Friday, May 06, 2005

StarFest 2005: Revenge of the Fest, Day 1 

That was the official name of the convention I attended last weekend. I still feel utterly drained, but I will attempt to describe my experience anyway because if I wait much longer I won't be able to remember it anymore. And this was something I don't want to leave unshared.

Ok, got up somewhat early Friday morning (April 29) to go pick up the wheelchair I'd rented. A glamor-mobile it was not, but they were only charging me 15 bucks for three days' use, so I wasn't gonna complain. It was a tad awkward getting it into the trunk, but it did fit.

After everyone waited around for me to tidy up and come more fully to life, Dan and our friends Greg and Angie and I killed some time before the convention registration at 5pm. We went to Media Play, where I finally obtained my own copy of the '70's edition of "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" with Gene Wilder in it. We also went to an autograph shop and a Disney store in one of the malls. I wasn't using the wheelchair at this point because I didn't think I'd need it.....I was shocked at how difficult it was for me to get just halfway across the mall. By the time we did this and a brief stop at Best Buy, I was nearly done for.

We decided to have late lunch/early supper at the Outback....nothing like a 7 oz. tenderloin to recharge my batteries. We got to the convention shortly after registration began and already had to park somewhat far away, so Dan got to learn how to steer the wheelchair in the parking lot. He did amazingly well. The registration lines for VIP were pretty short. Much to my surprise, one of the convention guests, Matthew Helms, was standing right next to the line. He's a young local actor who has a 4th degree Black Belt.

We took a look at the schedule to try and figure out a game plan. We opted to skip an SNL-style sci-fi parody show (maybe next time) and wander a bit. We went in to a room containing all kinds of free movie posters for upcoming releases. I grabbed a few for souvenirs.

Our next stop was the dealer's room, where there are all kinds of memorabilia for sale. It was somewhat crowded, but not too bad. Here is where I found out that when I'm in a wheelchair and Dan is pushing it in a noisy room, he can't hear me, so it was difficult to get where I wanted to go. I also discovered here that I'm suddenly invisible in a wheelchair except for other people in wheelchairs or scooters and little kids in strollers. Whenever I would try to take a picture of something, people would move right in front of me and not notice me at all. And if I asked them to move, like Dan, they didn't hear me. To be fair, when people finally did notice me, they were very helpful. And the convention overall was extremely accessible, which proved to be a good thing because there were more wheelchairs, canes, etc. than I've ever seen in a single gathering of people. So even though I could have gotten much better convention photos had I been up and walking around, I did get to see most of what I wanted. And it was incredible how much more energy I had when I wasn't dragging my arthritic body from one room to the next!

Where was I? Ah, yes, the dealer room. Surprising lack of memorablilia featuring the convention guests. But there was sufficient material to keep me entertained. And if you were into autographs, this was the place to be as Iconographs was there. I'd seen their wares in Vegas, so I knew they had good stuff, but I was not prepared for such tempting fare as the original "Star Wars" casts' autographs, original "Star Trek" signatures and a signed Val Kilmer from "Tombstone" that made Dan drool. All were safely out of my price range, but then I stumbled upon a binder of "Lord of the Rings" autographs. No fair! Uncle! The ones I wanted most, Orlando Bloom, Viggo Mortenson, Ian McKellan and Christopher Lee, were a bit more than I could spend with a clear conscience, so I decided to pass for the moment and give it some thought. Turns out I gave it a lot of thought, even dreamed about Orlando Bloom that night, heh heh.

Next we went into one of the small viewing rooms for something called "Bad American Dubbing". They should have called it "Bad Narration and Editing". I couldn't leave, though, because Dan had wandered to the restroom, so I hung around for awhile and managed an occasional chuckle until we were ready to move elsewhere.

Found the art room and got a good long look. Very impressive stuff there. "Lord of the Rings" characters drawn so life-like that at first I thought they were photos. Someone really liked Eowyn because I saw several drawings of her. But the best was Legolas. Also lots of mythological themed art that I enjoyed.

Before committing to any of the scheduled shows, we decided to peruse the dealer room again with the intent of making some purchases (at least that was my intent). I had noticed that the Shatner photos and autograph signings on Sunday were going to be really close together, and I was concerned that the photo wouldn't be ready in time for the autograph, so I bought a photo of Captain Kirk with his trademark smirk for Shatner to sign instead. Also went to one of the author's tables and spoke to Christie Golden, a local lady who has written 25 books. Asked her if she enjoyed these conventions, which she did, and she told me about some of the other places she has gone and about how she was thrilled to meet Sean Astin when he dropped by the dealer room last year. I purchased one of her new novels, part one of a sci-fi/fantasy series, and she happily signed it for me. She said sales were going much better than expected already. I thanked her for her time and left impressed at how friendly she'd been.

By now we were starting to see attendees in costume, which was pretty entertaining. I noticed Gollum, a stormtrooper who unsuccessfully evaded my photo-taking attempts, Starfleet Academy uniforms, lots of goth, pirates, Darth Maul, and costumes too strange to describe. A table in front of one of the restaurants was taken up with Klingons who would have looked perfectly natural riding in on Harleys. Their costumes were mostly leather, wonderfully elaborate and many appeared handmade. They were smoking and drinking heavily, exactly what you might expect from Klingons hanging out on Earth in 2005. We popped into the restaurant for a bit.....the others got Cokes, and I drank my bottled water and ate some dried pineapple and peanuts I'd purchased at one of the tables.

After this, we attended our first formal star presentation: Dean Haglund of "The X Files" fame doing improv. While waiting to get in, I saw a very striking woman who looked familiar, but I couldn't figure out where I'd seen her before. Turns out it was Claudia Christian from "Babylon 5". The room where the presentation was to be had stairs in it, so I ditched the wheelchair outside the room and made my way slowly to my seat.

I didn't know this at the time, but Dean Haglund used to do improv with Ryan Stiles and Colin Mocherie of "Whose Line Is It Anyway", one of my favorite shows. So when he used the same comedy techniques to improvise an episode of "The X Files", I was delighted. First he grabbed an audience member to do sound effects for him while he acted out a scene. He also had members of the audience provide his hands for him (he wore a jacket to cover up his own arms) and play Mulder to his Lone Gunman incorporating material written by the crowd. And Claudia Christian stepped forward to improvise some film styles with him. They asked the audience to name a country, and some wit yelled out, "New Jersey!" So they went with it, and added dialog from Ireland, Japan and France. By the time it was over, my face hurt from laughing.

We decided to call it a night after Dean Haglund. There was going to be a showing of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" at midnight, but I think no one would have enjoyed it but me, and I needed some sleep.

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