by Robert Duran
I've been a Trek fan since I was a kid, watching TNG first when it aired on TV. Later, in my high school years, DS9 came on as well as Voyager.The New Jersey convention on March 7-9 was the second Star Trek convention I've been to. My first one was last summer, when I got to see William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy appear at Creation's convention in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and it was by chance, at that event, that I noticed tickets were being sold for a convention here in my area.
To be very honest, even though Shatner and Nimoy are very big actors from Star Trek, I've always liked DS9 best. It is my favorite series compared to all of them. It was a much darker Trek. The characters had more problems and conflicts going on with one another, which made it more real, (not like TNG and other sci-fi shows at the time, in which everyone lived in perfect harmony with each other). For the first time, it was a new, more real Trek series, showing that people had their problems and not everyone was happy in the Federation. I just got hooked, especially with the Ferengi episodes, which were very funny, and the character of Odo as the sheriff out to get the bad guys on the station. It was great--like a Western!
This was my very first time to see René Auberjonois and Armin Shimerman together here in New Jersey! It was a dream come true! I arrived at the convention Saturday morning, the day René and Armin were to appear. When I went to pick up my ticket package from Creation, it turned out they forgot to include my Photo-Op tickets with both actors. Unfortunately, I didn't notice this until around the time the photo-op was scheduled. I went crazy looking through my package for those tickets! But, by some accident, they weren't there, and so there was no chance of me getting my photos with René and Armin! So I went running around, looking for a Creation staff member to talk to about this. Eventually I found someone, and it was explained to me that it was okay, I should just show my printed receipt to the photographer, and he would take care of it. I ran back to the photo room…and found out I had completely missed the entire photo shoot! It had been a very fast photo process, and everyone was gone!
Believe me when I say this: I was thoroughly pissed! I had waited many years just to meet these two actors in person (more than Shatner and Nimoy) because I grew up watching DS9 more than the other two shows before it.
After I missed the photo shoots with both actors, I spoke to someone and told them my story…. how they hadn't included my tickets and I had to run back and forth to have this resolved, blah, blah, blah…. and then this person turned around and spoke to the photographer. Next thing I know, I was asked, "How would you like to go backstage to meet the actors and have your photo taken there?" Of course, I said, "YESSSSS!"
What a fantastic relief! Now, thanks to my mishap with not receiving my tickets, I would get to go backstage and meet the two actors personally! WOW! All I had to do was wait for them until after they got off stage and before they began to do their autograph signings behind the curtains in the big auditorium. So…I waited patiently, even though time flew by that day.
When Armin Shimerman appeared on stage, I went nuts and took photos…next thing I know, René started to make comments to Armin from where he was waiting behind the curtain just before going on stage, and he said something I'll never forget. René pulled aside the curtain and showed his face. I can't remember what Armin was saying exactly, but René loudly said, "PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN" This made the whole audience laugh! I'll never forget that moment, with René quoting from The Wizard of Oz.
A minute later I was snapping pictures as fast as I could as René appeared on stage with Armin. René talked a bit about himself and his son who lives in Brooklyn, NY and being a grandfather, and how his career has been before and after DS9, from M*A*S*H the movie to Boston Legal, and about Doctors Without Borders, the group he does charity fundraising for. I thought he was great.
Brent Spiner--Data from TNG--appeared in the crowd to heckle René and Armin. The audience went crazy when Brent was doing this to both of the guys on stage, making fun of them and bragging about how TNG was a much better show. It was hilarious to see them both be outdone by Data!
It was such a great experience to see these two actors after all these years. Before this, I had only seen them on TV and on DVD, when the DS9 box sets came out. I was more of fan of these two guys than Avery Brooks as Captain Sisko.
Eventually they got done on the stage…and it was time for the autographs! And I would get to go backstage before the other fans! I waited as patiently as I could, even though I was nervous with excitement that I was being allowed access to see René and Armin before anyone else. Before I knew it, they opened the curtain for me--and Armin Shimerman was there…right there. Me and Armin, side by side….man to Ferengi!
I shook his hand and told him straight out, "I've been a big fan of yours, Mr. Shimerman, and I've waited many years to meet you today."
He shook my hand and said, "Thank you," and the photographer asked us to stand next to each other for a photo. He took two photos because Armin blinked on the first one. Then I just stood and watched him get set up at his table for the autograph session.
Then I waited, feeling awestruck, for René to show up. The back door opened and I saw René 'Odo' appear! I was a bit intimidated, and afraid of acting like a crazy fan because this just seemed like a dream come true! The photographer went up to René and asked him if he would take a photo with me. René said, "Yes," and came up to me and shook my hand. I was like Ralph Cramden from The Honeymooners with the surprised expression on my face… "HumanaHumanaHumana…." When I shook his hand, being star-struck, all I was able to say was, "I'm a big fan….." and next thing I know I'm side by side with René and the photographer was taking our photo. I looked at René and could just barely manage to say, "Thank you" to him….I was just amazed, it was like I couldn't believe that I was right there, in the presence of my all-time favorite Trek actors…. that, and the fact that I kept thinking to myself, "Odo didn't have a beard on DS9?"
During the 5 or 10 minutes I was backstage with Armin and then waiting for René to arrive, I was so star-struck I completely forgot to at least ask them questions about themselves, which I had been preparing over and over again in the weeks before the convention--such as, is it hard to get into acting or is it all about having a lucky break with an audition…? how many hours did René spend getting the Odo make-up put on…? how is life after DS9 and now being on Boston Legal…? did he get to take home any DS9 souvenirs after the show ended (besides the Odo Bucket)…? and the biggest one: being best friends with Armin, do you prefer him with or without the Ferengi make up? LOL!
After my experience with going backstage, I got in line again for the autograph session. I brought two photos with me, one of Quark and the other of Odo, which I had bought a long time ago, already autographed, from Creation Entertainment. While in line, I bragged like a school kid to the person in front of me about how I got to see Armin and René because of the mishap with my photo-op tickets.
When I finally got to the table, I told Armin "Hey again, long time no see." When I showed Armin what I wanted to have signed, he noticed it had already been signed and started to say, "Sorry, can't do it…." I couldn't believe it.
"WHAT? But I just took a photo with you…. don't you remember me? The kid who had bad luck with his tickets? Can you at least personalize it for me?"
He said, "Okay," and asked my name, and this is what I asked him to write on the photo: "To Robert Duran, My Biggest DS-9 Ferengi Fan"! I loved it! He looked up at me, smiling at my request, knowing I really was a big fan to have him write that, and I said, "Thank you," to him.
Then I moved on to René, and he said "No," as well, because the photo was already signed from when I purchased it. I was thinking, "Not again!" But he then said I could get a personalization if I donated $10.00 to his charity fundraising….I said, "Sure!" and began to sweat, looking in my pocket for $10.00 cash, knowing he couldn't accept a credit card in the line! René took my photo and signed, "To Robert Duran…. STAY OUT OF QUARK'S"! It was the funniest thing I could come up with at that moment for him to write for me. A perfect compliment to Armin's character.
I will ALWAYS KEEP these personalized autographs, just to remind me what it took for me to get them! I had so much fun and will never forget that day...I'll always remember it! I know there are thousands of fans out there who prefer other Trek actors as their favorites, but René and Armin are my #1 Trek actors. I hope to see them both again the next time they decide to come to New Jersey for a convention. René and Armin have my support, and the support of hundreds of others. We can't all go to LA or Vegas for the big Star Trek conventions but I know New Jersey and New York will always welcome them back any day!