Monday, September 8, 2014

Get Ready for the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention!

Angela Cartwright will be there!
The Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention--or MANC as its fans call it--will be held September 18-20 in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Now in its ninth year, the MANC attracts thousands of fans of classic films, television, and radio. This year's impressive line-up of celebrity guests includes: Connie Stevens, Piper Laurie, Angela Cartwright, Veronica Cartwright, George Lazenby, and Lana Wood. Like other fan conventions, attendees can get autographed photos from the stars (usually for a price) and buy memorabilia from vendors. However, MANC also features seminars, panel interviews, a banquet, and special screenings of rarely-seen movies and TV series. A highlight of the three-day event is a celebrity auction with all proceeds going to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Martin Grams, the event coordinator for MANC, was nice enough to talk with us about this month's MANC.

Café: What inspired the very first MANC back in 2006?

Martin Grams: As an attendee and vendor at more than 26 conventions a year, I observed over time what I thought was the best and worst of ideas. Every convention has its own flavor. After seeing the handwriting on the wall at a few of these events, I felt it was more important to help carry on the tradition with the best of ideas. So friends of mine and I put together MANC, applying the best of what we observed at other events. This turned out to be a recipe for success because the crowd has consistently grown about 200 to 300 people in attendance every year. People keep referring to our show as a throwback to the way conventions used to be. And that is a good thing. 

Café: Some of our favorite stars will be at this year's MANC. How do you determine who to invite? 

Margaret O'Brien at the 2013 MANC.
MG: There are multiple factors that we take into consideration when determining which celebrities attend MANC. Draw appeal and popularity is one factor. We have a working budget but we have to be careful not to go into the red. The rising cost of airfare has not been helping. Celebrities who attend other events are scrutinized. If they develop bad reputations among attendees at those shows, we look in another direction. If they win over the attendees, we take them into consideration. If they are celebrities requested by frequent attendees, we also take that into consideration. The age and health condition of the celebrity is another factor. But the decision is based on educated and practical reasons. Of course, a sponsor for MANC can also wave our decision in a specific direction.

Café: Your screening schedule includes a plethora of hard-to-see movies (e.g., four Danny Kaye shorts, the Ritz Brothers' Straight, Place and Show) and TV series' episodes (e.g., Casablanca, the Playhouse 90 teleplay of The Days of Wine and Roses). Which ones were the hardest to track down?

MG: We pride ourselves on screening rare films that you won't see anywhere else. While our event is not a film festival per say, the selection of films makes our event qualified as a film festival. Especially if the films are not available on DVD through the commercial market or the "grey" market. This year we are screening the lost 1955 I Love a Mystery television pilot with Howard Duff. The film was discovered a year ago and transferred to digital exclusively for us for the convention. You won't see that available anywhere else. We never seek out rare films. We have access to hundreds of rare films and when one strikes our fancy, or there's a connection with a celebrity we have at the show, it's a natural selection.

Café: The MANC web site lists all the interview panels, screenings, and seminars--but are there any events that you'd like to highlight? 

Rocky Lane played Red Ryder--
and was the voice of Mister Ed.
MG: There are so many events at the show that it is difficult to highlight one above the other. Authors, historians, museum curators, film preservationists, and other notables host panels and slide show seminars. We encourage slide show seminars rather than have a guest speaker stand up on stage and talk. The attendees enjoy visuals during presentations. In the past, we had some top-notch lectures such as the history of Dick Tracy in comics by author Garyn Roberts and a history of Buck Rogers by Maury Cagle. This year the most anticipated event is probably the Allan "Rocky" Lane slide show. Linda Alexander, author of the new Allan "Rocky" Lane book, contacted Lane's family and had access to the family photos. Her presentation will no doubt impress even the most die-hard of cowboy fans. I heard more queries from attendees about that presentation than any other this year. 

Café: What can attendees expect at the dinner banquet?

MG: We always have a musical performance from a gifted singer. Sometimes a magician or Abbott and Costello impersonators entertain. Donald and Mary Ramlow direct a "lost" radio re-enactment on stage complete with microphones, sound effects and scripts. This year's highlight is the very first Dragnet radio broadcast from 1949, which does not exist in recorded form. The first two or three radio episodes never had the familiar theme song and to ensure accuracy, we will include that theme song. We also have an awards ceremony.

Café: This year, you're doing something very unique by streaming the MANC over the Internet. How will that work?

Piper Laurie--another 2014 guest.
MG: As easy as it sounds. We will set up a camera with a computer, connected to the internet, and people from all over the globe can, with the push of a few buttons, watch the events live as it happens during the weekend. All of the seminars, panels and presentations are streamed. There is a small fee to pay for the service, but it costs money to upload the video to the internet and the nominal service fee people pay is usually a lot cheaper than flying to Maryland to attend the show. Especially if they live in Alaska, Hawaii, California, Canada, you get the idea. But if potential attendees live within a couple hours drive of the hotel, they might as well make the trek since the cost of admission is the same as paying to watch the events live on their computer. 

Café: We're going to put you on the spot here: Who are some of your favorite celebrities from previous MANCs?

Roy Thinnes of The Invaders.
MG: Well... since this interview will be made public, that does put me on the spot. I wouldn't want celebrities from past events to discover their names were omitted. Let's just say the three celebs that left me with a big impression were Roy Thinnes, Ron Ely, and Jeff Connors (son of Chuck Connors). Educated and well-spoken, you could have an intelligent conversation with them and long for more. But celebrities who attended past MANC events have all been wonderful and hospitable. Our priority is to have attendees having fun all weekend and the celebrities make good on that policy.

Café: The celebrity auction to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital sounds like a great event. What are some of the items donated by celebrities this year? 

MG: In the past, we have had autographed items donated by Elizabeth Taylor, Casey Kasem, Alan Young, and other celebrities. This year, we have autographed items from David Hedison, Peter Fonda and two more just came in this morning. We have original television scripts donated by actor Jim Rosin. Attendees always bring vintage merchandise to donate to the auction and I am constantly impressed with some of the items people are willing to part with--great stuff that helps support children with treatable cancer.

Café: Finally, what advice can you give someone coming to their first MANC? 

The autograph and vendor room.
MG: This is a large venue so attendees have to expect the usual handicaps that result from large events. What might be considered the best seating in the panel/seminar room will fill quickly so people need to get in the room 10 to 20 minutes early if they want the best seats. Don't book your hotel room the night before the convention. The hotel sells out quickly. This is the first year we sold out of dinner tickets in advance, so anyone who usually shows up at the door and buys dinner tickets at the show will probably be disappointed when they discover that the dinner tickets are all sold out. The Saturday night dinner banquet is certainly a highlight of the weekend. 

Café: Well, we do have one last question: Any hints about what stars may be attending in 2015? 

1960s pop singer Lesley Gore
on TV's Batman.
MG: We have a cast reunion for My Three Sons, Donna Douglas, Jon Provost and Lesley Gore slated. There are two big surprises I am forced to withhold until contracts are signed, but I can tease they are very huge names. The best way to keep informed of the latest news is to subscribe to our email newsletter or "like" our Facebook page. Even if they do not live close enough to consider traveling to the show, they should still subscribe to our email newsletter because we offer free surprises throughout the year, giveaways, informative articles and much more.

You can learn more about the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention on its website.


  1. Thanks for the heads up on this, I signed up for their email.

  2. I wasn't familiar with the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention before I read your interview, Rick. Thank you so much for letting us know about this awesome-sounding event!

  3. It's probably the best of the non-genre star conventions on the east coast. Reasonably priced too. This will be my third year!