by Carol Reeg
René shared the stage at previous "Weekend on the Promenade" events with Andy Robinson in '97 and with Armin Shimerman in '98. The plan was to put René and Alexander Siddig together in '99, but unfortunately Disney needed René to work on Sid's scheduled day, Sunday, on a movie he began filming last fall, "Inspector Gadget." René traded days with Andy which made the pairings were the same as the previous year -- René and Armin on Saturday and Sid and Andy on Sunday.
In addition to the four host celebrities, various cast and crew members were invited to attend the event and meet the fans. The Saturday autograph group included Armin's wife Kitty Swenk (who played a Bajoran in "Sanctuary" and will play a Vorta this season), Armin's co-authors David R. George and Eric A. Stillwell, Chase Masterson, Aron Eisenberg, and Lolita Fatjo. René is shown here between Kitty and Chase with Aron and Armin.
After the fans had a chance to meet the actors, get autographs and have their pictures taken with them, it was time for the banquet. René created souvenirs on his computer for all the guests and I placed one at each place. It was a stylized picture of his Odo make-up being pulled off for the last time with the caption "It's a wrap!"
In addition to the autograph group, Alexander Siddig, Nana Visitor, Andy Robinson, William Sadler, and Bjo Trimble arrived for the banquet and each sat at a round table with fans. Celebrity couples sat at adjacent tables to maximize the number of fans who'd get to share a table with an honored guest. Instead of having eight fans sit at a table with Sid and Nana, for example, you could have eighteen fans sit at a table with one or the other. Django failed to see the logic in this. "Sit with us, Daddy," he protested. "Sit with us!" Since Django was sitting between Nana and me, he must have thought I was sitting in his father's chair. He shot me one resentful look, but soon resigned himself to the situation and shuttled back and forth between the high chair by his mother and his father's lap. Nana said that was fairly typical for him. Sitting still is not Django's strong suit.
One of the topics of conversation at Nana's table was the accident that had recently happened on the set. While filming a fight scene, Avery Brooks misjudged the distance and failed to miss Marc Alaimo's face with a hearty blow. The punch landed with a sickening thud followed by a huge outpouring of blood. That weekend we all believed that Marc's nose had been broken, but it now appears that wasn't the case. The stunt director has commented that it was the first stunt-related injury on the set of DS9 in seven years. They came within a couple weeks of having a perfect record.
After dinner, Sid, Andy, Armin, and René got up one at a time to distribute the "thank you" gifts to the event's volunteer staff. Sid let his son Django help him pass out his batch and the two of them were on stage together briefly during this time. Andy stood beside his table to make his presentations and I got a lovely hug from him along with my envelope. When it was Armin's turn, he chose to go on stage and as soon as Django saw him there, he announced, "I want to help Army." Armin was willing and Django joined him on stage.
René was next and invited Django to continue as his assistant. Knowing that people were trying to videotape the event and realizing how impossible it would be to keep both him and Django in frame in anything but the longest of shots, René suggested that Django stand on the table to make the presentations. Django squatted down and patted the stage floor. "I want to stand here," he said decisively. Django was a willing helper for a while, but on the second to the last item he announced, "I want to give this to Mommy."
I heard Sid groan and murmur "It was a disaster waiting to happen."
But René took his assistant's rebellion in stride. "That's fine," he told Django. "You give that to your mother." So Django went down the steps and gave the envelope to Nana who, in turn, presented it to the intended recipient.
After dinner, we watched a videotape of memorable scenes from Deep Space Nine and the fan club gatherings. What a great trip down memory lane!
Next, Andy was scheduled to read from his Garak's Diaries, but the hotel staff placed the podium on the stage with no light. René and Armin picked up the podium and moved it over to the white screen where the videotape had been shown so that Andy could see and be seen. I was impressed with their consideration for a fellow performer. Andy has sold Garak's Diaries, which is scheduled for an October release. We all hope there's an audio book in its future, since hearing Andy read it makes it perfect.
The celebrity auction began with a Buffy the Vampire Slayer script, contributed by Armin and signed by the entire cast of the WB show. When the opening bid was $100, Armin turned to René and said, "I should have brought more scripts." René had liberated various props, plans, and accessories from the DS9 set as it was being dismantled. Here he is modeling two of three Dabo chips he contributed to the auction.
William Sadler hadn't known about the charity auction when he'd accepted an invitation to the banquet, but as Rene and Armin were taking turns auctioning items, Sadler took a piece of paper and drew a self portrait. He then announced he had something to auction and joined René and Armin on stage and remained for the Q & A. One of the fans asked him, "Is Sloan the Federation Garak?"
His jaw just dropped. He fumbled around for an answer for a moment and then said, "Do I sound a bit unprepared to you?"
René reassured him, "Don't worry. Soon you'll be able to B.S. like the rest of us."
William Sadler drew himself up and got into character as an expert and proclaimed with authority, "Sloan is the Federation Garak." René was right. It didn't take him long.
When Sadler announced that he was going to give plot summaries for all the unaired episodes, René put his hand over Sadler's mouth, but it was clearly a photo-op, not a scuffle.
Chase Masterson joined the group for a couple of questions. When asked about future plans, René told about starting work on Xyber 9 the following Monday, William Sadler is going to be in two up-coming films one of which starred Tom Hanks, Chase will be featured in a Stephen King film with Faith Ford, and Armin joked that he hopes to turn his experience as Quark into a career as a bartender.
On Sunday, J.G. Hertzler (Martok, Laas) had a few special items to auction and then joined Andy and Sid for their Q & A.
Andy told about a horrifying moment during his first day of directing "Looking for Par Mach..." when everything went wrong and the "day went into the toilet." Sid shared that in England the phrase is "the day went pear-shaped" or simply "it went pear." There was a hotly contested battle over which country could more eloquently describe the situation of having used up half a day while still having a full day's work to do.
In Scottsdale '97, Sid had attributed a witticism to J.G. concerning the habitual tardiness of a cast member. When a member of the audience asked J.G. about this, he categorically denied that he had ever cast aspersions on any of his illustrious colleagues "present company very much included." Sid conceded that since the remark had been witty, clearly J.G. had not made it on purpose, but due to some accidental mix-up of words.
René had a very good response in San Diego '98 when he sold a shirt which read "Nobody Knows I'm a Changling" at the charity auction. So, this year he decided to sell the black T-shirt which he has been wearing under his Odo costume all these years. Armin decided he could do that, too, and brought his. They were so similar that the only way you could tell one from the other was by checking the name tag sewn in the back, but both were successfully auctioned off on Saturday night.
When I learned that Sid would bring his T-shirt to sell on Sunday, I thought, "T-shirts aren't really that interesting -- if you've seen one, you've seen them all."
I was mistaken. I'd never seen a padded T-shirt -- but that's what we saw at Sunday's auction. Sid explained that the contoured foam rubber padding gave Bashir "that robust chest women go for." It sold for $300.
Andy and Sid both commented on Marc's accident during the Q & A. It was easy for Andy to identify with Marc, since getting injured in full makeup and being rushed to the hospital incased in latex and blood has been a recurring nightmare for him for years. Sid's heart went out to Avery who has always shown such consideration for everyone on the set.
The event raised $30,000 for charity and that doesn't include what J.G. Hertzler raised to fight the disease that killed his father or what Chase Masterson raised for Children with Aids.
As we were packing up our belongings to clear the banquet room, a couple people asked us when next year's event would be. "There's no event scheduled for next year," we answered. "But don't you have one every year?" For six years now, DS9 fan clubs have had events at which they could meet the actors and support various charities. Fan clubs will continue to have gatherings -- most often in connection with convention appearances. But I can't imagine anything quite like this ever happening again. It's the end of an era.
Saturday's autograph group - photo by Kathy Wang