|Creation's Las Vegas
by Linda Burnett, Talia Myres, Lynne Transue, and Marguerite Krause
Star Trek Convention
Thursday, August 9, 2012
My Top 10 of the 2012 Las Vegas Star Trek Convention
by Linda Burnett
10. Another round of Borg Bingo, which is always a lot of fun. Of course, this one wasn't as much fun as the first year, when Malachi Throne kept calling numbers that didn't exist in the Bingo world (e.g., D33).
9. Andrew Robinson was on a large panel of "character" actors, like Elizabeth Dennehy (LCDR Shelby in "The Best of Both Worlds"), the first red shirt (Eddie Paskey), Alexander Enberg (Ensign Vorik on Voyager), Arlene Martel (T'Pring on the original series), and Patti Yasutake (Nurse Ogawa on TNG). While the latter five are marvelous actors in their own right, Andy's character Garak drew so much interest from the convention crowd that the many questions were all directed to him. Adam Malin had to jump in and ask that other questions be asked. Next year: Andy's own appearance?
8. Star Trek: The Next Generation panel, which featured everyone on the bridge except Patrick Stewart and Wil Wheaton. The TNG cast proved much more containable than the Voyager cast, as Adam interviewed them and actually got answers to questions.
7. Jonathan del Arco. Jonathan talked about his experiences as Hugh Borg, of course, and was very charming. He is currently guest starring on the new series Major Crimes as a curmudgeonly, gay medical examiner.
6. The Four Captains. Again, the only one missing was Patrick Stewart, but that didn't slow down this foursome. Avery Brooks surprised everyone by revealing that he was in the Cub Scouts ("I was an Eagle Scout, too"), and, in fact, all the men--including Bill Shatner and Scott Bakula--were in the Scouts. Kate Mulgrew revealed that she had a not-so-secret crush on one of the captains…. William Shatner.
5. Dressing up in costume for the first time. I've been to maybe 100 conventions, and I've never dressed up. But when my friend and I heard we would try to break the Guinness Book of World Records for most Star Trek-costumed people in one place, we had to do it. The record stands at 1,040 from the 2011 Las Vegas con. Unfortunately, we were 200 short of the record, but we all had a ball standing in the big room, talking with one another, admiring each other's uniform or costume, and taking photos. Next year!
4. Photo ops. We had only one--with Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis. Again, we chatted with everyone in line, most of whom were in costume, as just a few hours before we tried for the world record. And Jonathan and Marina couldn't be more gracious, even though the experience only lasted 60 seconds.
3. Ronald Moore. This was a singular moment in time when we got to hear how Ron Moore began his Star Trek career, and, especially, how some events came to be. He gives René Echevarria credit for coming up with the idea of putting the actors into an episode of the original series in order to honor Star Trek's anniversary. But it was Ron that suggested "The Trouble with Tribbles" as the focus point for the re-do. "People were coming down to the sets just to see them. We had to match the fonts perfectly. Lighting was different back then, cameras were different. It was hard. The kind of lights they used (in the sixties) aren't used any more."
2. Ira Steven Behr. What an incredible interview, Adam Malin to the creator of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine! Ira talked about the creation of this series and their constant battle with Paramount. Paramount complained often about the static-ness of the space station, and suggested ways of putting engines or wings on the station so that it could travel. And Sisko. "Everything with Sisko was a fight. He was supposed to be a younger man, and then Avery wanted to change his looks…." The studio fought them on Bajoran politics, saying that nobody wanted to hear about politics. "So we changed it to religion (instead of politics). They left us alone." Ira sees that the writers were just "trying to get to the humanity of these characters. Gul Dukat doesn't see himself as a villain. All those Bajorans killed--he saw himself as being a patriot. It's complicated." Salome Jens told him toward the end of the series: "You know, when I took this role, I thought I was the hero of the show. I thought the Founders were the saviors. As the scripts kept coming in, I thought, Oh My God!"
1. René Auberjonois and Ethan Phillips in a Benson play. I've never watched Benson before, but that didn't matter, as these two veterans did a play with scripts in hand featuring their own pre-Star Trek Benson characters, and it was a laugh-a-minute funfest. I understand Ethan wrote the script, because René kept saying, "You're the one who wrote this #%*@!" There were lots of old jokes for both actors, and the sight of 10,000 people laughing at and with these actors was a highlight of the convention.
It's been three years since I last attended Creation Entertainment's annual Star Trek Las Vegas convention. In years past, it was held at the Las Vegas Hilton; however, this year, it was at the Rio Suites Hotel (it moved there in 2011).
Creation made a great business decision when they chose to move locations. The Las Vegas Hilton previously hosted "The Star Trek Experience", but when that shut down in 2008, the overall atmosphere for the con was greatly diminished. Moving it to the Rio brought a new energy to the con for several reasons--better location (even though it's still off Las Vegas Boulevard, the Rio is more centrally located than the Hilton), bigger gaming floor (by 46,000 square feet), larger, nicer rooms and a superior convention center.
Even though the Rio's convention center is about 400 square-feet less than the Hilton convention center, it felt more spacious. The eclectic art donning the walls, intricately patterned carpet and numerous corridors lent an air of sophistication to the place that the Hilton simply couldn't match. However, fair is fair, and the Hilton was the definite winner when it came to dining options.
But honestly, who comes for the food when traveling to Vegas in the scorching August heat? We come to see all our Star Trek and sci-fi favorites, and many of us come to see René. I know that's why I made the trip!
This year, René's appearance was on Thursday, the first day of the convention. He was scheduled to take the stage around 3 p.m. that day, so we had some time to kill. The rest of the group I was with had been good and pre-ordered their tickets. I, however, waited until the last minute and missed that window. So, after a nice breakfast at one of the hotel's restaurants, we headed down to the convention area, prepared to wait in line. Much to our surprise, there wasn't much of a crowd. I stood there for about five minutes, and then walked away with my little red wristband that would give me access to just about everything I wanted.
After scoping out the dealer's room--it was large with many, many vendors selling many, many things no fan ever really needs but, of course, desperately wants--we decided to check out the rest of the Rio. On our way back through, we happened to catch a would-be flash mob of red shirt zombies. A local film crew was on hand to capture the group as they trudged and danced to Michael Jackson's "Thriller." It wasn't too bad, and the fans hanging around to watch certainly enjoyed it!
Throughout the day, as we milled around the hotel, we caught various glimpses of famous Star Trek names. Garrett Wang seemed to be everywhere. I must have seen him three or four times, and every single time, he was extremely gracious to his fans, taking the time to talk with them, take photos, etc.
In addition to famous people, it was great seeing the costumes and accessories. One woman sported an original Trek mini skirt complete with a Janice Rand-esque beehive, except that it was much taller! There was also a guy walking around with a life-sized Captain America shield. It was a perfect replica, and when I asked him if I could take a picture of it, he asked if I'd like to hold it. Of course, it was an instant yes, and the photo netted me many likes on Facebook!
Miri and I pretty much wandered around the convention until René's talk at 3:10 p.m. He and Ethan Phillips did a really blue stand-up routine as their Benson characters, Pete Downey and Clayton Endicott III. The act consisted of a lot of one liners (some jokes a bit more dated than others) and random observations. It was quite nonsensical, and while it was occasionally funny, it was often too out of character for the characters. Ethan and René did a good job delivering the material, but it wasn't my cup of tea. To be fair, this was the first-ever performance of the material, but like the City of Angels song says, "It needs work." Still, the crowd seemed to enjoy it most of the time.
Afterwards, though, is when things got really cool.
I've always liked Gates McFadden--she was my favorite actress growing up, and even though I've been to plenty of cons, I've never had the opportunity to cross paths. But when I learned she was attending the con, it seemed like fate might finally smile down on me. See, René knows her, so when he was done with his performance, he took me to the dealer's room and introduced me to her! Yay! Oh, the 14-year-old fan girl inside me was squeeing like, well, like a teenage fan girl, but the 34-year-old adult merely smiled, shook her hand and said how nice it was to meet her. Hee! It was short. It was sweet. But by golly, I met Dr. Crusher, and there's a picture of my head in a photo as she and René talked, so I have proof!
Later that night, after a quick bite for dinner with a few RAFL folks, we finally sat down for René's autograph session. For those of you who don't know, René does a lot of fundraising for Doctors Without Borders. When he goes to cons, he'll sell pictures he brings himself for $20. He'll also draw people a little cartoon of Odo in his bucket and personalize it. All the money from that he donates to DWB.
Originally, they had René's, Ethan's and Nichelle Nichol's tables set up in a small area behind the main stage in the main ballroom. But it soon became apparent that would not work. There was no lighting, making it near impossible to sign, and when they did bring in some lights, it was quickly determined they would provide limited coverage, so René wrangled a convention person and had the tables moved out into the spacious, well-lit auditorium! That set-up was much better, and within 15 minutes, the signing session was underway.
Miriam and I sat at the front of the table, so we tag-teamed it and were able to help Mike, Marguerite and René raise about $700 in an hour or so. Not too shabby! In addition to raising money for a great cause, it's always terrific to chat with our fellow convention goers. People come from all over the world. While there are always a few dealers in line simply to get things signed to later sell, the majority of folks are genuine fans who are eager to say hi to their favorite actor. After attending this con for a several years, it's always a delight to see "regulars" who come by René's table.
When the signing was over, I managed to slide over and introduce myself to Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura from the original Trek) who was one table down from us. She's a classy lady, super nice and I wanted a chance to tell her how much I appreciate her strong role model and ground breaking work in TV. She was great and super gracious! It was a great ending to a long, but fun, day.
All in all, it was a fun convention filled with many memorable moments. More importantly, it was an opportunity to see so many familiar faces that have come to have a special place in my heart. RAFL truly is a family, and even though we don't get see each other as often as many of us would probably like, conventions (or as I like to call them, family reunions) afford us the opportunity to catch up and reenergize those bonds. It was great seeing everyone who attended, and hopefully, if you couldn't make it this year, we'll get to see you next year!
I love seeing friends and sharing interests. Having appreciation of a great actor and a great man named René Auberjonois is one interest that I have been blessed to be able to share with a variety of people over the last nine years. I became part of ORACLE rather late--approximately four years after Star Trek: Deep Space Nine went off the air--and yet it seems that Star Trek is a timeless appreciation. Fans come and go and yet the product remains true to the optimistic view that mankind will continue to mature and that things will keep getting better. Currently, in America, and throughout the world, there is a defeatist attitude that man will continue to be savage, hateful, and cruel. But, if you take the microcosm of the world that are Star Trek fans, the future remains bright, friendly, and very kind.
I had the opportunity this year to again be able to afford to attend the Las Vegas Star Trek convention. A convergence occurred in that I have become re-employed and Marguerite and Mike Krause and Talia Myres were able to come back to Las Vegas to attend the convention. In fact, I have been so employed that I could only attend the convention on Thursday afternoon in my town of residence. I met up with the Krauses during the presentation by John De Lancie (Q)and Marnie Mosiman (Harmony of Star Trek: The Next Generation's "Loud as a Whisper"), husband and wife actors. I had never seen John De Lancie speak before, and they were very interesting.
Next followed René Auberjonois and Ethan Phillips in a performance piece based on the 1980s situation comedy Benson, in which both appeared. For some reason that isn't fathomable, Adam Levine, co-owner of Creation Entertainment, decided to ask the actors to do something Benson related at a Star Trek convention. Although I was always a fan of the show (including seeing the filming many times in Los Angeles, and I don't understand why they haven't released all the episodes on video yet), Benson and Star Trek really don't have much in common except the two actors. The idea of the actors playing the characters was cute, but that was where the presentation strayed off of entertaining. Ethan Philips wrote a poor-in-taste satire that featured such exhausting gags as the comparisons of the sizes of their manhood, and the ridicule of every character on the show. This was a very uncomfortable piece, for both audience and actors. In fact, it was written in such poor taste that I felt sorry for Mr. Auberjonois, who did what he could to give the performance some poise and style. Mr. Auberjonois, being a classically training actor, tried to aid the piece with his great talent for comedy and improvisation. He occasionally expressed his discomfort with asides to the audience. I did appreciate the fact that people of all races, creeds, religions, and stature were not beyond being targets for the roughhewn humor. I often found myself laughing because I wasn't sure what else to do. Potty humor does that to me. I felt that I was in a time warp because both actors sounded similar to my remembrance of the characters they played. The best part of the performance was their personal recollections of their friendship, their recollections of the situation comedy and their comparisons to Star Trek and some of their experiences on both shows.
I look forward to other occasions for ORACLE get-togethers in the future to share interests and to remember, together, that there are moments when we humans can meet with common respect, kindness, and humility.
As mentioned by Talia and Lynne, instead of simply sharing the stage for the usual sort of convention Q&A session, René and his friend Ethan (Johnnie) Phillips performed over 30 minutes of a wild and wacky comedy routine, written by Ethan… or, as Johnnie himself would probably say, stolen by him. Many of the jokes were pure "insult comedy", with barbs flying back and forth between Ethan, in character as "Pete" from Benson, and René as "Clayton", and lots more were variations on gags that have been around since vaudeville or longer (for example, after Pete made a comment about how hot the weather had been, Clayton said, "It is hot. The Governor had me take Katie to the zoo the other day, and the water buffalos had evaporated." Yes, truly groan-worthy material!). More than once, René slipped effortlessly out of being "Clayton" and back to being himself, just long enough to express his astonishment at the absurd (and often rude) jokes Johnnie had come up with.
With this show, you really had to be there to get the full effect. Much of the humor came across because of the way the two of them played off each other on stage, both in character as Pete and Clayton and when they stepped out of character to just be long-time friends Johnnie and René sharing a good laugh. It was clear they were having great fun together, and those of us watching were carried along for the ride.
One final memory of this convention: after a long day of performing and autographing, Ethan's sense of humor was still going strong. At the end of the autograph session, he wandered over to one of the hotel "house" phones, on the wall near René's table, and began to pretend to order pizza for the last fans and Creation staff members still lingering in the ballroom. Everyone within earshot, including René, listened with great amusement to his silliness. It was the perfect ending to an entertaining day.
Photos by (top to bottom): 1 & 7, Jo Beth Taylor; the rest, Mike or Marguerite Krause.
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