By Ming Chen

Did anyone notice that the back of the 'ticket' shirts had an extra 'A' in it? You can blame that one one me... well sort of. It was actually the fault of the t-shirt printers. The shirts had come in a day before the 'Thon and there was no way to send them back. Since Brian Quinn and Bill Woods didn't want to take the blame for this unforgivable mishap, the blame was put on me. There were several times during the event where Quinn would turn to me and yell, "Dammit Ming, didn't you get that call about how we changed the name to 'Vulgar-a-thon?!' You were supposed to change it on the website!" From that point on I decided that I would take the blame for anything else that went wrong at the event. From any overbearing 500 pound fanboys who would try to swarm Alexis the receptionist - to the quality of the upcoming Vulgarthon '98 video. If anything goes wrong from this point on, point that finger at me.

4:00pm - January 4th, 1998 - The Adventure begins

My adventure began at the Stash at 4:00pm. As I headed down Monmouth Street, I was looking down the block on the lookout for the huge crowd which would no doubt be overflowing out of the Stash. When I got there however, it was empty save Bryan Johnson. After rapping with Bryan a bit and picking up my 6 month backlog of comics (uhh... plus some other items), a few other people showed up - most notably Bryan Lynch who asked if I liked the picture in the Asbury Park Press article which mentioned his upcoming flick 'Big Helium Dog'. His comments on the big pic - loves Matt Kawczynski's reaction to the cow, but yeah, Lorene there is obviously posed. Bryan Johnson also commented on his picture saying that he looked too arrogant. Two other notables popped by: sean - with trenchcoat sans Poloroid camera, and a blond woman who was buying everything in sight. That blond woman turned out to be Kimberly, who until I actually introduced myself at the gazebo bash, I swore couldn't have been there for the 'Thon. It was impossible I told myself.

At 5:00pm the store closed (after much urging to kick Lynch out of the store) Lynch and I headed down to 32 Monmouth for a crew meeting led by General Bill Woods. Basically we were told to arrive at the building at 7:00 am to hand out shirts to the nutsy fanpeople who would actually be picking them up at such an hour. There would also be people doing crowd control at the Stash and people to man the infamous camera crew during the ticket handout and during the event.

After the meeting I trekked down to the Courtyard by Mariott and checked into my room. The number on my room card was '137'. It wasn't until later when someone pointed out the '37' part. Coincidence? Sure, whatever. Shortly after depositing my gear in the room, I bumped into a large group consisting of old buddy Paulapalooza (Paul Lewis) along with sean, ringo, CreamCorn, Jason-Guy, NateDogg and a very very drunk Christina. We decided to head out to a Chinese place for dinner. I was in for quite a shock however when I found out that the $7.25 price tag for the Chinese buffet was too rich for this group's blood. "Let's keep it under 4 bucks," they said. It was then I realized that in all the excitement, I had forgotten that I was hanging with a bunch of high school and college kids. Man did I feel old... old but rich. Rich enough to afford more than a 4 dollar dinner anyway. We ended up going to McDonalds.

It was shortly after our carryout dinner in front of the tv in the lobby that the courtyard/gazebo party started to get into swing. Arguably one of the coolest sites not captured on film, the gazebo party was a 90's version of a beer bust at the moon tower with a bunch of film geeks. As I roamed around the courtyard in the gradually chilling air, there was more than one discussion going on about whether or not Titanic was a great flick, if Scream 2 was better than Scream and if anyone had seen Good Will Hunting yet. My kinda crowd. And looming above it all was that genius sign hanging on the 3rd story - right side.

Memories from the gazebo party: meeting Mike McCarthy and the alive and mythical Gas Monkey from the Bostonian Cinezine crew, Luke dumping out his bagful of name tags on the gazebo table, some fool trying to get everyone to jump into the pool with no luck, and only seeing three chicks in the whole big group. Like Kevin said, if you came to Vulgarthon to get laid, you came to the wrong place.

The crowd filtered out relatively early around midnight or so and I wound up back in front of the lobby tv with a group of people watching Siskel and Ebert give their top 10's for the year. You could hear the breath being held back as each announced their picks, waiting in anticipation for either of them to mention 'Chasing Amy' within the top 10. Unfortunately as you know by now, Amy never popped up on their lists and there were many cries of "Fuck Ebert man!" echoing the lobby. That's when I decided to turn in. It was 12:45am.

Sleep did not come easy to me and I now think I know why. The next morning after finally falling asleep at 3:00am and waking up at 6:15am, I saw Quinn who told me about how is room was haunted. The story went something like this I believe: At around 2:00am, a half asleep Brian Quinn tilted his head up off his pillow and saw a figure leaning on his dresser. After talking to the figure for a bit (he has no recollection of the conversation), the figure walked acoss the room and disappeared and Brian fell back asleep. I chalk it up as either a dream or some fanboy wandering in there uhh.. trying to get something.

Anyhow, another dude and I handed out t-shirts from about 8:00am on. Between the 7 and 8 o'clock hours, I spent time checking out the Betacam checks that the film crew was doing. I also caught wind of some of the questions Brian Lynch wanted to ask but didn't. If some of you think he was harsh during the interview process, just remember that he had many up his sleeve that he kept there for the sake of the video. I believe one of them was "What was your reaction when you first saw the sun?" The other one I recall was, "Did you have any trouble finding the 'off' button on your computer?"

At around 8:45am I was recruited to help Johnson at the Stash. It was here that I saw the big crowd that I had anticipated before. If the crowds were that large everyday, there's no doubt that Kevin could definetely retire in style. Mr Johnson on the other hand would probably end up drooling all over himself in an asylum somewhere. Anyhow, I was immediated recruited into the Stashian ranks and got assigned a change run as my first assignment. If any of you had seen me walking quickly towards the Dunkin' Doughnuts that morning, you would have seen a huge bulge in my pants... from the wad of cash that I was to convert into $1's and $5's. The next two hours was spent hunting down posters, shirts and hockey jerseys from the cabinets below the comics. Occasionally I would get a comics question which I would direct to Walt. After the whole experience was over I decided that yeah, I too could probably work at the Stash after I retire. No problem.

I wandered around the long line that had formed around 11:20am or so talking to people. When the line began to move I decided that Theater 2 was my preferred destination. The rest of the day was spent much like everyone else's, watching the flicks. 'Drawing Flies' I'd seen before and I loved seeing it again. How could you not love that scene where Donner goes nuts in front of the snowing TV? Better yet, was $40.00 not worth it to see Scott Mosier roll around in a diaper? Vincent's 'A Better Place' was a virgin experience for me and like everyone else I thought it was brillant, especially since I has been down Whipporwhill Road before on a dark night with the windows rolled down in the car and had heard about the goings on in that region. I also stayed for 'Clerks' - not having seen it on a big sceen since early 1995.

The dinner hour was spent at the Dublin house with Susan Finelli (the brilliant mind behind the canned food/cigar drive) and her friend Debbie. I learned just how small the world was over a dinner which cost a whole lot more than 4 bucks.

I must have looked half-dead at the lobby party that followed the fest and I certainly felt it despite the free coffee that flowed out of the lobby's complimentary robotic coffee machine. Stuff I do remember: talking into several videocameras proclaiming how tired I was, signing someone's notebook, signing someone's shirt (clarks?), people signing Shiff's chest, Matt and Malcolm drunkenly following Shiff around the hotel ground floor, and last but not lest, me trying to decide whther or not I wanted to stay up for the 7:30am breakfest buffett. I didn't and decided to crash at 6:30am after remembering that I had a 4 hr drive home later on in the day.

I got up Tuesday morning just in time for check out at noon and waited around for people to show up for checkout so I could say a few goodbyes. Unfortunately it seems as if most peole headed out at 11:00am instead and I missed out on a lot of you. Next time perhaps. The next half hour was spent as it had began, talking with Paul in the lobby. A few minutes between that block however was spent talking to Carmen Lee and helping her find Vinnie's room to say a quick goodbye.

And the rest (there's more?) was spent eating a real meal at the Broadway Grill and hanging for a few minutes watch the Tracy Ullman Simpson's shorts at the Stash with Paul. At around 3:00pm I busted out of there and headed home.

The trip was over, but as you've read in the above paragraphs, the memories live on.

Oh yeah, notice that every picture you can find of me taken during the event - I have a big s-it eating grin, something that is very rare for me. I hardly ever smile for pictures unless instructed to. I guess that says something...

Mail me your thoughts here.

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Special Thanks to: Scott Benner and Luke Robinson. Photos "borrowed" from Scott Benner and Luke Robinson.