Monday, October 8, 2012
Yesterday I went to a little tiny sci-fi convention here in Orlando. Most of the entire con was held in two mid-sized ballrooms: one a vendor/autograph room, and the other with a stage for panels and auctions. There were maybe 30 or 40 vendor tables. The celebrity autograph tables were placed unassumingly at the end of the room, so that I literally almost bumped into the table where Dwight Schultz sat.
It was awesome.
Now, you have to understand, these little conventions were my gateway into geekdom in my teen years. My mom would drop me and my friend Chris off at the hotel doors, and we'd spend the day learning about warp drive theory in tiny rooms equipped with 50 chairs and an overhead projector, or watching someone get made up as a Klingon, or playing sci-fi Trivia. Then we'd gather with everyone else in the main ballroom to see John De Lancie or Leonard Nimoy (Yes! We got Nimoy one year!), followed by a trip to the vendor room where we'd buy Bajoran earrings and bootlegged copies of Star Trek bloopers.
In fact, I think some of those same venders were there yesterday. Except now the bootlegged copies are on DVD instead of VHS.
(Yes, that's me as a teenager. BEHOLD THE AWKWARD.)
(This photo was taken sometime in the early 90s, btw, and John De Lance hasn't aged a day since. It's positively unnatural.)
There's a very different atmosphere at a small convention, and for people like John who are only used to big cons like MegaCon and massive cons like Dragon*Con, it's a bit...confusing. John walked into the vendor room yesterday and actually started laughing. Then he looked around wide-eyed and asked if this was really all there was:
Meanwhile I was nose-deep in a pile of old action figures and musty-smelling Star Trek books, talking a mile a minute to my friend Julianne (a life-long Trek fan who'd tagged along) about how I had some of these trading cards at home, and I once bought a plaque like that with Q's picture on it, and ohmygosh she should totally buy a Klingon forehead.
By the time I came up for air John was playing Teeny Wings on his phone. The heathen.
The people at small cons are different, too. They're a more laid-back bunch, and will happily yell out remarks or questions during a panel or auction, and the moderator on stage will most likely joke right back with them.
You might think the vendors would be desperate for business, but I didn't feel the slightest pressure shopping. And since there was no one else around, we even stopped to chat with several sellers for a while. I also met an awesome new (well, new to me) artist, Nathan Szerdy.
Of course, the best part of small cons is rubbing elbows with the actors - sometimes literally. When we arrived Sunday afternoon the con was winding down, so most of the celebs had no one waiting at their tables. They chatted freely with each other and anyone who wandered by. Some, like Robert Duncan McNeil, even strolled out to chat with the vendors and people in the aisles.
We walked right up to Colin Ferguson - who impresses me more every time I see him, he's so genuine and approachable - and talked for a bit about some mutual friends of ours. There was no pressure at all to buy an autograph, since no one else was around and Colin seems to really love just chatting with fans. He's also totally real with you, talking about personal stuff in his life pretty openly, and for every person that comes up to him he sticks out his hand and says warmly, "Hi, I'm Colin."
Our friend Julianne was excited to see Robin Curtis, who played Lt. Saavik in Search for Spock, but Julianne was really shy about approaching her. So we waited for an opening, and then I led our little trio up to the table. As we made our way over John said under his breath, "You know you're doing the talking, right, Jen?"
Now, I don't know if you guys remember my post about losing the ability for coherent speech when I meet celebs, but I used to get majorly wigged out. Like, meeting the guy in the Darth Vader suit at Disney reduced me to a shaking sweat-factory. I can't say what changed exactly, but this past year I've found I'm a bit better at it. Maybe it was the last book tour. Of course, it helps when the people you're meeting are so sweet, like Colin or Robin.
And Robin, let me say, was astoundingly sweet. I walked up with Julianne & John on either side of me, and said I was a fan of her work and just wanted to say hello. She immediately lit up with this big beautiful smile and reached for my hand, saying how kind it was of me to say, and the next thing I knew I'd gotten Julianne into the conversation and we all ended up chatting for a good ten minutes or more. (It helped that Julianne's mother went to high school with Robin.) Again, no pressure to buy the autograph; just a group of people chatting.
The convention closed out with a panel with Colin. The room was less than a third filled, and before they got started the coordinator played the Klingon parody of Gangnam Style and had everyone in the audience do the horsey dance... for the entire 4-minute video. Yes, really. It was...painful. And hilarious. Thankfully he invited anyone who wanted to record the spectacle up on stage, though, so I crowded up there with my camera. Oh, and they made Colin Ferguson dance right in the middle of the crowd, too, poor guy. He was a great sport about it, though, so if you want to revel in the nerdy hilarity, here's about two and a half minutes of it:
And that, my friends, is why every geek should attend a small convention at least once: to soak up the crazy geeky fun in a super casual and relaxed environment. And maybe make a memory or two. Or record a room full of geeks horsey-dancing - and then post it on the internet. (Mwuah. Ha. Haaaa.)
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