Monday, March 1, 2010

Confessions of a Monster Kid – Rescuing Famous Monsters #80

Famous Monsters not only thrilled me as a kid, but it also made me do something I never thought I would ever do – more brave, more foolish or more crazy an act I had never done before that day. No, I didn’t shoplift one… not quite. Hear me out, this is not a confession of a crime but the story of a rescue and a young man who wouldn’t allow an injustice to happen.

Look upon it if you dare: Famous Monsters of Filmland #80. Obviously, Beneath the Planet of the Apes was the cover story, and was I ever excited to see it. I loved seeing Planet of the Apes at the Plano Theatre… one of the first movies I ever saw in a theatre with cussing in it: “Damn them all to hell!”... or “Take your stinking paws off me, you Damned dirty ape.” I loved the over the top action… and Nova was pretty easy on the eyes, too.

Within the pages, there was also an article about the Al Adamson film to come, Dracula Vs. Frankenstein, before it had been given that name. I have to admit that I wasn’t impressed by what I saw. I thought the Frankenstein Monster was pretty awful. Years later, I finally saw it. It was awful. I loved it!

There was also an article on the Return of Chandu serial, starring Bela Lugosi. It didn’t impress me… no monsters (he said rolling his eyes).

Unfortunately, that’s all I can remember of what’s inside (thanks to the cover blurbs). It’s ironic, really, but let me explain why…

When this issue came out, I was in 6th grade and my buddies and I were monster crazy. We watched Creature Features every Saturday night at 10:30 pm. Throughout the week, we discussed monsters and drew monsters in our school tablets.

We also first started seeing ads for something called Screaming Yellow Theatre on WFLD channel 32 in Chicago, Friday night at 10:30 pm. I wanted to stay up and watch it, but I thought it might affect my ability to watch Creature Features. I imagined I would be given a choice, one or the other but not both. I decided Creature Features was what I wanted. A couple of years later, I finally caught SYT… and well, I’ll get to that in a later Confession.

Anyway, back to FM #80…

My 6th grade teacher was a guy named Mr. Cook. Mr. Cook was one of the few male teachers in the P.H. Miller Grade School in Plano. He was an easy going guy but not in particular very warm. He quietly would laugh when we did something amusing. I remember the time the boys and girls were split up to watch some basis Sex Education films, he laughed out loud at the animated explanation on how the penis worked.

Mr. Cook also never had a problem with us bringing comics or monster magazines to work. He probably was thrilled that we would talk quietly among ourselves rather than being loud and annoying.

So, thinking nothing of it, I brought my just purchased Famous Monsters #80 to school to show to my buddies. As luck would have it, Mr. Cook was out ill for the day and we had a substitute teacher in his place. I don’t remember her name, but I wasn’t concerned about her. Suns don’t rock the boat. That morning my friends were passing around my FM when this sub came up. She wanted to know what we were looking at. We showed her… and she took it… and she wouldn’t give it back. She said the classroom was no place for something like that. I remember telling her that Mr. Cook let us bring it in, and she told us something like, “I’ll talk to him later about it.”

Then, she took it and opened a drawer in Mr. Cook’s desk and dropped it in there and closed it. It might as well have been in the cave of the 40 thieves. I was damned angry, too.

Now, I have to explain that I was one of the kids who was just a good kid. I got good grades. I didn’t fight. I played baseball. I watched monster movies.

I was mad as hell.

Even in 6th grade we had recess. An idea formed in my little head. I took a lot of stuff out of my desk and put on top, cluttering my desk. The morning recess bell rang and everybody got up to go outside. The sub wanted us doing so in an orderly manner. I delayed, taking my time putting away my stuff. She ignored me and went with the kids out onto the playground.

My heart was beating. Should I really do this?

I waited until everyone was gone, and in the quiet classroom, I stealthily went to the desk and opened the drawer… that drawer. I found my magazine quickly and grabbed it. I took it to my desk and stuffed it into a spiral bound notebook. I shoved that into my desk and quickly ran out of the room and onto the playground.

All day I worried after that. What if she checked in the drawer? What if she was planning on giving it back? What if I got caught?

At the end of the day, I grabbed the notebook and got the hell out of that school, pronto!

I was free, holding my notebook to my chest. I had done something I never imagined I could or would ever do. Fortune favors the bold.

Ironically, a year or two later, my parents got divorced. In the midst of the madness of moving out with my mom, my sister, and my brother, I lost some of my Famous Monsters magazines, including my trophy, #80. I never got that issue back again, years later when I was buying back issues. It was as if I was never really meant to keep it.

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