Friday, July 20, 2012

The 2011 Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention Recap

The 2011 Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention was a big success. Everyone weighs the success of a convention in various forms. The way my wife and I look at it, the larger the attendance, the bigger the success. And MANC had the largest crowd ever in September of 2011. (Yes, I'm a little behind with this blog posting.) All of the photos in this blog post are courtesy of Al Stone (unless mentioned), who recently handed me a CD of photos he took at last year's event. Thank you, Al!

Fans line up to get Patty Duke's autograph. (Photo courtesy of Mark Gross.)
Celebrity guests included Jimmy Hunt from the 1954 classic, Invaders From Mars, Lauren Chapin and Billy Gray from Father Knows Best, Davy Jones (who passed away a few months later), Patty Duke, Tony Dow (Wally from Leave it to Beaver), Karen Valentine (from Room 222), Michael Constantine (also from Room 222), and Charles Herbert (The Fly and The Twilight Zone).

Tony Dow, Lauren Chapin and Billy Gray on the Q&A panel.

All of the guests were remarkable. Davy Jones was not even charging for his autograph and posed for photos with his fans. No one left the table disappointed. Patty Duke was a sweetheart. When she participated in the Q&A session on stage, the event room was standing-room only. On one particular afternoon, a woman brought her daughter to the show to meet Patty Duke. It seems the daughter recently watched The Miracle Worker in high school and wanted to meet the woman who played Helen Keller. Having discovered she forgot her DVD at home, which she wanted to get autographed, Patty Duke graciously picked up a DVD copy off her table, tore the plastic wrap off and signed the insert for the young girl. No charge. Talk about class.

Patty Duke chats with the audience during the Q&A Session.

The Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention (or MANC as many people refer to it) offers more than 150 vendor tables and nine or ten celebrities. MANC offers slide show seminars every hour. Among the highlights this year was a salute to Buck Rogers. The interplanetary hero appeared in comic strips, pulps, movies, radio and television and became an important part of American pop culture. The phenomenon paralleled the development of space technology in the 20th century and introduced Americans to outer space as a familiar environment for swashbuckling adventure. Not only were attendees treated to a superb slide show presentation by Maury Cagle, but a special display was put on by the Solar Guard Fan Club and the Radio & Television Museum in Bowie, Maryland.

Karen Valentine, Michael Constantine and Davy Jones.

Norman Cavey and Bruce Barrett put together a great slide show about The Enchanted Forest, an amusement park in Maryland that once rivaled Walt Disney World in Florida. The park has been closed for two decades and the restoration and preservation of The Enchanted Forest has become a volunteer project. Thanks to Norman and Bruce, attendees were treated to a documentary approach (with tons of rare photographs) of what the theme park was like during its heydey. A scale model of the entire park was also on display.

Larry Storch from F-Troop stopped by.
The convention also features a movie room which screens rare films 24 hours a day, for three and a half days. Among the highlights was a 1954 wrestling grudge match as it aired on television, World War II cartoons, the "lost" 1932 movie Beauty Parlor, the 1912 Queen Elizabeth movie starring the great Sarah Bernhardt.... well, you get the idea.

Old-Time Radio shows are also re-created on stage. Don Ramlow and his wife Mary put on two masterful re-creations and shares the MANC vision of producing "lost" radio plays. That is, radio scripts from the 1930s, 40s and 50s are used for the stage performances but the scripts chosen are for episodes collectors have never heard. Radio broadcasts not known to exist in recorded form. This way attendees get to enjoy a new adventure.

There is also a charity auction designed to benefit the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Elizabeth Taylor's autograph went for almost $300! Of course, we have a story behind that one. Last year we wrote to a number of celebrities asking them to donate an autographed photo for the auction. The day after the 2010 convention, a signed photo from Elizabeth Taylor arrived in the mail box. So we figured to wait and hold on to it for next year. Well, Taylor passed away since then so we were not concerned about including the envelope the photo came in, with the auction prize. After all, it's not like they could write to her. This might have been the last time anyone could buy a legit Elizabeth Taylor autograph. And the bidding went high!

Fans even come in costume!
Among the vendors are Bear Manor Media Publishing, VCI Entertainment, Scarlet: The Film Magazine, and many other national labels as well as locals and private collectors. Movie posters, books, DVDs, and much more are offered for sale and many times at rock bottom prices.

Personally, I attend a dozen conventions a year. Every event has their own flavor and decor. The crowds are always friendly. But at a time where an aging fanbase and a declined economy are taking their toll, MANC is proud to have an increase in attendance every year. Last year MANC almost hit 1,500 attendees. This is something very few conventions can brag about. It shows future stability for an event designed to bring everyone together for three days and share a common interest.

The 2012 MANC will be held three weeks from now. If you ever considered attending, make your plans now. I also encourage you to check out the web-site. Even if you do not plan to attend this year, the web-site has tons of fascinating articles worthy of checking out. From Batman, Terry and the Pirates, Howdy Doody, Celeste Holm, Andy Griffith and many others. It will keep you busy reading more nostalgic goodies for an hour or two.