Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Haunts Of K-Marts Halloween Aisle!

2003 was a pretty big year for me. I had finally got my drivers license, I got my first "real job" that I'd work at for 8 years, I was becoming a little bit more aware of the real world surroundings and I was developing my own sense of independence. I went from expecting my friends to drive me to the video store on Wednesdays for their "5 for $5" rental nights and Toys R Us to look for new MOTU figures to owning the night and driving myself. A great feeling indeed. Everything was coming together and it just made for such an amazing/life changing year for me. What does all this have to do with K-Mart and Halloween? Why am I sharing this and what does it have to do with K-Mart? Well, it's pretty simple. Humor me for a moment, please, and keep reading. You'll understand in a moment.

In that year, I had started to redevelop a love for Halloween and there's a lot of factors as to why. I was working with kids and seeing their excitement as well as my coworkers constant talk about Halloween parties and their favorite Halloween memories. It was almost like a daily round table of spooky stories of trick or treating victories as kids and I soaked it in. It also helped my excitement spill over into my work and we helped present a rad Halloween party for the kids that year. In my personal time, I spent a lot of time online whether it was reading Dinosaur Dracula's first Halloween Countdown (via his former site, X-Entertainment), Roger Barr's I-Mockery and even the popular (sadly, now defunct) Fangoria message boards all of which helped me get hyped for the season. Every day, I'd check for news on dvd's from Fangoria or a review from XE or RoG on new candy or snacks or even movie recommendations, which could've come from any of the three sites. I can't imagine that Halloween season being as great without even just ONE of those things missing. I mean, not sampling a Hostess Scary Cake? Not going out and picking up a cheap Freddy glove? Just wouldn't feel right. On top of all this, I was hitting one store more than any other for my Halloween fix: K-MART.

It's hard to imagine now, but for the longest time, K-Mart was the place to be for holidays and where I come from, it was the go-to store for everything. Even as a kid, my mom would go to K-Mart for everything and I'd be in tow. The amount of action figures I'd pick up, the embarrassing trips for new school clothes I'd make while hoping no one I knew was there, and of course before we had a Halloween Spirit, K-Mart was where all of us kids got our costumes. Wanna be Sgt. Slaughter or Roger Rabbit? How about a Power Ranger? K-Mart gotcha. No WalMart or Target for us, it was Blue Light Special or nothing. So now you're seeing the roots of my love of this place and in 2003, K-Mart was probably at it's peak for Halloween goodness. I wish I had photos of their displays and items because even the most ardent Halloween fan would be crying tears of joy.


Of course, Target's seasonal notoriety wouldn't be established until years later and in many regards, Target remains the king of every holiday to this day. K-Mart is hardly a player anymore but from childhood to just about 10 years ago, the one spot we'd all go to in my town is the big red K. During this time, they got a little more adventurous and risky with their Halloween offerings. Big setups and interactive displays cool archways and if I remember it right, included a lot of animated displays. They'd have a huge variety of costumes, buckets and bags, candy, snacks, cereal, cookies, the list goes on. My favorite though? The vast amount of Anchor Bay dvds (which were known for their amazing variety of new and obscure horror movies), including the awesome Double Feature Drive In sets, would give even Best Buy a run for their money at that time. The amount of movies I picked up and discovered just in 2003 alone was incredible. It was  Halloween Utopia. I wanted to live in that moment for as long as I could. I figured "Oh man, every year is going to be bigger and better".
That would only sadly last for a few more years.

K-Mart wouldn't remain as powerful of an influence on my Halloween joy for too long. As I discovered Target and other stores (yes, my area didn't have a lot of Targets until the mid to late 2000s), K-Mart became a "second place" destination. They couldn't compete with the bigger, brighter and more fun items others would have to offer. The selection would dwindle down and the sense of Halloween wonder in the store would start to as well. It just wasn't there as much despite how badly I'd hope it would. I'd still go as much as much as I could every year until every K-Mart was closed in my area which, as much as I've teased it in the past, it was sad to see. But of course, there's still ONE K-Mart in my area. Well, a 45 minute drive that is. So, with a day off, I decided to hop in my car and drive on up for old times sake. And seemingly appropriate, I was listening to the most recent episode of the Purple Stuff Podcast which helped my Halloween Hype reach a new level

Despite that glorious sign, my hopes weren't exactly high. I've been to this K-Mart before on a regular day and it's usually a dirty mess to the point that I've even seen a worker pick their nose at a register with no one in line. It's not exactly the most revered store in the area either, especially when WalMart and Target moved literally right across the street. But I was still determined to find something positive out of this trip. I'm not fully set on giving up hope just yet. Remaining optimistic was the key to success.



Hey, at least they set up some pumpkins outside, so that's a pretty good sign, right? Ok, we're starting off on the right foot here.




In order to truly get ready for what I was about to see, I needed to start off small so I checked out their clothing section and...welp.


It's not exactly like K-Mart is known for their high end fashion. I mean, I can remember being heckled on the playground for having a pair of shoes from K-Mart as a kid, so it's not exactly new developments that they stock cheap crap. To walk in and expect a shirt featuring Freddy and Jason or even Negan from the Walking Dead wouldn't be the most reasonable idea. In their defense, these shirts are no different than the shirts you'll find at WalMart or Target, it's just the way their presented. Seemingly just thrown on the table with no fanfare. I can't help but think this could've been done better but, we've only just begun so no need to nitpick and get pissy just yet.


After all the preparation and stalling in the toy aisles and clearance sections, I finally worked up the courage to walk over the the Halloween aisles.Thankfully, it was right next to the Music and Video section which still looks like it did in 1991:



Well. Here we are...


I knew it wasn't going to be as big of a deal as it once was. I knew I wouldn't see the massive, crazy displays and most likely the offerings of horror movies that I once saw weren't even going to be anywhere near this but I still had hope. A big problem seemed to be NO SIGNAGE IN THE STORE. Didn't see one piece of decoration or any display showing me where this place would be and it seems almost like a giant inconvenience to even be put out. Sadly, after locking eyes on a very sad pumpkin display, my hopes vanished then and there.



Of course, this seemed to be the majority of the candy/treat offerings. This doesn't bode well for the rest of the selections but hey, those Popcorn Balls are a pretty unique and somewhat of a retro addition.


Make no mistake about it, if you're not the biggest Halloween fan and just need some cheap decorations or just don't like shopping at the bigger and brighter stores that offer a bigger variety or clean floors, K-Mart's selection is just fine. Costumes for adults and kids. Not exactly the worst but far from the Target Monsterville, but when you're a kid, you don't care about quality, you just wanna dress like...Stone Cold Jason Voorhees?




So apparently Jason was a huge fan of the WWF Attitude Era and continues to pay homage to his chrome-domed hero.




Yes, kids you too can be a double copyrighting infringing lunatic wielding a weird hockey stick, (which I'm assuming you have to buy separately?). So not only does this costume rip off Jason, but also offers you a shirt that Vince McMahon would reject. I'm a firm believer that Jason doesn't believe in vanity and would never want his character marketed and merchandised, so why in the world would he want to wear a shirt with his face on it sharing a name with another popular character? This is just morally confusing and I'm sure Jason will find his way to the offices of those who produced such nonsense to have a chat...


Some interesting decor here. All the inflatables were put on the top of the aisles, which kinda defeats a purpose of trying to sell them, since you can't get a good, clear view of them. Especially when they're half inflated and falling over like your drunk aunt on Thanksgiving.



Some fun home decor items. Can't really see anything bad here, just very basic. I feel like the most consistent decoration I've seen through the years of these offerings has been that weird spider web, so that was a nice sight to see again. The others though? While nice and simple, I gotta pass.




Right around the corner sits a variety of trick or treat bags. Now, I'm assuming kids still use pillow cases for Halloween but if they don't, these work too. See that witch bag on the top left? There's something about it that reminds me of my childhood. I don't exactly know why but it just does and for that, I tip my dirty Etnies hat in it's direction.





Ahhh yes, the tools of the Halloween trade. If you're on a budget and don't want to spend big bucks on actual, high quality props from Halloween Spirit, you'll be in luck here. I mean, they'll prolly fall apart once you remove them from the backing cards, but they still look nice. Ninja swords, a Scream knife and my favorite: The Zombie Spoiler. I can't help but thinking this would be a great piece for a Cactus Jack/Mick Foley cosplay, but I suppose it also works for going around acting like Negan as well. Out of everything I saw, this was by far my favorite.



And of course, with every year in K-Mart's history, you have to set up some Christmas Trees right next to the Halloween aisles. I'm coming to the realization that the company in general has very little faith in Halloween and leaves it to the bigger retail stores to provide a memorable seasonal experience. It just comes off as very old fashioned and quite upsetting. I don't know. I expected not to be blown away but not so underwhelmed that I needed to go to the Salvation Army Store up the street and buy a VHS or two to get the taste out of my mouth. I feel like this could be the very last time I go out of my way to see what K-Mart has in store for me for the holidays. If I'm in the area, sure.

Well, after a very underwhelming trip, I had to leave. But, there was one thing that caught my eye in the toy aisles that I couldn't leave without.



But that's a story for next time...



-Chad

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Horror Movie BBQ Podcast: WWF Hasbros!

After a ten month hiatus and working on other projects, I am happy to announce that the HorrorMovieBBQ Podcast is BACK and better than ever! With a subject that can no doubt please the wrestling geek and nostalgic toy fan in all of us, WWF HASBROS!


Joining me for today's episode are my friends Myles Arden, admin of the WFIGs Facebook Group and Richard Mayerik, toy-mega fan and producer of the wildly popular and beloved Netflix series The Toys That Made Us. Both guests were fantastic, have a wealth of toy knowledge and had a deep love of these plastic muscle-bound goofballs. Today's discussion consists of:

-Faveorite/least favorite figures.
-WWE Mattel Retro Line.
-Customs.
-Recent popularity.
-Prototypes.
-The infamous Orange Line.
-What's our favorite/least favorite action feature?
-Why the long face, 123 Kid?


And so much more!



powered by podcast garden

So sit back, relax and breath in the neon fumes of nostalgia! Maybe even bust out your ring and figures and get in the spirit by putting on a match while you listen too! We won't judge, since we were most likely playing with figures while recording too!


-Chad, Myles, Richard





Thursday, September 20, 2018

Trick Or Treating With Gene Simmons!

Demon, God Of Thunder, Nuke. Whatever you want to call him, Gene Simmons is a pop culture icon. Whatever he touches turns to gold and his millions of fans around the world are quick to embrace it. Of course, most of that involves putting his face on caskets, toilet paper, comic books, toys, and about everything else possible, but hey, a guy's gotta earn a buck right? He wouldn't be where he is without his campiness and outrageous antics. So why he wouldn't put his name on a soda line? Well he did and he swung by Rochester to promote it and sign!

This past Tuesday, Gene came by the local Wegmans grocery store (5 minutes away from my apartment too!) to sign cases of his "Money Bags Soda" and I was right there for the entire event. A front row seat, or front row spot in line if you will. I happened to be in the right place at the right time. Tickets were released on Tuesday the week before and were gone pretty quick within hours. Thankfully, that day I had to pick it up a few items and was able to score a ticket. What was promised with this golden ticket? Admission, a chance to pay $25 for a pack of soda(portions of the sale went to a local charity) and a guaranteed professional photo op with the legend himself! Of course, no extra items were to be signed by Gene, according to staff, but that wouldn't stop me from bringing something just in case. The worst thing I'd be told is "no".

I get there around 11:30 am. Knowing the signing would start at 1:30 and having a guaranteed ticket, I knew I wouldn't have to stand in line too long. Thank goodness, because 2 hours was long enough for me. Now, I'm not the biggest Kiss fan in the world, in fact out of everything else, I loved Gene in his movies. Specifically Trick Or Treat, so really I was just after a photo op. But I got to meet some REAL hardcore Kiss fans. When I say hardcore, I'm talking knowing what boots Gene and Paul wore on their first tour, the lines from Kiss Meets The Phantom of The Park to the first lines of some unrecorded concert in Chicago in 1981. It was pretty impressive to be on the outside and see the effect Gene and his crew had on these people over the years. I think their love of the band got me interested in checking out their catalog and giving them another chance. I don't expect to paint my face up like a cat anytime soon and follow all the members across the country. A bunny? Ok. I can do that. Sign me up.


So Gene strolled in rather early, maybe about 15 minutes before his designated time. Almost as soon as he came in, he started hamming it up as only he can. He started schmoozing with the employees, local news outlets and police. After about 10 minutes, he made it through the store to come to our section of the store and started greeting us. He seemed pretty enthusiastic, waving, fistbumping, even taking photos with a grocery cart. I mean, it's Wegmans, baby! How could you not get excited! He even came to the front of the line to accept a gift of cookies from a little old lady who was so happy to meet him. He was super appreciative and even ate one or two. That's a pretty ballsy move, but he's a pretty ballsy guy and knows how to work the crowd. Good for you, Gene. You definitely that ladies day!

Ok, so after some more showboating, Gene went to his signing station and the "conveyor belt" system immediately began. As expected, Gene signed the cases and took photos. For a few people, he even signed small items they brought if they were nice enough and asked politely. Finally, it was my turn to meet the man himself. He gave me a fistbump, and signed my soda. I brought with me a Trick Or Treat 8x10 signed by star of the movie, Marc Price in hopes Gene would sign. I showed it to him and said how much I loved the movie and he just looked at it and said "oh wow!" and put it down. I picked it up and asked him if he wouldn't mind signing it. His staff member told me, very respectfully "sorry, he's only signing soda" but before I could take it back, Gene started signing! Holy crap! I guess you just never know! This was a huge victory considering Gene normally charges $100-140 for his autograph at a convention. I'm still shocked and super appreciative.

So, as I'm ready to pose for my photo a staff member grabs me and tells me to move along. I say "Sir, we didn't take a photo" and Gene laughs, puts his arm on my shoulder and says to me "You're trouble aren't you?". We take a photo, he gives me another fist and I leave. Ok sure, I should've just been grateful for him signing an extra item and just moved along and cut my losses, but I definitely wanted that photo of Nuke!





I've often been told Gene reciprocates respect and if nothing else, Gene respects his fans. He interacted with everyone and gave them a positive memory to take with them, along with delicious soda. If this was the only experience I can base my opinion on Gene Simmons, then I've got nothing but respect for him.



Seriously, guys...this ginger ale is amazing...I really wanna save the rest for a sick day and drink it with a side of chicken noodle soup while I lay in bed and watch reruns of the old My Pet Monster cartoon. Anyone who says that won't be a quick remedy is lying to you and you should shun them immediately.


-Chad

Thursday, September 13, 2018

HorrorMovieBBQ...Lost In NY!

So I've been on a hiatus from this blog, which to be fair I need to take a few times a year to refresh my self. My depression has been getting much worse and my motivation to do anything but hide under my comforter with a giant bag of Doritos or lay on the couch to watch old Growing Pains reruns. It's not like I plan these things but when it happens it affects literally everything in my life, so if I barely have the motivation to change my rabbits litter box, how can I concentrate on producing quality blog content? So with that, I do apologize for the lack of MOTU Month updates. I really had wanted to provide something fun and entertaining, but again, it just wasn't gonna happen. Good news, is a lot of the articles will be held over and used for this coming Halloween, because the theme of some do fit into the spooky season! Next year, I'm gonna try it again and limit it to "MOTU Week". At least just to try and keep it simple and doable. I still love my blog and don't make money off it, so I at least wanna keep my passion going.

...And I feel like today's a good time to break that hiatus and come back with something fun.


Earlier this year, my wife and I decided we needed a vacation and we decided we'd head down to Brooklyn to soak in the sun and attend the biggest party of the summer, WWE's Summerslam! We're both gigantic wrestling fans and we've never had a vacation, so why not? On top of that, Laurie's never been to NYC, so this would be quite the experience for her. Of course when visiting the big city, we had to make a sizable list of places we wanted to hit, places to eat, sights to see. And you'll see that, if time allowed, there was just one place I truly had to hit. More on that later.

Other than having extreme difficulty driving into the city on a Friday night, which should have been expected, we had no major issues with our trip. Saturday and Sunday were obviously meant for some live 'rasslin action and sleeping in until about 1 pm, but Monday was all about hitting Times Square and seeing everything we could before Monday Night Raw at the Barclays. After a very swift 30 minute Uber ride, we found ourselves directly in the heart of Times Square, on a very busy day.


Why? Well, the Video Music Awards were taking place right up the block at Radio City Music Hall! The entire area was taken over by wacky MoonMen promoting the huge event. It was pretty fun to see an event I spent so many years watching as a teen and young adult right in front of me. Even more fun was seeing The Backstreet Boys preform during the preshow!


Talk about a total timewarp! Is this 1998 all over again?


Of course, I couldn't visit Times Square without stopping by to see my buddy Jon, who is the face of one of my favorite blogs, the Ninja Turtle themed The Sewer Den . Jon's a great guy that I've met twice this year and both times we've met, we just talk, talk, talk. It's like we've known each other forever and quite frankly, he's one of the most genuine friends I've made thanks to this amazing thing called "blogging". Jon, Laurie and I walked around Times Square and hit up the Hershey's Store, since we're all huge Reese's fans, it was quite the heavenly spot to be in. It was great to hang out, chat and goof off. I hope everyone gets to become friends with someone as awesome as Jon is.



So after we parted ways (Hey, Jon's gotta get back to work!) Laurie and I walked around more of the area, even hitting The Nintendo Store and passing by the sprawling Rockafeller Center. As a huge fan of Saturday Night Live and NBC in general, it was fantastic to finally visit and see these studios up close.


Ok. It's lunchtime. One of the spots we *needed* to hit was the famous BlackTap, known for their delicious craft burgers and world famous milkshakes. Now, I've been trying to cut back on eating red meat, but I had been wanting to try one of these for a while. The burger was absolutely delicious. I don't know what they do to that burger to make it taste so sinfully good and I don't want to know, but it certainly was one of the best burgers I've ever had in my life. Just straight up perfect. Nothing too fancy, just a big juicy patty with cheese, just how I like it! Of course, the true main event was the milkshakes:


GREAT GAZOO! WHAT IN THE WORLD?!?!?


Your eyes do not deceive you. That is indeed a giant slice of birthday ice cream cake atop of an absolutely delicious milkshake. Apparently BlackTap is trying to put me in the biggest food coma since the great post-Thanksgiving nap of 2014 when I passed out before my annual viewing of Christmas Vacation. As great as the milkshake was on it's own, the addition of the cake was what made it a true homerun. The cake was as delicious as it looks. I can't even begin to describe the taste. It was like getting about 14 birthday presents at once! They don't play around at Black Tap and I can see why they're such a popular spot with tourists and locals. I'm still amazed that I was able to down all of this and move afterwards but I made it happen.


So...what happened next? We were full of food and ready to head back to our hotel in Brooklyn to put our feet up and change for Monday Night Raw. But I couldn't leave NYC without hitting one spot. There's a lot of historic spots in this city that people go to that hold a lot of sentimental value but for me I had to see THE GHOSTBUSTERS FIREHOUSE!!!!


After getting somewhat lost, we turn a corner and my wife points to the Firehouse and says "Hey! There it is!" and I immediately turn into a child. My face went from being tired and full of cakey goodness to the extreme joy to the point that I actually teared up. I couldn't believe I was standing right there. It was absolutely incredible. So of course, I had to take about 598 photos of the location. I'm sure the brave men and women working that day are already used to the lunatic fans coming by, taking photos and geeking out, so I tried to contain my excitement the best I could, so I wouldn't be in their way. Thankfully, they were nice enough to allow me to walk in and take photos of the Ghostbusters 2 sign hanging inside the actual firehouse.






Of course, I'm aware that only the exterior was used in the movie and very little remnants from the movies are intact especially after all the renovations through years, but just standing there meant the world to me. I've tried to get here for years, multiple times and I either couldn't make it or it was still under heavy renovations, which finished this year. As a huge Ghostbusters fanatic, I can't see any better way to celebrate my fandom and love of that wacky series than heading to what most fans will refer to as "Mecca". Had I been quicker on my feet, I would've brought one of my frozen Ecto Cooler boxes to drink while standing there, but it's for the best.



 A great trip down to NYC concluded with our last wrestling event and a trip to a 24 hour Target across from the Barclay's Center. The next morning, we drove back to Rochester and pretty much slept through the next day and ate any Wawa we brought back with us. Of course nothing compares to that amazing burger from Black Tap!


Oh and of course, being the tourist I am, I had to get a photo with The Naked Cowboy!



-Chad