…How a Portland Geek Spent 72 Hours at Dragon*Con!
Before you continue, I feel I should give a couple of disclaimers. First, you won’t hear any Geek news or movie exclusives ala, Comic Con. Nor will you read about my reactions as I saw the debut of this trailer or that show. In fact, I can tell you now, I learned absolutely nothing new within the realm of Geekdom. Indeed, that might be one of Dragon*Con’s greatest strengths. It is the last of the great pop culture / Geek gatherings with only one true agenda; bring Geeks of all type together in a desire to celebrate all that is wonderful about fandom. Will the day come that Hollywood sinks it’s talons into the great city of Atlanta every Labor Day Weekend? Perhaps, but for now, you will not find a greater collections of unashamed Geeks, Nerds, Gamers, and Fanboys & Fangirls… It’s like Mos Eisley Cantina, but without the Droid hating. (Or, no blaster rule when I think about it).
2nd, as if you haven’t already figured it out, this post will come darn close to “navel gazing”. I can only hope I’m able to use my rather limited communication skills to keep you, the fine Geek in the City reader entertained. If it will help, this article will have all kinds of pictures from the 2008 Dragon*Con! And with that out of the way. Here we go…
See, right off the bat I drop a picture for you fine folks! (Granted, it is boring sign, but a picture none the less).
Even as I waited in line for my pass, I can’t help but smile as I see every demographic represented. It doesn’t seem to matter ones race, gender, age, or political leaning; we’re all here in the muggy ass South because we love our stories. All around me, people are quoting movie lines and laughing about something they once saw in an episode of Dr. Who or are joking about the worst saving throw ever made! And, it is a very good thing I find this all so terribly amusing, since this cattle rustling of a line would put any Disneyland ride to shame. None of that matters though, after waiting for my turn at the ticket booth, I take my glorious badge adorned with the indie comic character Nova (and a swanky Press ribbon) and stride into convention proper.
Before my eyes can even adjust to the brighter than suggested light (we Geeks aren’t a fan of light), I bump right into Leelo and Corbin Dallas. This is gonna’ be frakking great! My first nerdy picture out of the way, I press on. Music blaring from all around. From Celtic Flutes to Postmodern Steampunk Rock, this is everything you won’t find at other conventions. (You also won’t find a creepy undead clown that took pleasure in licking my freshly shaved head. I almost ran away, but he promised to eat me last, so I acquiesced).
Right away I find a familiar face, well, as familiar as one can consider an internet only correspondent. The fine musicians of Abney Park. A Seattle-based band, Abney Park is the kind of band Jules Verne would have formed if he had any musical talent… Complete with steam-powered guitars and Tesla Coil violins. (Remember that Postmodern Steampunk music I mentioned, this is them). Seeing their collection of CDs, I have the first of many urgings to remind them that I promoted their music in Film Fever Radio and love to review genre musicians on Geek in the City. Thankfully, classier thoughts prevailed and I simply shook their hands and moved on.
Then. It. Happened.
I rounded a pillar and saw a hot as fireballs gamer babe strutting past me in a well-made and fair-priced Natural 20 Shirt.
Trying my best to not turn into the gamer stereotype, while at the same time pointing right at her well-rounded tracks of land I proclaimed, “That is a great shirt”! She smiled and slowed, clearing trying to decide if I was genuinely interested in her shirt, or just angling for a way to buy her some drinks. “Thanks, I bought it online at…um… Shoot, a Geek site…Damn”.
Um, you bought it through Geek in the City.
“Right! You know the site, cool”.
Well, yea, it is kinda’ my site…um, that is one of my shirts.
“No way! You made it”!?
Well, technically, CafePress made it, but I designed it. (Note to self, like being asked if one is a God, always say yes).
“Oh, well, that is still cool. Hell, would you sign it”!
“Yes I’m serious”.
Okay, cool. (I say, feigning humility whilst whipping out a silver Sharpie for just this occasion… Thank you Jayesunn Krump for hammering the habit into me). I ask her to turn around, she laughs at me and does the thrust. (You dudes know what I’m talking about. THE thrust).
“No way, sign right above the dice”.
Um, okay… Oh, sorry about that, I didn’t mean to touch…I mean…opps…Um…Sorry…Oh man, this is awkward… (WOOO, I RULE).
And, like that, she was gone. I never saw her again. I like to tell myself she simply went home after receiving my glorious signature. However, it is far more likely she just got lost in the 30,000+ Dragon*Con crowd.
This was gonna’ be a righteous weekend!
Atlanta was a busy city over Labor Day weekend. Not only was the city assaulted by over 30 thousands Geeks of all shapes and sizes, but college football ushered in the new season. Atlanta did it’s part by hosting a massive game between college rivals Alabama State and Clemson. (Um, I think, it should come as no shock that I don’t really keep up with sports, to say nothing of college sports). You haven’t truly lived until you see a squad of Colonial Marines, a Predator, and Harley Quinn looking across the elevator at a group of Frat boys dressed in their school colors. Each side wondering why anyone would go out in public looking like a freaking idiot. It was during this bizarre mixing of hobbies that a strange thought struck me.
I am really under dressed.
For the first time ever, my standard wardrobe of jeans, Doc Martins, and a comic book shirt don’t cause me to stand out. Actually, that isn’t true. I do stand out. You know the saying about the one-eyed man in the valley of the blind? Well, I was the under dressed mundie in the valley of the nerds! Right then and there I decided it is high time I make myself a costume. (But it can wait, because there is no way I was gonna’ join the ranks of the 300 lbs, no matter how popular they became at the Con).
Up to the signing room I went.
From current A-Listers to one time B-Listers, the signing rooms are a strange mix of fandom, awe, and a hint of desperation. For each line that wraps around the room to catch a mere glance at Edward James Olmos or Robert Englund, there is the sad table where actors from long forgotten shows wait for any recognition. Fame and fandom is a strange thing. I wonder how I would react if one day I was on the cover of TV Guide, only to find myself hawking my autograph for $20 a pop. Would I be bitter? Would I be grateful for even slight recognition? (I think my previous account of boob signing answers that question). Or, would I simply wonder where I went wrong in my life? Then again, everyone sitting behind a table was or is famous, no matter how limited that fame was. And I? I was one of their fans and I’ll be damned if I gonna’ just let them sit there, not thanking them for the hours of escape they provided me. With that, I marched proudly to Linda Blair’s table. No reason I couldn’t buy a photo and have her scribble an ineligible name upon it. (It should be noted that with very few exceptions, no one’s signature is eligible. They all look like serial killer handwriting… Except for Nichelle Nichols, her penmanship never lacked).
Wait, the chick that got famous by slammed a crucifix into her holiest of holies is charging $40 a pop for her name, $20 for posing for a photo?! WTF?!
See, something has happened within the realm of Sci-Fi conventions. Something that I am not at all happy about. Since when did celebrity guests start charging for their signatures? let me back up. I’ve been to many conventions. Dozens. However, it has been a solid decade since I’ve attended anything beyond the local comic book convention. However, back in the day, you paid your rather exorbitant entrance price and with that price came the promise of guest autograph. And, assuming you didn’t blow the line time by haggling for the European cut of Aliens (totally worth it, back in 1988), you got that signature. If the guest was especially gracious (as was the late James Doohan and the current George Takei), you got to chat a bit and pose for a photo or two. It would seem that is no longer the case. Now, in addition to dropping $90 for a weekend of geeky fun, you have to drop all kinds of credits for a poorly rendered name on an overpriced 8×10 photo. $50 for Adam West! $40 for Linda Blair! $60 for Edward James Olmos?! I mean, I love Admiral Adama as much as the next BSG fanatic, but I have a line. That lines clocks in to the tune of $60. It is one thing when an underemployed actor relies upon convention experience to round out their income, but when you’re an actor with a steady gig. Come on, give a fan a break. As such, I left Dragon*Con with nary a celebrity autograph.
Okay, I did get one… Mr. Dean Haglund of The Lone Gunman fame hooked me up with his comic and signature. Although it helped that I reminded him of his appearance on Ground Zero Radio back when I ran Clyde’s show. We laughed and lamented how we both haven’t been able to find a decent showbiz gig since getting canceled. (However, I reminded him that he was Dean Haglund and I wasn’t). I also promised to pimp his laptop cooling product… As I am a man of my word… If you want a reliable and tested way to keep your laptop cool and in perfect running order; then you owe it to yourself to pick up a Chill Pak. The 2007 Inventors Expo Silver Medal Winner. No joke, the damn thing does work and it works very well… Plus, it was designed by a Long friggen Gunman! How could you not want one?!
Still, as cool as it was to sit and chat with Ringo Langley, nothing compares to my moment with Lance Henriksen.
That’s right haters, your friendly neighborhood Geek chatted with Bishop!
See, I was getting some water after talking myself out of an autograph with Richard Hatch. (Whom I would later learn enjoys the same libation as I, Dirty Gin Martini with 3 Olives, natch). Anyway, as I started to drink, I darn near spilled it all over my chest as a door swings open out of nowhere and out steps ?ol Pumpkinhead himself! Flanking him are his handler for the weekend and some dude with a mess of cameras. They’re jabbering on about something. I do my best not to Geek out. Then, his handler gets in my face and bluntly asks, “Hey, will you hold Lance’s soda while he poses with this guy? I’ll get you a photo after if you want”.
Uh, yea, you bet!
“Great, hold this”.
Lance keeps blathering on about something that I simply can’t make out. That gravely voice of his having the same effect upon me as did the Black Tongue of Mordor had upon the Council at Rivendale. Camera guy leaves. I hand my soda back to the handler who promptly returns the sugary drink to Lance’s grizzled hands. Then, without a pause the handler tells Lance he has to pose with my lame ass. Mr. Henriksen is not amused. (Although he didn’t look all that happy to being with).
“What? Another one, good Christ, okay”
Hello Mr. Henriksen, it is a true honor to meet you. I am a longtime fan.
“Great, hey, you married”?
Why yes, yes I am. Almost two wonderful yea…
“Let me tell you. You need to watch out for them women, they’ll get their hands into you and never let go. Even after divorcing their ass”.
Actually, I am very happy with my marriage. In fact I…
“Yes, sure, they say they want the divorce to be fair, but hire a couple of lawyers and all of a sudden it is your ass in the fire”.
Right, well, I wouldn’t know. I am…
“Bitches man, all of them, bitches”.
“Mark my words, if that wife of yours ever even mentions a divorce. You get a lawyer and you go for the throat”.
Well, I don’t think.
“For. The. Throat… We done? Cool”.
Thanks for the photo Mr. Henriksen…
I never got a reply. He was off to sign photos of his half-torn body for 30 bucks a pop. (Something tells me Robert Englund made more money that day, since he picked up the check at Trader Vics not 8 hours later).
Still, it wasn’t all hot Geek babes in costume and absurd celebrity sightings. No, there were also moments of pure inspiration. Moments made by one of my favorite authors, Peter David. We didn’t have a chance to speak one on one, but at a special dinner, Peter gave a speech that reminded me of something I’ve long since forgotten.
We’re all here because we love stories. We love creating and sharing. We all have a gift for bringing our hopes and dreams to life. No matter how many times you receive a rejection. No matter how many times you fall flat on your face. The greatest crime comes in not living your life to the fullest. In not striving to achieve all is in your heart and soul. That life is precious and all too often, short. We must never stop telling stories. We must never end the journey, for the journey never truly ends… It simply gets passed from one visionary to another. Humanity moves on and it is our task, as fans and dreamers, to insure the stories never come to an end.
For that all too short a weekend over Labor Day I was surround by 30,000 people; all of whom were gathered for the same thing.
To show their support and admiration for the stories that made them the people they are.
And, to promise those that came before that they will continue for those that yet to be.
I left Dragon*Con with a new sense of purpose. It isn’t about being famous or cool or popular or rich.
It is about the stories and our drive to tell them.
(Look for more photos posting tomorrow afternoon).