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Kaiju Con '96

by Greg Kuchmek

March 16, 1996 at the New Yorker Hotel

For those of you who aren't conversant in Godzilla convention-speak, kaiju is Japanese for giant monster and con is short for convention (as in, "Mom, I'm leaving for the Star Trek Con—where's my tricorder?"). Kaiju Con is, simply, all the Japanese monsters a growing boy could ask for. When I found out about this "con" in the back of the latest issue of G-Fan, the magazine devoted to Godzilla, I hurriedly made plans with Steve, our executive editor, to spend the afternoon watching cool monster films and buying fun illegal video tapes.

We started off a little late in the morning and, after the obligatory wake-n-bake, arrived at the once-elegant New Yorker Hotel. There was a grimy gift shop/deli in the basement, where we bought some Yoo-Hoo to help us "power-up" for the weirdness that awaited us on the second floor.

"We bought some Yoo-Hoo to help us 'power-up' for the weirdness..."

At the door of the convention, we coughed up our ten bucks and an intentionally bald guy stamped our hand with a picture of a dinosaur. We found ourselves inside a small room filled with around fifty people and several tables selling toys, books, CDs, and (of course) comics. Steve and I were both enthusiastic, but the overpowering smell of G-fan sweat kind of put a damper on our excitement. Luckily, we soon discovered that the much larger ballroom next door had also been annexed by these people; reasoning that the sweat-to-air ratio would be in our favor in a larger space, we made our way to the exit.

On our way in, we were assaulted by two fanboys with a Hi-8 camera who questioned us about what we were expecting from the new Godzilla vs. Destroyer film. After answering their questions, we filed into the ballroom, where Guy Tucker was showing Godzilla film clips and discussing trivia about the models used and the perils of wearing a big rubber monster suit. Despite his nerdy, Trekkie appearance (or maybe because of it?) he was entertaining and quite funny. Unfortunately, he was soon succeeded by a guy from AOL who talked about Kaiju-oriented chat rooms "on the net." Steve and I went out for more Yoo-Hoo.

"[He]was showing Godzilla film clips and discussing the perils of wearing a big rubber monster suit..."

Upon our return, we got to hear J.D. Lees talk about the past, present, and future of his magazine G-Fan. Lees was probably the most normal person I'd seen all day. His unassuming appearance and pleasant speaking style made his the most enjoyable of the scheduled events. The best part was the Q & A portion, which included a young boy and his father asking incredibly pointless questions about continuity in the old series of Godzilla films. Then, for no apparent reason, a person in a cow suit and another in a very homemade Godzilla suit came out on stage, "fought" with each other (just like in the movies!), and ran off stage as quickly as they came on. Ah, Kaiju Con.

Finally, the lights dimmed and Keith Sewell introduced the American-produced Ultraman TV show. I had read about this new series last year in Imagi-Movies magazine and had enjoyed the pictures of the new monsters and Ultraman's new look. Seeing the show first-hand, however, only answered the question of why it's never been aired: it sucked. It was the longest half-hour I've ever had to sit through. Steve fell asleep. Keith came back out to answer questions before introducing the next guest, a cartoonist who only does Godzilla. We ran out for another sugar fix.

Down in the deli/gift shop, we made our plans for purchasing some videos and toys in the Sweat Room so that we could get in and out of there as fast as possible. As it turned out, activity in the room had died down considerably, so we were able to maneuver our way around with ease. I bought a little Destroyer figurine stored in a ball and an equally small Godzilla in a box. Steve seriously considered an un-subtitled copy of Beetle Fighter, but ultimately bowed out.

"Steve seriously considered an un-subtitled copy of Beetle Fighter, but ultimately bowed out..."

The whole event left me in a semi-existential mood, as I tried to figure out the reasons we (that is, we humans) do these odd things. Now that it's all over, I guess I can say that I had a good time. It was harmless fun, but if those people had decided to dress up in Federation uniforms to celebrate their mania, I think we might have left screaming upon arrival. They fooled us with their civilian gear, but their personal hygiene habits gave them away. In the meantime, I'll remain an armchair fan and I'll leave the conventions to the professional fanatics. </end>

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