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WJW TV-8 – The Big Chuck & Lil’ John Ghoulardi Special (October 10, 2015)

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I usually don’t look at ‘modern’ television broadcasts, especially broadcasts as recent as this past weekend, but this was so unabashedly cool that I can’t resist. Besides, it may be a new broadcast, but it’s a new broadcast of older material which in turn featured even older material. There, wrap your mind around that!

‘Course, the fall-back here is that this is my blog and I’ll write about what I want. I could go in the backyard and describe all the neat-lookin’ rocks I find if I so desire. You keep pushing me and I just might, too.

I was made aware of this special just the night before it aired: on Saturday, October 10, 2015 at 3:30 PM, WJW TV-8 would be airing the 30 minute Big Chuck & Lil’ John Ghoulardi Special. I’m glad I only had to wait less than a day for this, because man, I was stoked. A Big Chuck & Lil’ John special, airing (roughly) in their old Couch Potato Theater time slot, and focusing solely on Ernie “Ghoulardi” Anderson, the man who set this whole thing in motion waaay back in 1963? I was so there.

This is what I love so much about Northeast Ohio TV: for all of the changes it has gone through over the years, the steady erosion of locally-grown programming in favor of syndicated content and whatnot, there’s still a sense of history here; there’s a reason Big Chuck & Lil’ John have been forever in the public eye, Son of Ghoul is still plugging away, and no one bats an eye when a special regarding a character that hasn’t been on Cleveland airwaves since 1966 is allotted a 30 minute time slot. Doesn’t hurt that Ghoulardi had (and continues to have) an incalculable impact on so much of the populace, either.

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The announcement I saw didn’t elaborate, and I automatically assumed this was going to be a half hour edition of their regular skits-only show, tailored solely to Ghoulardi material. As it turned out, this wasn’t actually a new special; as the above screencap attests, this was instead a re-broadcast of Big Chuck & Lil’ John’s tribute to Ernie Anderson following his 1997 death. It’s actually not too far off from what I envisioned, just 18 years older. I guess it makes sense to simply re-run the earlier special; a new version would just cover the same ground and take time to film.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Anything that gives Big Chuck & Lil’ John and Ghoulardi airtime is absolutely fine with me. Always. Besides, seeing Chuck & John on that old set with the studio audience gets the nostalgia fired up somethin’ fierce.

(By the way: why the slightly fuzzy reception in this day and age of ultra-clear digital everything? Meh, for old times’ sake I recorded this onto DVD on my downstairs CRT TV, which apparently doesn’t play by the same rules as my cute HDTV upstairs does. I also DVR’d the special upstairs, but what the heck, this DVD is already made and handy for screencaps, so here we are.)

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Being a tribute to Ernie Anderson, in addition to actual Ghoulardi footage there’s also a lot of reminiscing, as you would expect. In addition to a short bio of Anderson and how he wound up as Ghoulardi, among other stories Chuck recounts the famous tale of his stealing a Ghoulardi poster off a bus while Anderson kept the driver distracted. Funny stuff!

Keep in mind, this originally aired some time before the phenomenal Ghoulardi: Inside Cleveland TV’s Wildest Ride book was released, and waaaay before Big Chuck’s terrific autobiography (head on back to that BC & LJ store link for that one), so a lot of the information here hadn’t been widely recounted and available to the masses yet.

(For the record, both of those books are absolutely essential reads, not only for Northeast Ohioans or fans of Horror Hosts, but for television lovers in general; both offer an indelible snapshot of TV history, an era that won’t be repeated, and are ridiculously entertaining to boot.)

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Much of the tribute also consists of Chuck’s one-on-one interview with Anderson himself, obviously conducted some years prior. As I recall it, this interview provided the basis for a previous BC & LJ special show, though integrating the segments into this tribute show makes all the sense in the world, given the circumstances.

After giving up Ghoulardi in 1966, Anderson went to Hollywood and made the mighty dollars doing voiceover work. I have countless commercials/promos featuring his voice, and on a nationwide scale that’s what he’s really known for. At one point during this show, Chuck mentions that when Ernie went to Hollywood and became a millionaire, it didn’t change him a bit; he was still the same guy he was back in Cleveland. You get a real sense of that during these interview segments. There’s no showing off, no posturing or anything like that. It’s just two friends talking about the old times.

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As far as actual Ghoulardi material goes, with only 30 minutes and so much ground to cover, well, you’re only going to see so much. However, the official Ghoulardifest website sells a phenomenal DVD of much (all?) of the remaining footage from Ghoulardi’s show, the only official place to get this stuff. I have it in my collection, and you should have it in yours too.

As for this special though, I personally would have liked to see a few more bits with Ghoulardi on his set doing his thing. As it stands, there are two brief clips, and the skit you’re seeing above, The Pitching Coach.

Y’see, Chuck got his behind-the-camera and, as in this case, his in-front-of-the-camera start on the show, performing in skits and even providing the basis for running gags such as the whole “PARMA?!” thing. In this skit, he plays the new pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians, who proves to be fairly incompetent. My favorite moment comes when Ghoulardi tosses a ball back to him, and it lightly hits Chuck’s arm; Chuck holds his arm in pain and pouts in the corner while Ghoulardi tries to apologize!

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More Chuck, this time in one of the legendary skits from Ghoulardi’s show: Parma Place.

Parma Place was a take-off on the soap opera Peyton Place, and the line of skits basically existed to poke fun at the Cleveland suburb of Parma. The loose idea was that Chuck’s character was always trying to make time with Anderson’s wife behind his back (and often right in front of him), but the more notable aspect of the skits were the stereotypes of Parma they perpetuated: white socks, polka music, and so on.

And this was all in addition to the jokes Anderson would make about the suburb when in character as Ghoulardi. Naturally, some residents of Parma didn’t take too kindly to all this, but it’s all still funny, and the genesis of a running joke that continued (and continues) on through The Ghoul and Hoolihan & Big Chuck (& Lil’ John).

A few different Parma Place entries are spotlighted during the special, and this screencap comes from a moment when Chuck’s character “Jerry” gifts Anderson with a pair of white socks, to which he and his wife marvel at endlessly.

Also, you have no idea how funny I find Chuck’s PARMA shirt.

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A fun bit where Ernie Anderson interviews, well, himself. Using a split screen and some handy pre-filming, Ernie Anderson as Ernie Anderson interviews Ernie Anderson as Ghoulardi (who insists he be called “King”). It actually works pretty well; in fact, for the time period it’s fairly seamless.

My favorite line: “I first got my start as Ghoulardi when they fired me from channel 3 and 5 wouldn’t hire me!

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The whole open-wounds-shock of Anderson’s passing may not be as hard to take today as it was in ’97, which is understandable; it has been nearly 20 years, after all (20 years? I refuse to believe this all happened that long ago!). That’s not to say it isn’t still sad, because of course it is. I don’t mean to downplay anything here, it’s just that after 18 years, (most?) Northeast Ohioans have learned to live with Ghoulardi being gone, really gone.

All that said, there is a moment that still packs an emotional wallop in this tribute: the final scene returns to Chuck interviewing Anderson, and Anderson recounts that he met a lot of great people in Cleveland, and then jokingly says to Chuck “You’re not one of them,” to which they both crack up. After they calm down a bit, he then adds “You are, you’re great,” and then the scene freezes as the copyright info pops up. It stays there a bit before fading out, and in that little moment, the deeper meaning of all this is hammered home: it’s not just about what Anderson accomplished as Ghoulardi and what he meant (means) to Clevelanders, it’s also about the genuine friendship between him and Chuck that was there up until the very end of Ernie’s life. It’s a terrific, honest scene, and an absolute perfect way to end the special.

You know, maybe it’s for the best that they didn’t film an all-new Ghoulardi tribute episode; it would be nearly impossible to improve upon this one. From the recollections to the clips, it’s as concise a definition of the character and what he represented to Clevelanders as you’re likely to get in half an hour.

But wait! In a for-modern-day rarity of rarities (for me), there were some great commercials during this broadcast. ‘Course, they all had to with Ghoulardi and/or Big Chuck & Lil’ John, but frankly, that’s how I prefer things. Behold:

Big Chuck For Empire Windows

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Chuck has been pitching Empire Windows for quite awhile now, often in print ads that come nearly every week in one of those circulars. I haven’t seen a whole lot of TV advertising with him for the company, so I was glad to see this and add it to my collection (y’see, through my massive collection of old videotapes, I have amassed a large “archive” of commercials, promos and whatnot featuring horror hosts, and not just our horror hosts, either; it spans the entire nation).

Chuck gives really a pretty standard pitch, though the commercial is so short (15 seconds) there isn’t a whole lot of time for much else. Chuck says he’s been plugging the company for 29 years at this point; that’s as long as I’ve been alive!

If I ever need new windows, I’ll go to Empire. Why? Big Chuck told me to.

Empire Windows’ official website is here.

WJW TV-8 Big Chuck & Lil’ John Ghoulardi Special Promo

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A mega-quick (5 seconds!) promo for the special itself, which aired less than a minute before the show began. I was really, really happy to capture this one; not only does it give me fond memories of this, but also because I just wasn’t sure if there even was a promo for this special. I don’t care how short it is, either; it’s another one for the collection!

The voiceover: “The Big Chuck & Lil’ John Ghoulardi Special, today at 3:30!” Yeah, yeah, basically the same info that’s printed on-screen.

Ghoulardifest 2015 Commercial

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I’m thinking Ghoulardifest is the reason this special was run in the first place; what better promotion could there be? In prior years, the convention was sponsored by WBNX TV-55, but this year it’s WJW, which means they’ve got carte blanche as far as Ghoulardi footage and whatnot goes. It’s a more involved commercial than what has aired in recent years, which more or less usually amounted to basically Chuck & John standing in front of a green screen and giving their pitch. In this spot, however, lotsa Ghoulardi clips are interspersed with the pertinent information, though perhaps oddly, Chuck & John are nowhere to be seen.

WJW was pushing Ghoulardifest pretty hard during the special (as you’d expect). A full 30 second spot aired twice during the show, and a 15 second version right after it.

Needless to say, I am now even more jazzed for Ghoulardifest, which is saying something since I’m always jonesing for the convention. Yes, I will be attending again this year, and yes, there will be another write-up. In the mean time, check out my 2013 and 2014 reviews! And if you can attend, please do so! It’s always a blast!

The Ghoulardifest website with all the info y’all need is here.

The Big Chuck & Lil’ John Show Promos

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And finally, promos for Big Chuck & Lil’ John’s current 30 minute Sunday night show proper were, for obvious reasons, ran twice during the special. On the left, a spot featuring a brief clip from their Nukey Shoes skit. On the right, the bit where, as part of the opening fanfare for a movie, John gears up to hit a gong but instead accidentally nails Chuck in his, erm, manhood. Yikes!


 

I love the fact that a special so undeniably Cleveland in every facet can still air on local TV here in 2015. The sad fact of the matter is that there’s not always a place for this kind of thing on modern airwaves. Like I said at the start of this post, there’s a very real sense of history in Northeast Ohio television, one that seemingly won’t let people forget the accomplishments of its past.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ghoulardifest 2013!

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There are plenty of reasons to love this time of year, but one of the big ones, for me, is the annual Big Chuck & Lil’ John Ghoulardifest convention. Ghoulardifest, for those “not in the know,” is the yearly convention celebrating all things Ghoulardi, the legendary Cleveland horror movie host. This year held special meaning, as it commemorated the 50th anniversary of Ernie Anderson’s debut as Ghoulardi, on WJW TV-8 waaaaay back in 1963. Due to a shortage of money (and I tend to spend a lot at these things), initially I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make it this year. But, there’s only one 50th anniversary! I had to go! Luckily, my brother came through with the needed dinero, and so, earlier today, Sunday, November 3rd, we made our yearly trip to Ghoulardifest.

(A huge, huge thanks to my good friend Scott “Scottsbury” Shepard, proprietor of Time Traveler Records, which I talked about here: https://neovideohunter.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/a-trip-to-time-traveler-records/ . Scott scored us a pair of complimentary tickets to the ‘Fest from fellow local legend Jim Chenot, which definitely helped make our limited funds go further. It’s for reasons like this that Scott and Jim are, as we in the hepcat profession say, “the dude.” Well, “the dudes,” in this case.)

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For the past several years, the convention has been held at the UAW Local 1005 Hall, a venue and transit I had become accustomed to. So, when it was announced earlier this year that the convention was moving to the La Villa Conference & Banquet Center, I was a bit concerned. Was this going to be farther away? Would the trip become longer and more difficult?! I’m not always adverse to change, but when it comes to the important things (like Ghoulardifest), I can become a bit apprehensive. In this case, however, whatever concerns I may have had were unfounded; since my Brother always does the driving to these sorts of things, I didn’t realize that the trip was nearly the same. La Villa is right by the UAW. Even the Big Boy Restaurant that we usually visit after leaving Ghoulardifest was close-by (we didn’t stop there this year, however; mah Bro was tired, we had eaten beforehand, and besides, we spent quite a bit of money at the ‘Fest. Sorry Big Boy, not this year).

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The La Villa was/is beautiful. Definitely plush, and it’s design actually reminded me of a Frightvision I went to years ago (early-2000’s). That’s my Brother in the pic above, walking ahead of me, as he tends to do. You could be forgiven for perhaps mistaking him for a young Bruce Springsteen upon first glance (it’s the hair, y’see).

One thing I’ll admit I regret missing out on was held yesterday (November 2nd, for those keeping score at home): Tim Conway, Ernie Anderson’s comedy partner and longtime supporter of all this, made an appearance. I would have liked to have met him, or at least seen him, but it having been a Saturday and Tim Conway only appearing that one time only, you have to figure the place was jammed. Now, I am not a fan of big crowds, and that coupled with the fact that there was a family engagement that left my Brother unable to attend yesterday meant that it was just going to be easier all-around to go today. So, sorry Mr. Conway, but it couldn’t have been helped. (Sunday is when we usually go anyway, and despite my uncomfortable-ness around/in crowds, it’s still always pretty busy that day, and this year was no exception.)

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As you may imagine, meeting the local celebrities is one of the big draws of the ‘Fest. So, it stands to reason that Big Chuck & Lil’ John were out in full force, layin’ down the law and takin’ names. Right before (or right after, I can’t remember) this super-exclusive candid photo was taken, Lil’ John was staring at me while I, like a dope, stood there with my big ol’ camera out. I became nervous at the fact that I may have been irritating one of my heroes, so in this moment of potential crisis, what did I do? Point at him and do an Arsenio-style “roo roo” gesture. Yes, really. If I had been irritating him, this was certainly not going to help matters, but luckily, nothing more came of it, besides me making a clown of myself in public (something I admittedly can be exceptionally good at). Lil’ John, if I bothered you, I’m sorry man! Please don’t hate me! Also, we *may* have accidentally cut in line when meeting Chuck & John (oops!), but there was a lull at their table, no one seemed to be making any immediate headway towards them, so what were we supposed to do? At any rate, they were kind enough to sign my American Scary book and take a picture with me (both of which I’ll spotlight in a little bit), so, all is well; I won’t suffer a sleepless night tonight (not due to this, at least).

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I really wanted to meet Bob “Hoolihan” Wells, maybe get his autograph and/or a picture taken with him. But, for a record third year in a row, I missed out! When these super-exclusive candid photos were taken, he was on his way up to the stage for a presentation (as were the rest of the celebrities in attendance). For the record, in the right shot, he was leaning down to take a bite of food before heading to the stage. Your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter captures all of life’s special little moments, doesn’t he?

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While the celebrities and special presentations are a big part of Ghoulardifest, of course there are always a ton of vendors selling cool stuff, and this year didn’t disappoint in that regard. Man, I could, can, and often do drop some serious dough at these things, but I had to temper the urge to buy everything even remotely interesting in sight a bit this year. I still walked out with a bagful of really cool stuff, but man, I had to pass up some pretty amazing things. Nothing I’ll lose sleep over tonight, but trust me, if you’ve never been to a Ghoulardifest, you’re missing out on a lot of neat items.

Notice in the right pic above Son of Ghoul selling some of his fine wares. SOG always has a lot of awesome stuff, and I bought a ridiculously cool Superhost DVD from him. He even had a vintage Frankenstein Laserdisc for sale, something that made my heart swell with joy.

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The place really was (and always is) a feast for the eyes. Often, at least for us, it takes several walk-throughs to fully appreciate everything being sold. No joke, even after going around the room a few times, we were still finding neat things to buy. Near the end of our visit, my Brother got a very cool print of a vintage Beatles photo (from the original photographer) in which they’re in the back of a car, Paul is waving, and Ringo has what definitely appears to be a joint.

With his back to the camera, that’s Jungle Bob, busy being awesome, in the left pic above.

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Someone was even selling the new action figures based on the 1966-1968 Batman series! I’m not that big of a toy collector, but this line is one that has definitely had me excited. Seriously, these things should be put on the list of mankind’s greatest achievements. I already have the Batman & Robin two-pack (the only way to get Robin at this time; exclusivity, yo!), and no joke, it’s a work of art on par with Michelangelo’s David, the Mona Lisa, or that portrait of dogs playing strip poker. While I didn’t buy any of these figs at Ghoulardifest, just seeing the Surf’s Up Batman figure in person was enough to cause me to fall to my knees and weep pure, unadulterated tears of joy, which resulted in the curious stares of passerby, not unlike Lil’ John earlier.

(Did I really fall to my knees and weep at the sight of the figure? Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. You’ll just never know for sure, will you?)

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Here’s two shots of that stage presentation that kept me from meeting Hoolihan I was talking about. This was at the very tail-end of our visit, and I’m not quite clear on what the purpose of everyone going up on stage was for, but it made for a few very cool pictures.

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There’s a shot of everyone on stage for the presentation that I should’ve stayed to watch but didn’t.

The more I think about it, the more I think I should have bought that Surf’s Up Batman figure. Missed opportunities, people, missed opportunities.

What’s that? Pics with celebrities? Oh, your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter has pics with celebrities!

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There I am with Jim Syzmanski. I know I may end up being redundant saying this, but all of our local guys are always so nice when you talk to them, and Jim was no exception. Years ago, when I first started watching Big Chuck & Lil’ John, I always liked Jim in their skits, and I talked to him a bit last year, but I’m very glad to have gotten a photo with him this year.

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Me with Big Chuck & Lil’ John! I’ve had photos taken with them before, but you have no idea how much I love this shot with their classic King Kong backdrop. Always two of the nicest guys you could hope to meet. I’m dangerously close to making this picture the background on my cellphone.

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Hangin’ with my hero, Son Of Ghoul! SOG is always great to talk to, and after our trend-setting, groundbreaking interview ( https://neovideohunter.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/an-interview-with-son-of-ghoul/ ), as well as all the crap I’ve sent him over the years, he kinda knows me now! Even if the rest of the day was a bust, this moment alone would have made it all worthwhile. SOG’s just about the coolest guy ever, and you’d be well-advised to give him due props. Don’t make me throw down over this.

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Jungle Bob! I’ve been a Jungle Bob fan for years, and it’s always great talking with him. I first met him waaay back in 2000, and he’s always been just great with his fans. He even had a lizard of some sort with him today!

(Jungle Bob’s official site: http://www.junglebob.tv/ )

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Bill Ward, the former voice of WJW TV-8! If you’ve lived in Northeast Ohio for any decent period of time, in all likelihood you’ve heard Bill Ward’s voice. Not only that, but he’s also done a ton of great skits with Big Chuck & Lil’ John. Mr. Ward was mindblowingly friendly. Seriously, he couldn’t have been a nicer guy. And, he even took an interest in this blog! That’s right, your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter talked to Bill Ward about, erm, The Northeast Ohio Video Hunter! Even gave him the address! The very idea of Bill Ward reading my silly little blog is just amazing to me!

But, that’s not all! As previously mentioned, I came home with some cool items! So, what was my booty, my loot, my acquisitions, you ask? I won’t go over everything I picked up, but here’s some of it:

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A beer-scented candle in an official Ghoulardi mug! This thing smells very accurately and very strongly of beer. I’m concerned that passerby may walk past my house, smell the candle from the sidewalk, and assume I’m a microbrewer or something. I really wanted this more as a display piece (I’m not really a candle-lightin’ kinda guy), but I’m serious, the scent is really strong. I’m probably going to have to wrap this in a bag and put it somewhere away from things I don’t want to smell like brew, lest someone presume I partake in large amounts of alcoholic alcohol throughout the day (aside from one or two beers now and then, I don’t drink much at all, really).

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Legendary Northeast Ohio weatherman Dick Goddard was there, and he signed this old promotional picture I bought about 2 years ago. I’m confident this will one day be worth the mighty dollars, but I ain’t ever sellin’ it, no way!

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The official comic book adaption of Batman Forever, a movie only slightly less terrible than Batman & Robin! It doesn’t really take the sting out of passing up Surf’s Up Batman, but I’m a Batfan and the comic was only $1 so screw it.

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Told ya I got my American Scary book signed! Uber-collectors of autographs may balk at the fact these signatures are personalized to me, but baby, this book is mines, and I want to let the world know it! I got Big Chuck & Lil’ John’s, Son Of Ghoul’s, and Jungle Bob’s signatures (Jungle Bob isn’t a horror host, but he does appear in the book, so it counts). I would have liked to add Hoolihan to it, but maybe next year. I actually almost brought this book last year to have signed, but I didn’t feel like lugging it around. While I’m glad I brought it today, I’ll admit it was a pain finagling between the book, my camera, and the increasingly full bags of purchased items. By the end, I have a feeling my Brother was pretty tired of hearing “hey, hold the book for a sec” from me.

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I also got an official Big Chuck & Lil’ John hand stamp! Proof that I had a ticket and wasn’t trying to pull no funny business! Please ignore my somewhat chapped hand. I love this stamp, but it’s a bittersweet love, because I know that in the very near future, it will soon disappear. There are two possible solutions to this, however: 1) I can have it tattooed on, thus ensuring that my lil’ baby grandchilds will know I was once at a Ghoulardifest, or 2) I can just not wash this hand anymore, which may be a more sensible, or at least cheaper, option (he said having already washed his hands several times since coming home from Ghoulardifest earlier today). Well, nothing is forever, and I guess that includes my hand stamp. *sigh*

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I also have my complimentary Ghoulardifest 50th anniversary ticket stub, a memento not only of today’s events, but also of the extreme kindness of Scott Shepard and Jim Chenot. I really appreciate it, compadres!

And so, that’s it for another year of Ghoulardifest. Despite my having left only a few hours ago, I already can’t wait for next year. I always have a blast, and it’s great to be around people that generally like the same stuff as I do. You don’t always get that from your common everyday person on the street, but at Ghoulardifest, I could shout “I loves ya, ‘lardi!” at the top of my lungs and few, if any, would bat an eye. Probably.

If you haven’t been to a Ghoulardifest convention, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Even if you just go in to see the sights and sounds, I tink you’ll be satisfied. Of course, if you’re an out-of-towner, making the trek may prove a bit more difficult, but don’t fret! There’s an official website, where you can get much of the goodstuff sold at the convention! Check that out here: http://theghoulardifest.com/ . But, I’m confident in stating that there’s enough to see and do each year that, if at all possible, it would be worth taking the trip and seeing it all in person.

Until next year…

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(That pic was actually taken as we were first arriving at the convention, but the sentiment it conveys is the same. Right? RIGHT?!)

I think I should have bought that Surf’s Up Batman figure.