Yikes! Looks like someone found out the hard way that there isn't much of a market for lazily-researched travel guides in Godzilla fandom!
Sometimes people should quit while they're ahead. For a year and a half, ex-G-FAN contributor, ex-G-FEST volunteer, and ex-sane person Armand Vaquer has made some serious allegations against me. I never publicly addressed the matter, as I figured Armand would eventually run out of hot air and go away. However, the cowardly potshots continue and show no sign of slowing down.
Recently, I wrote Armand and asked him if he'd like to meet me, face-to-face, and repeat his lies and smears to me in person. Rather than hide behind a computer screen as he chooses to do, I wanted to face my accuser and demolish his lies right in front of him. At first, he seemed intrigued, saying:
I'll keep an open mind about it.
But it quickly became obvious that he saw this as his ticket back into G-FAN and G-FEST, and I had to set him straight on that. When I explained that I simply wanted to give him the chance not to let his keyboard do the talking for him, he replied with a barrage of pathetic insults. Always the opportunist, he did a complete 180 when he realized he wouldn't personally benefit from meeting me.
But, during this exchange, Armand said something of particular interest to me:
This sounds like a case of, "You can dish it out, but can't take it."
So let's put Armand to his own test, shall we? Let's see how well he'll "take" a dose of the truth after "dishing out" smear upon smear against me. After giving him his final chance to avoid my public rebuttal, and after trying to settle things face-to-face, he left me with no choice but to finally give him what he had coming a long time ago.
On with show...
If you want to get technical, this story goes back to 2005 when I first realized that having such a close partnership with Armand would be somewhat detrimental to me. (Oh, if only I knew then...) However, without getting into all the details of everything that's happened in between, I need to fast forward to 2008 when the problem really started.
Armand has repeatedly libeled me with a false blackmail accusation. He has posted this many times on his blog, but I'll choose one typical example out of many. So I'll begin by quoting Armand, who posted the following on Christmas Eve on his blog (which a friend of mine recently dubbed Armand's Version of Reality): http://armandsrancho.blogspot.com/2009/12/merry-christmas-to-all.html
(Of course, the "nameless" ex-friend Armand has harassed for months with these baseless accusations is me.)
I also learned, unfortunately, that someone I considered a friend (who shall
remain nameless) wasn't. One night, a misunderstanding arose in relation to the
aforementioned travel guide and I was seething mad. This individual (not related
to the misunderstanding) happened to call me that night and I vented.
Fortunately, the matter (funny, I don't remember what it was) that ticked me off
was resolved within days.
You'll find that Armand conveniently doesn't remember much of the details that expose his lies for what they are.
This all started in the summer of 2008, just prior to G-FEST. Armand's travel guide pet project was going nowhere fast, thanks to J.D. Lees' busy schedule. Armand was starting to get antsy, as his project was originally conceived as a vehicle to help him raise money to attend G-FEST. (When that turned out to be a dead end, he instead sold Haruo Nakajima buttons at the convention for $10 a pop, with absolutely none of the proceeds going to Mr. Nakajima or his daughter.)
It was during this time that J.D. sent out a message to all G-FEST committee members. (I received this message; Armand did not.) The e-mail announced a breakfast all members were invited to attend with Mr. Nakajima and Robert Scott Field. Feeling bad for Armand (as much as I'd like to forget, he and I were friends during this time), I sent him the message just to keep him in the loop. At 6:57 pm on June 29, I received this reply from him:
Interesting. The first bold section seems innocuous enough. It appears geared
toward the people who are organizing the different events. But it does bring up
a question: was Jeff Horne invited? Like me, he's been doing some publicity and
"jack-of-all-trades" stuff, but not really an organizer.
The second is
amusing. Obviously, he may be more concerned about some involved in the
convention and would be pissed at not being invited.
Another thing that
just occurred to me, I have the original email with the G-FAN Special proposal
and his response along with some other emails about it. It appears that since he
accepted my proposal (the only question was timing), and I worked on it for
about two months (I also updated him on the progress), and seems to have backed
off saying, "I thought it was for money to come to G-FEST," it appears that I
may have a good case of breach of contract here.
Suffice it to say, I was stunned. I couldn't believe that Armand was actually considering legal action against J.D. I immediately wrote him back a message that read in part:
>>>>> Look, it's totally understandable that you're upset ... But even if you're just thinking out loud, any talk of suing J.D. is taking it way too far. <<<<<
At 10:10 pm the same night, I received Armand's reply:
At this point, yes. I was thinking out loud. But I did some checking on
California breach of contract law. This does go beyond a verbal agreement (which
can be just as binding, but harder to prove) as I have the following:
The initial email with a written, detailed proposal stipulating who does what,
who gets what, etc.
2.) JD's reply email agreeing to it and giving me the
go-ahead with it.
3.) JD's emails acknowledging the updates and receiving
copies of work in progress.
So, he's in a box on this. We'll see what he
says at the convention.
On Jeff Horne, is there a way to find out if he
received the email?
The phone call came after I received this e-mail. Armand wasn't "venting"; he was being coy the whole time. "I'm just researching," he would say in a tone of voice suggesting he held all the cards.
So Armand thought he had J.D., supposedly his great friend for whom he selflessly sacrificed, "in a box." This never sat well with me, but I kept mum about it for months, hoping to keep everyone friends. (I always felt J.D. had a right to know his "good friend" really wanted to sue him over the travel guide, but I held my tongue.)
Armand also states that he immediately resolved this issue with J.D. Not true. Among other things, when G-FAN #85 came out, Armand expected to have an ad for his travel guide in the issue. I got the issue before Armand did and alerted him, over the phone, to the fact that there was no ad. He became extremely unhappy and mused out loud about quitting G-FAN and writing for another publication, like Famous Monsters of Filmland.
Could it have been a snap judgment? Perhaps he was caught in the heat of the moment and made an extremely poor choice (as he is so often apt to do) out of sheer anger. Actually, Armand would go on to threaten J.D. with legal action directly! Shortly before J.D. finished the travel guide in late 2009, Armand insisted the thing be called the "G-FAN Travel Guide to Kaiju Japan." Many people may remember this title, as Armand spammed so many Web sites with it. However, Armand never had permission to use J.D.'s trademark for his book. This led to a disagreement between the two. On 10/12/2009, as J.D. and Armand were discussing the title, and J.D. told Armand that the book wouldn't carry his trademark, Armand flatly told J.D.:
Then this is a breach of our agreement.
Stunned, J.D. asked him what he was talking about. Armand replied in part:
You agreed to the proposal. Your acceptance was in your email, which, under
U.S. law, carries the same weight as a contract and is just as binding. It is in
one of my replies to you earlier today.
This idiotic drama went back and forth until Armand finally realized he didn't have a leg to stand on. Faced with the reality that there was no such agreement allowing him to use J.D.'s trademark, he changed the name of the book against his will. (Of course, he announced that this was a "mutual decision" between him and J.D. It was anything but. Armand had no say in the matter.) And he changed the title only after clumsily threatening the very individual who put the whole thing together for him! How's that for gratitude?
Here's more from the same post at Armand's Version of Reality:
Unfortunately, this so-called "friend" stuck his nose into something I was doing
earlier this year and an argument ensued. He then threatened me with what I had
vented about a year earlier with what could only be described as, by definition
and legally, "blackmail." With that, I severed our friendship.
As much as I hate to inject facts into Armand's flights of fancy, I find myself so compelled yet again.
Armand has long thought of himself as the official spokesman for all things G-FAN and G-FEST. This is why he blew a gasket in December 2009 over the fact that I, with J.D.'s express permission, announced Akira Takarada's appearance for G-FEST 2010. Never mind the fact that only totorom, J.D., and I were involved with the arrangement of Mr. Takarada; Armand felt it was his inherent right, simply because he was just one of the guys involved in publicity, to announce the appearance of Mr. Takarada. (After all, he did such a great job of announcing Mr. Sahara's appearance last year by swiping a photo without permission from Google Images and running it without credit. He likewise "showed me how it's done" this year by misappropriating another picture from Google Images without credit and quoting at length from Wikipedia (!) in his own, unofficial announcement of Mr. Takarada. Professionalism, among other things, just oozes from this guy!)
Anyway, on to the phony blackmail charge. In February of 2009, Armand created an "official" G-FAN MySpace page. But here's the kicker: Armand never told J.D. about this "official" page! (You see, Armand helpfully explained that he was waiting for the page to attract a certain number of "friends," and then he planned to "surprise" J.D. with it. To say the least, this was a bad idea from the start.)
Anyway, while doing an Internet search, I stumbled upon this page. I thought it was hilarious and, not knowing who the moron was behind it, sent the link to both J.D. and Armand at the same time. Armand immediately replied, berating me for "spoiling the surprise" and demanding that I apologize (for what?). When I tried explaining to him that I had nothing to apologize for, he kept insisting that I needed to apologize to him for reasons that were only apparent to him. He went on to talk about all the great work he does for J.D., which made me laugh, considering that this guy threatened to sue J.D. just a few months earlier. When I mentioned that to him, Armand blew his top and recklessly accused me of trying to blackmail him. When I asked for an explanation, he refused to give one, which he still refuses to do to this day. He made a very serious charge against me and simply ended the matter. But, as anyone can plainly see, there was no blackmail involved; it was just a case of Armand being Armand, a hysterical, paranoid loser who likes to bully people with legal threats. (Ask Keith Aiken how many times Armand has threatened him with legal action.) I told Armand where he could go, and that was that.
By the way, in case you were wondering about the origin of Armand's one-man crusade against me, you just read it. That's right, he got all hot and bothered over a MySpace page that J.D. asked him to delete upon finding out about it! You really couldn't make this stuff up if you tried!
How real was the alleged blackmail threat? At Monsterpalooza in May 2009, Armand saw me at a dealer's table and tried to initiate a conversation with me. "You came all the way out here for this?" he asked, thinking I still lived in North Dakota. I wanted no part of the guy. "Yup," I replied, without even turning to look at him, and he mercifully walked away. The harassment really picked up after that, which proves that even Armand, in his twisted and vindictive mind, doesn't even believe there was blackmail involved. Poor guy, he's just mad that I snubbed him at a monster convention.
Thus, it should surprise no one that, during G-FEST itself when everyone else was out having fun, Armand holed up in his hotel room and posted this threat against me on his blog:
It should also surpise no one that he posted a picture of himself holding a gun on his MySpace page, stating that he is "ready to go after terrorists and blackmailers":
(By the way, Armand, in case you decide to get cute, allow me to inform you that there's no use in trying to scrub this image from your site. I've saved a screen shot of it for posterity. Sometimes people just can't stop digging a hole for themselves!)
Armand eventually got tired of attacking me and started going after one of my friends, who has done nothing but try to promote the genre in the U.S. In late 2009, I stated on the Classic Horror Film Board that my relationship with totorom has been the happiest and most successful colloboration I've had with any G-FAN writer (which is 100% true). The next day, on his blog, Armand irresponsibly revealed information about totorom's job situation as a way to retaliate against me. That post can be found here:
So now I've exposed Armand's lies, harassment, and even his psychotic death threats. But wait! There's more!
Over the years, Armand became more and more of a burden. He became much less productive (and when he did write articles for the magazine, they were invariably about buildings or other useless trivia), but more and more obsessed. He always encouraged J.D. to do things intended to "stick it" to his enemies. Here's a very typical e-mail Armand would send to me and J.D. on a regular basis, this one dated 1/28/2007, regarding the Classic Horror Film Board's annual Rondo Awards:
I wrote in JD for Monster Kid Hall of Fame at the Rondo Awards. Also,
under one of my alias email names, I wrote in the four of us for Monster Kids of
the Year. Try to get more people to do so to piss off the "expert snobs."
Wouldn't it be funny if we won?! - A.
As you can see, Armand admitted to his use of sock-puppetry here. Interestingly, there's a chap on the (now virtually dead) It Came from Planet X forums named "Major Boothroyd" who just so happens to parrot all of Armand's talking points at just the right moments. How convenient! Perhaps an enterprising techno wiz could investigate the true identity of the good "major" for the benefit of everyone.
Here's an e-mail regarding the Classic Media DVDs. It's dated 5/8/2006, and it deals with an e-mail J.D. received from a Lisa Bull, who worked for Classic Media. Bear in mind the lady's last name as you read Armand's classy e-mail:
Direct her to Brett as far as G-FEST goes and he can raise hell
over the crappy people selected for the commentaries. But, you can charge them
$800-$1,000 for ad space in G-FAN. Hey, if we are going to be shut out, why not
make them pay for it? - A.
Believe me, there's plenty more where this came from!
Oh, but here's an interesting aside. Speaking of Classic Media, it was actually Armand himself who started the infamous "boycott" rumor, which had the very unfortunate effect of leading Classic Media to send Robert Conte and J.D. cease-and-desist e-mails regarding Conte's G-FEST presentation. On 5/25/2006, Armand posted the following to the Message from Cyberspace group:
The word I've been getting is that many G-fans are boycotting these.
are really ticked that Peter H! Brothers and some other (more
G-scholars weren't included. - A.
On 5/29/2006, he added:
Some people detest some of the participants and refuse to buy a product
that person(s) in it. Call it the "Hanoi Jane Syndrome," if you
will. A lot
of people will never plunk down a nickel for any film that
Jane Fonda had
anything to do with. - A.
Interestingly, false rumors began to circulate that I was leading a boycott of the Classic Media discs, which is one of the weirdest lies ever been told about me. The origin of the alleged "boycott" started with Armand. He introduced that particular word into the discussion, knowing full well what effect it would have. As for the people who were supposedly contacting him, he never shared this info with me. Even from the beginning, I figured he made it all up, as I later realized he would often stoop to doing. Hey, as long as he gets to "stick it" to his enemies, what does he care about lying?
I should also add that when the rumors were building that I was leading a boycott, thanks to Armand's MFC postings, he never did come forward to claim "credit" for the rumors, which is actually how they got started in the first place. What a great friend!
So all this came from the person who for so long cultivated an image of being the guy in the middle, the honest broker. I'm sure this why a few people were duped by Armand's craven sob story. Armand's not very good at a lot of things, but being two-faced is one of his strong suits.
How good a friend was Armand? When we were supposedly friends, I shared many of my contacts with him. When he went to Japan in 2006, for instance, I hooked him up with Shelley Sweeney. I thought this could only help G-FAN and G-FEST, which is why I did it. I also arranged for him to meet Kane Kosugi in Los Angeles when even I wasn't able to meet him. Over the years, I did a lot for the guy. Of course, I should point out that Armand rarely, if ever, returned the favor, as he jealously guarded his few contacts as if they were the Lost Ark. He once claimed to have Mie Hama's daughter's phone number. I asked him for it, thinking that totorom might be able to arrange Mie Hama's appearance at G-FEST, which would benefit everybody. Armand flatly refused; it was his contact, and he wasn't going to share. As one of Armand's many ex-friends told me in relation to him, no good deed goes unpunished.
There have been many other problems he's caused that I've had to deal with over the years. As one example, J.D. and I had to do last-minute damage control involving one of our guests at G-FEST 2007, thanks to Armand's tactless interference. I could go on and on, but there's no point. I simply will not be lied about anymore.
I suppose, if there's anyone who still believes that Armand is the very face of "professionalism," someone can explain all this to me as one big misunderstanding. I'd love to hear it. If you were suckered in by Armand's pity party, or if you bought into the ridiculous notion that he's anything approaching professional, you really have only yourself to blame. Armand continues to prove what P.T. Barnum said so many decades ago.
Remember, kids, it's up to you to verify the facts before deciding where to hang your hat.