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Mangodance's Johnny Lightning

LightningFest 2001 Report

Below are pictures (soon) and text for my account of the events at Lightningfest 2001. LightningFest (LF) is a gathering of Johnny Lightning diecast car collectors that takes place at the company headquarters in Mishawaka, Indiana. Enjoy!

... LightningFest (LF) 2001 ...

...or... T/A goes to the Big House...and BOY is he pretty!


I got my rental car in Louisville ...a brand new Chevy Malibu... and a pretty sweet ride at that. It had a CD player so I brought a stack of CDs... mostly music that travelled well. From Louisville to Northern Indianaoplis, it was pretty laid back...a little Grateful Dead, some Steppenwolf, Dave Mathews, Midnight Oil...etc. Every once in a while the speed got away from me a little. I tried keeping it in check until I popped in a White Zombie CD just as I was leaving North Indianapolis. That's when it all fell apart. There should be a warning label about not driving machinery while listening to WZ. Needless to say, the speed REALLY got away from me. At this point I'd like to thank the two nameless Indiana State Troopers for their kind Christmas gifts to me that day! Otherwise, my JL money would have gone to the scenic state of Indiana!

I ended up a little late for lunch. I walk in and see Al sitting with tow guys who turn out to be MartyB & T/A Tom. I walk up and say, "Gentlemen... ...Tom." I order, and while we wait, there is all manner of whining with T/A going on about not having good WL luck, "...why don't you make my other cars?", "...do you think these jeans make me look fat?" --you know the sort of thing. Anyway, so there's the three of us... Al, Marty and myself...eyes glazed, pupils fixed, while T/A drones on about every snippet of minutia including some sort of physical relationship with his car, when suddenly we get a reprieve...the food came! Then, I look up, and Da' Goalie comes sauntering in. But he couldn't sit with the lowlifes ..oh no! He had a seat in the beautiful people section! ;-)

And, it's always fun meeting folks you write to online, but some are a surprise. I had no idea T/A was a ...er ...well ...had undergone some surgical work. T/A, we all applaud your courage to be you!

BTW, MartyB KNOWS how to travel -- a big ol' Lincoln Town Car! But then, I think I can speak for all of us when we express our deepest sympathies to anyone who has to ride several hundred miles with T/A Tom!!! They said lenny was lurking around the dealer sale but I never got to meet him.

Then, Al, MartyB, T/A Tom and I went back to the PM offices and some gawking at the Wall of Glory! Man! Almost all of the cars Playing Mantis has made were on the walls. T/A was the only one of us that had probably seen that many White Lightnings in one place! It was here that someone had left the door open and a stray Robdog walked in! Luckily he was wearing his rabies tag so we felt OK about petting him. When he saw the wall though, he started barking and running around in circles! We made every effort to keep him away from anyone's leg.

The upcoming Mervyn's bus is rather nice. I have a feeler in to Mervyn's to see what the scoop is on those.

There are toys everywhere at Playing Mantis' headquarters! The new Rudolf stuff is great looking! Photos were hard to get at the wall but I did what I could. It's sort of in this hallway, and around the corner, but the lighting for digital pictures is poor.

We then invaded Al's office, where he proceeded to cover up everything, and answer every question with "Call the 800 number"! ;-P

Just funnin'. Al showed a great deal of concern for detail and explanation of all manner of intricacies in the process. We're all the happier for his eyes and attention!

I also got to see "the box" where they put unruly employees. Some of you may know this as Brian's office! Hockey figs and pictures abound--a man after my own heart!

The back is mostly warehouse space and large pallets of boxes and industrial supplies and didn't really make for good pix.

So, we get out of Al's hair and go to check into the motel before we all go toy shopping. While we're transferring all manner of goods into the motel, we keep seeing this red-haired guy with a Notre Dame cap standing outside smoking. He even held the door open for several of us. Later that night we found out that it was none other than NASDAQ, er Nissan80 ...NsAn80 ...whatever-the-hell. More on him later.

Toy shopping we go ...MartyB, Robdog, T/A Tom, and myself. I now know the desperation most of Ohio feels when T/A is making the rounds. He knew about toy hidin' places I've never heard of! We stop at several places and largely get skunked. The reason was soon made clear to us. We found Hunter creeping around the diecasts in our stop at Meijers! At first we thought he was part of the Halloween display, but when he moved and spoke, we suddenly knew why the town was in diecast drought!

We hit the last few stores and we all meet back at the motel for liquid vitamins. Robdog and I had to hunt high and low for a Liquid Vitamin store and upon arriving back at the hotel saw that there was one almost next door! Sometimes ya just can't win!

We all went back to Robdog's room and while we prepared the nourishment, Robdog commences to marking territory. Clearly a faux pas in polite company! And I'm not sure if the cleanup crew will be able to remove the stains! Anyway, we (Hunter, MartyB, Robdog, T/A Tom, and I) were sittin around gabbin' with the door open when in walks the aforementioned red-headed guy with the crappy hat! It was NASDAQ (or whatever ...see above). Introductions all around. Decent guy with a one-track mind! GTOs. Don't you hate these guys who can talk all day about a single model or brand of car? GTO this, GTO that* I mean*.I didn't hear a single word about VWs! ;)

A good time was had by all. I left at around 11 or 12. I made some excuse about not having had much sleep, but in reality, how long can ya listen to T/A talk about " me" this, or "me" that, "...me, me, me, me, me". I'm not sure what happened after that, but I am aware that Mishawaka Police went on alert the rest of the weekend!

Just before going back and making a few phone calls, I go to the front desk and ask for a wakeup call. The guy grinned and said "Four o'clock like everyone else?". I said no ...those guys need shock therapy.

Saturday, mayhem and madness ...or ...Canadians are different:

I get to PM's lot at about 0630 as I needed to be ready to shoot by 0700. And after seeing Hunter so early in the morning, *I was absolutely ready to shoot! I walk up, and there were probably 80-100 in line. The crew from the previous night had arrived early. I started snapping pix before I went over there, and they were nice enough not only to give me greetings, but also sign gestured for the hearing impaired! I walked up and said "Greetings gentlemen, ...Tom!" They pointed out a couple of Canadians who were first in line. They had apparently arrived about 10-11 the night before and slept in their chairs! After another 20 mins the line had doubled.

A few seconds later, Teddy yelled at me from his van. I went over and spoke to him for several minutes He was just there for a few hours and was going to drive back early. Pity. He's a good guy and was sorely missed later that night. I met MARKHOS and went in at about 0705.

I felt like I was in that part of the Wizard of Oz where everything goes technicolor! There was WAYYY more stuff than last year's warehouse sale, and the prices were great! All manner of loose cars and cases of PMJLs, Polar Lights, Cpt. Action, etc. etc. were laid out all over the place. And this doesn't even speak to the continuous flow of cases from the back warehouse later during the sale! I got so busy taking pix and talking to folks getting ready I had almost no time to look at stuff. I met rwwcarguy (Bobby) and his fiance radchik1 (Debra) -- a nicer couple you'll never meet! Hot Rod Al and Da' Goalie were zipping back and forth like ants on a disturbed nest! Other Playing Mantis employees I remembered are: Tom Lowe, Eileen Maloney, Al Pletcher, Tom Ramey, and Lori S. I'm sure I forgot a few but I got flooded with all the new faces/names and hope that some of you might help me out with the rest.

When I did finally get a sec to look around , it was about 0755 and I looked for a minute or two before going out to take more pix of the line and the first rush.

OH THE CARNAGE! It was as if the sale area was under vacuum. Once the doors opened, it flooded with people. It was PACKED from the 0800 opener to about 1300 or so.

While inside we continued to try and figure out BB members. In addition to the rogue's gallery from the day before, I met Mr. Stubbs, marsboy, mbcatbird, Max Power, Triple20, 41-Willys, thummbs, Ultrahot, Valiant100, _________________________ (need help here guys).

T/A Tom didn't move from a 15-20 foot strip of table for HOURS! But I'll say one thing, he's the luckiest mother that ever walked an aisle of diecast! ...grinnin' like a Cheshire Cat!

Around 1100 or so, I strolled over to the tent with the custom contest, and the traders tables. Some folks had set up early and stayed there for the duration! I later found out that one of them was Alleydude! Unfortunately, he got away and had left before we took group photos. Ken if ya read this, hang around some next time!

I busied myself with taking pictures of the custom entries and parking lot activity when two fine officers from _________________ walked into the tent. At that point, I felt like Jake Blues when the light hit him in James Brown's church! I go over and talk the officers into arresting T/A Tom! They were okay with it at first, but when I added the request for him to get a cavity search as part of the deal, they wavered. So I said "What about just hitting him with pepper spray then?", and they really perked up! Since T/A was still inside, I asked them to wait for a while. They agreed and I set about telling most of the BB members and asking them to keep it under wraps. About 1/2 and hour passes and T/A is wheelin' & dealin' in the parking lot. I pick up our newfound officer friends and tell them his name is Tom. They ask, "Does he know this is going to happen?". I say, "No." They ask, "Don't you think you should tell him?" I ask "Where's the fun in that?" So as I'm quickly trying to ready the camera, they go grab him. I barely got the camera to shoot just as T/A turns in shock when the officers call his name, grab him and tell him he's under arrest! I only wish I'd taken the picture a split second earlier to get the full shock! But I think you'll see he was still startled in the picture. We're still a short distance from their car (which was actually made in the JL series __________), so we arrange for some shots of being put in the patrol car and T/A consents. This is where it goes terribly wrong! Here we are, T/A getting arrested, when suddenly a diecast car discussion ensues between one of the officers and T/A. Suddenly, we find out that the officer's personal vehicle was also made by Playing Mantis! It was the _______________ in the __________________ series! T/A says he has his car with him and asks him to sign it! The officer said he would, and the rest of us are left shaking our heads! T/A remarks "No one will believe this!, so the officer signs the car, whips out his card and says, "Here, keep this with it for proof." MAN!!! Leave it to the luckiest collector on the planet to fall in a pile of ...er ....fertilizer and come out smelling like a rose!!!

I go back to the tent and take more custom pictures. The winners were:

Best of Show: (stretched Dick Dasterly car) was Chris Bullington
Presidents Choice: Mark Hosaflook - (Lightning) Fest Diorama
Best Diorama: Mark Hosaflook - (Lightning) Fest Diorama
Best Detail: Adam Hosaflook - Tom Daniel Diorama
Adult Wild: Randall Leeth & Chris Bullington's car - Henry J "Old Henry"
Mild Adult: Evan Davis - Black Ford Roadster
Junior Wild: Zach Simon - Wheel Stander Dodge
Junior Mild: Kelly Hosaflook - Scooby Doo Diorama

Anyway...all the while there is a sale going on. Can ya believe it? So I go back over and the crowd has thinned out considerably. A lot of diehards remain though. Al is getting lots of participation at the track. So T/A and I go to race my aforementioned White Lightning Surf Rods VW bus against one of Al's cars ...an Al's Body Shop _________ coincidently enough. We raced. It is my unfortunate duty to report that the VW lost. However, it lost by ).003 of a second ...and with a BENT REAR AXLE! So after all the smack I talked, I had to eat a little crow!

At this point, it was near 1400 and it was last call at the sale. I went to settle up, and felt as if a great weight had been lifted from me. When my head cleared, I found that weight had been my wallet! ;-) It was a good thing Mrs. Mangodance had to cancel at the last minute. There was no room for another person in the car once I packed it!!!

It was back to the motel for me to rest for about an hour or so before hitting the Mishawaka Brew Pub later that night.

PART III: The good, the bad, & the ugly ...or ...Marsboy is panic-stricken!


I arrived at the Mishawaka Brew Pub for the festivities to find Markhos, his wife Kim, his children Adam & Kelly, MartyB, Nissan80 (or whatever) Robdog, & T/A Tom all talking smack and playing pool. Mr. Stubbs was already sampling the wares. I tried getting some pictures inside the brew pub, but it is extremely dark and only a few came out. I was able to lighten some of them up, but they lost some quality in the process. In the next hour or so, rwwcarguy (Bobby)and Debra (heavyweights in the karma pool!) joined us, along with Al and his wife Cindy, Triple 20, _______________ (help me out here guys). Anyway, the food was ok, but the beer was better.

A short while after we all finished eating, rwwcarguy and Markhos presented Al Pletcher (Hot Rod Al) with a well-deserved plaque of appreciation on behalf of the Hobbytalk BB members. He never saw it coming. After a short speech, and a tip of some glasses, I think he was relieved to sit and talk comfortably around the table again. Al, our appreciation is larger still. We just want a hug!

So, everything was settling back down when marsboy comes in, frantic. It seems he had left a box of White Lightnings in MartyB's car during the fest, and forgot about them. He'd been looking for them for several hours! We had all been talking about it roughly 1/2 hour before. MartyB and marsboy leave to go get them, and after several minutes, a greatly relieved marsboy returns with MartyB. Funny. He didn't have the same humorous reaction to all the "We auctioned them!" comments that the rest of us did.

A little later, many of us were awed by some folks at the dartboards. They must have played really well as Valiant100 couldn't seem to take his eyes off of them! I can say no more about this subject! ;)

A little more gabbin' followed and we all split up in the parking lot to go our various ways. It was a good Lightningfest...hopefully the first of many. It was good (mostly!) to put faces with names. But I'm sure most of us still only remember handles! And everyone should be rushing to the stores in Northern Ohio while T/A spends Christmas in Prison.

Now it's YOUR turn! If you went to LightningFest #1, PLEASE send me a text accounting of your experience/memories. I'll weave them together here and scatter the pictures throughout.

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