Guests: Armin Shimerman, René Auberjonois, Mary Kay Adams, Claudia Christian, Robert Duncan McNeill, Ethan Phillips, Roxann Dawson, and Robert Picardo, plus Richard Arnold, stunt people Leslie Hoffman and Brian Williams, and other guests
Bomb Scare at Philadelphia Hotel
July 30 - Despite two days of peaceful protests, tensions remain high in Philadelphia, site of the Republican National Convention. So when a suspicious ticking box was spotted in a hotel conference room today, police officers quickly sprang into action.
A bomb squad evacuated hundreds of guests at the Adam's Mark Hotel after a hotel employee stumbled upon a ticking box. Using a remote-controlled robot, investigators discovered a surprise in the box - several ticking clocks.
Investigators suspect the incident may have been a prank. The hotel, which is located several miles from downtown Philadelphia, has not received any bomb threats.
Besides GOP convention-goers, the hotel was also housing visitors of different kind of convention - one celebrating Star Trek.
- WPVI in Philadelphia and The Associated Press
Yes, the news report above was, indeed, talking about us. Any good convention has memorable moments that the people in attendance will remember for years to come, and this Slanted Fedora con was no exception, on many counts - but the "bomb scare" has to rank as one of the most unusually memorable events of any recent con.
We had over 20 René fans at the con over the weekend, from ORACLE and RAFL; the core group that hung out around our photo sales table and came to the room parties (yes, plural!) numbered about 14. Many of us knew one another from online conversations but were meeting face to face for the first time, which was great fun. We shared hotel rooms, meals, laughs, and lots of conversation all weekend.
These lovely RAFL/ORACLE folks generously gave of their time to collect a pile of autographs (from Voyager people as well as from René and Armin) on script covers and press kits that Gayle Stever will sell or auction in the future. Our club table also sold the Sustenance for Solids cookbook, Odo-Files Journal, piles of blank photos that René autographed.... and René personally drew about 170 individual "Odo's bucket" cartoons for people during his autograph sessions..
Thanks to all these efforts, we were able to make a charity donation to for Doctors Without Borders of $2,230.00 - not a bad weekend's work!
A quick description of the physical set-up at the Adam's Mark: our con basically occupied one HUGE ballroom, plus the corridor right outside. The ballroom was divided in half by a few curtains, with one side the dealer's room and the other side holding the stage, the seating - and the fan club tables. My daughter Miri and I were there right when the dealers were setting up at noon on Friday, so we were able to claim a prime spot, on the wall to stage left. We filled two tables with our stuff. A local SF fan club had a table next to us on the right, and Robbie McNeill's fan club set up late on Friday to our left.
For me, the sound system was good - too loud, sometimes, but the volume meant that I did not feel guilty about us sitting over against the wall, selling photos, while Bob Picardo or Mary Kay Adams was up on stage talking to the audience. You could always CLEARLY hear anyone using a microphone, no matter if there were other conversations or things happening elsewhere in the room.
René was, as always, wonderfully generous with his time and energy. He and Armin arrived in Philly around 5:00 a.m. on Friday morning. They caught some sleep, then rehearsed for their play, and then in the late afternoon (a bit after 4:00 p.m.) René came down to the ORACLE table and sat with us for a while, signing autographs! In fact, he sat at the club table several times over the weekend... one example of his generosity, because there were regular autograph tables set up in the corridor for all of the actors to use, but he preferred to hang out with us. (In comparison, Robbie McNeill sat with his fan club once, I think, but the rest of the time he was out in the hall).
René sat with us over an hour on Friday, before getting some dinner and then doing the play with Armin at 8:00... and then he came back again for about half an hour on Saturday after lunch... got interrupted by the bomb scare.... did his onstage talk with Armin.... then came BACK to sit with us for another two solid hours at the end of Saturday afternoon.... And on Sunday he came down to our table and signed from about noon to 2:00, took a brief break, and then joined the other actors in the corridor for the final blizzard of autographs from 3:00 to 6:00.
René smiled and had pleasant words for EVERY one of those hordes of fans who came up to him.... one lady had him sign her StarFleet uniform, there was the usual assortment of TV Guide covers and Star Trek Encyclopedias and action figures.... and whenever someone asked if they could take a photo he said "sure," and never even lost his patience with the several people who asked him to pose, then didn't seem to know how to operate their cameras.
He also seemed to have fun spotting all of "his" personal fans whenever he saw us over the three days. He didn't always remember all of our names, but he would greet people with, "Hi, dear," or "You again!?"
Several of us worked behind the ORACLE table - me, my daughter Miri, June, Ina, and Chris all did several hours at various times, and just about everyone else dropped by and gave moral support, even if they didn't actually handle the money pouches. It was fun but hard... the whole time René was signing autographs he couldn't really converse with the person sitting next to him, because he was concentrating on greeting the fan on the other side of the table who was getting the autograph... and of course WE couldn't pay too much attention to René, because we ALSO had to concentrate on the people coming through the line, to sell them photos or answer their questions about the 'zines or punch their Slanted Fedora autograph cards or whatever. For instance, I heard later that, at one point, Ethan Phillips came up to the table and was joking with René, but I had never noticed because I was making change for a customer at that moment. My heartfelt, public thanks to everyone who gave up some of their social time to act as "store clerk" for the table - your help was invaluable!
So much happened at this convention that it's really difficult to sum it all up in any coherent fashion. What follows includes the points of view of a lot of different people, and as many interesting details as we can collectively remember. (The name of the person "talking" is at the beginning of each section….)
Miri and I arrived in Philadelphia in the wee hours of Friday morning, and got safely to the hotel. We knew that it was the eve of the Republican National Convention (scheduled to officially begin Monday), which would dominate Philadelphia in the coming week…. we had not realized ahead of time how much that fact would effect us, but found out . Our hotel, it turned out, was the home base for the Illinois and Arkansas delegations, so their members were arriving all weekend. Travel into and around the city was already difficult on Thursday and Friday and got worse and worse all weekend (more about that later) - and on top of that, there were strong summer thunderstorms in various places around the country, which caused additional delays and cancellations for many airlines - and the people traveling on them.
Around 10:00 a.m., we got a wake-up call from Judith and Cecy, who told us all the arrangements they'd made for a fan club party for Friday night... in addition to providing food and beverages, they were renting a video player to show tapes during the party. This became more stressful than they expected, when the first player they rented wouldn't work, and the video store couldn't deliver a new one until evening (more about that later, too). During the day, we made sure everyone in the group knew the time (right after René and Armin's theatrical performance) and place (Judith's room) for our gathering. Judith and Cecy also invited Armin and René, and around lunchtime they had a chance to talk with Armin, who assured them he was looking forward to coming.
Miri and I got the ORACLE table set up after lunch, and the con officially opened at 2:00. The first event on the schedule was the film Trekkies, and, as I mentioned earlier, René arrived shortly after that and signed autographs until about 5:30 p.m. We closed the table up at about 7:45 p.m., and took our seats for the evening performance: "Theatrical Jazz."
- 5 a.m. Pacific Time wakeup call in Los Angeles…
- At LAX, plane begins boarding at 8:10 a.m.. Find plane seat (window), sit down, await take-off, only to find we have to sit around for 20 minutes whilst Captain Croft gets a new route down round the southern states on the way to Philly; because thunderstorms from Chicago east would screw us over if we went that way
- around 9:00-ish, we take off from LAX. Plane ride is uneventful except for another reroute all the way down to Florida and turbulence that made me sick (it rarely does)
- finally landed in Philly near 6 p.m. Eastern Time. drag myself and two bags out the gate
- FINALLY get to the hotel about twenty minutes later
- haul my becoming-very-tired self through the door, check in with Slanted Fedora people, get my tickets there and continue towards the elevators. see a petite girl with short hair, passing thought of "is that Marguerite? no, this girl looks like she's my age" crosses my mind as we exchange a polite smile and hello before I continue to the hotel check-in counter
- find out my roomies HAVE to be there before I can check in to pay - begged Jennifer to find Chrysa for me
- drag myself back downstairs, to meet Chrysa and Amy (though at first I think she could be Miri for some odd reason!) and take Chrysa back with me to the desk
- start signing a trillion travelers checks when Jennifer returns with the petite girl I'd passed in the hallway and I discover SHE is Miri. (thought of "DUH, resemblance to Marguerite, no wonder I thought it was her!" immediately pops into my head)
- find out that Ronda (my one non-RAFLer roomie) left me a message but can't seem to find Ronda herself anywhere at this point
- go up to room, get rid of my stuff, come back down and browse about the dealer room for a bit before I head over to the Oracle table. finally meet Marguerite herself and a few others
- searching all over the place for Ronda, finally find her BACK by the desk, take her up to the room then head back down just around the time for René and Armin's show
I'll just list a few notable incidents and make some observations, leaving the blow-by-blow accounts to those who do them better.
-Disrupted transportation schedules were the story of the con, but I am forever grateful that my five-hour delay was on the way back home, rather than on the way to Philly.
-Never have I seen a hotel food service more incompetent than the personnel who staffed "Appleby's," the hotel restaurant and providers of room service. Apparently they had taken a pledge to allow no order served before an hour or two had elapsed. I ordered the beverages for the Saturday breakfast with René the night before, reminded them at 9:45 a.m, got the beverages at 10:45, and then had not enough cups and glasses. On the other hand, the banquet service was impeccable.
- Before the play, René insists everyone move to the center for better viewing, then the spotlights come on and everyone hollers at Dave Scott about glare on the metal plaques. René pretends to try and pry one off, even picks up his foot and mimes kicking it off and picking up the little decorative skirt to drape it over the top, much to the audience's extreme amusement! Finally, the two apply duct tape and all is well.
- René and Armin do several wonderful skits, including an Odo and Quark scene. They didn't tell us what it was or who it was by, just that we audience members got to participate as "panicking civilians". Armin "directed" us, saying "when I go like this (making 'come here' mention), scream for all you're worth. When I go like this (slash across the throat), shut up". We all laughed and agreed. Armin returns to his seat and he and René shuffle through their notes before beginning. (Can't speak for anyone else, but the second René crossed his arms and turned to Armin, I KNEW what they were doing.)
"Ladies and gee-entlemen ... the next President of the Yew-nited States ... Armin Shimerman!" [wild applause] -- René Auberjonois, right before the play
While we may have been outnumbered by Republicans in the Adam's Mark Hotel in Philly, the Trekkers certainly had more fun, especially during Armin and René's Friday night performance of "Theatrical Jazz," a collection of performance "bits" pulled from various sources and presented by two actors who really know how to work an audience.
I had seen an earlier version of "Theatrical Jazz" in Lansing back in April, and been suitably impressed -- especially by Armin's rendition of Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart, but the Lansing performance, done in a more intimate setting in front of maybe forty people, in no way prepared me for the bouncing-off-the-walls level of energy that Armin and René would bring to the Philly show, performed in front of I'm not sure how many hundred people.
The silliness began even before the show proper started. Con-organizer Dave Scott was first onstage, doing his usual, "no cameras, no recordings" speech prior to the play, giving updates on future Slanted Fedora events, when René appeared just offstage to the right (audience's right) - Dave didn't even notice him there (the audience did, though). After a few minutes of letting Dave ramble, René began messing with the audio equipment, eventually coming on stage to do some sound checks ("one two, one two, one two") ... to be joined shortly thereafter by Armin ("three four, three four"). Why am I mentioning all this incidental stuff? Because the atmosphere in the con auditorium was such that Armin and René were getting some pretty good laughs out of us before the play even started. The sound-checking and stage prep essentially became part of the performance - and there was great interaction between the audience and the actors throughout the evening.
As soon as they were up on the stage and "wired up" to their microphones, Armin and René asked the audience "Can you see us? Can you hear us?" - and someone in the audience complained about a strong glare coming from a couple of metal plates on the front of the hotel lecterns (plaques bearing the hotel advertising logo). Next thing we knew, the actors had disappeared offstage, and then there was a loud, tearing "Riiiippp!" noise over the PA as René tore a piece of duct tape from a roll and started pasting it over the offending metal plaque. The audience howled. Next moment, there was Armin, taping up his lectern with a second roll of tape. I heard someone behind me (I was sitting with Ina sort of left of the stage and maybe seven or eight rows back) whisper the old Star Wars joke about duct tape: "It's got a dark side and a light side and it holds the universe together." At some point, Dave decided that too much fun was being had and sent some maintenance guys out to finish the duct-taping job. (Armin had left a corner of his plaque visible. "Ferengi are so cheap!" said someone behind me.)
Throughout the play, such "technical difficulties" and other asides became gags that played as part of the show.
I cannot remember the order, nor all the titles and authors of the pieces performed, but it was an intriguing and pretty wide sample of bits, tending mostly toward the comic, but also leaving room for the semi-tragic and seriously dramatic. The first segment was a bit of silliness about two men meeting each other for the first time, having originally mistaken each other for old. Armin reprised his stunningly dramatic and riveting reading of Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart, which was very intense and fittingly creepy. René performed a piece he'd never done before, a speech on "On the Evils of Tobacco" by the Russian playwright Chekhov, which was both comedic and, by the end, bittersweet.
One piece was a hilarious excerpt from Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn in which the traveling con artists, the King and the Duke, meet on the raft for the first time and tell each other their stories (each of which is a tissue of outrageous lies). Early in the piece Armin slipped into an Irish accent, decided that was wrong for the character, and backtracked (twice) to redo the line. At this point there was a good deal of "shop talk" banter during which Armin and René kept breaking each other up. Finally, however, Armin found the appropriate "redneck" accent and the scene went forward. The audience responded appreciatively at the end.
The scene from Huckleberry Finn was the second piece on the program. Every time Armin moved, his lapel mic rubbed against his neck or his jacket, and made an odd noise, like velcro ripping or, as Armin heard it, like someone quickly shuffling a deck of cards. That was what distracted him so that he couldn't find the accent he wanted, or hold his character - he kept breaking up with laughter. René, however, stayed pretty much in character, even when Armin started saying "What is that noise?" and audience members shouted, "It's your mic!" René walked over and readjusted Armin's mic, then coaxed him back to the script, and they finally got on track and finished without further interruption. I particularly enjoyed the way René "fed" the accent to Armin - René fell into a very broad Southern/country accent and Armin picked it up from him and then held it for the rest of the piece. A fascinating demonstration of mutual support between stage actors.
The audience was left drooling by a scene from Chekhov's The Good Doctor It involves two grumpy old guys who meet weekly on a park bench to debate and disagree with each other about every possible topic. This time, the topic under debate is "Lunch" - and the characters proceed to argue about (and describe in mouth-watering detail) which foods constitute the best lunch. Later, on, I believe, either Armin or René remarked that this worked so well because it was like listening to Quark and Odo stuck in a retirement home together (or something of that sort). When that bit was finished, someone from the audience shouted: "You made us all hungry!" And the performers made a note to always perform this piece in future before audiences who'd not yet had dinner.
A James Thurber piece featured a wealthy American tourist (Armin) and a British gentleman ( René) discussing Shakespeare's play MacBeth" (This was preceded by a very funny explanation of why actors do not say the name of "The Scottish Play" unless performing it or something that mentions it.) Armin's character, an avid reader of mystery novels, believes MacBeth to be innocent of murdering King Duncan because he is "too obvious" a suspect, and launches into an explanation of the play that leaves René's Englishman flabbergasted and downing plenty of scotch (actually water - which René swigged very convincingly). The catch with this particular piece was that the Thurber original was written with the American as a woman - and Armin had in the past performed the part as male (in Lansing, for instance, the American tourist was a cab-driver type). This time, however, Armin and René concluded that such adaptations hadn't worked, and therefore tonight Armin was playing the part "as written." So he sat on a stool with his legs crossed and acted the part as a woman. By the time they were finished, the audience was just about on the floor, and Armin concluded with gusto afterwards that that piece had "finally worked."
An Odo-and-Quark scene from "Civil Defense" was also performed, to everyone's delight. (The quintessential "Odo gesture" seems to be crossing the arms in front of the chest - the audience recognized the character immediately from this, before René spoke a word). During the piece, the audience was invited to participate at various points, screaming and yelling as a panicked crowd on DS9's promenade. Afterward there was a debate - involving Armin, René, and scattered audience members - about the plural of "Ferengi." René had said "Ferengis" - which is in the "Civil Defense" episode as well. But I suspect a continuity glitch on the part of the writers. Normally the plural of "Ferengi" is, well ... "Ferengi."
The nearly last bit was a piece called "The Great Train Robbery" where René, as a gruff, absent-minded British detective, scored a lot of laughs. Armin was essentially the straight-man in the piece, and did an admirable job of not breaking up. The audience, of course, was in stitches. And then the play closed with a poem that the two actors read together.
Obviously I've got my biases, but I have to say this was one of the strongest performances I've ever seen at any Slanted Fedora event. I would rank only the Champaign Nana/ René Love Letters and Jerry Hardin's Mark Twain Show in Chicago as having greater impact on me personally - and I don't think I've ever seen that level of synergy between audience and performers in any stage show I've been to. I think that kind of give-and-take may even be a special peculiarity between performers and fannish audiences. It's a special kind of vibe that happens.
At any rate, this was a spectacular performance, and we in the audience ate it up. I think everyone left that auditorium feeling "wired" that night. Many thanks to Armin and René for such a fabulous show!
- René and Armin were sooo delightful, onstage, at the autograph tables, and when they so kindly (and so frequently!) socialized with us. Together, they are a stitch. I loved their doing two Peter Cook-Dudley Moore routines (from Good Evening, the sketch in which two men who have never met exchange small talk as if they have, and from Beyond the Fringe, the interview with the Scotland Yard detective of surpassing dimness who misunderstands every question about the big robbery), announcing that they had originally featured a tall man and a short man. Chekhov, Poe, Thurber, and Twain are no slouches as sources for performance either. (I contrast these choices to the lightweight contemporary fare chosen by the four Voyager actors in their Saturday night performance.)
- the show ran two hours (not that I minded in the least!) and then Chrysa, Jennifer and I headed for the elevators. Somehow i got left behind and had to wait with a crowd of people for the elevators (all four of which were going up at this point!) finally one comes down, 15 or so people including me pile in, and it starts going up. 30 seconds from landing on the third floor (mine) do I realize that Robbie McNeill is in the elevator with me!! am momentarily frozen by those blue eyes (which compete with René's for most amazing) then manages to get self off the elevator and run back to the room, shrieking to Ronda and Chrysa exactly who I was in the elevator with). After collecting myself, Chrysa and I bid Ronda goodbye and head up one floor to the party
I was the first to arrive at the "Den of Iniquity" where the first room party was held. I talked to Judith briefly before other guests arrived. I noticed Judith's shirt, which featured a very sexy picture of Odo with a buff bod! I loved it! Hugs all around, it was a delight to meet everyone. Name tags were waiting for us on the door, created by Judith, which made it easy to put names to faces. We took a few group photos, two of which we put in "Thank You" cards for Armin and René, which we all signed.
As we munched the various goodies (wonderful cookies, brownies, M&M's, pretzels, soda, candy, and THE COFFEECAKE, a legend in its own right, among other treats) and watched Judith and Cecy's videos, (DS9 scenes set to themed music), we laughed and cheered. Soon came a knock at the door, and it was Armin and René! Armin got the last piece of THE COFFEECAKE and René, who wore a t-shirt in support of the SAG commercial actors strike, took the last of the Diet Coke. We talked about Star Trek, books, "Theatrical Jazz," and much more, laughing, shrieking, and applauding. We (the fans, that is) could have gone on all night! Of course, Armin and René needed sleep before the next day's events, and eventually left. About 30 seconds later, the phone rang.
Judith answered, and Amy gasped, "Somebody called the police on us for being too loud!" She was right! But how could we be quiet when we were excited by Armin and René, and having such a good time? After that, we watched the rest of the videos, laughing and shushing each other. We headed to our own rooms around 1:00 a.m.
I watched half of René and Armin's wonderful performance (including their Thurber bit, and René's delightful "On the Evils of Tobacco" lecture) before leaving to make sure the video player was delivered to our room for the RAFL/ORACLE room party. Then:
- video guy and I find new unit seems to not be working. Mild panic ensues.
- after some study of the problem, I discover the first video unit is fine, but the master tape we'd brought got warped somehow and that is why it wouldn't play... and why it is now stuck in the second, new unit
- video guy tries to remove it, can't, and informs me he'll have to take apart the unit and the tape to get it out
- I ask him to do it back at the store and give him permission to trash the tape once he gets it out and suggest he leave before party guests arrive; he does
- I make sure both music video's to be played are working (they are) and get other video's out and ready to be played, just in case there's time
- check on party goodies and wait for arrivals
- Jennifer is first to arrive. Other's begin to arrive, first a few, then a flood
- everyone gets to check the door for their Dynamic Duo party badge
- Jennifer shows off the lovely cards she found for the RAFLers to sign for René and Armin for presentation tomorrow at the official club gathering
- I suggest we all have a picture taken with my Polaroid so we can give them both a group pic along with the cards and the group concurs
- picture taking time! "Say Odo!" "Say Jello!" "Say Coffeecake!"
- much laughter and discussion takes place as developing pictures are looked at, especially since in the very first one my specs make me look as if an evil pagh wraith has taken me over, and in the second it looks as if I'm casting a spell. The third and fourth pictures are good, and chosen to be given to Armin and René (whew!)
- Marguerite requests we start the music videos because she's not sure if she can manage to stay up for anything lengthier
- Armin shows up in the middle of our first video viewing... and he's brought René along!
- we usher them in and find them seats as they eye the snack table
- Armin makes the group laugh as he corrects René, who is happily surveying the snacks and goodies on the table, by saying "That's no snack - that's food" and promptly taking the last slice of Cecy's infamous coffecake
- René pouts and says "But... but that's the last piece."
- Armin magnanimously offers to give him a taste.
- René, in turn, snags the last of the Diet Coke; Armin chooses to drink water
- They sit and we all chat about their performance, the flight in, Voyager, and a bunch of other things, including poor Armin's fear of flying versus René's appreciation of watching a storm through the window of the plane
- René pauses in the middle of something he's saying to frown at my shirt and say, "I'm sorry, but I just noticed your t-shirt. (pause as he shakes his head incredulously and says theatrically) In your dreams!"
- I bring the house down by smiling and replying, "Exactly!"
- René laughs at this and shakes his head again.
- When the laughter calms, I tell him that I thought he had noticed it in the restaurant (Cecy and I had encountered both René and Armin around lunch time) since he'd been staring at my chest
- René says that no, he hadn't noticed it
- Armin really brings the house down by asking René very slyly, "So what were you looking at in the restaurant then, René?" (eep! Judith tries not to blush as the group howls)
- finally after nearly two hours with us all, René apologizes but he really wants to leave to read his Harry Potter book.
- a short discussion of books follows and whether we re-read them or not, and how important René feels it is for kids to have this sort of book to read when growing up
- René finally gets up to leave; Armin also bids us adieu
- they've just left when the police call and ask us to "keep it down."
- after I assure them we'll try to be quieter and hang up, I tell the gang I should have told them the Chief of Security was just in our room.
- we watch the rest of the videos, struggling mightily to smother shrieks, laughter, and loud commentary. Cheile mentions this is like "torture", having to still any shrieks, wolf whistles, or other extemporaneous sounds so abruptly.
- the party winds up having lasted over three hours
- sleep, yes, perchance to dream...
For me, Friday night and Saturday morning were definitely the best parts of the con. I had a blast, despite all the weird and wacky things that tried to conspire against it!
Everyone seemed to enjoy the party, and the best part was having René and Armin relax and chat with us so casually. They seemed to enjoy just hanging out and being part of the conversation. When we discussed the theatrical performance, Armin said he'd wound up doing a Gracie Allen impression for Thurber piece, and as everyone laughed, René said that was perfect; the character really is Gracie Allen. Marguerite pointed out that they'd had quite a few more comic pieces than "heavy" ones, this time, and that seemed to concern René a bit - he asked if she thought there were too many comic bits. Marguerite and the rest of us assured him that the mix was fine. He did say they'd had to cut one serious piece as they were running long. We told them that they could have run another hour and no one would have complained.
I found it very interesting that all of us seemed to be book re-readers, but Armin and René both said they rarely re-read books. They did say they re-watch movies, though - and René said he'll even re-watch really bad movies, "Ugh! That was awful! Let's see it again!" (while miming pointing a remote and rewinding) I thought it might be significant that the actors both said they re-watch movies, and many of us who are writers in one way or another, tend to re-read books. Maybe we're just more comfortable wallowing in our respective media?
- most everyone is at the party when we arrive, including Jennifer. Hugs go all around and I'm a happy camper, especially after I get a few snacks. I get a good look at Judith's t-shirt and crack up… Several people comment on my custom t-shirt (had a pic of the nuzzling noses from "Reckoning" put on the front). after pic taking and asking Cecy for the coffeecake recipe, we settle in (I find a spot on the floor) to watch the videos. In the middle of one, I prepare to get up and get more soda when there's a knock at the door. Marguerite goes to answer, lo and behold, it's Armin and René. Turning around to see who it is while I'm halfway up, I'm so surprised I fall right back on my butt and have to ask Cecy for help up!
- a few hours of storytelling ensues, including when René got a better look at Judith's t-shirt, which sent the rest of us into howling hysterics. I got up and showed René my t-shirt which he said he'd noticed and thought it was very cute
- after they left came the phone call. Judith hung up and told us and we giggled about it before shushing up to watch the rest of the videos. That was me who mentioned torture, which went like this:
a funny moment shows up, giggles and snickers begin, Marguerite reminds us with a "shh". murmured apologies as the video continues.
next funny part shows up, giggles, muffled shriek, "oh my God!"
next part, laughter, slight shriek, several people "oh I remember that!"
Marguerite: (waving hands frantically in a "down" motion) shhh!
(see what I mean? that's when I defined it torture--torture because there was really no way we could hold it in but we had to lest we get busted.
- party ended around 1 a.m. Chrysa, Miri, and I slogged back to our room and fell into bed.
The first item on our RAFL/ORACLE agenda was our "official" fan club gathering with René (the previous night's party had been a spontaneous, bonus event) Starting about 10:00 a.m., we had donuts and bagels and a rather belated delivery of beverages from hotel room service, accompanying about an hour and a half of delightful conversation, basically picking up where we left off the night before, on the usual wide range of topics, from classical theater to Odo and Kira to books to literary criticism.
After the party, everyone split up to get lunch, and Miri and I went to set up the photo table once more. Around this time we began to hear rumors of problems with the convention schedule. The original program for the day included the four Voyager actors, as well as René and Armin, doing individual Q&A sessions and signing autographs over the course of the afternoon.. However, the Voyager cast had been filming on Friday, so they had to fly from Los Angeles to Philadelphia either late Friday night or first thing Saturday morning. Trouble was, airplanes in LA weren't even leaving the ground until they were sure they could land in Philadelphia - and the Philadelphia airport was in chaos, because of the Republicans arriving for their convention. We never learned the official details, but speculation about the reasons for the airport tie-ups included too many extra flights trying to land (like charter planes full of delegates from various states) and important Republican officials jockeying for "rank" by insisting that one official could not be allowed to arrive ahead of another, "more important" one…. throwing their own arrival schedules out the window, and in the process forcing regular commercial flights into holding patterns and delays.
With over half of his performers either still enroute or catching up on missed sleep, Dave Scott did his best to reshuffle the program order and keep people entertained. Fans who had only planned to be at the con on Saturday, specifically to see one or more of the Voyager actors and get their autographs, were justifiably concerned - but Dave kept reassuring people that all would be well, and announced an adjusted schedule to try to ensure that Saturday-only fans would get their autographs before the end of the day.
I hung around the ORACLE table from time to time, getting to know everyone better. It was an honor to sit at René's table. Marguerite was there most of the time, along with her daughter, Miri, and all of the RAFLers hung out at the table at some point. I'd decided from the beginning that I'd only buy René pics at the ORACLE table, since proceeds go to charity (Doctors Without Borders). There were some great pics there, including the wedding scene from The Patriot, and I chose an Odo-Quark scene from DS9's "The Ascent".
Non-weekend goers could get their autographs on Saturday, but that rule wasn't really followed. Another broken rule was that every guest was to give an even number of autographs, so you could only buy extra autographs by buying whole sets (extras from every guest, not just the ones you wanted) for $50, but some actors gave extra autographs during the weekend. I personally did get my autographs only on Sunday, but that was because I only wanted Armin's and René's, although I'd have liked Mary Kay Adams (DS9's "Grilka"), too, but I didn't have any money left for a photo or something she could sign.
What really bothered me about this con was the enormous police presence "protecting" our interests. Lynnette and got in quite late on Friday night (8:15 pm - René and Armin were on at 8:00), so I didn't notice then if any of Philly's finest were guarding the lobby, but there were two of the them in the lobby the next morning. Their numbers continued to grow during the weekend until they were literally everywhere.
Despite the fact that the hotel was nearly full and hosting two major meetings, no one was allowed to climb the stairs. Apparently, if you wanted to descend the stairs, you were allowed to. At times, this caused a serious traffic problem. I found this to be difficult with my serious asthma problem. There were times when I needed to get to our room fast.
The hotel was horrible. They bribed us $20 to get out by 9 a.m. on Sunday. This didn't stop them from knocking on our door at 8:15 in order to clean the room. Our room wasn't cleaned until 2 p.m. the day before. They also changed their check-out time from 1 p.m. to 11 a.m. on Sunday, even though all the literature had the later time. They literally charged us for everything but ice (they must have padded the bill for that one). I paid $1.25 for a regular-sized Snickers bar at one point. With the exception of a doorman and a maid, the staff was rude when they couldn't ignore me. They refused to hold a painting for Chrysa until the Fed Ex person made a pickup. Oh yeah, our bathtub had burn marks along the side.
Every once in a while, a cop would wander down to our con and patrol. I found this a little offensive since Trekkies are not noted for their violence and vandalism.
I rode up in the elevator with one of the governors and his staff. The jerk thought he was getting a reserved elevator until he saw me (his face dropped even as "hello" was coming out of his mouth). Fortunately, I was being asthmatic and couldn't ask him what was so much better about him that he deserved a reserved elevator - I mean, if René can't get one....
Well, that's it for complaining… This convention reminded me of a Charlie Chaplin movie, where there are so many errors that it descends into the ridiculous. Despite everything, I really did have a good time. My favorite elevator moment: listening to two guys go on about how they caught a glimpse of René in the lobby. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn't have missed this one for the world, despite being lost in Washington, DC for 2 hours and all the other hassles. I'll admit to being one of those twisted individuals who love chaos (as long as no one's hurt). We never knew what was going to happen next. All the unexpected time with René and Armin really topped everything off well. I think René hung around the convention more than I did.
René showed up at the ORACLE table right after lunch, ready to sign autographs before his Q&A session. However, we didn't even get started before Dave Scott interrupted the person on stage, took the microphone, and said, "Everyone, leave now. Go out through the nearest exit immediately. No exceptions. MOVE!"
Several of us were around René when the order came to evacuate the building. We followed him out (we were near the door and at the front of the crowd), and he seemed cool with us being around. But after a few minutes, others started to recognize him and started asking for pictures and autographs, then hovering close by. After a few minutes of that, something of a crowd was forming and he quietly left. He was extremely polite about the whole thing, refusing autographs but posing for a few pictures - and he spent most of the next afternoon signing autographs (close to three continuous hours).
The ORACLE table was right near one of the emergency exits, so our gang were among the first people to file out. As we walked away from the hotel, René looked around, assessed the situation, and said something like, "This is not good." He headed directly away from the building, with a few of us RAFL/ORACLE folks around him, and down a grassy slope which put us out of sight of the hotel doors... but of course the rest of the con attendees were also streaming out of the building in the same general direction, so it quickly became obvious that there was no chance of René "hiding" on the hillside. As the milling crowd grew larger, René simply slipped away.
There was some discussion on the Internet in the days after the con, among people who had been there, whether the actors "owed" it to the con attendees to stand around and socialize so as to keep the crowd calm instead of "panicking" - but as far as I was able to observe, there was NO sign of ANYONE feeling particularly alarmed at being evacuated, much less panicky. The only emotions I witnessed were concern and annoyance at having their afternoon's activities interrupted.... oh, and a lot of eager greed along the lines of, "Oooo! Ooooo! There's Robbie McNeill! I want to take his picture!"
Wait, I take that back. I did see ONE person the verge of panic - poor Dave Scott, who saw his carefully constructed con schedule, already in tatters because of airport delays, completely trashed. Although he can be annoying and obnoxious, Dave seems to try his best to put on entertaining conventions, and the foul-ups at this weekend were 90% not his fault.
I was in the dealer area when Dave Scott took the microphone and asked everyone to exit the building. At the time, he didn't specify why, but he suggested that Robbie McNeill would be out there singing the National Anthem. (He was scheduled to do so later that day at a Phillies game.) Once outside, I met up with Jennifer. And then I saw - just feet away from us - Armin Shimerman. I pointed Jennifer in his direction until she saw him. Everyone was then instructed to move further away from the building - past the parking lot and onto the grassy area beyond. The grassy area was in two parts, an upper and a lower connected by a gentle grassy slope. The upper part lined up with the parking lot. Most people clustered (clumped, really) along the upper part near the curb. The lower part with the slope above it formed a natural amphitheatre. There was a fence separating the grassy area from a Denny's and TGIFridays restaurant.
In the shuffle, I got separated from Jennifer, but I found her again a short time later - near Armin, of course. At one point, she volunteered to take a picture of me with Armin. There appeared to be some difficulty with the camera, so I'm not sure yet if the picture came out, but the upshot is that I got to have his arm around me for longer than the requisite picture-taking moment.
Later, I heard that Claudia Christian was further along the way, so I went in search of her. After finding someone to operate my camera, I got a picture with her as well. By now, we had gotten wind of why we had been evacuated from the hotel. Someone near Claudia made a comment to the effect of "Boom today, boom tomorrow" (a paraphrase of a classic line from Claudia's Babylon 5 character Susan Ivanova). She laughed a bit and repeated the line. Although I didn't witness this myself, I heard that Claudia later jumped the fence and went over to TGIFridays.
At some point after leaving the Claudia cluster of people, I found the line for photos with Robbie McNeill. While I was waiting for my turn, I caught sight for the first time of a group of RAFLers sitting on the grass (lower part). I heard later that René had been with them for a while, but he left when the crowds became too much. I also heard later that the two stunt coordinators - Leslie Hoffman and Brian Williams - were entertaining in the amphitheater area while we were all outdoors, but I was unaware of it at the time.
Around the time that I got my turn for a picture with Robbie McNeill, everyone was being allowed to return to the hotel. However, I did get my picture, and Robbie seems to enjoy being among his fans. He's very personable, and he has a presence that is less apparent on screen than in person.
After returning to the convention area, Dave presented a revised schedule. René and Armin's talk, which was to have taken place during the bomb scare, was rescheduled to right after things settled down. One talk was cancelled, and the remaining talks and auction were delayed by a half-hour. In addition to René and Armin's talk, other events later in the afternoon were the Ethan Phillips/Robbie McNeill talk. Then it was autograph time for the Saturday only people, and after that was the Roxann Dawson/Robert Picardo talk.
After the bomb scare, René returned to the ORACLE table and signed autographs for a short while, then went onstage with Armin to give their talk. They were as entertaining as always: sometimes funny, sometimes providing thoughtful answers to interesting questions. During the first part of their talk, Robbie McNeill sat at his fan club table, signing autographs. Davie Scott interrupted them several times, with various announcements about the rest of the afternoon's schedule and Roxann Dawson's expected arrival time (I think she eventually reached the hotel after 4:00 p.m.).
One of Dave's announcements was that Robbie had to leave, to sing the National Anthem at the Phillies baseball game. Then he called Robbie up on stage to sing for us before he left. Robbie agreed, but he asked the audience to sing with him, and sing a little behind him, the way the crowd often seems to do in baseball stadiums, to help him practice.
Armin gave Robbie his handheld microphone… but René still had the other. Robbie started singing (he has a nice voice) and the audience chimed in - and then René started singing at full volume and a full phrase behind Robbie. It was one of the silliest things I've ever heard! Robbie gamely kept going, playing serious in contrast to René's goofiness. Audience members were either shrieking with laughter, or trying to sing along with one or the other of the guys…. it was total chaos, and totally fun.
After the talk, René came and signed autographs for several hours, then left to get some dinner. We closed the table down around 6:00, so that all of us could get ready to go to the evening's dinner theatre presentation by the Voyager actors.
I joined a group of RAFLers who were already standing outside of the dinner room, awaiting admittance. We had a bit of a wait beyond the scheduled start time. Then, when we were able to enter, we found that we couldn't all get seated together. We had VIP tickets, but the VIP tables were already full. Ultimately, I found myself at a table with Chrysa, Cheile, and Miri. I was not yet familiar with the other people at the table. Some of the guests went from table to table, mingling with the fans. I got another photo with Claudia this way. I kept hoping for Mary Kay Adams to come by our table for a photo, but she mainly stayed to the outer tables (near the walls), and I was at a center table. She never did come my way.
There was a vegetarian option for dinner. The salad and the cheesecake were especially to my liking. The vegetable plate was beautifully presented, with asparagus, yellow squash, zucchini, and one tiny beet on one side of the plate, and tri-color pasta topped with mushrooms and a tomato-based sauce on the other side. It was an enjoyable meal, one for which the hotel is to be commended.
After the meal, the "Fab Four" of Voyager - left to right from where they were standing: Ethan Phillips, Robert Picardo, Roxann Dawson, and Robert Duncan McNeill - gave their performance. The one haunting piece that sticks with me was the one about the auto repair shop. I didn't catch the title or author. Another one concerned the dog-eat-dog world of business. Two male employees are dancing together while discussing company situations. One had half a window. The other had a window and a loveseat.
Once the theater was over, the dinner attendees dispersed. There was a long line at the elevator to the guest rooms, as one might expect. What I realized, and what very few other guests seemed to realize, is that the elevator bank has two entrances - one by the registration desk, and one by the lobby. I simply walked over to the lobby entrance, where there was no line at all, and was able to take the very next available elevator.
Dinner With the Stars was somewhat disappointing for me. The dinner was good (Caesar's salad, sesame biscuit, chicken breast with a slightly spicy tomato sauce, asparagus, small potatoes, and scrumptious cheesecake with strawberry topping), the performances were good, but some of us who had VIP tickets were without a reserved table. Even for those who did have their tables, anything past the second row was not VIP worthy; the first three tables in the front row, and two in the back, should have been the VIP reserved tables.
After dinner, Dave had the beautiful Claudia Christian sit with us for a couple of minutes, telling her to "be nice" to us because of the reserved seating foul-up, but, no offense to Claudia, those of us at the table were mostly DS9 fans from RAFL, and one Voyager fan who'd just joined Robert McNeill's fan club, Random Flight. It hardly made up for the annoyance.
There were some surprise guests, but I wasn't particularly interested in them. At least one woman had played a role in TOS, and she plugged her website and holistic pet food book while she was at our table.
Right before the play, my table was told to grab our chairs and squeeze in between tables near the front so we could see the front of the stage. Dave announced there would be a door prize, and Ethan Phillips drew a name. The lady came up to receive her prize, followed by her fiancé. It was an engagement ring! Her fiancé dropped to one knee and proposed, on stage and she accepted! I love romantic moments like this! The newly-engaged woman cried, Jackie Scott cried, and the audience was "awww"ing.
The Voyager actors performed well, even though Robert McNeill couldn't withhold his laughter at times. I've never been a Voyager fan, and considered Robert "okay" in photos and on TV, but in person, he is gorgeous! I could barely take my eyes off him during the show.
The hotel bribed us to leave before 9:00 Sunday morning, and June and I got up early to save the money. We checked our luggage and met several RAFLers for breakfast at Denny's, which is right next to the hotel. It was expectedly crowded, what with Trekkies and RNCers coming in, but we didn't wait too long, considering. There were eight of us, four to a table. June was kind enough to treat our table.
Back at the con, I hung out at the ORACLE table much of the time. The delightful scent of M&M's wafted in the air as Chrysa and others reached inside the nearby bag on the table. When it was time for autographs, I moved to my reserved seat in the 6th row. Actually, people had already been getting autographs, but Dave made them come back in so we could go row by row and those of us who were supposed to go first could go.
-My self-appointed function at all cons is She Who Makes Sure No One Forgets to Eat-Frequently. Yet I was so worried about getting packed, checked out, and my luggage stored on Sunday morning-and I had leftover bagels in my room-that it never occurred to me that folks might be going out to breakfast. I'm proud to say that upon learning that everyone but Marguerite was at Denny's, I resisted the temptation to have a second breakfast and instead sold stuff at the ORACLE table.
-I was fascinated to observe that while DS9 actors talk about their characters, about their opinions of the various storylines, etc. the Voyager actors mostly do stand-up comedy routines. Of course, there isn't really much to talk about concerning Voyager characters and storylines.
-Best non-DS9 con moment: Claudia Christian doing her impression of Kate Mulgrew as Janeway.
-Worst non-DS9 moment. Watching the has-been surprise guests from the TOS era hawking their wares and trying to convince the audience that they doing well. At least France Nuyen looked slightly embarrassed, while Jack Donner and Celeste Yarnall were all unjustified ego. Give us points for keeping straight faces when Celeste dropped in on our table at the Saturday dinner and explained about her book on holistic veterinary care.
René came down to the ORACLE table on Sunday right around lunch time, and steadily signed autographs until close to 2:00 p.m., when he took a break before his officially scheduled 3 o'clock Slanted Fedora autograph session, when all of the actors were asked to use the tables set up in the corridor. Part of our group kept the ORACLE table open until the end of the con, while I sold a small selection of photos right at René's table in what turned out to be an endless autograph line. Fans were sent out of the ballroom to the corridor by rows, and formed a line that went past René, then Armin, then turned down the opposite side of the corridor and went past all of the Voyager actors.
The minutes ticked by, and the line inched along, and it quickly became obvious that René and Armin were not going to be able to get away in time for their scheduled 5:00 p.m. Q&A session. On top of that, all of the actors had to leave promptly at the end of the afternoon in order to catch their flights back to LA. The end result was that many people - especially Voyager fans - were thoroughly dissatisfied with this convention because of actors' talks that were delayed or shortened or cancelled, or promised autographs they never got.
When we arrived at the airport, we had to check one of Cheile's bags, and I learned what airport luggage checks are like. I've had more fun at the dentist. When we were waiting at the gate, people who had First Class stood in line, and none other than Robert Picardo, Robert Duncan McNeill, Roxann Dawson, and Richard Arnold were there! Cheile and I were thrilled! They were on the same plane as her! Roxann was on her cell phone. I smiled and gave a tiny wave to Robbie, who smiled and nodded back as he chomped his gum! He's adorable!
I later received a call at home from Cheile, telling Mike and me that the plane had been delayed! It was about three hours since we'd dropped her off! We told her to call us back if she needed us to come back, but she later told me the plane took off about twenty minutes later.
Like everyone else who had to fly out of Philadelphia on Sunday night, Miri and I found ourselves sitting in our plane, on the ground, for over two and half hours before we were allowed to take off. This time the culprit was bad weather. Of course this meant that we missed our connecting flight: we ended up sleeping on the floor of the St. Louis airport, and finally getting home to Minnesota at midday on Monday.
But we didn't care. When we think of this convention, we don't think of the disrupted schedules or even the bomb scare - we think of René and Armin's "Theatrical Jazz" and all the fun we had with our ORACLE and RAFL friends. By those standards, Slanted Fedora Philadelphia 2000, was a GREAT convention.
Photos provided by Elaine Majercak, Lynette Lilly, and
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