Batman, meet Catman. That’s exactly the kind of pop-culture mind-meld taking place this weekend at Charlotte’s Mad Monster Party, an annual horror and pop culture convention that brings Adam West and Burt Ward – Batman and Robin from the late-1960s TV series – and Kiss’ original drummer Peter Criss together under one roof.
Imagine a room filled with Jigsaw from the “Saw” series (Tobin Bell), two Leatherfaces, Machete (Danny Trejo), Pinhead, Michael Myers, Captain Spaulding, Pepper from two seasons of “American Horror Story” and the cast of “Fright Night.” It’s enough to make a horror fan’s head explode.
Drummer Criss was apprehensive before doing his first horror convention less than a decade ago.
“You hear crazy stories. The band did signings forever. Now and then things would get crazy. This is a different ballpark. I got a kick out of it. I didn’t know it was this cool,” says Criss, who got to meet his own childhood film idols, like Tony Curtis. Over the years, he added more and more convention appearances to his schedule.
“This is everything from movies to sports to rock stars – a potpourri of amazing people,” he says. “I met Leatherface. I sat down with John Carpenter. To me, it’s like being a kid in the park for the day.”
As an avid collector with an “out-of-control” DVD collection, he relates to the fanaticism; but conventions also give him the opportunity to promote his work with the American Cancer Society as a male breast cancer survivor. Proceeds from his appearance benefit the Beauty Foundation for Cancer Care and the Beauty Ball.
“This is a great platform. It’s why I wear my pink ribbon. Every guy I hug I say, ‘Pay attention. Do this right away.’ You’d be amazed how many guys look at me in shock,” says Criss, who was not aware men could get breast cancer when he was diagnosed eight years ago.
For Adam West, who is also known as the voice of “Family Guy’s” Mayor West, the Mad Monster appearance comes on the heels of the long-awaited release of “Batman: The Complete Television Series” on DVD.
“I got sick and tired of people asking me, ‘Where is it?’” West says of the series, which was never released on VHS. He kept telling them, “‘It’s between Warners and Fox, and they’ll eventually work it out.’ And they did.”
Since West’s comedic portrayal of the Caped Crusader, Batman has become the superhero world’s biggest headliner.
“I think one reason could be because he’s an ordinary mortal,” says West, 86. “He’s just a guy who honed himself into a physical specimen, and he’s developed his brain more than people care to think about. Most importantly, he’s crazy. He’s devoted 24/7 to crimefighting.”
West takes offense at a recent Wall Street Journal review that dismisses the pop art and camp of “Batman.”
“Our show was art in that we reflected the ’60s that we were living in,” he says. “Our colors, being on twice a week, the first show to have Shakespearean-like villains and two idiots running around.”
West has only seen bits and pieces of the new Batman films, but calls future Batman Ben Affleck a “smart guy and a big talent.”
“It just wasn’t my kind of thing,” he says. “It was too dark, gothic, too many people obliterated – we’d done our comedy and our take on it that kids love, and they grow up watching together. To me, the only thing I would have done had they called me to do something like play Batman’s father – I would’ve asked for a lot of money. And maybe done it.”
Mad Monster Party
WHEN: 6-11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
WHERE: Sheraton Charlotte Hotel, 555 S. McDowell St.
TICKETS: Single-day tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at door Friday and Sunday ($30 in advance, $35 at door Saturday). Three-day passes are $50 in advance and $60 at door. VIP is $179. Kids 12 and younger free when accompanied by an adult.