Monday, May 18, 2015

Can't wait for CONduit—see you in SLC!

For the first time since the mid-'90s, I'm headed back to Salt Lake City this weekend for CONduit —and if you are of a fannish persuasion and anywhere in the Beehive State, you ought to get there, too: Plenty to do, but plenty of room to breathe without sucking on sardine juice.

I'm really looking forward to this: CONduit, as the naming convention implies, is a good "old fashioned' litcon fan convention, in a hotel, where the guests are various flavors of GoHs— and you can find all the fannish works and local touches. Even room parties!  The folks there are taking good care of me and I can't wait to chew the fat, spread the news and soak up some new fanland vibes. Here's what's up for me—including a Dr. Trek Show (you can click in on the Facebook event ticker now) and new word from EIS:
FRIDAY (all in Zion Ballroom):
1 PM - "Voyager: 20 Years Later"—Images and in-jokes on this anniversary (the subject of this year's TREKLAND: On Speaker, to debut as usual at Vegas Khhaaann) and some open forum, too!

4 PM - "Crowdfunding and Kickstarting" (with Artist GoH Jessica Douglas)—Drawing upon my experience with The Con of Wrath, Star Trek Continues, and even watching friends like Red Shirt Diaries and the small Star Trek: Digital Catalog.

7 PM - Ice Cream Social & Meet the Fan Clubs —I'll be milling!

SATURDAY (all in Zion Ballroom except "The Dr. Trek Show"):

1:00 PM - Enterprise in Space—I will have our world-premiere new video that just launched the night before at the International Space Development Conference in Toronto

4:00 PM - Nimoy Remembered—Nuff said. Look for images; expect to share memories.

10-12 PM The  "Dr. Trek" Con of Wrath Crowdfunder—(Stillwater Room, poolside)! Sure you could help out my documentary online, but when I'm live-n-local, I love to give fans a chance to take home prizes and grab some rare views and sneak peeks—and get me to talk tales when maybe I shouldn't!  (You locals, please note this time clears the costume contest and leaves you a couple hours ot hit the room parties!) (And for my Okie buds: I sure hope the room's not decorated in orange and black...)

SUNDAY (all in Zion Ballroom):
11:00 AM - (11 ??) "Guest of Honor Presentation"...which of course is the new 2015 Parties and Losses edition of Trekland: Between the Cracks—injoke media, and some dot-connecting...and more forum talk with the audience, all across the Trekverse.

1:00 PM - The "New" Trek - J.J. Abrams does Star Trek—Well, THIS will be fun. Join some local SLC Trekfans and I but come prepared to share, as we wind down a light-hearted litcon Sunday.

They've promised me a bit of a look around SLC as well, so maybe I'll see some earlybirds on Thursday?

And for those of you asking: YES, I *will* be at Phoenix Comicon for the Star Trek COnotnues premiere events, a couple of Dr. Trek shows, a bonus panel and a guest Trekland table appearance at least one day. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

10 years and counting: the last trek of a Prime Enterprise

It's been 10 years since the world last traveled aboard an Enterprise of the Prime Universe .... May 13, 2005. My, where's a decade gone?

Well, it's gone to many places where no one had gone before ... the dimensions have been ever-evolving and ever-surprising, and one might say ever-alternate ... but for now, let's take a moment and recall that day.

Actually, 5/13/05 was the main date the world will remember for this media creature's memorial. For many of us closer to the patient, the final day had actually been March 8, when first-unit filming famously wrapped on the Enterprise series—ending with a guest-laden, DS9-style "last day" for cast, crew and guest celebrities—including a very grateful yours truly.

I shared that day back in my old Endgame column in official Star Trek Magazine  (the pre-US's UK version)... and I have "reprinted" that column here, below the fold. But first, a couple of visual bookmarks for you from that finale, "These Are The Voyages..."—a regretted episode that is hardly beloved for its TNG envelope concept and death of Trip, and yet at the same time can't help but be bittersweet for so many reasons—as the end of a series, and the end of an era.

In that spirit, here's two never-published shots from my archive: the "final day" of guest extras as seen through the eyes of, yes, the guest extras' shoes....(can you spot the extras who did not make it on camera?) ....


... and, as taken on April 1, 2005 (no foolin'), outside Stages 8-9 on old "Star Trek row"...the glimmers of a starship already going in mothballs:


If you catch me at a con this summer, I may well be sharing more of these memories as we mark 10 years without Trek on TV.

I know you all agree with me: It's been way too long without. The mnid-2005 meme of Trek being too "old and tired" and even dying, has since been blown out of the sky. So what gives?

Well, while we wait— here as promised: the full column I penned for Star Trek Magazine for the November 2005 issue (my manuscript version), about that last day:


There’s been a lot of critical brickbats tossed about regarding “These Are the Voyages…,” the finale for Enterprise—and I can’t say as how I’d even toss a few myself. But the episode will always carry a bittersweet memory, personally, since it was the show where, after 13 years of working around the Paramount lot, I finally broke down and asked to be a guest extra.

I just missed the chance to be a Tellarite in the “Demons”/”Terra Prime” two-parter, but then won a reprieve for this all-human scene—and the cream-colored suit I’d be wearing had been donned by Avery “Sisko” Brooks as 1950s writer Benny Russell in DS9’s “Far Beyond the Stars”!

Writer and fellow “human VIP” Judith-Reeves Stevens had the same experience: she wound up in the dark-green affair that Gates “Beverly Crusher” McFadden had worn to the funeral in TNG’s “Sub Rosa.” The NX-01’s uniforms, spruced up to reflect six years of age, now bore MACO-like name tags, most after staffers; Judith’s husband, fellow writer Gar Reeves-Stevens, was actually “Crewman Brad Yacobian,” the veteran line producer.

Everyone looked so fine in their duds— legendary Star Trek fan, Oscar winner and staff illustrator Doug Drexler in updated Starfleet togs, as was assistant editor (and former Brannon Braga assistant) Mike O’Halloran, my seatmate. For the civilians, there was associate producer Dave Rossi and his then still-fiance, Lili; first assistant director Dave Trotti and his wife and longtime extra/stand-in Amy Kate (in matching maroon accents!), writer Andre Bormanis, script coordinator Juan Fernandes, Donna Rooney, assistant to Manny Coto—and of course, Admiral Coto himself, enjoying what would be his climax to 18 months in professional Star Trek. (Check out the photo here to see who’s who in the main scene). Mike Sussman was the only writer staffer not in costume, aside from Brannon; he was down to watch and rib us, but Mike had already taken a turn as a dead Defiant “redshirt” for “In a Mirror, Darkly” Part 2—and in turn for that had worn David Gerrold’s guest-cameo uniform from DS9’s “Trials and Tribble-ations!”

So it was, outside the old Stage 8-9 entrance, as all these bodies—no strangers to Star Trek, but not in an on-camera role—snapped pics and reminisced, along with many of the “regular” Enterprise regulars as well. Star Trek’s familiar ban on cameras had long gone out the window as the final weeks and days wound down.

According to my call sheet—now covered with signatures, like a senior’s yearbook—we finally trooped onstage at 11 a.m. after a 9:45 makeup call. You never saw 90% of it, but we spent much time blocking, rehearsing and shooting an elaborate walk-in sequence for the “VIPs” as Reed, Hoshi and Travis chat from their front-row balcony seats. In my own subtext, I was a civilian military contractor pleased that Starfleet would be staffing up—and thus the reason for my sitting just two down from “Admiral” Coto!

I had wondered for some time how this day would feel—not as to be truly “playing” on camera, but just the air of the wrap. With memories still fresh from Deep Space Nine’s storied last day of guest extras on the Vic’s set, it was much the same—although a lot less time-consuming. A “surprise” guest was Majel Roddenberry, accompanied by son Rod, who made a thank-you to cast and crew as she had on the final day of every series since Gene’s death in 1991.

Still, the big scene was only half a day and we were done by 3 p.m.—though I hung on far into the night, like many others, determined to see it through to final wrap. Even so, I gave up at 1 a.m., after the T’Pol-Trip shuttlepod scene and during the run-up to Archer’s speech. The evening bore moment after moment of private little farewells among actors and crew alike, and just like fans everywhere they too all speculated on how long Star Trek’s hibernation would last.

The crisp March night air greeted me as, for the last time for whoknows how long, I left a Star Trek soundstage and headed home. As with us all, the past of Enterprise and its run cut short came back to me, knowing this “last day” would be just as much a tangle of emotions and memories as the series itself.

Monday, May 4, 2015

RIP, Grace Lee: For many, you were our first

Our last two losses were hard, if not unexpected—but I didn't see this one coming.

Grace Lee "Yeoman Rand" Whitney, whose passing at home May 1 hit the web hard two days later on Sunday afternoon, was boppin' around the Vegas Khaaan landscape like always last August when I chatted with her for the umpteenth million time—perhaps most of all over the years while on set for Commander Janice Rand's final onscreen canon moment in Voyager's "Flashback" anniversary episode with George Takei.

But this week, my mind goes back to this moment, 17 years before that ...

...when we really first met, at a small convention in Dallas the summer The Motion Picture debuted (when everyone was disappointed that the TMP "trailer" so highly hyped was a non-event of ship stills "animation." Little did we know...). Yeah, she was a judge for the costume contest, and that's me afterward as my Tellarite in dress uniform, Dr. Ffalst—and this would be your typical selfie moment.

But our bonding moment that day was really more about this mood...

...when she was consoling me on losing out to not one but two sets of Rocky Horror babe-pair entrants, thanks to the otherwise all-male judging panel—and confiding that she had voted for me as obviously the best for anyone not acting on hormones alone. After sweating in the Texas humidity with that nose-putty pignose almost sliding off, delayed due to overflow to see the triler, her words were a comfort—but it was still the last time I ever went all-out and fully made up for a con masquerade. I had shared this pic before, but I had not shared the sentiment.

But hearing of Gracie's sudden loss on Sunday, checking it out with the Fresno Bee paper, and, again, soaking up the heartfelt words and memories so many fans online have poured out over social media everywhere… well, it struck me what so many of us first-generation fandom share: There's a good chance Gracie was our first.

Think about it: Before the Internet, of course, and even before the plethora of large well-run conventions... most of us in small towns and cities only read about our Trekfolks coming to cons in L.A. or New York, or Chicago. Our little "local" cons weren't about to afford Shatner or Nimoy—but, given pecking order and star billing, there was a good chance that a lot of small-time and start-up cons had Grace Lee as their first guest. And thus, she became the first "regular" that many, many fans ever met in person, chatted with, maybe grabbed a photo (from an actual camera), but at least came away clutching an autograph.

I've come to realize the past couple of days that, more than any other of her castmates, I have more Gracie stories stored up from both sides of the fan/pro demarcation than I'd realized. That also means, as sweet natured as she was, those same small and start-up cons could also be a trap: I know at least one instance when we bought her dinner, without her knowledge, when the host promoter smilingly sat at the table of the "guest dinner" but bailed on our bill.

But those are the exceptions to the rule. Gracie, much like Majel at her Lincoln table, was the epitomy of accessibility for her fans. Yes, star billing order drove that, but for small-town fans hungry for some "real life" contact with their favorite show in those pre-Internet, pre-saturation, and pre-'87 sequels days where it all began... well, Grace Lee was their first.

And from what I saw at Vegas 2014... she still was, for many.

All photos: Kevin Hopkins
Total disclosure, but more sharing: Gracie was actually my second, truth be told, after meeting George the year before—but I also remember, at that same Dallas convention, when we chased away those obnoxious singers on the millionth round of "Star Trekkin'" so she and her agent could chat with fans at her table in peace, as recorded in this Instamatic special (at right)!

Swift journeys, sweet, strong lady.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

So long, CyPhaCon: sci-fi cake will never be the same

Been a week since I got back from CyPhaCon in Lake Charles, La., where it was great to
not only see a con that has tripled in size since I was there in 2012, but to see my Lake Charles buds again—from top dawgs Garrett and Stuart, and Rachael the best guest assistant ever (well, one of them anyway)...  I only wished I'd gotten out to prowl around all three floors more often.

I must say also that it was a miracle that I was able to reign in my infamous sweet tooth in these post-LifeGoal days of Weightwatchers... with all the goodies on-site abounding from 
Corina Joshlin at Cajun Cakes N Creations, and others ... and Rachael's mom's own catering ... But all that has decidedly led me to realize and codify my new theorem on #Southernfandom and its #concakes.
I mean, really: Apparently, no Southern convention happens without a cake, or two. I used to just know this, having grown up in Southwestern fandom, so it was a happy re-discovery for me. And these ain't no SoCal fandom cakes for show—these actually get eaten. With little to none left over to cram into someone's fridge and then spoil—as you'll see.

So yes, the weekend as seen in my own top snaps:

From the overdue quality time with ol' Shran/Weyoun/Brunt, et al, himself, Jeff Combs!... 
(How did I not snap one with mon capitan Vic Mignogna and Bonesian heir Chuck Huber?)

And my first-ever banner charity signing ...

To our hotel clerk Emily, the very professional yet uber-DS9 and TNG fan who greeted us with the most restrained squee ever—a welcome reminder of Trekland's vastness, when you think you're merely in the middle of middle-city Southerness...

To the local color signage—thank you, KD's Diner! (But how would you ENFORCE this? ) ....

And more local color signage, courtesy KD's … I'm hoping this is just another way of saying, "Please wait to be seated." (Okay… I'm not really hoping that.)

And yep, those Orion's Envy ladies and their glee to finally see The Green Girl and stock up on  chotskis... (check back at TREKLAND soon for more with them)...

To the glorious thunderstorm monsoons I wish I could bottle up and take back to SoCal...

To what became the theme of the weekend: #Southernfandom #concake!  Hashtag dominion!
And another awesome creation—this one by Corina Joshlin at Cajun Cakes N Creations. 

But, great kid—don't get cocky!

I'm told to guess what ship will turn up cakeified in 2016 on its 50th anniversary, hmm....

Like I said: #Southernfandom #concakes are not just for looks. They get et.

(Plus, this is proof positive that they really don't have shields in Star Wars...)

Thanks again, my Cajun buds! See you next time.

With cake.

Monday, April 20, 2015

On losing Leonard: the first social mourning in Trek

I know it has been about seven weeks since Leonard Nimoy finally lost out in his battle with COPD.  On the 11th hour at deadline, official Star Trek Magazine held up a few days to include mention of his passing—and turned to me to do so. 

Very honored to do that, and very proud of the piece… especially from the angle of how, in 2015, we all experienced the moment and insight together: a real paradigm change, brought home by this central nexus in so many lives. And had we taken Spock for granted all these years?

STM's Issue 56 for Summer will be a full-on tribute issue in a few weeks, but Issue 55 for Spring is on newsstands now, with Spock on the cover of course... and this is how it opens:

Just one segment of the layout:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

CyPhaCon: Dr. Trek, EIS, STC, Green Girl and my buds!

WOW. Can't believe that CyPhaCon is here already! But yes indeed— I'll see all you Cajuns THIS weekend, again, with a "Dr. Trek" show and a lot of friends in the guest line-up.

Both of the Lake Charles cons have had me almost every year since 2010, and it's a great corner off the Gulf, kinda midway  between Houston and New Orleans along I-10.  Treklander bud Jeff "Shran/Brunt/Weyoun" Combs is just one of the guests to be at Lake Charles with me: Mon capitan Vic Mignogna and fellow McCoy denizen Chuck Huber, my Star Trek Continues consultees, are also in the lineup as STC and anime guests—and I am pledged to help show them the town (or at least the eateries)!

Here's my own schedule— and yes, I'll be talking about the exciting, non-profit Enterprise in Space as well as leading a Trekland forum/panel.  We're starting off bright and "early" both days at 10 a.m., so I want to see you there! Tabling too—with info on all this plus sneak-peeks the next #LA2Vegas Trek Tour for 2016 with ME and Geek Nation Tours.

I'm also pleased to screen my buddy George Pappy's award-winning Susan Oliver bio-doc The Green Girl bigscreen (2:45 pm Saturday, Rosa Hart Theatre) and will have some Green Girl T's and DVDs at the table.

Most of all, it's a chance to bring back my late-night crowdfunder "Dr. Trek Show" fun in support of The Con of Wrath documentary, which we are starting to wrap up after a 2011 start.

That will be right after Saturday night's Fan Party at the Marriott con HQ hotel. If you want to "sign in" and help give me a head count for "Dr. Trek", please be sure to "check in" and sound off at the  Facebook event page—thanks!

Maybe, just two hours from Houston, we'll even find still more Survivors the 1982 Ultimate Fantasy aka "Con of Wrath"!  I'm always on the lookout.

Oh—and if you're a visual person, here's my weekend:

Sunday, April 12, 2015

I CAN dream, can't I?: Sir Pat and the smart blue shuttle

And yes—I have a backlog of vidchats and other topics to post here... but I just had to get this down:

I almost never dream anymore—or, at least, remember a dream. But I sure woke up with a vivid one this morning. Perhaps it was the memorial meetup last night for our friend John Couch... or just some well-placed drink or spice...

Somehow, in this dream, I was with a group of modern-day people who had basically developed what you'd call a "smart", modern-day Starfleet-style shuttlecraft — "smart" like Trigger, Tony or Silver of cowboy-heroes'-horses smart, in the Western serials of old: you whistle and they not only come a-runnin, they know just what to do to serve or save you. Or follow hand signals.

Except this "smart shuttlecraft" looked just like some kind of blue-ice plastic freezer chiller for your drink chest on location. (Hey! Don't ask me--it was just a dream).

And we had this on display at a downtown hotel somewhere—was it for a convention? who knows?— but I was left in charge of it for some reason, when the group left to go... eat? And so I parked it in the freight loading dock of the hotel's lower innards, off the street. Though it was crowded, the craft parked itself and avoided all bumps, of course. And as I walked away to grab my own lonely, short lunch... I was asked by a hotel employee if I could move it, because the hotel was setting up tables to have an employee buffet feed... in the loading dock ... and it was in the way.  (Dream, remember?)

Oh, and Sir Patrick Stewart (!!) was coming in, very humbly, to eat with the workers and say hello. So of course now it was REALLY in the way.

But as I turned around and was about to whistle for the shuttle to extricate itself and head toward me and the street exit, here comes Patrick striding up all by himself, in dressed-down blue-collar peasant garb and a canvas travel bag a-slung, smiles and says  "Hello, Larry!" We shook hands, he asked if I was staying to eat, and moved on to the card tables when I begged off.

And so at that I just went ahead, got in, told Blue Blocky Shuttle to leave, and fretted all through those close dock quarters until it did exit...cleanly... with nary a bump OR grind.

And that's it. As they say... they lived happily ever after when they woke up.

Friday, April 3, 2015

RIP my friend and legal guide, John Couch

I have to take a minute and say this here, even though he was hardly a Treklander—before or behind the cameras,  merchandise or fandom...

But it's been  tough to deal with the passing of John Couch, one of our first touchstones in L.A. over these 20 years, via former TNG/DS9/VGR script coordinator turned actor's rep Lolita Fatjo; other Trek names in his circle are Eric Stillwell and DS9 guest actor (among many) Jim Metsker. He came here to pursue acting, as so many, do--wound up at Ralph Edwards Productions, and after taking a law degree in the 1990s he became their VP for business and legal affairs, and taught many law students and bar preppers.

But I remember John as a not just a wonderful, kind, quick-witted friend on the quiet side … from not just parties and get-togethers, but to our lunches near his Ralph Edwards office, across from the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, and sponsoring me into Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters after Charlie Washburn's passing, where he was a board member and longtime Ralph Edwards rep… to a patient legal ear through all the various family bumps or project repping…and finally, a reassuring force helping launch my documentary, The Con of Wrath—now, not to be there as it comes home.

Even though I must try to find a new "legal consultant," there's no way to replace a patient friend and advisor like that. Especially one who will answer a panicked call at 8 am on a Saturday in L.A. when the very first day of the shoot in Houston has a legal bombshell tossed at it!

Oh, and did I say John was one of about three in all of L.A. to give me a yell when my OU Sooners had a big win--or a big loss. He was really a basefall fan... his beloved SF Giants... but he knew what we all give up a bit to come here. "Congrats on your Sooners," he'd email or tell me.

Cancer sucks. Ten-month cancer is the worst.

But here's to all the good times, good memories, good freindship, John. Missing you much...but your legacy lives on in all those you touched.