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Federation Con 2000

Bonn, Germany
May 19-21, 2000

Report by Katharina Steinberg

Friday:

Bonn. I will probably never understand how this "village" could once have been Germany's capital. I define a town by its public transport...Bonn IS an extremely beautiful, clean and peaceful, rather small town situated on the river Rhine. Just picturesque! BUT it took me 3 hours from the main train station to my hotel and to the convention hotel! And that happening to me of all people ... who had just arrived from busy Berlin.

At about 2 p.m. I had finally made my way to the Maritim hotel. It is one of these huge hotels where conventions of all kinds are held all the time. The Fedcon, the largest con in Europe with about 4,000 or 5,000 attendees, takes place at the Maritim every year. It was possible to buy tickets for the next year during this Con. This year already over 1500 (!) tickets for 2001 have been sold within the three days. Within the first few hours, many hundred had been sold. It became clear to me that I will presumably never sit downstairs, never close to the stage.

Every fan knows that only the Fedcon manages to get the "big names" like Brent Spiner this year or Levar Burton and Jonathan Frakes next year. At least the Fedcon is the only who can afford these guests! In the United States this may not be extraordinary, but for German conditions the line-up was quite impressive.

We had René (of course, why else would I be there!), Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Chase Masterson, Alice Krige and Brent Spiner, to name the most popular ones. Also I noticed some Babylon 5 people (Jerry Doyle and Richard Biggs), Tim Russ and a few others.

When I arrived I had 3 hours to go until René would be on stage for his talk. His talk was the first major one on Friday. Enough time to take a look around the Dealers' Room and meet some old friends as well as some people of ORACLE. (Hello to Joseph, who had made his way from Birmingham, UK!)

Against all my apprehensions, the event was extremely well organised, maybe even too well. It is surely hard to keep so many people in check. Therefore these huge Cons tend to be rather bureaucratic. This does hardly permit any exceptions made for single individuals. I must surely be every Con-staff member's nightmare since I tend to act up on my spontaneous ideas. And from time to time I keep having a lot of them! As we all know: Spontaneity and Bureaucracy don't mix!!!

So until 5 p.m. my day was rather dull. As always, my seat in the auditorium was in the very back, upstairs! The one good thing about it is having the full view on everyone downstairs. It was crammed! Minutes before René's talk people were already trying to step on top of each other. Simply to have the best position for taking pictures. Fun to watch what was going on there, as everyone can surely imagine. (The first thing I realized at my first convention was how extremely well-equipped Star Trek fans are, technically. I mean, all these expensive cameras and that stuff...)

I was so overwhelmed about the welcome René got! The crowd was just going wild! For two minutes there were just camera flashes to be seen and that NOISE! A wonder that he was not blinded by all the lights and eventually fallen off stage. 

Taking photos of the crowd

René himself had brought a little camera and took pictures of the crowd! (Oh, how I'd love to see them. Later on in his talk, René mentioned having taken similar pix years ago in Australia. Obviously they had turned out to be really funny. He mentioned that it would be a good idea to put them on the official website.)

He calmed down the crowd by saying "Settle down..." over and over again. A few minutes later he was then actually able to speak. I thought that was so cool. I mean, I wanted the Germans to make a good impression. (Looking back on the weekend, I think we all did.)

René was dressed entirely in black, apart from a brownish pullover. He wore glasses and looked unshaved. All in all he looked really smart and gentleman-like. And a lot younger than he actually is. I heard this of different people throughout the weekend, by the way.

After the first few minutes it became clear to me that any "resistance" on my part was "futile"! A true René Auberjonois fan was born. 

Say that again?

It is so easy to listen to him and to follow his talk! I was not bored for a single second. He was wonderfully responsive to the fans even if it was hard to understand the question (the language barrier!) or if the question was totally senseless. And he is an entertaining speaker as well. The way he works with his voice, his gestures and mimicry...I mean, you notice immediately that he is a trained actor and a professional.

I'm convinced everyone in the auditorium found him as sympathetic as I did and would surely not have minded talking to him some more.

One of the first things that came to my mind while he was talking was: "Oh my ..., he DOES sound like Odo." I had read before that people were disappointed usually because he does not sound like Odo at all. So I felt really strange since he sounded a lot like him to me. Not the voice itself... but the pronunciation, intonation, the breaks between words or the stress of certain elements of certain words. Things like these. Also his voice was a little rough at times. In the end, it was René who made Odo what he was. So it is not that surprising. 

René in Bonn

Of course, as always, there was one candidate among the fans who managed to completely embarrass himself in front of everyone. Yes, "Auberjonois" is a difficult name. Especially when you don't know French! But I couldn't even bring the word this fan said instead past my lips. Since the guy seemed to have a Dutch accent, this was a linguistic experience of its own. Including the lesson that followed: René had everyone repeat every single syllable of his name! Au-ber-jo-nois. Au-ber-jo-nois. Hmmm. Reminded me of language lessons back in my old school days. It was really funny...for everyone...except the poor fool, maybe.

René also gave a little performance of "Les Poissons" the song from the Disney movie The Little Mermaid. I had only seen the film and never seen him doing it...it was hilarious! He looked like a madman jumping around and "chopping" with his hands. As if he was totally out of his mind. Everyone just loved it. I bet a lot of people didn't even know that René's voice had been in the movie.

His talk was definitely a good start for the Con.

After the talk, the audience was more or less forced to watch amateur Star Trek films. To me, the whole procedure is like mental torture every time I have to watch one of them. I couldn't do it better, but I wouldn't watch them voluntarily either. They are just not good. One of the films had...ah...not worth mentioning. Just stupid!

The opening ceremony consisted of everyone saying hello to the audience. Once again I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the audience. Downstairs everything was literally erupting. Everyone got standing ovations. And the middle aisle was crammed with masses of people on top of each other for the best picture. I'm sure René must have been overwhelmed as well. So I hope, at least.

After that, Marina Sirtis and Michael Dorn had their talks. Marina was hilarious. She was mean and adorable, bitchy and funny, ironic and very British. I just loved that. She was extremely honest in what she said. I guess a lot of people may not like that. This must be an English kind of thing. Maybe that's why I liked her so much. Michael Dorn, however, got all the silly and boring questions.

After that I made my way first to Mc Donald's (where else would I eat at night in that village?) and then made my way to my hotel which was on a hill. Unfortunately I forgot my food in the bus! (I left my mind at the Maritim.)

Saturday:

René`s talk was quite early, at 11 a.m.. I had the...pleasure... to witness a part of the talk of Jerry Doyle and Richard Biggs before that. I never heard so many s..., f..., h... and p...y words at a convention or even in a single talk before. These two are extraordinary together. But, although it was meant ironically, they didn't seem to cherish their work or the series they worked on a lot. It seems that the Star Trek people love their work more and differently. I cannot see any of them refer to Star Trek like these two referred to Babylon 5. Anyway, It WAS funny. They had to ask if there were children in the audience all the time. 

René relaxing on stage

René`s talk was brilliant and extremely entertaining once again. I love his voice and I loved listening to him. I would have loved to hear him talking more about acting and directing. I don't know anything about it...and he has surely so much to tell. And, as I said, he is such an interesting speaker!

During his talk, René mentioned a signing for "Doctors Without Borders" he was about to do. I never really got the exact place and time...consequently I had to watch out for a sign or something after the talk. And just by chance, I realized that his signing had already begun. Bad luck for me: There was already a HUGE queue! I did not want to get in trouble and therefore I made my way to the very end of it. Fine!

In 30 minutes we had moved about 2 metres. I was afraid that I was not gonna make it to the table in time. Meanwhile, there were pictures being sold at his table and René was thoroughly signing them and taking pictures with people. That was why the queue was so slow. I just intended to take a look at what was being sold, so I passed everyone who was waiting. I was convinced the staff members would not let me come too close to the table. (Spontaneity and Bureaucracy!)

Surprisingly I could just walk through the crowd right to where the table was. I just slipped through. Everyone was hanging over the table looking at the pictures, buying them or whatever. I just mixed up with them. (I swear I had had no intention to do so. Just lucky!) There were two cartoons to be bought (one of a fat chef with a crab in his hand and the other of a bucket with sleeping Odo in it) and a picture of Odo and Lola, Odo and Quark, Professor Buonragazzo (presigned by Scarlett Pomers), a few of René himself or Odo.

While everyone else was trying to figure out which picture to buy I saw my chance and just said hello to René. (My heart skipping several beats. Not only because the staff had already spotted me as an "intruder".) Hmmm. Here, my memory lets me down a little bit... I told him that I had just come around to say hello and that I had to go away immediately to the very back of the queue.

Then, I was queuing up again. But, as everyone can imagine, my inner calm was gone! I DID want an autograph and the chance to say something. Right next to me the queue went into a different direction and was close to the table. I was at the end. I gave it some minutes of thinking and decided to ask some girls if I could join them. Well, so I did! If anyone had complained I would have jumped back to my old place immediately, of course. But it seemed that everyone was just dozing off...

So I got my chance. The person right before me got the last picture of "Lola and Odo". René was apologizing for that. (How in the world could he apologize for that! I should have been there earlier!) I simply got another one. 

Katharina and René

I really can't remember what we talked about! Eventually I had a picture taken with him that I really love. (Normally I hate photos of myself. But this turned out beautiful).

Seriously flushed, I went on and talked to Chase Masterson a bit. Unnecessary to say that I was already totally out of my mind at this point already. She is sooo cute and I loved her very much on DS9 which I had to tell her. Chase is just a wonderfully nice and adorable person I have to say. Then I went to see the rest of Brent Spiner's talk.

He was fun as well. He had this professional way of not answering questions that he didn't like without too many people noticing it. He also did perfect impersonations of Patrick Stewart and picked on him all the time. Brent looks like "the guy living next door" somehow, very ordinary. Although he is quite attractive and a huge laugh! I imagine there was a lot of crazy stuff going on at the set of TNG!

I skipped the rest of the afternoon programme and went "downtown" instead to get some food. I came back to see Michael Dorn in the evening. This time he was much more entertaining. A girl I had gotten to know through a friend of mine had these Klingon tattoos. The Klingon sign on her left upper arm and the face of Worf and a pic of his whole body on her upper right arm. She was a fan of him. When I saw it for the first time I told her that she should get it signed and then have the signature tattooed. Julia (that's her name, btw) said she had already planned it (she had an appointment in her tattoo studio already) and she was going to ask him during the panel. I was really excited for her. I thought she was a courageous girl. I like people who are not shy to show how much they love something. Although I don't plan to get a pic of René on my arm. (I know how much that hurts!) And she did it! Michael was quite surprised and when she went back to her seat he said : "Now that's a Klingon woman!" Guess how proud she was. She should have the new tattoo by now...

And Michael made everyone sing "Volare...oh-oh" "Cantare...oh.oh.oh". All the Klingons kept singing it during the evening in the bar. (Can you picture all these "tough" guys singing this rubbish song???)

Apropos bar. Chase Masterson and Lolita Fatjo were said to be the "dancing queens" and party animals of both the nights. Most of the men seemed to have stuck to drinking since the hangovers got worse and worse each mornings. I also heard of one of the B5 guys and something like "stripping". But I have not seen it. I just know if there is one people that knows how to party, it's the Germans!

I met some more ORACLE guys and had to get to my hotel. They close the doors at 2 a.m. and you won't get inside when you come later!!! Unbelievable.

Sunday:

I had to get up even earlier because Denise Crosby was on at 9:30 a.m. I had bought the video Trekkies a few days before the con and was keen on hearing some more stories. I asked if she never thought of one of the persons in the film as a freak. Or if she ever thought that someone should better go and see a doctor or was just not normal. Not that I thought so. I could just imagine that other people might easily think so. And I asked her about the fantastic pictures she got showing Tasha and Data nude.

Well, she was just lovely. Obviously the persons in the film did not strike her as odd or something. The only thing she mentioned was that this dentist told her how HE sometimes dresses up as Tasha. All right, she must have been quite astonished. So they told her it would help their sexlife! She didn't ask any further then. Denise liked these drawn pictures very much, too, although she really wondered where people get the ideas from. The affair between Tasha and Data was just in one episode when she was a bit out of her mind. Anyway, she told a lot of interesting things for example about Stephen King and the film she was in. (Pet Cemetery?)

The second signings had started at 9:00 am. I had number 2411 and was seriously worried not to get in. I could not have imagined that the guests would manage to sign 1400 autographs in less than 2 hours! Pretty impressive.

Considering these figures everyone can surely picture how it went. Very fast. I just managed to tell Marina Sirtis how boring, I thought, Troi was. And that it seemed quite unlogical to give Lwaxana Troi such a daughter. Later, during her talk she mentioned how someone had called Troi boring. Actually she accused someone else. I knew it could only have been me...and surprise, surprise...she admitted that Troi was indeed boring.

Michael Dorn is so cute! He's got such a handsome face. I only saw this when I was in the autograph line since I had never been so close to him before. .. 

René at the autograph table

After that I tried to pull my nerves together a little to face René. I really can't remember what we had talked about before! This time I just told him how lovely his French sounds. He had said before that his French wasn't all that good. I had expected an American accent in it, but whatever he said sounded brilliant and originally French. So I told him that I wouldn't know how he defined his French, but that it just sounded fantastic. Well, that's where my memory leaves me again. Except that another spontaneous idea struck me and I really got in trouble with the staff this time. (Well, I had forgotten something important and instantly ran back. And, NO, they didn't like it all.)

Hmmm. So the best part of the day was over. I went into the main hall to see the rest of Brent Spiner's talk again. (A couple of people were quite upset about the fact that they had to decide whether to listen to Brent or to get René`s autograph. It was a bit unfortunate indeed.)

This day, René had a charity signing again. I really did not know it this time and could just watch from afar. Unfortunately he was also selling original cartoons that he had drawn right there individually. I remember having seen one girl leave with the cartoon of a man reaching for a star and a different one I had never seen before. (I would have liked one as well!!!)

Someone also told me that there had been a live chat with René on Saturday. Again something that had been unannounced.

Once again I left the con. This time to get me some soft drinks. I came back for Tim Russ, Marina again and the Closing Ceremony. Unnecessary to say how much I, once again, enjoyed Marina.

And the ceremony was, in my eyes, embarassing. Except for Brent Spiner and Michael Dorn who had to catch their flights, everyone was there. But the programme was almost entirely in German. The guests cannot have understood a single word. Terrible songs were sung and the performances were just horrible. "What must the Americans think of us?" was my only thought.

That one guy of B5 who plays Byron (?) sang a song as well. He reminded me of Joshua Kadison a lot. Then, Denise Crosby sang a German song called "Du, ...liegst mir im Herzen" (something like "I have got you in my heart") which is a very old folksong. Her grandma sang it to her when she was a child. She would make a very good Folklore-dancer and if I wouldn't know better, I'd even suspect Bavarian roots in her. It was very funny. (She is not a real good singer btw.) Everyone liked it so much that she had to sing it a second time, accompanied by the crowd, of course. I have to add that it has a real silly, silly, silly text. It made the whole scene truly amusing. ("...you are lying in my heart, you are lying in my mind...blah blah blah...tender pain...when I'm not with you...yes,yes,...yes,yes.." and then some real high sounds!)

Then René stormed the stage (surprisingly) to give a full performance of "Les Poissons". He put on a white paper hat for it and turned once again into Louis. He is sooo good. And the audience just loved it. Afterwards he admitted that he had done the song a lot of times before but had never been excited. This time he was since all these "great actors and performers" were watching. After that everyone was saying final good-byes. The crowd was incredibly loud and the actors could only leave after a few minutes of standing ovations. It was a bit emotional indeed. At least it helped forget the programme before.

So, I made my way to the main station immediately. I just wanted to go home--to the other end of Germany--and right into my bed!

I had a truly memorable weekend!

Photos provided by Katharina Steinberg

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