Saturday, April 14, 2007

Live Long & Prosper: The Grand Slam


THE GRAND SLAM, Burbank, CA

As I got into the elevator at the Marriott Hotel in Burbank (which used to be the Hilton), two young women got on with me. One pointed to me and said to her friend, “See, I knew we’d see Star Trek fans right away here.” I smiled. Maybe it was the Deep Space Nine t-shirt I was wearing that tipped her off. Star Trek fans are so friendly.

I saw a bunch of folks gathered for the Star Trek Cabaret on Friday night, and boldly went up to them and said, “Why do all of you look familiar?” In truth, I only knew one by name. “Yeah, that’s because we keep coming to these conventions,” said one, laughing. That’s the key: We keep coming.

Friday night’s cabaret show was very small, featuring only four actors, and we had no idea what they were going to do. The crowd, though, was also very small. But appreciative.

The intense Walter Koenig (Chekov) read four chapters from his new book. George Takei (Sulu) was very charming as he sang some songs from his past. One song, “Sentimental Journey,” was one he learned at about age 7 while imprisoned in a U.S. Japanese-American internment camp in northern California.

Marc Alaimo came out with an unusual approach: he was going to teach three fans how to read an act in Hamlet. It was very entertaining, mostly when Marc took over and spoke Shakespeare’s words “trippingly on the tongue” so that we could understand it all.

Nana Visitor came out as the final act, wearing black pants, black jacket, light green blouse, and three-inch high black boots. Her hair was a dark brown, almost black, and she instantly smiled and introduced her piano player, her husband Matthew. She sang three songs for us. The first one she introduced as the song she should have sung on Deep Space Nine instead of “Fever.” She wanted to do “Fever,” but Ira wanted her to sing “You Can’t Take That Away from Me.” She now knows why Ira might have made that choice, and she mentioned the word “bittersweet” when it came to the Kira-Odo relationship. Other song selections were a Harold Arlen song I didn’t know, and “Lost in the Stars.” She said she was in a real competition with one actress a long time ago, and pretty much hated her. “I couldn’t hate her any more,” she related, “after I heard her sing that song (Lost in the Stars).” Nana completely owned the stage, and I was disappointed when she left.

Nana appeared on stage with Marc Alaimo the next day on Saturday. Together for the first time. The crowd was delighted. Marc played, with great authority, the Cardassian Gul Dukat. Dukat was the most evil person (thing?) you'll ever see in fiction. He was a great character, and everything revolved around him when he was in a scene. That is, except when Major Kira was around. I don't think I'm telling tales out of school when I say that Marc, the man, was quite smitten with Nana, and tried to get the powers-that-be to write more scenes of the two together. Especially a plot twist that would show Major Kira giving in to the head Cardassian, and becoming her slave. Ira Steven Behr, the producer and head writer, almost bit, and told Nana he was writing such an episode. However, it didn't quite turn out that way. Nana at conventions is quite adamant that she's sure her character would rather die than submit to Dukat. I don't think Marc took that as a compliment.

There is a huge draw, it seems, to Smallville's Green Arrow, played by actor Justin Hartley. I had seen photos of Justin as Green Arrow, and, gee, he always seemed to be a bit young to me. And the idea that he and Lois Lane would have a romance... I'm sorry, but it just doesn't fit in with comic book canon. Justin himself is a really engaging guy, though, and admits that he could spend two hours on a stage, talking to us or even himself. And he almost did. I predict great things for this young actor; his next project is the movie, P.S. I Love You.

I loved seeing Robert Duncan McNeill on stage. Robbie pretty much doesn't act any more, but he's very busy directing. He first learned to direct on Star Trek: Voyager, where he acted for seven years, and is very grateful to Rick Berman for allowing him the chance to learn the craft. He much prefers it over acting now. I will always remember seeing Robbie about once a year or more at some function, introducing ourselves as members of his fan club. He would get up from the table or whatever, and shake our hands, thanking us. What a class act.

But most of the fans seemed to be there for one reason on Saturday afternoon: to see Spike. James Marsters was there, and would even perform in his own show that evening (a separate event that I won't be attending). I found him engaging and energetic. In fact, so much so that I couldn't get a decent photo of him....they are all in a moving blur. No bleached blond hair, no British accent. Just an actor who works at his craft. I really liked the honest things he said. In response to a fan's question about the rape scene on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he said it took him to a dark place, a place he didn't recover from for a good four months. And with the help of therapy. Sarah Michelle seemed to have an easier time of it. He also said he feels like he went through a war with the folks on Buffy. When you work with someone for 15 hours a day for several days, you see the good and the bad, the complete person, because you can't hide. So, he doesn't feel he has to maintain contact with these folks and see them constantly.

It's interesting to see which sci fi shows people are keeping up with. Heroes has quite a following, and even though young (18, I think) actress Hayden Panettiere was five hours late and didn't get onstage until 7:30 pm, the place was almost packed. And when George Takei talked about Heroes, you had the feeling that many people were sitting in their seats just to hear about that, not about Sulu. Highlander has its remaining fans, usually female and aging, as evidenced by Adrian Paul's rousing welcome and the few Highlander jackets I saw. And there's still a bit of interest in Babylon 5, whose creator, Joe Strazcynski, is putting out a straight-to-DVD movie, The Lost Tales, featuring only three of the cast members. One of the Creation people stopped me on my way in yesterday afternoon, I thought perhaps to question my credentials, only to notice my B5 jacket and talk about the new one coming out.

On my way out of the building on Friday afternoon, I was asked if I'd answer a few questions about William Shatner and Star Trek. Of course! I forgot why, but, hey, if I'm asked my opinion, I usually don't need a reason. But it had something to do with Shatner's new project. They gave me a handout, so I'll have to do some research. My questions had to do with, are you a fan of him, why, what's your favorite Star Trek series and why.

Let me just say that it was wonderful being among Star Trek fans once again, and paying honor to actors who continue to keep us in their thoughts. And that we hope J.J. Abrams can get it right and carry on the Star Trek name in 2008.

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