Report by Marguerite Krause
Dinner on the Promenade took place on the Friday evening of "Grand Slam" weekend. Like previous Weekend on the Promenade and similar events organized by Gayle Stever over the years, Dinner on the Promenade provided a wonderful opportunity for members of various DS9 fan clubs and their friends to visit with our favorite DS9 actors and production people in a relaxed, intimate setting (a welcome contrast to the usual convention scene, where huge crowds of fans and hours of autograph lines are the norm), and to raise money for charity by auctioning off memorabilia donated by the guests of honor.
There were about 60 fans present. The special guests included DS9 staff and writers (like Lolita Fatjo and Eric Stillwell), and a wonderful gathering of cast members - René, Armin Shimerman, Andy Robinson, Aron Eisenberg, Max Grodenchik, Bill Sadler, Armin's wife Kitty Swink, and Chase Masterson. (Chase had to arrive late, but she also stayed late to chat with her fan club members.)
Fans started arriving around 4:30 p.m., and the first of the actors got there about 5:00 (René was one of the early birds) and started talking with people. The room was set up with approximately ten round tables, each seating eight people. Seating was assigned based on which actor's club you were affiliated with. But the seating hardly mattered because, except for the 45 minutes or so when we were actually eating, everyone (both fans and actors) wandered around the room a lot and sat down anywhere they wanted to have conversations.
As soon as people arrived they were able to look at items available for "silent auction." The goodies were displayed on tables around the edges of the room, with a bid sheet showing how much of a minimum bid was expected, and how much other people had bid before you. We had a nice collection of Trek-related stuff-scripts and photos and trading cards and plastic action figures and so on. One René-fan donated a collection of CDs of his Broadway musicals, but with new covers that she created herself, consisting of a big photo of René and reworded title, like "Big River - starring René Auberjonois (and some other folks)".
Until close to 6:00 there were only 15 or 20 fans present, which was starting to make Gayle really nervous-she had a list of all the people who had registered, and they had already paid for dinner, so she wasn't worried about losing money on the food. But we needed a decent crowd if we were going to raise any money for charity with the auctions.
Of course, the people who were there early had quite a treat.... I saw René and Armin sitting and talking with folks for 10 or 15 minutes at a stretch, with no one feeling rushed or distracted by conflicting obligations, because they're weren't any. Also, René's wife Judith dropped in for a few minutes, just to say "hello," which was a pleasure for everyone who got to chat with her.
Finally the rest of the party started to arrive in big clumps - it turned out that traffic on the nearby highway had slowed to a standstill for a while, and that was where everyone had been stuck.
When Gayle knew that most of the registered folks were there, we had dinner, which was set up as a buffet. Several salads, some hot vegetables and potatoes, a vegetarian lasagna, and a big hunk of beef from which the chef would carve slices on request-and a choice of carrot or chocolate cake for dessert. Much better food than I've had at many other hotel banquets!
After dinner, Gayle gave a short speech, thanking everyone for coming, and then presented a special award to one of our founding ORACLE members, Karen B., in thanks for all the support she has given to several of the actors' fan clubs and our charity fundraising projects over the years. René got up and presented Karen with a very nice plaque (and a big hug) and Karen was really touched and happy.
After that, each of the actors got up and talked a bit about what they'd been doing lately, and also spoke about how proud and happy they are to be involved with Star Trek fandom, because we're such good-hearted and generous people. They joked around, too.... I think it was Armin who said something about how great it was that we raised money for charity, and if we wanted to worship him while we were at it, that was just fine.
Then we did a live auction - 15 items or so that were unique in one way or another. One was René's make-up shirt, and another was a nice outdoors jacket he'd gotten while working on The Patriot (it had "The Patriot" embroidered on the front). ORACLE president Lisa Wilcox won the jacket. René also auctioned off an adorable blue-eyed Bajoran bear, which came complete with a Bajoran militia uniform and a Bajoran earring. René originally received the bear as a gift, and for many years it made its home on his son Remy's bed. ORACLE member Sharon in England is now the happy owner of the bear. Karen B., I believe, won the auction for a book from the mid-1970s, Moving Through Pregnancy, which is special because the author, describing healthy exercises for pregnant women, illustrated her text with photos of a young dancer - Judith Auberjonois. A few of the photos include René, and a very young, very cute Tessa. When Judith dropped by at the beginning of the evening, she autographed the book, as did René.
Bill Sadler brought several copies of a picture of himself from his performance in Die Hard - a nude portrait! As we auctioned those off, he promised that he would write ANYTHING on the photo that a person wanted, such as "In memory of a wonderful evening."
After the auction, the fans and actors socialized some more, and fans could have their photos taken with the actors and get autographs. Again, because this was a small group of fans, Gayle kept the "organization" casual-you didn't have to stand in line or anything. René, for instance, tended to wander from table to table, asking people if they had anything they needed autographed, whereas Andy stayed right near the table where he'd eaten dinner and let people come up to him. I was standing near him at one point while he was talking to someone, and another fan came up and asked if he could get an autograph, and Andy motioned toward his table and said, "Sure. Come into my office."
All in all, it was an incredible evening - very much a party in the best sense of the word. In addition to everyone being thrilled to spend time with the actors, we fans also enjoyed having time to chat with our fan friends! It was very much like a family reunion-the best kind, without any feuding. I enjoyed meeting several people in person who I'd previously known only via e-mail or postal correspondence. The only thing wrong with the Dinner on the Promenade was that it couldn't last longer!
The actors started leaving around 10:00 p.m. - though they tended to walk toward the door, then get waylaid by another conversation, then reach the lobby, then turn around and talk to one more person, so I doubt anyone got in his car and drove away much before 10:30. Mike and I were helping Gayle with running the event, so we stayed to pack up leftover photos and things, and got back to our hotel just before midnight.
Best of all, when the counting was done, we had raised over $6,000. Quite an evening's work!
Photos by Mike Krause and provided by Gayle Stever