One reason you go to the Grand Slam is to see the people there. It’s not so much people watching, although there’s that, too. It’s more to see the people you have a nodding acquaintance with, and the people with whom you share this wonderful obsession.
I immediately saw someone I knew (besides the usual Creation employees I always say “hi” to): JoBeth. I first met JoBeth back in the mid-nineties when I went to Lunch with the Doctor, the second such event but the first for me, where we got to meet Alexander Sidding (Siddig El Fadil at the time), get autographs and ask questions. Gayle, the coordinator of the event, found out I was meeting friends at Disneyland, which was right next door, and asked if I’d take JoBeth with me. I had never met her before, but any friend of Gayle’s is a friend of mine, so we brought her along with us. JoBeth was a school teacher back in Texas, but now she’s a college professor. She’s an avid amateur photographer, and her digital SLR with huge flash is something to behold. She always takes the best photos, in large part because she usually has the best seats, right down front, and is very generous in sharing them with the Star Trek newsletters.
I asked her on Friday if she could send some to Carol for the Far Beyond the Stars newsletter, as I knew my photos would be horrible because my seat is so far away. She instantly told me she’d send me a disc with photos on it. Who do you want? Well, actually, all we need is Nana, I said. So I wrote my address and email on a business card for her, and she promised to send about 100 photos. Talk about overkill! But that’s what we do here.
On Friday night, I saw Gayle Lynn, whom I had seen at many a function. She originally headed the Philip Anglim fan club. Philip was a tremendous actor, starring on Broadway in The Elephant Man before he guest-starred for several episodes as Vedek Bareil on Deep Space Nine, but now he's retired to a farm in Virginia. Before that there was a charge of stalking against Gayle Lynn concerning some other star, or at least that’s what I had heard from several sources. That night when I gave her a hug and asked her how she was, she replied, “I’m….all right, I think. Yes. I’m fine.” (She always was a trifle dramatic.) When I asked what happened, she said she had been assaulted that morning by a homeless person, who threw a rock at her for no reason. She was still shaken up. The others I sort of recognized, and sat with them for the cabaret performance. When we saw that so few of the Gold section people showed up for the cabaret, we moved up a bit.
When Marc Alaimo gave his Shakespeare talk, he invited three fans to join him on stage. The woman right in front of me tentatively raised her hand. I whispered, stand up! She did and was chosen. She ran to the stage. Maybe she’s a budding actress? They were all asked to read from the Hamlet speech, and Marc would help. She read her lines beautifully, and it turned out that her son was studying Hamlet in school that very week. But I noticed that none of her friends were taking photos, so I took several. When she got back to her seat, I offered to send her the photos if she’d write her email address down for me. She was delighted.
There were some terrific costumes about, but fewer than in previous Grand Slams, during its glory. Truth is, the Las Vegas convention has taken over the grandeur of Star Trek conventions, grandeur that used to only belong to the Grand Slam. That’s why they added “Sci Fi Summit” to the name, so people would know it’s no longer about Star Trek. The Las Vegas one is totally devoted to Star Trek. The Cylon I saw out in the courtyard never showed at the costume competition.
And the little kid dressed as Spock wasn’t there, which is really too bad, as he would’ve taken home some neat prizes. The Andorian woman won the competition, but almost didn’t make it, as they started the durn thing a full half an hour earlier than announced.
When I attended the Battlestar Galactica charity breakfast on Sunday morning, we had to wait in line in the freezing shade for half an hour before they opened up. The security person told me that the keys they brought down to open the place didn’t work at first. The man next to me in line had his son with him, and was cheerfully complaining about the fact that they missed two photo ops with some stars because they had too much to do. “I put it all on a spreadsheet,” he told me, “and we still missed them.” Walter Koenig was grumpy about it – “He was kind of a jerk” – but George Takei, as predicted, was very nice and accommodating when they showed up a few minutes late. Apparently he and his son had Gold tickets, but decided to also go for many photo ops and autographs. That sounded so familiar to me that I had to smile. Creation used to include all the autographs, but they no longer do. And now they’ve added photo ops – gosh, we used to have photos taken of us with the stars when we got the autographs. Now that you can no longer do that, it’s really quick getting 500 autographs in. It used to take hours before.
At the breakfast, I saw Julie Caitlin Brown standing by the wall, which I thought was very peculiar. I used to be involved in Julie’s fan club in the ‘90’s, and even helped her with her autograph session in Sacramento one year. She was a very versatile actress, 6’ tall (which was called for in some of her roles), acting on Star Trek’s Next Generation and Deep Space Nine (one role each), and had a recurring role on Babylon 5 as Na’Toth, G’Kar’s assistant. She quit the latter role when she demanded that the producers sign a legal document promising to provide free plastic surgery if and when the makeup caused damage to her skin. The glue of the prosthetics was already causing damage; Michael Dorn’s problems were already well known. They refused, and she quit, and had problems after that getting roles as aliens.
I saw Julie again when I stepped up to get Katee Sackhoff’s autograph, whom I wanted to see and say hi to (not knowing the breakfast would afford me that opportunity). She was sitting with Katee, and when I arrived at the front of the line, she recognized me instantly. I asked her, “Are you representing talent these days?” and she replied, “Oh, I’ve been doing this for 12 years now!” Good for her. Her aggressiveness, I’m sure, will pay off. I saw her later escorting Kate Vernon, who played Colonel Tigh’s wife on Battlestar, so I’m sure she represents her, but I’m not sure if she’s managing Katee. That would be a real coup if so.
I landed a fantastic seat, I must say, for the convention. I monitor the Creation website on a daily basis, looking for when the convention I want goes to the reserved seats instead of just the premiere Gold. I no longer want to pay $500 for the seat, and I don’t “need” the autographs any more. My seat was right behind the Gold, and I was on the aisle. I would sneak up several rows, kneeling in the aisle (along with several other fans) when an actor would arrive on stage, and try to get a better photograph, scramble to my feet, then come back to my seat, usually to find my seatmate had moved over so she could get a better shot. Everybody in my row was very friendly, though, and it wasn’t a problem. Sometimes you’d come back after looking in the dealer’s room to find some other non-reserved person sitting there, but I’d just tell them to move over until the rest of the row showed up.
The young woman immediately next to me only came to two events, making it even less crowded in our row: James Marsters and the Battlestar panel. She was definitely younger than the rest of us, and seemed to know people in other parts of the auditorium. I kind of wonder, though, why she would pay for this reserved seat if she didn’t use it, but maybe she found a way of sitting with her friends.
I have to say that, and this didn’t used to be true, meeting the people who share your passion and talking with them, even if briefly, is one of the great highlights of convention life. I have really missed it.