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I just got back from WonderFest in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s my favorite American convention. It’s large, but not too large. It’s very family friendly and the attendees as well as the folks who put on the show are all really nice folks. I go every year; in return, I create their T-shirt image each year. See above for the image to this year’s show.

For me, going to WonderFest is like returning home to visit family. I have so many friends there. My pal Donnie Waddell is especially fun to hang with, as is my buddy and Beatles expert Belmo, who drives down from Ohio for the show (and to have Famous Dave’s BBQ with me, a many year tradition for us.

I have the best conversations ever with Video Watchdog‘s Tim Lucas. WonderFest hosts the Rondo Awards each year, as well. This year’s Rondos were tough to get through but I wouldn’t have missed them for the world. So many of the recipients this year had either died or had strokes, a sign of all our advancing ages. I think our human fragility goes to make the Rondos even more important with each passing year.

A huge element of WonderFest is model kit building. The competition in the show’s model contest is fierce; people spend all year building, painting and customizing their models. The results are often spectacular.

They do a very smart thing at WonderFest. At the Edgar Rice Burroughs fan gatherings, I’m often “The Kid” — the youngest person in the room, which is scary. I don’t see a new generation of ERB fans coming up through the ranks.

WonderFest addresses that potential problem thus: Every kid who walks through the door gets a free model kit and is invited into a free workshop to help show them how to build their models (tools included) and another free workshop in which they are given tips on how to best paint their models (again, tools and paints included). WonderFest is building in the next generation of Monster Kids and model kit hobby enthusiasts.

I was sorry I couldn’t spend more than three days there (heavy work schedule). I flew home last night. Amusingly, Pauley Shore sat next to me on the the flight leg from Las Vegas. He was very enthusiastic about the new Eagles documentary. I shared some of my own Eagles stories with him ( I saw them way back when in a modest-sized studio, when they were the backing band for Linda Ronstadt and for Jackson Browne; years later I had a small private dinner with Don Henley).

This was WonderFest’s biggest turnout ever, and their 25th anniversary. I’m already looking forward to #26!

8 thoughts on “WONDERFEST!

  1. That’s some fun T-shirt art! And it gives new meaning to the term “land shark.” 🙂
    I think the next generation of Edgar Rice Buroughs fans will come along when they get a film they can really sink their teeth into. Also, at Spectrum Live! Frank Cho was saying he’d love to do an illustrated version of A Princess of Mars.

    Wasn’t there an L. A. session man named Wally Waddell? Bass player? No, that was Leland Sklar. Anyway, any relation to your friend Donnie?

    Best wishes,

  2. Great poster design!!

  3. @Aaron:
    That L. A. session player is Waddy Wachtel. I’ve worked with his brother. Leland Sklar is someone I see sometimes at a salon in which I’m involved. He bought a copy of my blues book, displaying great enthusiasm for it. Lee has played with just about everybody.

    You live here long enough, you meet some folks.

    Great client!

  4. Bill, as always I our enjoyed our time hanging out together. Famous Dave’s was great and was glad Donnie joined us for this yearly ritual. Wonderfest is a fun time and I recommend that fans visit the show. My hope is that Adrienne Barbeau will be there next year and that she will join us for dinner.

  5. I remember attending the ERB Dum Dum at the 1968 Baycon and being, at 16, the youngest fan in the room. I sat next to Sam Moskowitz and across from Camille Casaduceus (sp?). It was mostly older guys even then, plenty of gray hair. They seemed very happy to see new blood at their gathering and couldn’t have been nicer to me. Since I’ve only become re-interested in Burroughs in the last several years and wonder if this fandom isn’t largely a matter of looking back at something loved in youth and indulged in when old. I know that does’t describe you, but could be at work here. ERB went into obscurity in the fifties and could certainly could again, but I hope not! All to the places his stories took place were mysterious and exotic in his time but are mapped, photographed and in the case of Africa, in the news every day. This may undermine their appeal to the younger folks coming up.

  6. My wife and I had an amazing time at Wonderfest this year (we were the couple that flew in from NM). We missed the last three years due to job and location moves, but there was no way we were missing the 25th Anniversary. We were not disappointed and had a blast!

    It was fantastic seeing you again… hope you enjoy Shock Waves!

  7. @Belmo:
    I’d love to see Adrienne and both of her lovely Barbeaus…

    ERB’s books hold up; otherwise Ray Bradbury and Gore Vidal wouldn’t have been lifelong fans. Few writers can top his action sequences and his dry humor is still very enjoyable. Yes, his Africa has changed, but Pellucidar, Venus and Barsoom haven’t (although we now know life as we know it — or as Burroughs portrayed it — couldn’t really exist in any of the three. To argue a point, there are still vast, unexplored parts of Africa.

    @Kevin: I’ll probably watch Shock Waves tonight. Nazi zombies! Thanks!

  8. Bill,

    Hated to miss Wonderfest this year, as I always enjoy seeing what is currently emerging from the Stout cave of wonders. Maybe next year.

    I wanted to chime in on the ERB discussion. To me, Burroughs remains as fascinating, involving, and timeless as when I first discovered him in the late 60’s. Sitting down with any of his books still opens those wondrous vistas. The sense of adventure carries the reader along at a breakneck pace, and ERB could create, fully involved, worlds that most authors can only dream of. If the younger readers of today would give him a chance, I think they would find much of interest in his works.

    Possibly, it might not even be an issue of The stories themselves. I think most of we ERB fans discovered the works, along with many other authors, when we were younger. They were the companions to endless Summer days and backyard adventures. Even Harper Lee’s Scout takes time to read Tarzan and the Ant Men during the summer of Boo Radley! Sadly, we don’t read as much today. There are many more avenues for the youth of today to pursue. Literature is not as appealing as the latest video game. Burroughs is not the only creator to suffer a loss of interest during the last few decades.

    Like Aaron, I think a well done film, true to the stories and promoted correctly, would draw new readers. While I enjoyed the recent Disney film, I separate it from Burroughs canon. It did get a raw deal, but I would have loved to see a closer adherence to the source. The Atmosphere Plant ending of the novel, to me, would have been a better way to draw fans to the next film. Disney certainly did it no favors in the advertising campaign. Perhaps the upcoming Tarzan will be the spark that ignites another Wave of interest in ERB.

    Perhaps the world of today is smaller. Technology has shrank those open and mysterious spaces on the map. I encourage anyone, young or old, to pick up a Burroughs novel, turn the electronics off, and travel to worlds where they still exist. There are great adventures to be had.

    I’d also like to thank the wonderful group of illustrators who gave vision to the works of ERB. They include St John, Wyeth, Schoonover, Foster, Hogarth, Matania, Manning, Frazetta, Williamson, Krenkel, kaluta, Morrow, Grell, Schultz, Cho, and the ever incredible Bill Stout.

    Well, hopefully that rant did not make me sound like an old codger. Still pretty passionate about the “Master of Adventure.”


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