Every year I swear I'm not going back. Lately I've had to really tighten my belt regarding my finances, rebudget my time, things like that. But every year I think, "one last time," and find myself blindly signing up. After all, it's the Mecca for Star Trek fans, isn't it?
There are a few events on stage I missed, either because other events got in the way or because of lunch. But I circled the event on my program and made sure I was there: The DS9 Cast Panel. On stage were Cirroc, Marc, Jeff, René, Armin, Colm, and Casey. Most of the stories I've heard before, but it's like seeing a distant part of your family stand before you: you're smiling, you're involved, you're joyous. And they all seemed so happy to see each other, once again.
We had a good time at the Klingon Feast, the only special ticket we bought. Robert O'Reilly and J. G. Hertzler dressed up as Klingons, and came out first to greet us, staying fully in the roles they had created. They teased us about being impossibly human and posed for photos. Then came out actors Michael Dorn, Tony Todd, Suzie Plakson, Spice Williams-Crosby, and William Morgan Sheppard, who stopped individually at each table. It was delightful to see them all.
I was interested in hearing the big newcomers to the convention, Stephen Collins and Christopher Lloyd. I had seen Stephen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, of course, and Tales of the Gold Monkey, and he did an amazing run on Seventh Heaven. He was very friendly, just as you'd picture him, and told great stories about working on each series. Chris Lloyd, on the other hand, is not gregarious, very quiet, and at moments while he was talking on stage you could see glimpses of Jim Ignatowski (from Taxi) and the professor from Back to the Future, because he's all those things. He gave each question his full attention and tried to answer fully. The best story was something I had always wondered about: why lead actor Eric Stolz was replaced by Michael J. Fox after six weeks of filming. In Chris's words, Stolz was very serious, too serious, and didn't have that "joie de vivre" the producers thought necessary for that character. And when we all look at the finished product, we can't imagine anyone else playing Marty McFly other than Michael J. Fox.
Shatner and Nimoy: Their get-together on stage turned out to be a real treat. They are genuinely fond of each other, and they're each very funny, and more so together. One thing that touched me, though. Bill asked Leonard about filming Fringe. Leonard admitted that he was afraid of taking the part because he had to memorize the lines. (I had a feeling right then that that's why Leonard "retired" several years ago; he was losing his memory, or at least the memory young actors have, and need, when memorizing pages of dialogue.) When he and his wife left for Vancouver, he still hadn't had the script in hand. The producers actually sent his lines to him by phone, but he couldn't read it, so he asked the airline to print it all out for him. He spent the hours on the airplane memorizing the lines. If you saw that episode, you know that there's a rather long speech his character delivers. Obviously he was able to pull that off. Even though I knew he had done it successfully, I was holding my breath until he finished telling the story.
There are several things about this convention which made me glad I came, and one of those was the audience itself. This seemed to be a new crowd, a lot of them in costume. One of the Creation organizers told us that the last few Star Trek conventions had sold out, something he hadn't seen in years. It's the new movie. It seems to have revitalized this franchise, and brought new as well as old fans out to celebrate.
We're already making plans to attend next year. Again, I can't really explain why. Apparently it's a landmark part of my life, and I'm not willing to let go.
Editor's note: Like Linda, Beth and Sarah attended the entire convention, Wednesday through Sunday, and enjoyed numerous panels and Gold ticket-holder events throughout the weekend. She wrote a detailed account for our companion DS9 club, Far Beyond the Stars, and kindly sent us the following excerpt from that report, as well as a selection of her excellent photos.
This was my second year at the Creation Las Vegas Star Trek Con. Before 2008, my last convention was in the 1970s at the Commodore Hotel in New York City. When I heard that Sid would be in Vegas last year, I ordered my tickets pronto and had an amazing time. This year, I was going back, with my 12-year-old daughter Sarah, a newly minted Star Trek fan. She has earned her chops, having seen every series and every movie. She has a fantastic memory, and knows her Star Trek trivia cold.
Friday morning we had our DS9 breakfast. There's a cute story here. When René sat down at our table, he announced that he had the feeling that one of us was going to cause an incident. He went around the table, pointing to each of us in turn: "Let's see, it's not you, it's not you…" until he got to the last two, a young guy and his girlfriend. "Oh, it's YOU!" And, sure enough, the guy actually got down on one knee, pulled out a jewelry box, and proposed to his girlfriend! It turns out that they'd met one year ago, on their way to the 2008 Las Vegas Creation Star Trek Convention! Awwwww! It was very sweet, and René seemed to get a real kick out of it. I told the couple that they should invite René to the wedding--not that he'd actually come (I wouldn't think!) but just that it would be fun to do. They liked the idea, but were naturally a bit distracted. I didn't want to see them lose the opportunity, so I spoke to one of the guest handlers, and he agreed to pass the contact information on to René.
René is just amazing. He's such a great guy, so warm and genuine. And he's so much fun to photograph. What a face! I can't decide whether to concentrate on the comical ones or do "beauty" shots of him. He's got so much character, it can go either way!
After the breakfast, the next item on René's schedule was the autograph session.
As usual, the autograph tables were set up in the main ballroom, behind the stage. This year, the line of fans came first to René's table, then continued on to see Marc Alaimo, Kitty Swink, and Armin Shimerman.
The Creation convention staff members have gotten to know René over the years and are very helpful and cooperative when we ORACLE members arrive and ask for a little extra table space in order to display the various photos and cartoons that he sells for charity, and to give him room to draw his cartoons. Once again, Talia did a wonderful job of talking to the fans as they came by the table, explaining what we were selling and that all of the money René raises is donated to Doctors Without Borders.
As is also common, the lighting at the autograph tables was a little odd. There were just a few, very bright lights set up behind the actors, which were intended to allow them to see what they're signing…although sometimes all they accomplish is to cast awkward shadows in exactly the wrong place. Fortunately, this year, for most of the time that René was autographing, the overhead ballroom lights were also turned on, which helped to eliminate the harshness of the smaller lights.
Because of the way Creation sold his autograph tickets this year, René had a shorter autograph session than in previous years. This made the whole experience more enjoyable, because there was no pressure for René to rush to try to get through an endless line of fans. He was able to say "hello" to the fans as they came through, and several fans lingered in front of the charity photos, choosing first one, then two or three to purchase. One gentleman decided he liked the idea of getting an Odo's Bucket cartoon…then thought of someone else he should buy one for…then decided he really needed three! René took this as a challenge and decided to draw all three at once or, to be more accurate, in sequence: he drew the top of the bucket on each piece of paper, then went back and drew the sides for each, and so on, until he had completed all three, and in an amazingly short time!
After the autograph session, René was led away by the Creation staff for a short break, before returning for the DS9 cast panel Q&A session.
I was really looking forward to the Creation Star Trek Convention held every year at the Las Vegas Hilton because, although I have been a Star Trek fan since I was a child in the '60s, I especially enjoy seeing my favorite actor, René Auberjonois, who was announced as making an appearance this year. Not only was I looking forward to seeing Mr. Auberjonois, live and in person, but also Mike and Marguerite Krause and Talia Myres and other "René-fans." I also enjoy attending the Star Trek conventions because I always learn a great deal about the human experience. Living in Las Vegas makes it very easy to attend the convention, except that my work has been extremely busy and it was announced that Mr. A's appearance would be on Friday, not Saturday as it usually was. I asked my work and fortunately they agreed to let me off for the afternoon.
On Friday, August 7, at 12:20, there was a DS9 Cast Panel featuring Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko), Marc Alaimo (Gul Dukat), Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun, among other characters), René Auberjonois (Odo), Armin Shimerman (Quark), Colm Meaney (Chief O'Brien), and Casey Biggs (Damar). I was a little uneasy about seeing a panel that featured so many personalities, because I especially wanted to focus on René and possibly his good friend and colleague Armin, who are always very entertaining together. Fortunately, this panel turned out to be very enjoyable. In addition to the actors mentioned above, Chase Masterson was brought onstage by Adam Malin of Creation Entertainment to join the panel shortly after it began (the lone female in the group and dressed quite revealingly, to which the actors onstage reacted quite favorably).
I took notes during the presentation, and will try to share some of the dialogue that occurred during the panel discussion.
At the beginning, it was announced that it was Cirroc Lofton's birthday that day, and the assembled audience and panelists sang "Happy Birthday" to him.
Casey Biggs informally took charge of the panel, with the full approval of the rest of the actors, and, at his suggestion, they proceeded down the line to let the audience know what they were currently doing. Jeffrey Combs is currently performing Nevermore: An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe. Armin declared that he had seen the show and that it was "phenomenal."
René announced that he had opened a show of his art in Mendocino County, including his photography, drawings, and wire sculptures. He humbly announced, "I'm an artist."
Cirroc Lofton said that he was working on an album of his music and that his significant other had recently opened an Italian Restaurant and that otherwise he was "retired."
Colm Meaney stated that he was working on the films Law Abiding Citizen with Jamie Foxx, where he plays a very good cop and Get Him to the Greek with Russell Brand. He plays Russell Brand's dad although, he declared, "I'm not old enough."
Marc Alaimo stated that he was living it up in the hills of Malibu by kicking back in his art studio that is in the back of his house. He's basically retired and enjoying it.
Chase Masterson has self-produced and is featured in a film titled Yesterday was a Lie. She sings four songs and has made a distribution deal. It has already won some indy film awards. She has also worked on a pilot for the Reelz Channel.
Armin Shimerman is directing Twelfth Night and is helping to run a theater in Los Angeles. He will also be starring in The Seafarer at the San Diego Repertory Theater from November 14 through December 13.
Casey Biggs is part of the Greene Arts Foundation in upstate New York and is working on a production of Hamlet in New York City. He has also been teaching directing classes at the famous New School for Drama in New York City. He announced that he would be appearing at the con with the Enterprise Blues Band.
Jeffrey Combs announced that he was thankful to René for interceding with the producers of DS9 when René first directed an episode and asked for Jeffrey to play a small role. René said that the story was "not interesting, but true." René then told Colm Meaney that it was because of him that he does cons. Colm was supposed to go to a Star Trek Convention in Chicago when DS9 was first starting filming, but he was not available and told René that he should go instead. René told him that he really hadn't been part of Star Trek yet and didn't know how to go about it and the fans would be vastly disappointed. Colm told him that he should go--the fans would know more than he did anyway.
The actors agreed that the new Star Trek movie has reinvigorated interest in the Star Trek universe. The panelists asked how many people were there for their first convention and a great deal of people (more than I had suspected) raised their hands.
A Q&A session followed. One of the questions concerned "personality" actors and how those actors basically portray their own strongest character traits and play their characters authentically with ease. For instance, William Shatner is pretty much like how you see him in the media: dry and acerbic, but a real marshmallow at heart. Colm said that Tom Cruise is much the same. He revealed that Tom Cruise is a very energized personality who makes the other actors around weary because of his constant questions.
A question was posed to René about what it was like to work with Armin. In a rather bored voice, René said that it was "okay." Armin left his chair and stalked over to center stage, where he turned his back on the audience to glower at René, to everyone's amusement. Actually, they are very good friends and enjoy working together.
Colm was described as a "lazy" actor whose work ethic was quite different from that of Shimerman and Auberjonois. Shimerman and Auberjonois are self-described "control freaks" whose work ethic is very strong. They spoke about how Colm complained about the makeup he had to wear for the DS9 episode where Odo, O'Brien, and Sisko had to be made up to appear Klingon. René said he was very happy at the start upon hearing that Colm would have to wear the heavy makeup because it usually only took him minutes to have his makeup applied. Later, though, he was sorry about it because Colm continually whined and complained and drove everyone around him nuts having to listen to him. The actors who played alien characters often had to endure 12-hour workdays or longer in the heavy makeup.
Colm then told the story (often told by Shimerman) about the morning when the 1994 earthquake occurred. Shimerman was getting into makeup and, when the quake happened, immediately drove home with his make-up still on. Colm speculated about how strange it must have looked to the other few people on the roads at Melrose and Vine that early morning.
They all agreed that Cardassian make-up was the worst and required a tremendous amount of time to be applied, and that the costume was also tough to wear.
One of the panelists described how René, at the end of a day of shooting, could hold his nose and blow up Odo's latex face like a balloon, because he would just tear off the mask each day, while Armin had to have his makeup gently removed, which would almost take as much time as it did to put on.
A fan mentioned to Colm that he would have liked to see him in Harry Potter. Another fan wanted to know whether Mr. Meaney had appreciated doing the 1994 mini-series Scarlett and whether it was made near his home in Ireland. Meaney said that it wasn't really near his home, but that it had occurred during a time when he had tickets to the Ireland vs. Italy World Cup Soccer Match in New York City. He described making a whirlwind trip from Dublin to London to New York City and back in a single weekend so that he wouldn't have to miss the renowned match, or miss any of the work on the mini-series. He flew on the Concorde.
Another audience member told the panel that she thought the series was the best and most cutting edge Star Trek series ever.
Jeffrey Combs was asked a question about the many roles that he's played in the different Star Trek series. It was interesting to hear that Andorian Schran's antennae were like a radio-controlled car and were operated by other personnel on the set, not Jeffrey.
Casey Biggs stated that acting is 90% trust and there were such fantastic actors on Star Trek--many of them classically trained. He knew that playing Damar would add weight to his resumé and that he was in good hands with the producers and directors on the show. He related that he was thankful to Marc Alaimo for creating Cardassians. Marc Alaimo said that he could tell when he saw Weyoun that there would be some great moments with the character on the show. René, joking, said that once you've seen one Cardassian you've seen them all and that he doesn't remember all that many moments featuring those characters.
Chase Masterson said that all of the technical people who worked on the show should be on stage too because they were just as important as the actors on DS9.
Cirroc Lofton was asked what kind of music he does and he said that he does hip hop and rap but he is not a fan of the current trend in those genres of music, with their violence and negativity. He also said that it is easier to get into music professionally than into TV. There are more outlets, including online applications, to get your music heard.
Speaking to Cirroc, Armin recalled the montage in the final episode of DS9, which showed Jake Sisko growing up on the show (and therefore young Mr. Lofton as well, from age 14 through 21). Armin said that watching that montage, he felt a feeling of proud patrimony toward Cirroc, and the other actors on stage agreed.
A fan asked all of the actors to name their favorite episodes. Chase Masterson said that her favorites were "Dr. Bashir, I Presume" and also the episode where she was shown teaching Quark how to be a woman. She also related her experiences during the episode in which Robert Picardo played the Human doctor who was the model for the holographic doctor on Star Trek: Voyager. She said it was funny watching the cast and crew trying to find a final line for Dr. Zimmerman and that Picardo did some very funny ad libs in trying to find that tag line.
Jeffrey said that, for him, it was "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River" because he got to spend a whole week working with René while they were trapped on a space shuttle set.
Cirroc stated that he has been watching the DVDs lately and that his favorite episode was "Far Beyond the Stars".
Colm said that his favorite was "Past Tense" a two-part episode that threw the crew of the Defiant back in time to 2024 on Earth. The United States of America was attempting to solve the problem of homelessness by erecting "Sanctuary Districts" where unemployed and mentally ill persons are placed in makeshift ghettos. He said that it really commented on contemporary issues because San Francisco actually did try to quarantine the homeless not too long after that episode was made.
Armin said that his favorite episode was "Far Beyond the Stars" as well.
Marc Alaimo said his favorite episodes were the ones that showed that there were two different sides to his character of Dukat. He appreciated being able to prove that his character was not just a one-dimensional evil character.
Casey Biggs said his favorite episode is the one where Damar decides to stop drinking. René was the director. Casey said it was about 1:30 in the morning and he only had one chance to throw the drink into the mirror and it all came together in that moment. He said that it is always exciting when you can have those moments that define a character and put an actor on the line to accomplish something great.
René described how, when he was waiting for his flight that morning at the Burbank Airport, someone came up to him and said, "Ahhh, you're the guy that was on Rockford Files." René had expected the guy to say Benson or Star Trek or even Boston Legal, and was surprised when he said Rockford Files instead.
An audience member mentioned René's work on the Legacy of Kain (aka Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver III) computer game as the voice of the character of Janos. René said that he recently spent a few weeks doing motion capture work on the video game Uncharted 2 by the Naughty Dog Company. It is directed by Gordon Hunt, with whom he's worked before. His outfit had buttons all over it and he said that the work was fascinating because it took place in a huge, empty studio where 200 laser cameras caught the action portrayed. Very basic tables and other furniture shapes were used, but the graphics will be completed by the studio. He is also voicing the part of a German spy in a new FX animated series, intended for adults instead of children, for next season titled Archer.
Another question from an audience member was about the relationship between Jake and Captain Sisko. Cirroc stated that Avery Brooks "took me under his wing and treated me like his own son" including discipline. Cirroc even went on a family vacation with the Brooks family. He was like an adopted step-son. The feelings they had toward each other were genuine--they weren't acting.
Another fan asked what kind of input the actors had into the writing--the answer was "None." It was different on TNG where the actors had limited input. The greatest compliment the DS9 actors got on set was, "DLP, lovie," from the script coordinator. It meant that the words were as close as possible. If there were any questions about the dialogue, the actors spoke with the producers, but that happened infrequently.
Someone asked what the actors took off the stages when the series ended. Jeffrey Combs said that he got a "face" from René. Armin said that René rolled up a truck.
After the DS9 panel, I went to see Robert Picardo and Ethan Phillips recreate their Voyager characters in a play titled "Housecall." It was hilarious and very impromptu. I only got to see the last part. After the play, Robert Picardo sang with Mr. Phillips accompanying him on the saxophone. There was a table in the back of the auditorium selling Picardo's signed CDs and he came back to the table. He seemed very concerned about the performance and the technical difficulties they'd had. I told him that that is part of the wonder and excitement of live performance and that I enjoyed his performance very much.
Other guests that I listened to over the weekend included Jacqueline Kim, who played Sulu's daughter on Star Trek: Generations. She was very interesting to listen to. One valid point she made is about something she learned when she was doing Generations and was still a very young actress. She learned the difference between accomplished, mature actors and younger actors. The mature actors are not self-indulgent and too quick to react to another actor's lines. They take the time to listen and then react, instead of revealing that they know what is coming by reacting too quickly. This makes for a more realistic acting style.
Another actor we saw was Christopher Lloyd; like René, a tall, lean character actor well known for playing eccentric roles in motion pictures and television. He was very interesting to listen to. I really appreciated hearing his viewpoint on a lot of my favorite movies, including Dream Team, Clue, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, the Back to the Future trilogy, the two Addams Family movies (as Uncle Fester), and the television show Taxi. Of course he also played Commander Krug in Star Trek: The Search for Spock.
On Saturday morning, before René had to leave for the airport, he spent a little while wandering around the convention and saying "hello" to friends. He dropped in on the "breakfast with the stars" that was underway and spent a few minutes chatting with Ethan Phillips, to the great delight of the fans sitting at Ethan's table--they got a bonus guest with their meal!
As soon as Ethan saw René, he jumped up and greeted him in with a "Hey, Clayton!" The two of them proceeded to exchange stories, including two I hadn't heard before. Ethan commented on the reading glasses that René wears around his neck, saying that they reminded them of Clayton's glasses. René pointed out that the glasses were purely an affectation for Clayton: he always had them around his neck but never actually used them. Ethan said that he clearly remembered a day when they were filming an episode and René came offstage after completing a scene, horrified that he'd forgotten Clayton's glasses. Ethan said this is a great Benson trivia question: to identify the single scene in Clayton's six seasons on the show when he didn't have those glasses! René remembers the incident, but neither he nor Ethan remember which episode it was.
Ethan said he also remembered a day, early in his work on the show, when he was sitting on the kitchen set, waiting to start a rehearsal, and René came in, carrying a can of juice and idly shaking it. René then said, "I think this is going to be a thing that Clayton does…." And that's what happened. I can't count the number of episodes in the series that include a shot of Clayton striding into the kitchen, getting a can of juice from the fridge, and shaking it vigorously as he delivered some pronouncement or other.
After leaving Ethan, René strolled through the dealer's room for a while. One of the people he encountered was Alex Wer, "The Pumpkin Geek," who does custom carvings on "everlasting pumpkins"--realistic-looking jack-o-lanterns made of a soft plastic. He had done a selection of carvings of Trek characters for the convention, including one of Odo. René stopped to admire Alex's work (each carving is done individually, by hand; beautiful work!) and posed for a photo at Alex's request. After the convention, Alex contacted René and donated an Odo carving to René to use in a future charity fundraiser.
Soon after that, René's ride to the airport was ready to leave, and it was time to say goodbye…until next time!
On Sunday, I went to hear William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. I didn't understand why Shatner came out by himself. I thought to myself, "Oh, no, I guess Mr. Nimoy couldn't make it and I didn't hear about it." Between the two of them, I prefer the intellectual to the egocentric. William Shatner is such a "real" character. He had the audience in the palm of his hand with every word. He spoke for a while and then did a Q&A session. Shatner revealed that he had not seen the new Star Trek movie. He kept trying to come up with reasons why he hadn't so he could tell Leonard Nimoy and others why. Later, he was joined on stage by Nimoy. Shatner called Nimoy a "whore" for being in the new movie, but said that he was very funny and performed the role well. Then Mr. Shatner left the stage to allow Mr. Nimoy to speak and answer questions. Zachary Quinto (the new Spock) and Jacob Kogan (young Spock in the new movie) surprised Mr. Nimoy when they came out on stage so that people could take pictures of the three Spocks together. Later, Nimoy revealed that he will be playing William Bell, founder of the corporate giant Massive Dynamic and former colleague of Walter Bishop (played by John Noble) on the television show Fringe. He is set to appear in three episodes. Nimoy brought up the importance of understanding the different timeline theory used in new Star Trek movie and explained that it will also be important to Fringe. That theory explains how the major characters in Star Trek can be different from their original counterparts; they are different people with different experiences.
One fan asked Nimoy what he would still like to accomplish in his life. He said that he doesn't have "somedays." In other words, he is extremely fulfilled because he is living his life the way he wants, and when it is time to go he won't look back and remember those things that he wanted to accomplish and never did. He has lived every day to its fullest. He is still in love with his wife and with his work (including his photography). Hearing Christopher Lloyd speak, I got much the same impression. Listening to these two mature, interesting, and compassionate actors made me think of Mr. Auberjonois and how he seems to be very fulfilled in his life--with his art and photography, his acting, his family life, and his friends. Seeing such fulfillment encourages me to try to do the same.
I have come to realize that just because one gets older, it doesn't mean that life is over--it means you have more time to pursue and enjoy life's rewards just as strongly as in youth.
Thank you for another great Encounter and for another "life" lesson, Mr. Auberjonois. "Live Long and Prosper", sir. From what I can tell, you seem to be doing just that.
(in order from top of page:)
Photos 1,7-12, Jo Beth Taylor
Photos 2 and 3, Beth Madison
Photos 4, 5, 6, and 13, Mike Krause
To see more pumpkin carvings, visit The Pumpkin Geek!
At "The Inside Trekker," a blogger has posted a nice description of the DS9 panel Q&A session, here.