings of this book, which means they sold at least 15,000 copies of the thing, which I guess might mean it doesn't totally suck, but I'll find out soon, and I'll share the findings with you all). If you look on Amazon, there are now no copies of this edition going for less than, I shit you not, $90. Tim's pranks are so mighty they cause ripples in the economy. Although I'd like to meet the doofus who has that copy and thinks there's been some kind of collector's run on the thing and he's actually going to make ninety goddamn dollars on it, and explain to him what really happened and watch his face fall.
This first copy Tim priority mailed to the hotel along with instructions for the clerks should I arrive and check in before him. He is a diabolical genius, and this will become even more evident as we press on. The second copy arrived minutes later when Tim asked me to help him get some boxes of books out of his car. He started handing things to me, box, box, Flesh. One of those boxes was also for me, though, and it was full of awesome stuff, so I'm a happy camper no matter what.
We had just spent all day in a car with no real food, so it was off to Giordano's for a late lunch. The waiter brought our menus, and as I went to see what kind of pasta I wanted, you guessed it, Flesh. I don't remember seeing Tim get up and leave the table, and if he slipped it in the menu while I wasn't looking he's a sleight of hand master. I asked if he mailed a copy there too, and he wouldn't tell me. Honestly, it's more fun not knowing. From there it was another bumper trip to Half Price Books (thankfully I took both the things he put in my hands this time, so I won't get barraged with copies of Squelch or Ants next year), and later a trip to the nearby Palace Restaurant, where I got to scratch another thing off my list for the trip. Every year, I like to eat at least one thing I've never had before and can't get in Mason City. Those are both pretty long lists, honestly. I like living in a smaller city with lower levels of insanity, and I'd prefer to live in the country far from anyone, but it does get a little frustrating sometimes living in a place where “culture” is considered a Mexican restaurant run by actual Mexicans. The dish in question is almond pressed duck, which in this incarnation at least was a sort of ground duck pie with almond flavored crust, topped with crushed almonds and set on a bed of vegetables. It was fantastic.
But there are many miles to go, and many copies of Flesh before I sleep...