Monday, October 24, 2011

Mid-Ohio Con Wizard World 2011 (part 2)

The continuing sto-ry of a guy just trying to help people have a good time in the ocean of geekdom and crazy known as the Mid-Ohio Con Wizard World Columbus....!

I Rescue "Buck Rogers"
So I got up early and headed back down to the Columbus Convention Center for the second official day of the convention and my third day as a volunteer. I had talked to my daughter and she had told me she would be joining me sometime in the afternoon, so I had told the Staff that I would only work half a day. I only felt a *bit* guilty about this because I *had* promised them all day. On the other hand, I had already worked hard for them for 8 hours on Saturday and some time on Friday. Also, other volunteers who hadn't worked nearly as hard as I had were already done. So I figured I had earned a couple of free hours with my daughter. 
I came already prepared with my red VOLUNTEER shirt and my name tag. I said hello to Wizard staff people I knew and then I set about checking on the THIS WAY etc signs set up in the convention hall. I figured (rightly) that they had been moved around overnight. After that was done, I was asked to help bring down lap-tops and other techno stuff to the ticket office so we could scan bar codes for ticket holders. By the time that was done I was out front being a traffic cop again. This time, it wasn't so much for OUR people but for those people who were in the convention to attend a beauty show or a cheerleading competition. I don't know how many times I said, "Your event is straight down through those glass doors and down the escalators. This convention is for comic books."

Somewhere in there an elderly gentlemen walked by and said to me directly, "Good morning! Ready for another day?" I looked and realized that it was Mr. Gil Gerard, the actor-guest who had portrayed "Buck"  in the late-70s TV series Buck Rogers in the 24th Century. I answered him that I was and wished him well. At that moment another volunteer AND another beauty show person walked up, so I turned away from him to address them. In the corner of my eye, however, I noticed that Mr. Gerard was continuing to walk on instead of turning to go up the escalator to the actual convention. I quickly said, "Excuse me for a second!" to the other volunteer and chased after Mr. Gerard. I caught up to him and said, "I'm sorry, but I think you're going the wrong way!" He laughed and said, "Yes, I was just thinking that myself. None of this looks familiar." It turns out that on Saturday he had come in the other way (directly from the Hyatt) so hadn't realized he was on the lower fall. He thanked me and we parted by both saying, "Have a good day!"

I Face A "Crazed" Fan
After the box office opened and the people started getting in line to be admitted things slowed down. It was nowhere near as chaotic as yesterday, thankfully! After about an hour I was called down to the Program Room to help crowd control. It turned out that the Q&A with James Marsters ("Spike" from Buffy The Vampire Slayer) was over-run with people. There were only two quiet (dare I say timid?) girl volunteers there, so Khandice on the Wizard World staff called the box office asking for help. Now I'm not sure if she called for me particularly or just for someone, but when she saw me she said, "great, the crowd control god", so....! Right away she put me to work speaking loudly to the line (about 150 people) telling them to relax and that they would all be allowed in but that they had to stay orderly and that we would like them to not leave any empty seats in-between each other so that everyone could get in etc. It was at moments like this that I definitely felt the power of "the uniform." They were responding to me because a) I had a red Wizard t-shirt on; b) I was speaking to them forcefully but genuinely; and c) because some of them had probably seen me before at the box office. Still, it was definitely a heady experience to speak and be listened to....surreal, and kind of scary, too.

We started letting people into the room but we knew that there were too many people and not enough chairs. So we filled all of the seats and then started doing Standing Room along the back wall as well. Even then, Khandice insisted that if once all the "space" was taken no one else would be allowed in. As you can imagine, the people at the end of the line were getting more and more frantic that they would not be admitted. By this point the people I had promised would be admitted *had* been admitted, so I didn't really feel bad about stopping the line at any time. Then at 10:59 or thereabouts for a panel that was supposed to start at 11 AM, we basically got to the end. However, a somewhat large young woman (about my height but weighing maybe 180 pounds) stepped forward and said, "I AM going in! He's the only reason I came to this convention, so I AM going in!" .......I was momentarily taken aback by her tone and her chutzpah....while I was struck speechless (it has been known to happen, haha) Khandice stepped forward and calmly said, "We will try to get everyone in. We don't want to have to exclude anyone. Just give us another minute to continue to organize the place." To me, this meant that Crazy Woman might not get in, but it would be in everyone's best interest to let her in. In fact, one of the people in front of her who had just been let in turned around and said, "If it means that much to you you can have my space. I don't mind...."

Suddenly, he was there. James Marsters, the star I know OF but have only seen on one or two episodes of Torchwood and Smallville, was standing in the doorway ready to go in. He looked at Crazy Woman and said something akin to Good Morning, How Are You Doing? smiled at her, and then walked inside.

Crazy Woman started crying tears of happiness (or maybe it was craziness). I walked up to her and whispered, "See? You got to meet him just because we stalled you out here. Give us a second and you'll be taken inside." She nodded dumbly, then followed Khandice as she motioned her in.

That was basically the fill. My job for the next ten minutes was to stand outside the door and apologize to all the latecomers that the Q&A had gotten too full and that we couldn't let anyone else in. Most people totally understood. As for Crazy Woman, this experience definitely gave me a different perspective on these fans. Is this why the word "fan" comes from the word "fanatic"? Hmmm....

"Pavel Chekov" Publicly Chastises Me
Next up for me was helping to organize the 1 PM panel session, which was for Star Trek's "Pavel Chekov," Mr. Walter Koenig. Now you may remember that I met him yesterday and gave him my Aquaman button after he noticed it on my VOLUNTEER t-shirt. I hadn't expected to see him again today, but I figured if I was standing here I would stay and listen to him, as he was always one of my favorite characters on one of my favorite shows. By this time two more volunteers had shown up ro replace the timid girls. One was a very laid-back gentleman maybe a little older than me. The other was a college woman who was a bit, shall I say, bossy. We'll call her Bossy Volunteer Woman. She had run this room all day yesterday and evidently knew what she was doing. That was fine, I was perfectly okay with taking orders from her. In fact, after about a half hour of organizing the line and telling all of the people that they would in fact get in (we didn't start letting people into the room until the star was on his way), she turned to me and said, "Go tell this guy that we'll be ready for him in about ten minutes." She didn't know who he was or what he looked like! I walked back to his booth and walked up to his handler/agent/relative (whichever it was) armed with a copy of the program and told him that Mr. Koenig was expected in about ten minutes. The agent said, "Fine. Come back and get him when you're ready." So now I was going to be a bodyguard to the stars! I jumped at the chance at going back. I went back to Bossy Volunteer Woman. The line had gotten longer. I told everybody the same stuff I had told the James Marsters crowd; it was just a matter of time, to be orderly, etc and that I would soon return with Mr. Koenig. And off I went! 

I met his agent again and he told him that it was time to go with me. Then I began to clear the way for him to get to the Program Room. I gotta tell ya, it's a weird feeling walking through a crowd saying a little bit loudly, "Excuse me" with Mr. Walter Koenig, a celebrity you have known from TV your entire life, following right behind you! What made it even more odd is that as soon as I walked up to him I noticed that he had taken the Aquaman Shrine sticker I had given him yesterday and stuck it to his nametag lanyard!!! I laughed and said, "I have to insist on getting a picture of you with that later. Thank you so much for publicizing Aquaman!" He said something quiet and we were on our way. While we walked he mentioned something about maybe translatinig his speech into sanskrit and I told him that I could translate it into Japanese if he wanted me to, as I was an interpreter. Then he said, "That would be great, but sankrit isn't an actual spoken language anyway, is it?" He seemed a bit entertaining, just on the walk over to the room! We got there and I ushered him in. Bossy Volunteer Woman said to me, "Are you the moderator?" and I looked at her dumbfounded. "!" So he was left on the stage and began to take questions all by himself.

What followed was about 25 minutes of pure fun. I listened to him tell stories about Star Trek and Babylon Five (a series he was on that I have seen only sparingly). He told about his argument with Bill Shatner about how "Shat" would steal other cast members' lines. When someone asked him about his upcoming Hollywood Walk of Fame Star, he said that he was planning an event around it (June 2012, I believe) but all he really wanted to do was live to see it, as he was getting long in the tooth. We all applauded him for that.

The official Wizard photographer and videographer were there recording everything. I asked the photographer if the pictures he was taking would be posted somewhere and he assured me that they would. I smiled broadly, knowing that most if not all of them would include a picture of Aquaman stuck to Mr. Koenig's nametag! If I ever see any of these photos I will be sure to post one here.
Near the end of his half hour I was thinking to myself  that I needed to somehow find a way to remind him that time was running out. I was trying to decide the best way to get his attention in-between the end of one story and the beginning of another question when Bossy Volunteer Woman walked in and whispered to me, "Get him to wrap it up." I told her I would, but this flustered me. He was talking about Babylon Five again and winding down. I figued I could intrude in-between segments at any minute. Suddenly, Bossy Volunteer Woman was at the door again and signalled me to come out to talk to her. She wanted me to know that the other volunteer was gone and that she was going to go try to find "the 1:30 guy" (my favorite artist, Mike Grell!). I told her fine and walked back in. 

Mr. Koenig was saying something about "And that is what happened...." or something similar. This is when I made my fatal error. I assumed he had just finished his earlier story, so I stepped forward a bit and said, "I hate to say this, but we only have a few minutes left, so we have to ask Mr. Koenig to wrap this up...." or something to that effect.


Mr. Koenig looked over at me and said, "That is a terrible way to finish this time together. You just don't do things that way! I am going to finish my story because I refuse to be pulled from this stage!" The crowd erupted with applause as I bowed/supplicated myself in his direction and said, "I'm sorry." I figured he was just angry at being "handled" so abrubtly. He continued, but now he was talking about the time he pulled a joke on George Takei about making Star Trek VI!  

So unbeknownst to me, while I had stepped out of the room to get talked to by Bossy Volunteer Woman, Mr. Koenig had *finished* his earlier story and had started another answer! I had rudely interrupted him!! As soon as I realized it I felt terrible. I enjoyed his last story but I now felt much less elated than I had even moments before. :-( 

He finished his story (it was hilarious) and walked off the stage to a standing ovation (yes, I was clapping, too). As soon as he joined me at the door I said again, "I am so sorry. I hadn't realized you had started another story." He said that what I did was not the way to have done it; I should have flashed my hand at him or come up and stage whispered to him. He seemed peeved. (!) I said again, "I'm sorry. I didn't know what to do." To which he said, somewhat like a disappointed parent,  "Now you do." My daughter had arrived in the interim and was now walking with us. She introduced herself to him, and they chatted for a moment. I asked him if he needed me to escort him back to his booth or not; he verified the general direction of the main hall and then said he could make it on his own. I said, "thank you" and he walked off. 

So I got Mr. Walter Koenig mad at me. :-( 

This experience left a bitter taste in my mouth for the rest of the day. I felt like I had been a victim of circumstance. No one had told me how to "get the star to wrap things up." I see now that what I did was wrong. I should have done something to get his attention; signalled my watch or something. I do hope he doesn't think I was a perfectly crass jerk. I certainly didn't mean to be, and I *have* learned "my lesson."

Here's the punch-line for this story: my daughter and I walked around the convention and bought some t-shirts (Wonder Woman for her, Aquaman for me). We walked by Mr. Koenig's booth and he had a banner with his photo Then and Now on it. She looked up at it and said, "Oh, he's that guy. I didn't recognize him." She had liked Star Trek and played with the action figures as a little girl; however, she hadn't recognized this 70+ year old man as "Chekov." I thought that was pretty funny.

Before we left I had three things I wanted to do. I watned to get artist Phil Jimenez to sign my TEMPEST comics. However, he had a hugely long line waiting for him, so I decided not to wait. Then I went to get Mike Grell to sign a copy of the Aquaman trade paperback with his stories in it. Lastly, I picked up the following sweet piece of art by "amateur" artist Terry Huddleston. My daughter had bought me an Aquaman piece at last year's Con by him, so I knew and liked his style. I had seen this poster at the Baltimore Comic Con but by the time I had tracked Terry down to buy one he had sold out of them! At that time I verified that he would be at Mid Ohio again. Then I stopped by yesterday to "reserve" my copy. It's huge...something like 24 by 30. I didn't want to cart it all over the Con, so I picked it up on my way out.

What's really funny to me is that except for Hal instead of John, those first ten characters are the members of "my" JUSTICE LEAGUE. Pretty cool.

Terry is a great artist. Check out his page is you like this. If you buy anything tell him the Columbus Ohio Aquaman guy sent you. :-)

So ends another exciting and eventful comic book convention. Will I volunteer again at next year's Mid-Ohio? Probably. It's a free way to get into the Con AND have a chance to meet and greet (and piss off) various celebrities, haha! (sigh)

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