“It’s all about spreading the Joe LOVE!”
Those were the words so enthusiastically declared by Beth Biallas of the Chicago Division of the GIjOE Collector’s Club last Sunday in Algonquin, Illinois; site of 2012’s Chicago Toy & Action Fair (CTAF). Indeed, while tending the registration table, she was more interested in greeting and thanking everyone who attended than worrying about which helmet went with what uniform. Her husband Ron Biallas, President of the Chicago-based club, agreed completely, adding…
“You can call it spreading the ‘Joe Love,’ or ‘Joe Karma,’ or whatever you want, but it’s all about the same thing. These are just toys, after all. Primarily, we’re here to have a good time with our friends, family and other collectors; enjoying a mutual hobby together in the spirit of good, clean, family fun. That’s why we host a show every year.”
Ron and Beth’s upbeat attitude set the tone for what was to be a fun, intimate show for GIjOE fans. And it was great that they’d decided to donate 100% of the gate to the Relay For Life campaign to fight cancer (typically between $500 and $800). Now THAT’s some serious “Joe Karma!” Ooh-rah!
For those who’ve never attended a Chicago-area Joe show before, it’s predominantly a “buy-n-sell” opportunity for collectors. I didn’t see much trading going on, but there may have been some. And unlike other events, such as the much larger Joelanta show in Atlanta, the CTAF has no additional “official” activities added-on, such as film festivals, diorama contests or parachute drops.
Despite the lack of “dioramic competition,” Ron and his son did set up a table-top diorama in the middle of the room, using little 3 3/4″ Joes, various vehicles, accessories and a lot of DIRT. Ron also repaired and displayed his famous 9/11 dio again, which features 12″ Top Cop and Top Jake figures.
Of course, if a fan happens to bring along some 1:6 scale RC vehicles or wants to set up a diorama, accommodations can quickly be arranged (Ron is the head custodian at the high school, after all). This year (as in past years), Ron had set out some large carpets to protect the basketball court surface, thereby allowing “tankers” such as Ramon Mendoza and Larry Godson to show off their RC tanks.
Of Ramon’s three tanks at the show, the crowd favorite was clearly his massive, show-stealing, Tiger 1. It featured scale-accurate armor, very realistic smoke and sound effects and a recoiling main gun. (Psst! His smoke secret? Burning baby oil.)
Weighing in at up to 300 lbs, the Tiger 1 and other tanks had to be driven up a ramp in order to get them back into Ramon’s vehicle after the show. A small crowd quickly gathered just to watch the procedure. It was so COOL!
When pressed for more details about his largest masterpiece, Mendoza was quick with various construction tidbits, but hesitant to reveal the Tiger 1’s total cost, saying…
“I built this up from an Armortek kit that took over a year to complete. I even added all of that zimmerit detail with a mixture of plaster and cement. During the war, the germans applied it to prevent the allies from sticking magnetic anti-tank mines to the hull.
As to my final cost… I don’t know if I should tell you… My WIFE doesn’t even know this! But… oh well, with all the parts and add-ons… I guess I’m into it now for about 8,500 bucks.”
Ka-CHING!!! After everyone’s jaws were picked up off the floor, Ramon continued…
“Here’s something interesting for your article… This Tiger 1 was used in an independent film recently. I can’t tell you the name of the project or anything, but the filmmakers built an amazing 1:6 scale village, and hired me to be their official ‘tank wrangler’ operating the Tiger 1 through its scenes.”
Ramon’s comrade in armor, Larry Godson, brought along a Panzer III. He said it weighs about 150 lbs and he’s been working on it for over 3 years as an ongoing project…
“These are essentially highly detailed models that are also RC. I’m constantly buying and installing add-on parts, not to make it faster or more maneuverable, but to increase the level of its reality and detail. To date, I’ve added about 90 improvements, many of which you can’t even see, all to help ratchet up the realism. Fortunately, 1:6 scale is a good size to work at for RC tanks.”
(Editor’s note: Waterslide decals for 1:6 scale tanks are now available at Patches of Pride.)
Together with a few others, Mendoza and Godson recently started their own RC tank club, officially sponsored by the First Division Museum at Cantigny. All parties are excited about the development and are looking forward to club members demonstrating their RC tanks to kids during events held in the museum’s education building. (More Joe-Karma!)
Bottom line… this year’s show was fun, fun, FUN. Friendships were reaffirmed, deals were struck, and collectors made happy. This was the Chicago Division’s seventh show (last year’s was cancelled due to the poor economy), and according to Ron and Beth, there are many more to come. Remember… “It’s all about the Joe Love!”
(One final tip…Avoid taking the toll roads near Chicago. It cost me $7 in tolls getting to the show from Champaign-Urbana. Take ANY of the many other routes available and you’ll have that much more money left to spend at the show!)