Tom DotyTimes Columnist
September 6, 2012
This year, the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, or MANC, celebrated its seventh year with a three-day event at the Hunt Valley Marriott Hotel, outside of Baltimore.
Marylanders who attended the event felt like they were zapped back to the year 1966, when science fiction shows were in vogue with the premieres of Irwin Allen’s “The Time Tunnel” and “Tarzan.”
Guest were treated to all manner of 1960s fare, with opportunities to pose with the original “Bat-Mobile” or take in films featuring guests of the convention. Guests included stars like Shirley Jones, Jay North (TV’s “Dennis the Menace”) and William Sanderson (“Deadwood” and “Blade Runner”). There were plenty of vendors on hand selling DVDs, film posters, books, photos and all manner of curios based on vintage films, television and radio programs.
This year, I got to attend the convention thanks to its coordinator, Martin Grams Jr. Turns out the moderator who was supposed to handle a discussion with the stars of “The Time Tunnel” had to cancel. The panel included both stars of the program, James Darren and Robert Colbert, and it couldn’t have gone more smoothly had we rehearsed it. This was all due to the camaraderie shared by these gentlemen, who became friends when they worked on the show over 40 years ago.
The evening flew by, thanks to insightful questions from the audience which allowed the men to cover a variety of subjects. Colbert proved to be an excellent storyteller with a taste for ribald humor. He recalled many highlights of his career with a wink and a smile, as he made fun of the preposterous plot developments he endured on “The Young and the Restless.” He recalled suggesting they put him in a dress when the producers of television’s “Maverick” suggested he wear Mr. Garner’s costume while filling in for the actor during a contract dispute.
James Darren also proved to be a very funny fellow, as he fielded questions about his work on the show and his film career. He had several audience members on the brink of tears as he described why Sandra Dee made for the ideal “Gidget” because of her poise and beauty. His humor also caused some eyes to fill as audience members guffawed over his story about how he got cast as a futuristic lounge lizard on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” Apparently, it was all in the designer shoes he purchased for the character. He remarked that the footwear was designed by an eminent Italian stylist who made a mint off his designs, and then confessed that the shoes were hideous but totally worked for the character.
Afterward, Mr. Grams was very kind when he said that my interviewing skills were well liked by several audience members. That just shows you how nice the attendees were. I was nothing but a designated pointer. I simply let people know when they could ask their query by saying, “You, in the red shirt,” or, “The young lady in the front row has a question.” That was basically all I did, but please don’t pass that on to Mr. Grams, because I can’t wait to do it again next year.
This is definitely the event for people who don’t even like conventions. Everyone makes you feel welcome from the moment you arrive and the celebrities are happy to be there. Colbert said it best at the end of our panel, when he turned to the audience and thanked them for still caring about the work they had done so long ago.
He and Darren then finished the evening by turning the tables on the audience and asking, “This is Maryland, right, So, where can we get the best crab cakes?”