On Friday the 12th of February, Geoffrey and I went up to Portland for the 12th annual Mad Hatter's Tea Party. We went with some trepidation after last year: the old venue, the Ramada, had been bought out by DoubleTree and the DoubleTree people had behaved abominably towards the Mad Hatter's Conventioneers. So badly had they behaved that many of the artists who'd been to every Mad Hatter's before that one told the people running the show that they wouldn't come back if it were again held at the DoubleTree.
So, the convention was relocated.
Unfortunately, they were unable to find a suitable venue for holding the convention in a single location, and it was necessary to have the Convention itself at the Italian Heritage Center, while declaring the "official" Mad Hatter's hotel to be the Merry Manor Inn, which not coincidentally was under the management of the former manager of the Ramada, who knew and appreciated the income possible when hosting this convention.
As far as we're concerned, this was only a partially successful compromise.
The old Mad Hatter's had been extremely cozy and had a kind of family reunion feel to it for the artists, and with after hours schmoozing with artists possible for their fans. If an artist was working on a more private area of a client's body, they could just move up to their rooms to work. The plan had been for a pool party in the tradition of the old Ramada days, but because of permit snafus the indoor-outdoor pool at the Merry Manor was a construction site.
It was sad to see the changes. There were not enough rooms for magazine photographers, but the magazines seemed to have decided that perhaps this was the beginning of the death knoll for the Mad Hatters, so only one magazine-affiliated photographer was even present. A few of the artists who'd been givens at former Mad Hatter's found better things to do. Brian Everett and Tony Olivas were both conspicuously absent.
Saturday, we decided it was just not the old Mad Hatters, so we checked out of our room and spent the day at the Italian Heritage Center, from which we left late afternoon for home. We went in to Jan Seegers photography seminar late, and wish we'd gotten in early. It wasn't just a dry lecture, but an audience participation thing, with people in the audience as subject and photographer, and the audience shouting out suggestions to the photographer of the moment. Lots of fun - I recommend it highly if you go next year.
Monetarily, I think the convention itself was probably a huge success, at least if Saturday's gate was any indication. While there were the would-be gawkers who walked away incensed that they would actually have to pay all of $15.00 to have the right to look at the roomful of freaks, they were in the minority. The hall, which was about twice the size of the old rooms at the Ramada, was jammed full on Saturday. It got a little too smoky in the bar area for our tastes, but the tattooing area itself was kept smoke-free, which only makes sense for a room full of people getting their skin abraded.
Will we go back? Probably. Next year the pool should be finished, or perhaps Lou will find a better alternative for show and hotel accommodations.