Saturday, August 18, 2012

All Right Niners, Let's Hear Some Chatter!

A few seasons into “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” a miracle happened. After two decades of Star Trek draught, suddenly a second series appeared on television, running concurrently with TNG. For me, Deep Space Nine is the jewel in the crown of Star Trek. I love every part of that space station, from Quark’s to Vic Fontaine’s.  I love all the main characters, and all the amazing supporting characters. The seasons that chronicled the Dominion War are a masterpiece of edge-of-your-seat storytelling. And while I told George Takei that Sulu was my captain, I lied; my Captain is and will always be Benjamin Sisko.

We had some wonderful encounters with Deep Space Nine actors at the Star Trek convention.

Two actors who obviously became and remain good friends were Casey Biggs (Damar) and Jeffrey Combs (Brunt, and Weyoun). The two appeared as part of a three-person panel in the secondary auditorium, and then again on the main stage together, and a third time with Armin Shimmerman (Quark) on the main stage doing a Shakespeare presentation. I really enjoyed that. All three actors delivered some of their favorite soliloquies from Shakespeare plays; the balcony scene from “Romeo and Juliet” was acted out by Casey Biggs (Romeo) and Jeffrey Combs as Juliet, in costume; very funny, but it was also pointed out to the audience that in Shakespeare’s day all parts were played by men. The three actors ended with a very clever, rapid-fire list of many of the expressions we use every day that originated in Shakespeare plays. Smart and great fun.

Armin Shimmerman (Quark), Jeffrey Combs (Brunt/Weyoun), and Casey Biggs (Damar) do Shakespeare

Andrew Robinson (Garek) appeared only as part of a large group of ‘minor characters’ on the main stage, each of whom spoke a bit about their role in the Star Trek universe and then took questions from the audience. With perhaps two exceptions, every question was for Andrew Robinson. He really should have appeared onstage by himself; I think the convention organizers underestimated his character’s popularity with the fans. Garek was such a complicated and fascinating character. 
I remember that Andrew Robinson said he quit acting for awhile, after appearing on two episodes of “The A-Team!” Not the best experience, I guess. Pity the fool.

Friday morning we were walking through the vendors’ hall and came to a long table where Chase Masterson (Leeta), Max Grodenchik (Rom), Aron Eisenberg (Nog), and Armin Shimmerman (Quark) were signing autographs. They were there off and on throughout the rest of the convention. We had the chance to talk to each one of them. Shane, Jack, and I also took this opportunity to start collecting the signatures of Niners team players. In a DS9 episode called “Take Me Out to the Holosuite,” Captain Sisko organizes some of the crew of DS9 into a baseball team, in order to play a rival team of Vulcans. I had ordered Niners baseball caps for Shane, Jack, and myself for Christmas last year, and we had brought them to the convention with us to see how many cast members who played on the Niners we could get to autograph them. When Chase Masterson autographed Shane’s cap, he asked her to ‘add a little kiss’ to it. He meant for her to draw an ‘x’ beside her name. Instead, she kissed the cap! From that point on it was easy to tell which one was Shane’s - his had a lipstick kiss on it.

Max Grodenchik became fascinated with the mechanics of getting a good signature onto the caps. He signed mine first, with it sitting on the table, but was not happy with that, so he had Shane and Jack wear their caps and kneel down so he could sign them while they were on their heads. It was so funny - it seemed like something Rom might have done! Max was soft-spoken and nice. Armin Shimmerman was also very nice, signing our caps and making conversation. He talked to me long enough that I walked away at the end only to realize that I had forgotten to pay the autograph fee so I went back. I handed him the money and said “sorry, I forgot to pay,” and he said “And I forgot to ask you to ... shows what kind of Ferengi I am!”

Max Grodenchik signs Shane's Niners cap

Aron Eisenberg was really lovely. He asked all of our names, shook hands, signed our caps, apologized for asking a fee for the autographs and explained that he was required to do so by the convention (he asked less than anyone else), and offered each of us a postcard with a beautiful photograph of a tree and fence that he had taken himself, also autographed, at no charge. Later Shane and I had a photo taken with the three “Ferengis,” and as we walked up to them, Aron greeted me by name. On Sunday I went by his table again and he said “Hi, Dixie!” as I passed by. Very impressive - he must have met thousands of fans that weekend.

Max Grodenchik (Rom), Shane, Dixie, Armin Shimmerman (Quark), and Aron Eisenberg (Nog)

Max, Armin, and Aron appeared onstage together to tell stories about acting in “Deep Space Nine” and to answer questions from the audience. It was really nice to see how much they obviously enjoyed each other’s company.

Shane had a photo op with Colm Meany (Chief O’Brien). He reported that there was a huge line; I wasn’t surprised, as Colm has had an impressive film career as well as being on both Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Shane, Jack, and I also got his autograph for our Niners caps; another huge line. As Colm was signing Shane’s cap Shane cheerfully told him “You’re almost done!” (meaning the long line, which disappeared out of Colm’s sight). Colm said “Really?” and Shane said, “No.” They both laughed.

On Friday night the four of us went to a party at the Voodoo Lounge, on the rooftop of the Rio. There was a buffet dinner and a bar. But there was no place to eat. The convention planners had not arranged for enough table space for everyone, so we ended up finding chairs in a corner and eating off our laps. Afterward we went upstairs and out onto the rooftop. It was about 100 degrees, even after dark, but there was a good breeze and a great view of the Las Vegas strip.

The Enterprise, in ice - with dripping nacelles

The Las Vegas strip from the rooftop

We went back inside for drinks and entertainment. Chase Masterson (Leeta) sang several standards first. She looked great and definitely got an A for enthusiasm and effort, but her singing was a C at best. But of course the room was full of Star Trek fans so it didn’t matter much. 

The headline act came on afterward: JG Hertzler and Robert O’Reilly, aka the Klingons Martok and Gowron. They were backed by a good band, played and sang a good range of rocking music, and best of all, performed with guitars made to look like bat’leths. At one point during the concert, the band played while Hertzler and O’Reilly came through the audience dancing with a few lucky women, including me, hooray! It was a very strange feeling, thinking, I’m dancing with Gowron, Chancellor of the Klingon High Council. What fun. At the end of the evening they and the band autographed the guitars and auctioned them off for the charity Wounded Warriors. Egged on by Shane and Paul, I bid on one and won it. I wondered if I would regret it the next morning, but a week later, I am still thrilled with it. Who else do I know with a bat’leth guitar?

Hertzler and O’Reilly appeared together onstage the next day. 

JG Hertzler (Martok) and Robert O'Reilly (Gowron)

Cirroc Lofton, who played young Jake Sisko, made a surprise appearance in the vendors’ hall Sunday afternoon to sign autographs. We were thrilled, since he was a Niner! I was alone when I saw him in the hall but I had all three hats with me, so I went over and got into the short line. Shane joined me just as it was my turn to talk to Cirroc. He was friendly and talkative. Shane asked him if he still sees Avery Brooks (who played his father on DS9). He said “all the time.” In fact, he told us, the reason he had rescheduled his photo op session from earlier that morning to late afternoon, was that Colm Meany had taken him and Avery out on the town the night before. “Never drink with an Irishman.”
Words of wisdom.

Cirroc Lofton (Jake) presents a poster to Avery Brooks (Captain Sisko)

Finally, Avery Brooks - Captain Sisko. The first we were going to see of him was Saturday night, at 10:30 pm, when we had tickets to a special performance he was giving. Shane wasn’t feeling well so he skipped it, but the boys and I went. The doors were supposed to open at 10 pm but there was a 40-minute delay before we were allowed to take our seats. There was a piano onstage. Avery came out, to great applause, and sat down to play the piano. What followed was increasingly disturbing. He played a long, rambling piece that I guess would be classed as jazz of some kind, but it was excruciatingly slow. As soon as it ended, he walked to the microphone and talked about how he was going to share what was in his heart with the audience. He then called a pianist onstage. That young man played a rather interesting piece (he attached clothespins inside the piano to create a very different sound). Avery then asked him to talk to us about his work, which he did, but he appeared to be rather uncertain about what Avery wanted. The rest of the hour was spent mostly with the young man playing piano while Avery either walked around onstage, often at the back where he could hardly be seen, or ‘sang’ along with the music - or appeared to talk quietly to the piano, or, twice, shouted “Don’t sing!” at the pianist. Avery played one more very slow piece himself, alternating a few bars with a few words of song - he didn’t appear to be able to play and sing at the same time. Audience members trickled, then streamed, out. Those who remained applauded politely and even gave Avery a standing ovation at the end. But the impression I got was that we were watching a man who was seriously unstable. Partway through the performance, Paul quietly showed me some Google references on his phone to the effect that Avery Brooks had been booked on a DUI in January, as well as various YouTube video titles such as “Avery Brooks has lost his mind.” Overall, the whole experience made me sad, and very worried about what is going on with Avery Brooks.

On Sunday, Avery appeared as one of the Four Captains On Stage. The other three took questions from the audience; Avery did not. He did give a brief talk to the audience, and he did answer some questions asked of all four captains by the emcee of the event. But there were other questions he did not answer, awkward silences often filled by Kate Mulgrew in what appeared to be acts of kindness. 

Jack, Shane and I had signed up for autographs with Avery Brooks so he could sign our Niners caps. There were long waits for all four captains, as you can imagine. But the other three signed over 200 autographs while Avery was still working on his first 50. He seemed to be moving in slow motion. After he signed my cap, I shook hands with him and said “please take care of yourself.” He was looking me in the eyes, shaking my hand slowly, and nodded slightly. Shane was next in line and, not having heard what I had said, also said “Take care of yourself, sir” while shaking Avery’s hand. Avery’s grip suddenly tightened; he looked Shane in the eyes and said “You too, baby.”

O Captain, my Captain. 
Please take care of yourself.

Next: Voyager and Enterprise

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