My buddy Clifford Brooks was showing me around San Francisco neighborhoods when he did an abrupt U-turn and grabbed a parking spot the other night. "You have to see this place," he said, nodding toward a showcase window with a giant blue robot: Heroes Club: The Art of Toys.
We could only stare in the windows at the shadowed array of collectibles since the shop had closed for the day.
But since we both grew up with Aurora model kits and Famous Monsters of Film Land, we returned the next day for a museum-like tour through an array of super heroes, soldiers, Bruce Lees, steampunk figures and a generous smattering of monsters including a full-sized Jason Voorhees looking down from a ceiling perch.
Before the Icon
Smaller Jason replicas including a Friday the 13th Part 2 version in a pre-hockey mask burlap sack joined various iterations of Michael Myers, Freddy and a host of other vampires and creatures. An incredible life-size Nosferatu offered a sinister gaze from a rear showcase, and a wooden-frame 3-D replica of the Famous Monsters back page monster mask ad graced another shelf.
"Are you guys collectors?" he asked.
"Just looking," Cliff said, observing a price tag.
That didn't seem to bother him. He proceeded to show us a Count Dracula ring and a similar Mummy ring with, he noted, finer detail than some other versions.
A Hong Kong native, he noted his favorite movie is The Exorcist and pointed to a wall where a bas-relief face of Pazuzu stared forward.
A hand-eye-coordination statue, not for sale, peered from another case. "That was a gift from Stan Winston," he said. On yet another shelf stretched, a monster from a Twilight Zone-like series from Asia, never seen in the U.S. "Asian people know this," the proprietor said. "U.S. people not so much."
A Godzilla figure with an actor stepping out of it was a littl more more recognizable for U.S. audiences.
One of the most fascinating items was a hand-crafted vampire hunter's kit (seriously click the link and have a look) from Zom Bee Toys, maker of Frozen Dead figures as well.
Moving it from a shelf to the counter, the proprietor offered a closer look. It looked Van Helsing-ready with bottles of holy water and a metal crucifix, plus a weighty wooden mallet and an array of stakes.
"These are hand crafted," the proprietor said, noting the handle-rings etched in the wood and the finely-honed points.
"They sharpen these by hand," he noted, demonstrating the twisting technique and stressing the whittling style of points would be much more jagged. "It takes a lot of time to do that right," he said.
I'll never convince Christine to adopt a collectibles decorating theme, but it was a nice spot to visit.
Here's hoping the economy doesn't squeeze out this kind of coolness.