Friday, August 17, 2012

Star Trekking, Across the Universe

On August 9-12, I attended a Star Trek convention in Las Vegas with Shane, Paul, and Jack. I had been to two Star Trek conventions before, years ago, but they were one-day affairs with a couple of celebrity speakers. This was a four-day convention boasting over 70 celebrity guests, with an expected attendance of at least 3000 people. It was an amazing experience, especially for a lifelong Star Trek fan. (I have to say that Shane, new to Star Trek in the last year or two, found it equally amazing - maybe not in the same way, however...)

I have a lot of pictures and highlights to share, more than a reasonable amount for one blog entry. So this is going to be an overview of the entire convention, suitable for both Trekkies and casual observers. The entries that follow will focus on specific celebrity guests and our experiences related to them (when there are any). I will assume that anyone who reads beyond this first entry has some familiarity with Star Trek actors and characters (or doesn’t care), so no explanations of who these people are will be forthcoming. If you don’t know your Star Trek characters, well ... get thee to thy television! Or to Memory Alpha, the Star Trek Wikipedia.

The convention was held at the Rio Hotel and Casino. As many of you know, Las Vegas casino hotels are pretty surreal environments at the best of times. When you add in a Star Trek convention on the premises, you can only imagine the unreality level. I have to say one of my favorite things about the weekend was seeing people in Star Trek uniforms going about their daily business in the casino; sitting at the bar or at slot machines, having their shoes shined, lining up for drinks at Starbucks, etc. If only life could be this way everywhere, all the time.

We checked in and got our badges and conference guides on Wednesday evening, after which we were allowed an early look into the massive vendors’ hall. This room was one of the focal points of the convention, filled with booths hawking every imaginable type of Star Trek merchandise, as well as fine art booths selling autographed photos (of a wide variety of celebrities, not just from Star Trek), and lots of meet-and-greet autograph booths. Some of these were manned the entire weekend, usually by non-Star Trek celebrities who had starred in other science fiction TV shows or movies (such as Richard Hatch from the original “Battlestar Galactica”), or by minor Star Trek ‘celebrities’ who had often played one or two guest parts in the original series and were now unrecognizable without the big posters of which characters they had played (especially if they played heavily costumed characters such as the Gorn from the original series episode “The Arena”). Other booths were occupied by A- or B-list Star Trek celebrities at specific times. Some were there most of the weekend and were easily accessible, such as Chase Masterson (“Leeta”) and all three Ferengi regulars from Deep Space Nine. Others, such as the entire main cast of Next Generation minus Captain Picard, were there only a few times, and there were long lines to meet them and get autographs. Many of the A-listers, however, were never in the vendors’ hall. To get their autograph or a photo with them, one had to buy tickets and go to a particular small room at a particular time. We did a little bit of everything.

I love this picture of a fan in a Gorn costume, in line to meet the actor who played the Gorn in "Arena."

We had the pleasure of a nice conversation with Richard Kiel on Wednesday evening. He has been in a wide range of TV and movies, from playing “Jaws” in two James Bond films to “Happy Gilmore” more recently. I remembered him from his guest roles in two episodes of “ The Monkees,” as the alien visitor to earth in one of my favorite episodes of “Twilight Zone” called “To Serve Man,” and from the MST3K version of an old science fiction film wonderfully titled “Eegah.” He was delightful, as you can see in this picture.

We were in and out of the vendors’ hall all weekend. You never knew who you might see there, or what interesting new items might have gone up for sale. 

Thursday morning the convention began. Throughout the next four days there were events running nonstop from about 9am until about 6pm, sometimes later, on two different stages. On the main stage there were interviews with the biggest Star Trek celebrities, plays, panels, everything they thought most people would be interested in, because that room seated thousands. The second, smaller auditorium hosted lesser celebrities, films, auctions, quizzes, etc. 

The first major celebrity guest was Ben Vereen. I was thrilled to see him, I have been a fan of his for many years, and he has had such a varied and interesting career. He was at the convention because he guest-starred as Geordi’s father in an episode of Next Generation. There was a nice handful of multi-faceted stars like this at the convention, people who had a career beyond their work in Star Trek. I had a fun conversation in a lunch line with Richard Herd. He had a small recurring part in Voyager as Admiral Paris, but I recognized him from his much larger body of TV and movie work.

Throughout the four days of the convention we heard lots of interesting presentations, met a number of Star Trek celebrities in photo ops and autograph sessions, heard the song “Star Trekking Across the Universe” about sixty times (it’s funny - once, maybe even several times - but it was played in between sessions so many times that we all got heartily sick of hearing it). We attended several concerts given by Star Trek celebrities, saw people in jaw-dropping costumes, played Resistance is Futile Bingo (Jack and I won the last game, but tied with two other winners and lost in the run-off), and in general had a wonderful time.

If you want to see and hear more, read on.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, gosh, I'd dress up too if I had a chance to go to something like this! Looks like a blast.