"Cheers, Dr. Mafune!" sez a rowdy bunch of conventioneers Wednesday night.
While G-FEST didn't officially kick off until Friday, the fun really started on Wednesday night, after Akira Takarada's flight landed in Chicago. Although his flight was delayed by bad weather, Mr. Takarada wanted to have fun almost as soon as he arrived.
And fun we had!
After having a fine Italian meal at Giordano's (none of our crew ordered any lasagna, thankfully), Mr. Takarada wanted to hang out with us at the bar in the nearby Embassy Suites. J.D. Lees called it one of the most memorable nights of his entire life. It's not every day that Godzilla fans share a drink (let alone the same room) with the series' biggest star! Mr. Takarada told us about a monster film he saw as a child that left an impression on him. Though his pronunciation of the title led us to believe he was talking about The Golem, it seems he was thinking of a different picture. In this movie, a monster apparently puts its wrists together, and a beam shoots out. If any reader can identify this film, I'd greatly appreciate it.
Seeing the town in style! Mr. Takarada took a horse-drawn carriage around Chicago on Thursday.
Most G-FEST attendees saw the "double double feature" at the Pickwick on Thursday. Mr. Takarada got his first taste of Chicago. After seeing the sights around the city (such as Ernest Hemingway's old apartment, the original Playboy Mansion, etc.), Yoko Urayama of the Chicago Shimpo took us to the Art Institute of Chicago, where we ate lunch and took in some wonderful artwork.
Does Mr. Takarada look happy to visit Wrigley Field?
Friday resulted in even more sightseeing around Chicago. Martin and Pam Arlt took us to Wrigley Field (no games were scheduled, but Mr. Takarada wanted to have a look at it), the Hancock Building, and to a local steakhouse for lunch. Later that night, Mr. Takarada was warmly greeted during opening ceremonies with what must have been record turnout for that event.
Greg Shoemaker and Akira Takarada, two legends of Godzilladom, meet for the first time.
Saturday proved to be Mr. Takarada's busiest day. After breakfast, he was interviewed onstage by Damon Foster and yours truly. Following that, he signed autographs for two hours. But that's not all! Shortly after wrapping up the autograph session, he was picked up by Yukiko Menda of the Japanese Consulate of Chicago to have dinner with Mr. George Hisaeda, Chicago's Consul General! As if that weren't enough, Messrs. Takarada and Hisaeda addressed the audience at the Pickwick prior to the screening of Godzilla (1954). Whew!
Mr. Takarada's Sunday interview session. Mr. Takarada was happy to take questions from the audience.
Sunday afternoon saw a follow-up interview session with Mr. Takarada in which he mostly took questions from the audience. Almost immediately thereafter, the awards luncheon took place in which Mr. Takarada was awarded the Mangled Skyscraper Award.
Mr. Takarada accepts the coveted MSA.
As part of the ceremony, congratulatory comments were read from Haruo Nakajima, Shogo Tomiyama, Kazuki Omori (all arranged by Robert Scott Field), and James Hong, Linda Haynes, Allyson Adams, and Don Frye (all arranged by yours truly). Mr. Takarada was particularly touched by these messages.
Checking out the newly renovated Crowne Plaza for a possible return. What do you think?
On Monday, things started to wind down. J.D., Robert Scott Field, and I looked around the Crowne Plaza to see whether it would be suitable for a possible return next year. Although no decision has been made, the three of us were impressed by the renovations.
Mr. Takarada signs my old Godzilla vs. Megalon VHS tape, the movie that started this crazy hobby for me in the first place.
"We were goodfellas, wiseguys."
Mr. Takarada wanted to take us out to a Japanese restaurant. We ended up at a restaurant called Sakura (which turned out to be different from the one we took Mr. Sahara to last year). Guess what happened.
Oh, yes! Mr. Takarada made sukiyaki for us! Of course, it was a great meal, but we had a master making it for us. Mr. Takarada had such a wonderful time at G-FEST that he wanted to give back to us. The pleasure was all ours, of course, but we appreciated Mr. Takarada's sincere gesture of gratitude. Mr. Takarada was a first-rate guest. The bar has risen incredibly high for future G-FESTs. But let's see what will happen next year.
In case you weren't sure by now, G-FEST was a smashing success. Mr. Takarada was really the glue that held it together. It will be tough to match the success of this year's show, but for right now, all those fortunate enough to attend should simply kick back and bask in the convention's glow. What a great time!