Q&A: Matt Weinhold, The Comedian With a Collection To Die ForBooks/Art/Culture,Features/Interviews,News Ken W. Hanley 1 Comment
To many horror fans, the weight of your fandom is measured by the size of your collection. And for good reason: as conventions start growing with record-number attendances around the country, blue-blooded genre nuts are separating themselves from the rookies by hitting up the myriad booths of memorabilia and artwork that take up the exhibitors floor. Even better, though, is when these die-hard fright fanatics do good by the genre that they love, whether it’s by making films, such as esteemed collector (and now, cultural benefactor) Guillermo del Toro, or sporting it at their place-of-business, such as Kirk Hammett with his horror-inspired guitars.
However, one might be hard pressed to find a celebrity collector who has gone down the sci-fi and horror rabbit hole as far as professional comedian, writer and podcaster Matt Weinhold. A writer for THE NERDIST TV series as well as a frequent guest to the popular COMEDY FILM NERDS and DANA GOULD HOUR podcasts, Weinhold has also contributed to the world of horror with his work in the Dark Horse revival of CREEPY (#10) as well as his horror-and-sci-fi centric podcast, MONSTER PARTY. However, Weinhold’s horror collection is that of legend, massive in size and in diversity. Weinhold opened up to FANGORIA as he gives us an exclusive in-depth look into his museum of macabre collectibles.
FANGORIA: What was the turning point from merely buying pop culture things to becoming a full-fledged, active collector?
MATT WEINHOLD: I think for me, when you’re a kid, you collect stuff, but it’s different because you’re kind of expected to do that as a kid. I think it was when I was in my early 20’s where all of a sudden, I had a pretty good job and I was making some money, and I went into some comic book store and I saw some GODZILLA toys. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, those are really cool. You know what? I think I would like those.’ There was a little place in my mind where I said, ‘I have money now! I can buy toys! I don’t have to rely on my parents. I don’t have to con my parents anymore into getting the things that I want.’ Then I thought: ‘Well gee, I can buy whatever I want. I can be eccentric. I’ll start collecting toys.’ So I bought those GODZILLA figures and then I think I bought some superhero ones, like an IRON MAN figure. I had this tiny little area on my nightstand that I was putting all this stuff, which then filled up. So then it was another counter and it just grew, and grew, and grew until it became the Winchester Mystery House proportion collection that I have now.
FANG: How important is it to you as a collector to have a good amount of diversity in what you collect? Like in terms of memorabilia, or posters, figurines, etc.?
WEINHOLD: Well, luckily and unluckily for me, I love everything, so I pretty much collect everything. Also, when it comes to toys alone, action figures and figurines, they’re making action figures that I thought I would never see, like Hammer Horror figures, and that blows my mind. I mean I love comic books, I love STAR TREK, I love horror, I love everything and now because of the way things are made, everything is so much better. I’m also a giant movie buff so I have a pretty good collection of stills, one-sheet posters, two-sheet posters and things along those lines.
In fact, not long ago, I went to the Monsterpalooza convention here out in L.A., and Akira Takarada, who was the star in the original GODZILLA, GOJIRA, was there and I had this old photo of GODZILLA, the original, and it was a little beat up and everything, but it was the original. It’s from the time, so I had him sign that. I also have a two-sheet KING KONG ESCAPES poster and he was in that, with Rhodes Reason. I’m sure you know who that is. It’s kind of a stupid movie but it has such a great poster. It has KING KONG fighting MECHA-KONG! It’s a giant poster and my wife is cool enough to let me have that in our home.
FANG: When you go out to these conventions, is there anything specifically that you try to do, whether it be completing some collection or finding stuff that’s obscure?
WEINHOLD: Yeah. It’s funny; I’ll go to conventions and try to look for stuff and usually, if I’m looking for it, it’s not there. When I’m not looking for it, then it pops up and that’s just the way it goes. Sometimes I’ll get lucky, like when I’m going to Comic Con and I’m looking for a specific thing, and it’s there and it makes me very happy. When I go to these monster conventions, a lot of times you end up realizing that you had a gap in your collection and you didn’t know it, because someone finally made a figure of Boris Karloff in THE MASK OF FU MANCHU. So it’s like, “Oh shit, I have to get that. It’s $700? Alright well I have to put that on my list now.” A lot of times, there’s certain perennials for me that I’m always looking for, like any kind of vinyl GODZILLA stuff or Japanese science fiction stuff, like ULTRAMAN and that kind of thing.
I’m always interested in finding that kind of stuff. I love DOCTOR WHO, anything from the old toys to the new, and that’s always something that I’m looking into. I also love this series of movies from Japan, the YOKAI MONSTERS; there were three of them and they were so crazy. It’s about these mischievous Japanese ghosts, based on real folktale ghosts from Japanese history. There’s this one movie where they’re protecting these kids and there’s always an evil warlord or something who usually ends up doing something nasty, and the ghosts have to band together and haunt the warlord until he kills himself or they kill him. They’re just so crazy though, and the costumes of these Yokai ghosts are so fucking unusual, like a horror movie meets H.R. PUFNSTUF. So anytime I can find a figure of one of the characters, I’m really excited about that because there’s not a lot of them.
Also, those characters have been used in a long-running animated Japanese series called GEGEGE NO KITARO by Shigeru Mizuki, who is a very popular and venerated person in Japan. In fact, there’s an entire town dedicated to him in Japan with all these metal statues on every street and a museum; it’s absurd. The show is crazy and this thing has been going forever. Kitaro is a ghost boy and the show is his adventures in the ghost world and he has a bunch of Yokai friends; It’s such a weird cartoon, but there’s something about those characters that is fascinating.
One of the characters is called a Katha, who is sort of half-bird / half-turtle. According to Japanese legend, parents would threaten their kids, like, “The Katha will get you if you’re bad,” because Katha eats children, but they can also be helpful; There’s a very fine line. His weak point is that he has this little bowl on his head where he keeps water to keep himself cool, and Katha has wonderful manners, so if you bow, they have to bow back. So when they bow, they spill their water and then they overheat, as a Katha will do.
FANG: When you are building your collection, are you attracted to more classic stuff, in terms of recognizable iconography or are you more attracted to obscure, cult things that maybe they can’t find anywhere else?
WEINHOLD: I would say I probably lean towards more cult stuff. I like STAR WARS, but I’m not a giant fan and I don’t really follow it anymore. To me, that was a franchise that petered out. Even like STAR TREK, I love that but if someone makes a figure out of obscurity, like the BLACULA figure that my wife got me, I go mental for that. Even though I enjoy the new DOCTOR WHO, I really love the older stuff when it was scrappier and the alien was a shoebox on a wire with some glitter connected to a lawnmower. I love that kind of stuff.
I love DARK SHADOWS. Whenever something gets kind of low rent but you can tell there’s a lot of creativity behind it, and people were really taking it seriously and acting their asses off, that kind of stuff really gets to me. I also love Sid and Marty Krofft, and anything that’s a bit obscure I do tend to gravitate towards.
FANG: In terms of building your current collection, is there a horror movie or series that you haven’t gotten anything from that you really want to add?
WEINHOLD: Oh, that’s a good question. I can tell you something that just did come out that hasn’t been available before. There was a Japanese-Italian international production of the science fiction movie from the ‘60s called THE GREEN SLIME. THE GREEN SLIME is about these aliens attacking a space station and everybody in the space station has to band together to repel them, but the aliens are ferocious and they keep replicating themselves. My friends and I have always been giant fans of this movie, but finally they came out with this vinyl figure from Japan, which has THE GREEN SLIME and also these tiny little versions from when they’re first born. Here’s another great fact about THE GREEN SLIME: it was directed by Kinji Fukasaku, who would go on to make BATTLE ROYALE.
The guy who makes that makes these Hammer figures from Distinctive Dummies, I want him to make a figure of Ingrid Pitt from THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, which would be fantastic. You know what I would really like also is a figure from the movie TARGET EARTH, which has these crazy alien robots that attack Richard Denning. The TARGET EARTH alien robots look like they have these heads with a TV screen in them and that’s beautiful. I would love to have that. Also, are you a fan of COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK?
FANG: I’ve heard of the film, but I haven’t seen it yet.
WEINHOLD: It’s great. It’s a very simple science fiction movie where a scientist dies and they put his brain in a robot body. The robot is really cool with glowing eyes and that would be one I would be all over. If I can find someone to make that for me, I think we might be able to make a deal there.
FANG: What do you think is the size of movie memorabilia that you have in your collection as opposed to figurines and posters?
WEINHOLD: I probably have more action figures and figurines and that kind of stuff than I do paper stuff, which is a shame because if I had more of the paper stuff, it would be a lot easier to store. Then there’s the other side of the coin where you run out of wall space. The collection really has grown out of our condominium now, so we have to get to a point where the new house is going to have to have sort of an underground lair or a museum or a nerd cave.
FANG: Are you hesitant to add modern icons to your collection rather than the more classic and influential figures?
WEINHOLD: I like it all, I really do, but I have been going back and getting a lot of science fiction toys that I grew up with that were really great. They’re like plastic robot toys and they got a little electric motor in them. They looked really cool and had sort of a ‘60s feel to them, but they were really fragile so the minute I got them, I would destroy them. I mean, I would destroy them anyway, but these things were crazy fragile. I went back and got pretty much all of those. As a collector, with the more money I make in my life, I would love to upgrade and have one in a box that’s mint and then have one I could display.
There was also an astronaut character named Major Matt Mason, which came out the same time as the space program (in 1966). A lot of his designs would be based on real NASA designs, which was really cool stuff. He had a lot of accessories but it’s all very expensive. Here’s the Holy Grail that I’m almost ready to buy on eBay: there’s a set called “The Outer Space Men.” They were like Matt Mason, where they were rubber and had wires inside them, but each character was an alien from a different planet. There was a short, green man from Mars who looked like a typical Martian. There was an angry-looking amphibious guy from Jupiter, who looked sort of like Ben Grimm meets the CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. I have a couple of them and they’re really nice, but of course, they got all destroyed. Either the wires would break or I would light them on fire because I was acting out. So yeah I would love to get those, and I’m thinking about it.
FANG: Do you prefer the experience of going out to a convention and browsing around at what people have made or do you prefer searching the internet to see what random stuff you can find?
WEINHOLD: That’s a great question, because there used to be a store called Time Traveler and another row of stores in Anaheim that were similar, where it was an antique mall, but it was all nerdy stuff. I also love walking around conventions and going into a box. The smell of dusty, old paper makes me happy, so finding a treasure at a convention is really great and back then, when you found something, it was really special because those days before the internet and eBay, that was the only place you were going to find it.
It’s a little easier to find stuff now and that’s kind of cool, because you can complete your collection quicker than you usually would have had to. The internet is great for if you just want to get the thing, but I personally really do enjoy walking around, digging in some guy’s booth with all this stuff and then haggling. There’s a place in the City of Industry called Frank and Son’s where it’s open year round for two days a week, and it’s sort of like a mini-Comic Con that’s permanently there. That’s a place I’ll go with my friends every few months and it’s a great place to sort of get your Comic Con or Collector’s Show fix when there isn’t any of that stuff happening.
WEINHOLD: The idea from Monster Party came from a few friends of mine: Shawn Sheridan, Larry Strothe, and James Gonis who I get together for Comic Con every year. After walking the floor all day, we would end up at somebody’s room, and somebody would bring their computer or a little TV with a DVD player and we’d play trailers. Then we’d have a bunch of cocktails and argue about science fiction and horror. It’s always great and it was kind of my favorite time of the year, so I had the idea of doing a podcast where that’s what we do. We have some cocktails, we sit around, we talk about monsters or werewolves, or whatever the subject of the day is, and we just let it go where it goes.
We don’t want to do a show where we’re nerds, but we’re not really nerds because it’s all kind of sardonic. We’re the genuine deal. It started off as a YouTube channel show, and we do have three episodes of those up, and that’s sort of our go to site. But we also do the podcast, and there’s a link to the podcast on the YouTube channel. We’re all on Facebook and right now we’re putting together a website, but we don’t have it ready just yet. We sit around with some microphones and some drinks, usually “girly” drinks, because that’s the kind of drinkers we are. It always gets spirited and there’s a lot of, “you never know when there’ll be a topic where somebody will throw you a curveball.” We were all talking about our least favorite monsters, and a friend of ours brought up PREDATOR. We almost jumped on him. “What’s wrong with PREDATOR?” “Ah, the movie was crap.” “Yeah, but it’s a cool monster!” So that got turned into this big spirited debate and physical fighting [laughs].
FANG: Is there any specific topic that you want to cover on MONSTER PARTY in the near future? Any lingering questions on sci-fi or horror that you guys will maybe want to touch upon?
WEINHOLD: We’ve made a giant list of all these topics and this isn’t really horror, but our friend who doesn’t like PREDATOR, when it comes to superhero movies, he’s tough. So that’s something we’d like to do, where we sort of take apart every superhero movie. I’m always amazed when someone says they don’t like the original SUPERMAN movie. So yeah, that’s one of the ones we’re gonna do. We have a bunch of episodes for the YouTube channel that we haven’t put up yet. Those are concerning zombies and whether we like the fast zombies or the slow zombies.
We love subjects like, “What’s worst monster? What’s the best monster? What is your guilty pleasure monster movie that’s kind of ridiculous that you love anyway?” Like, BLACULA, when you think about it, is kind of silly. His name is BLACULA. At the very, very beginning of the movie Dracula says, “You will be known as Blacula.” What does Blacula say? “No, no, that’s not going to happen.” We can even argue movies like THE GREEN SLIME and to your average viewer, it might seem sillier and the effects might be a little substandard, but when you consider when it was made—and that they didn’t have much money—that makes you feel a little warmer towards that film.
You can check out more from Matt Weinhold at his official website or twitter, @MattWeinhold. You can check out the video podcasts of MONSTER PARTY here, or the audio versions on iTunes and other podcast hosts. For more pictures of Matt’s massive collection, please visit Fangoria’s Facebook page.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CYNOPIA PICTURES.