Friday, May 24, 2013

His name is Butch and he makes me laugh...


By - Steve Mezo 

Chopping Block is a Web Comic by Lee Adam Herold that features a character by the name of "Butch Reginald Mann" that wears a hockey mask and kills people.  
 (The comic panel from the Chopping Block website back in 2000 that made me a fan.)

The very first was posted by Lee on July 25th 2000, and I had found out about it in August, 2000. After that I hadn't missed a single one. 

Everything about the comic panel works for me. The Artwork, the humor and of course the character Butch.
The last time I had read about how Lee creates the panels is he draws a pencil sketch first, then lays a sheet of plastic over the drawing and cuts out the images from the plastic with an Exacto knife. After the stencil is made he inks it with a sponge, does some fine detail after then lets it dry. Once it's dried he scans it onto the computer to be displayed of the web site.  

Nothing (And pretty much no one) is safe from Butch's exploits and Lee's sense of humor. And with the combination of Lee's artwork and the wording of the gags you still find yourself giggling even if it's on the fringe of being something that would normally offend you.  

One of the coolest things Lee had done was donate the use of Butch and three other characters (one male, one female and an arm) to the Strip Creator website
The site gives you three panels, backgrounds, characters and text to create your own musings. 

Here's one I made when I was still managing The Costume Shop

Lee had thought about retiring Chopping Block and having Butch hang up his goalie mask for good quite a few times, but an outpouring of support of fans (me included) had kept Lee creating for twelve years now
The last panel Lee had posted was back in August of 2012 but
I'm really hoping that there are more in the works. If it turns out that Lee decided to quietly let it fade I can understand his decision to let Butch be.

It's easy to be a talented artist, but it's hard to be a paid talented artist and it's even harder to be a paid talented artist that keeps their creative freedom.

I just wanted to write this one to thank Lee personally for all the years of "Chopping Block".

And to see his collection of works use the link below


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

He's not evil he's just painted that way!


By - Steve Mezo

His name is Calico The Clown, but is also known as "The Evil Clown of Middletown". And he has been a happy sight for me on car rides home my whole life. 
Calico on his 55th Birthday back in 2011 and before his restoration  

Come to think of it he was the main reason why I was never afraid of clowns! While other kids would be afraid of one wherever we were I would be like "Please I know one that's twenty three feet tall and would stomp this one flat, then scrape him off his clown shoe!"

And it's just a comfort knowing he's there. Like no matter how the landscape of New Jersey changes Calico will always be standing by the side of Highway 35. And no matter where I go he'll still be there keeping the 70's and 80's Jersey I loved alive. 
I'm still proud to say "I was born and raised in New Jersey, but everything changed much.

I mean I would spend an entire Summer going to every Dark Ride and walk through Haunt in The Shore Area (and there were allot including Palace Amusements in Asbury Park), then there was the local Drive in movie in Hazlet and two movie theaters in walking distance (Hazlet and Middletown) and Gary's Now and Then Records was the best place to get music and concert shirts. 

Then there was clubs up and down Highways 35 and 36 that always had headlining bands and that's not even counting The Stone Pony and The Fastlane in Asbury Park. And I can't even say "Birch Hill" to friends of mine without seeing a smile and hearing about which bands they had seen there. And not only were there Headliners always playing there were allot of great local bands too like TT Quick and China White.

I literally wore that shirt till it was just threads...

And then "SANDY" had erased even more of my past...

But Calico's still there. He stood his ground against her worst and is still a comforting reminder of where I come from. No matter where life may take me in the following years, I can always see him somewhere and say "That's right I know him!"

When I had the idea to write about him I decided to do a little research and found out that he has a really cool history.

Back in 1955 he was thought up at a kitchen table when Joe Azzolina Sr. along with Lou Scaduto Sr. had a get together with family members to see what the store's name should be
They had decided on Food Circus and keeping with that theme decided a clown would make a great mascot.  
I had read that a (Homelier) version was created at first, but they had decided to go with another design by late artist Leslie W. Thomas of the Roadside Ad Company.

He was erected in 1956 for $18,000.00 and slowly rotated with a motor. I can't even imagine what he would have cost now to have built today.

He's appeared in Phillip Botti's movie "Middletown", Calico made the cover of Weird N.J. Magazine (As The Evil Clown of Middletown), had an appearance on "The Tonight Show" when Kevin Smith was doing a segment called "Roadside New Jersey" *There's a bonus story attached to this* and Calico is in the opening sequence of Kevin Smith's CLERKS II as well as having his picture on the wall in The Mooby restaurant. And on his 55th Birthday T-Shirts were available of him in the Food Circus/Foodtown stores and in both Spirits Unlimited locations.
 Photo by Dustin Racioppi

Currently he is restored and now and 57 years old 
         Photo by Marc Roland

And may he be there for many many more!


Back when Hollowgraves Haunted Manor was still in Seaside N.J. Kevin Smith had stopped by with "Comic Book Men" Mike Zapcic (Waaaaay before the show). 

Kevin was looking for locations for the cameraman to shoot when he spotted me and asked about The Bros. Grim Circus Sidehow. I told him that I was friends with Ken and the performers and they would definitely be cool with it.
The only thing was they wouldn't be at the show tent for about a half hour, so Kevin and I got caught up on things that were going on since I hadn't seen him in a while and I asked him and Mike if they wanted to go through the haunt.
Mike Zapcic was all about it, but Kevin froze to the spot like I asked him to jump off of The Tower of Fear with me. He looked right at me and said "I am beyond scared of these things, no way!"

Soooo the three of us went through with the house lights on so he could see all of the animatronics and the haunt set up. And he actually liked it. Mike was liked it too, but he was cracking up watching Kevin inch along like something was waiting to jump out at him. 

Then after Kevin's tour I introduced him to everyone at The Sidehow and they all had a blast doing their routines for Kevin's spot. And it was great seeing Kevin get star struck meeting The Enigma and Katzen The Tiger Lady. Then those two getting excited to meet Kevin Smith.  

If that weren't enough a couple years later John Watt had went to Kevin's Q and A at The Count Basie Theater in Red Bank New Jersey.       
John was able to get to the question microphone and asked Kevin about it. Kevin laughed admitted to it and then told the entire story to the crowd there.

Good Times. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Monsterous Magic of The Keansburg Boardwalk.

By - Steve Mezo

I have loved The Keansburg Boardwalk my entire life
and I have literally visited it every season since I've been in existence

With my over active imagination along with plenty of material to work with, I made this the coolest place ever where monsters lived when the sun went down and the Boardwalk lights were off. 

And with movies like "Something Wicked This Way Comes" 

and "The Funhouse" 

I was reassured I wasn't alone in this thinking back then.  

Even a world away in Japan the makers of Silent Hill knew all about what I'm talking about here.
So now you're saying "How can you talk like that about a place where Kappy The Pig calls home and makes you happy?"

Well I never said it was a bad thing, I just love monsters and The Boardwalk just seemed like it would be a perfect place for them to live once the lights went out.

One of the things I was obsessed with was
 The Fortune Teller Machine
I don't know why she's always held such a fascination with me. She is always there patiently waiting amongst the games for someone to pay to have their fortune told. And for the price of one dollar (Or a quarter way back when) she will give you a card with your fortune on it. 

I know allot of people have seen the movie "BIG" and ZOLTAR granting Josh's wish
But for me the Fortune Teller wasn't about granting wishes or being evil or mean. She was a kind of guardian that kept the monsters in check and on the boardwalk. And would protect anyone from the monsters that may have visited after business hours. 

And when MEZCO TOYS came out with their Dark Carnival Series I had to buy the "Madam Mortuus Fortune Teller Machine".

Now this next one is funny because it took years for me to get proof from a movie that this Boardwalk Game really existed. The one one in the movie had tamer looking mannequins, but it was pretty much the same set up.

The mannequins were made up as monsters and had hats on, then they were on turntables that would make them look like they were going out one door in the back of the stand and into the next. Then you would get six baseballs covered in black electrical tape and you would throw the balls to knock the hats off the monsters heads. 
And if you did it you would win a prize. 
My Dad was really good at it and even though the prizes weren't huge it was still really cool getting them. 

And of course in my imagination the monsters would leave the turntables and stalk the Boardwalk for victims later that night. 

I would tell my friends about this game and they would look at me like I was making it up, and I would be like "If I were going to make up anything why would it be a fake stand game?"

Then years and years after the Movie Gods had smiled upon me and made it one of the games in the movie "Adventureland"! 
 Sure these mannequins weren't made into monsters, but everything else was just as I described it! 

The Carousel has it's place too

I would think of the horses, animals and creatures coming to life leaving their spots and running around the boardwalk, with the roaming monsters riding them in search of trespassers. Then as the sun came up they would race back to the Carousel and freeze in the positions they arrived in.

And the movie "Something Wicked This Way Comes", a couple "The Twilight Zone" episodes along with "Tales of The Unexpected" let me know that I was right in that thinking.  

The Boardwalk Games definitely had their share of monster magic

Like the Water Balloon Race Game
Don't let the smiling faces fool you, once the night was theirs and the moon was full they would climb out of the booth and be the ones to meet up with the Carousel horses, animals and creatures for their ride.

But now that this undrilled one lives happily with me, and he thinks what I imagined when I was five was pretty funny!
 That goes for the Fiberglass bench sitters and statues on 
Seaside's Boardwalk too. 

Even the Dart Game had it's own power

          and was the keeper of the Chalkware Talismans 
I don't know what it was about these otherworldly versions of familiar characters. It was almost like they were proof to me that realities of Daytime and Nighttime converged here when nobody was witness to it. 

And I became obsessed with winning this one to bring home to keep the Under The Bed Monster in check. 

My thinking was that since I thought the Boardwalk Monsters were cool, they would come to help if The Under The Bed and Hallway Monsters had shown up and this was their warning.

And now we're moving onto the Arcade, and there is plenty to talk about there. 

Like the Maneater Video Game that pretty much speaks for itself.

And you just see BIMBO making his way out of his Arcade Machine and doing a little recon for the bigger monster clowns.

And the Arcade Shooting Gallery had all kinds of creatures that would go bump in the night.

And we all know how much trouble a Boardwalk Arcade Robot caused Scooby Doo and the Gang in Funland

but they made nice afterwards

One of the robots in particular "The Piano Player"

Had become The Organ Player at The Spook House
Photo by 
"James Amabile" is a fellow Local and has his own tales of Growing up in Jersey with Pop Culture too 
The man even went to a Halloween party with his wife in full costume the night Sandy hit, and said if that were the way they were going out so be it.
 Anyone that Monster Hard Core definitely gets a shout out from Tattooed Steve's Storage Unit of Terror.   

Which brings me to our final stop "THE SPOOK HOUSE" 

Photos by Bill Luca and John LaCross

Now if I had to give a definite place to say where the monsters lived, The Spook House would be my response. I mean not only were they here, they got to do their scary thing all day and all night if the Boardwalk was open or not! 

I would get into the cart and tell myself "This time I'm going to show them that they don't scare me!" And every time they would do their job and scare the crap outta me...  


I want to dedicate this one to The Spook House which had taken heavy damage from Hurricane Sandy... 

I've been told that it's "Pretzel Track and Carts have been saved, but I guess with all of the restoration going on there it might be a while before it returns to the Midway. 

It has such a rich history and Bill Luca along with John LaCross have an interview with Al Recht and great behind the scene pictures of one of the oldest "Dark Rides" in New Jersey. Make sure to check it out at the Laff in The Dark website.   

  And ready yourselves for the return of
You can read all about my involvement with the Haunt with the link above the picture, and you have no idea how happy I am that it is back here on The Keansburg Boardwalk right next to The Bumper Cars that "The Bumper Car Psychos" made famous