The Phoenix Reporter and Item (http://www.phoenixvillenews.com)

BlobFest 2013 a sign of lasting enthusiasm for cult-classic


By Virginia Lindak, For 21st Century Media

Monday, July 15, 2013

The legendary 1950s science-fiction film The Blob was celebrated this weekend at Phoenixville’s 14th annual BlobFest. Released in 1958, The Blob starred a young Steve McQueen and Aneta Corsaut and was filmed locally in Phoenixville, Chester Springs and Downingtown.
The fanfare began the evening of Friday, July 12 at the Colonial Theater with the annual stage show, which this year featured the performance groups Ghoul A Go-Go and Patient Creatures, who warmed up the crowd before the hallmark Run-Out event. The Run-Out, where the audience re-enacts the famous scene from The Blob when everyone runs out of the theater onto Bridge Street, screaming for their lives as the Blob threatens to absorb them, Run-Out, was a sold-out success despite the rainy weather.
On Saturday, July 13, the weather improved and Bridge Street filled with vendors, children and adults in costume, as well as spectators from all over the country who came to enjoy the festival. The street fair was hosted by WPBR 103.3 radio personalities Professor Ouch and “Hot Rod” Scott Binder, who kept the ‘50s music going all day.
Binder said that he and professor Ouch have been coming to BlobFest for five years, and their favorite thing (other than The Blob) is the people.
“The people make it happen, really. The whole B movie thing has been great for BlobFest all the way around, for the old theaters, for the way it used to be, the whole retro living thing. It makes people feel good because it’s really the best stuff now,” said Binder.
The Buzzards, a ‘50s three-piece band, also played live music during the street festival. Among the day’s events were the fire extinguisher parade, the costume contest, the Olde City Sideshow, and Patient Creatures storytelling at Steel City. The Colonial also showed double features throughout the day of The Blob and the movie Them! A Scream Contest and Tin Foil Hat contest were also held during the weekend.
Each year BlobFest has a theme, and this year’s theme was Bug Out. Mary Foote, the Executive Director of the Colonial theater, said that each year they try to make it different and keep it fresh.
“It seemed with the whole cicadas coming back it might be a fun one to riff on. That’s why last night the band’s name (at the stage show) was ‘Sid Cada and the Exterminators” so everything kind of follows the theme,” said Foote.
BlobFest seems to gain popularity every year, and the crowds are larger, with people coming from all over the country. Foote said there are two major veins that keep BlobFest popular with the public.
“One is local people are really excited that a film like this that did pretty well at the box office when it was released was done in Phoenixville, so folks who are historians and love their town and love the theater, that’s big for them.”
Foote continued, “The second vein is this whole sci-fi ‘50s thing that just continues to be a fun thing. The ‘50s continues to have an allure for people and the Blob was shown during the ‘50s… …That’s why our map (a U.S. map where visitors are encouraged to place push pins marking their hometowns) shows people coming from all across the country, because they have the broader kind of energy around that.”
Dozens of tents were set up along Bridge Street with vendors selling quirky and unique items, everything from horror movie toys and t-shirts to Blob memorabilia and art work.
“We are very particular about our vendors,” said Foote. “We want them to kind of reflect the spirit, so we turn away people whose message isn’t quite what we’re trying to do. So we’re very excited about who we have this year.”
Special guests were on hand upstairs at the Colonial Theater for a meet and greet, including Wes Shank, caretaker of The Blob silicone, which is the prop that was used to portray the monster in the film. Made out of silicone and red dye, it is kept in a five-gallon metal vat. Shank said he first saw the silicone prop in 1965 when director of The Blob, Irvin “Shorty” Yeaworth, gave him a tour of Good News Productions and Valley Forge Film Studios in Chester Springs.
“Towards the end of the tour, he took me to a dark corner of one of the sound stages, and there (sat a) black five-gallon can, and he says ‘Hey Wes, the Blob is in that can’,” recalled Shank. “He took the lid off and here’s a couple gallons of this red sticky substance. I said ‘oh my gosh this is a real ‘50s movie monster!’”
Shank said he then went home and thought about it, and realized that he was afraid it would be thrown out like so many other Hollywood props over the years.
“I wanted to save it for posterity, as corny as it sounds,” Shank remarked. “So I badgered him for a number of months, and finally caught him at a weak moment and he sold it. So I’ve had it for just about 48 years now.”
Shank said he brings the blob silicone to BlobFest every year because people enjoy seeing it.
“It’s like the biggest thing that ever happened to Phoenixville was the making of this film and so many people remember it. It means a lot to local people. This was a unique movie monster. And to take something amorphous like this and bring it to life and have it terrify the entire world at the time, was something special. It was a very talented crew that pulled that off, that was headed by Bart Sloan, who was the special effects guy.”
Another very special guest in attendance this year was Keith Almoney, who played Aneta Corsaut’s kid brother Danny, in The Blob. This was Almoney’s first BlobFest. Now living in Houston, Texas, Almoney said he received a phone call to come to BlobFest.
“I had no idea there was a thing as BlobFest,” said Almoney. “I’ve had a terrific time, the people have been absolutely wonderful and I would like to be able to make it here the next year.”
Almoney signed autographs and took pictures with Blob fans. Almoney said he earned the role of Danny by attending a casting call at his church in Phoenixville where Blob director Irvin “Shorty” Yeaworth were members.
“Shorty Yeaworth was the guiding light behind the Blob, was also the director of the choir and played organ and the piano at our church, First Presbyterian,” said Almoney. “He put out a call at the end of one of the church services. All I knew, it was Good News Productions. When I arrived I was totally wrong for the part; Aneta was very dark, very French and I had really blond hair, but I had already memorized my lines. I read it, and speed read in the car on the way there, so when I got to the call I was already there. So they thought I was a very precocious young lad and they gave me the part.”
Almoney said his favorite memory about his time making the Blob, was working with Aneta Corsaut.
“She was a peach. She really was, a nice, nice lady. That would be my best memory.”
Thursday evening in Chester Springs, a walking tour was held in honor of BlobFest. Groups were taken around to the different buildings in historic Yellow Springs which Blob director Yeaworth owned in the 1950’s. At that time, the village was Good News Productions, where many films were made, most famously The Blob. People attending the tour were able to see firsthand the studios where many scenes from the Blob were created and filmed. Stories about filming in the village were also recounted by actors portraying Yeaworth, McQueen, Corseaut and many others.
Executive Director of Historic Yellow Springs Eileen McMonagle said Yellow Springs village has a connection with the Blob.
“This is a living a village, and I think having this connection with the Blob, it really does reinforce and re-emphasize that living aspect of the village and the way the village has reinvented itself over and over again,” said McMonagle. “There’s something about this place that it really does support the creative aspect, that inspires people and it’s great to have that popular culture connection through the Blob.”
Yeaworth’s son, Kris Yeaworth, was also a special guest at BlobFest. He greeted loyal Blob fans, and brought albums of photographs of life at Good News productions, and stills taken during the making of the Blob.
“What made it stand out was not so much the special effects, I think what made The Blob distinctive was that it was in color. That was the real breakthrough,” said Yeaworth. “That was the concept behind it, for us to make it in color so that the monster (changed) when it engorged…the baby blobs haven’t eaten anybody so they’re not red. They don’t get red until they eat and eat blood.”
Continued Yeaworth, “The more Blob centric this (BlobFest) is, the better it is. You saw how many people were here in the rain and they weren’t here to see any other attraction, they were here to see the recreation of the running out from the movie. That’s what they were here for. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Phoenixville, so anything that’s going to help Phoenixville survive, I’m all in favor for.”
Yeaworth said his best memories from making the movie were the times he spent with future screen icon Steve McQueen.
“The most fun I had was my relationship with Steve McQueen. He used to say to me, ‘Hey Kris, here’s a quarter go down to Hallman’s (General Store) and get me a pack of Pall Malls.’ So I would get him cigarettes,” he said. “When he first showed up he pulled into the garage driveway and he said, ‘Kris we’re going to have a great time this summer.’ We started to, and then I found out about ten years ago my father told him to stay away from me, that he was afraid that I was going to become like him. The bottom line is that he was a wild guy.”
As the legend goes, when star Steve McQueen was found at the end of his life after an illustrious film career, he had just one thing in his possession; a photograph of the Blob.
The impact of this iconic film and movie monster continues to live on and thrive, reaching new generations of fans each year at BlobFest.