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Collectormania 4

Milton Keynes, UK
October 3-5, 2003

reports by Katharina Steinberg, Carina Winkler,
Maria Sutton, and Joseph Gerenscer

Katharina

Carina and I just jumped at the opportunity to go and see René FOR FREE. We met at Euston Station and went to Milton Keynes. We stepped out of the station and couldn't see a single thing. Milton Keynes is kind of empty. It only has office buildings and one huge, huge, huge shopping mall. Nobody on the streets or anything. We followed some weird-looking people ("They surely must be heading there!") through this ghost town. And even from outside you couldn't guess that you are about to step into one of the world's biggest shopping malls packed with thousands of people. When you do, it is like a different world. The event was in a big square within the shopping mall -- at the other end. So we fought through the shopping-mad masses of people until we arrived at the event. There was a plethora of stalls but no signing to be seen.

 René in signing area -- photo by Cat

There we met Eirian. Together we managed to find the tables. It was quite nice. There were all these actors sitting at a long table and above their heads were huge posters saying who they are and so on. René sat in between Roxann Dawson and George Takei. And he had no queue at all! We felt bad. After discussing what to do we headed towards him and just in that moment he got up and left. Oops.

But it was dinnertime and we decided to have a look at the stalls and come back later. That afforded us the time to see the actors at the other end (from afar -- cos we didn't want to spend 15 pounds on any of the autographs) who were from Harry Potter, Buffy, and other shows. Quite cool. Especially as I am a big fan of Harry Potter. After quite a while, René was back and we queued to say hello. We spoke for a little while about this and that (my Alzheimer is letting me down here). I remember something about his next Broadway appearance and generally about how everyone was. We were the delegation, after all ;-) We took a picture and that was it basically. Other people were in the queue as well after all.

Basically we could go home early cos there was nothing else to do there. I found it disturbing that the whole thing was in a mall. The shoppers looked at the fans like freaks and it was very crammed as it was shopping Saturday. Also it was all about buying at the stalls and getting the autographs quickly, while usually Star Trekkie stuff is more a communal experience of some sorts. So it was quite weird. But when do you get the chance again to simply walk into a shopping mall and talk to René? It was nice to see Carina again as well.

Carina

I, for one, had a fun day at this event; we also met up with another friend, and the three of us went to say a quick "hi" to René.

I don't go to cons that often...I just see if there's something not that far away and if I'm interested in whoever's going to be there. Worth travelling for me are Nana and René; those are the two I'm most interested in, and it really was nice seeing him again.

Let's talk a little about what the whole thing looked like:

First, it took place in the biggest shopping center I've ever seen in my life. I had a feeling we walked miles inside that thing until we found the right place. They had the usual tables in the middle, four rows of them, I'd say, or five, with all kinds of stuff for sale, like videos and DVDs and cards and cardgames and figures and pictures and badges and everything. At the two ends of the rows they had the tables for the actors; there was a little room behind the wall they were seated in front of, where they could go and eat or relax a bit, but other than that they were out there, signing and being photographed. On the one side there were the Harry Potter kids, like the twins and the boy who plays Neville and the guy from the second movie, who played Tom Riddle, and Anthony Head from Buffy; on the other side, there was Roxann Dawson, René, then George Takei, two guys from The Matrix, and Elijah Wood, although he apparently only came one of the days.

We went up to René, and I said we just came there because I wanted to say "hi" and that Marguerite told us to do it in any case... we were the "offical welcome-to-England team" as there was no one else. We chatted a bit, and also took a picture of proof that we were there.

 Cat, Eirian, Carina, and René -- photo by Cat

Personally, I was interested in the play he's going to do on Broadway, so I asked him about that, although there was really not that much time left to talk -- I surely would have loved to hear a little more about it because I'm a theater-nerd and I especially love Broadway. I just asked him if he'd really do it and his face lightened up a bit, like he's really looking forward to doing it, and of course he said yes; I asked him about when he'd start and he said they'd start rehearsals in January and that the play would open April 1st.

I've always thought René is very classy and a very interesting and nice man and it was a pleasure to see him. His line for autographs was not that long, so it was easy to get through to him. Surprisingly enough, people were really crazy about Anthony Head -- when we came there around noon, all the autograph tickets for him were sold and they allowed nobody to walk up to him anymore, other than the ones with the tickets... I mean, I like Buffy too, but because Head is English, I thought he would do more things here so that people would rather go and see the actors who weren't necessarily around anyway...but whatever -- lucky us!

Maria

After a rather long dirve (3 hours), we arrived at Milton Keynes at about 9:45 a.m. Rob and I were excited (me more than him) so we braved the cold and went in. The guest list was very impressive: it included Anthony Stewart Head, Elijah Wood, Dominic Monaghan, Sean Astin, Andy Serkis, Corey Feldman, and of course René. So we went primarily to see René and Anthony. We would have liked to have seen the Lord of the Rings guys but all the tickets had been given out, so we were disppointed. With that, we got a ticket for Anthony and went in search of René. After a short search we found him.

Thankfully, we only had to queue for about 15 minutes. I was quite nervous because he is one of my all-time favourite people from Star Trek (the other being Armin, who I met last year). I stepped forward after purchasing my photos and shook his hand and I melted. He smiled and I could have died on the spot and gone happy. I said "hi" and asked him to sign the photo to "Maria." He gave me an inquisitive look, so I went on to say thank you for the reply to my e-mail. He laughed and said "That was you," and "Thank you for saying that I look good in lilac" (I referred in my e-mail to the robe he wore in Frasier). I asked if he would mind if I had a few photographs to show the people on the list and to share with them. He said "Sure," and Rob took two (unfortunatley one didn't come out). I said thank you very much and I was really pleased to meet him and hoped that I would meet him again soon. He said to pass on his regards to all on the list. Then we had a 4-hour wait to see Anthony ahead of us. The organisation of the event could have been better and it is hard to have it in a mall because you get mixed in with the shoppers too. On the whole, I came away very very happy I go to meet who I wanted to meet, although some people, unfortunately, weren't that lucky.

René and Maria -- photo by Rob

Jospeh

I attended late afternoon on a couple of days at Collectormania 4. It was a novel arrangement. The dealers' tables and actors' tables were open plan in a shopping mall! It was a bit of a goldfish bowl, as families doing their weekly shopping stopped and stared at what was going on. This also added to the congestion. It was a bit different to going to a convention in a hotel or sci-fi memorabilia event in a purpose built exhibtion/conference venue where attendees are sci-fi fans who pay an admission fee to get in.

 René meeting a fan -- photo by Cat

Initially I thought it seemed a bit too good to be true that there was no admission charge. It seems that the promoter made their money on the autograph charges instead -- £15 for every item. At British conventions we are used to paying £10 for a signed photo from the actor with one personal item free of charge and £5/£10 for additional personal items thereafter. It was a bit disappointing, as I had brought some personal items with me for Roxann Dawson to sign but in the end decided it was too much to pay. Although I found some bargains at the dealers tables instead.

 René autographing -- photo by Cat

The signing queues for Kristanna Loken (Terminator 3) and the Buffy actors, Anthony Stewart Head and Iyari Limon, were never-ending and by midmorning their autograph tickets had sold out. It was also good to see Peter Weller (Robocop) and Robert Davi (Licence to Kill, Die Hard, Predator 2) in person. There was a feature about Collectormania 4 on BBC2 television on the Saturady night with Robert Davi as the main guest. The Star Trek actors' tables were quieter (René Auberjonis, Roxann Dawson, and George Takei), although George Takei had a steady stream of people and of course this was a generic movie/TV event rather than specific to Star Trek. I noticed that René had his Odo costume on display on a tailor's dummy which was a nice touch and René seemed very affable and friendly with everyone who came to his table.

Anyway I will be better prepared what to expect if I go to this event in six months' time. Also, some of the actors' photos provided by Collectormania weren't the best, so I think it is a good idea to bring a photo of your own choice. I still prefer conventions, as there is the opportunity to listen to and have a Q&A with the actors during their guest talks rather than a few seconds, interaction while they are signing photos at signing events such as Collectormania.

Photos by Katharina Steinberg and Rob Sutton

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