I’m not going to lie, but I was disappointed and saddened when Bruce Boxleitner canceled last week, especially with the money I spent. Yes, I understand that actors need to work, but still feel he could have come down for at least the B5 panel, especially when he tweeted he was not doing anything over the weekend. (And it’s not that long of a flight from Vancouver to Phoenix). I was also not happy when he tweeted, “work comes before cons.” Way to alienate your fanbase!
Now, that I got that off my chest, I really did have a good time at Phoenix Comicon. I had an uneventful flight to Phoenix. (There is a reason I am discussing my flight – just wait until the adventure home begins). On the plane, I read one of Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove novels (the series being filmed for the Hallmark Channel and the reason why Bruce could not attend the con). First, I wanted to get a sense of the characters and setting and second, to see if I enjoyed her writing style. The books are very much character-driven, which is okay, but feel there are too many people and too many plots and reads a bit soap-operaish to me. Nevertheless, I think the series will do well on the Hallmark Channel, and I didn’t dislike the book (or I would have stopped reading) and plan to read more.
We stayed at WorldMark resort, at the base of the South Mountain Preserve, which featured hiking trails and trails for horseback riding and mountain biking. It was a nice unit, with three bedrooms, two baths, and a full kitchen. I’m sorry, we did not have more time in Arizona, as I would have liked to have the opportunity to explore more of what they offered or at the very least had an extra day to visit the Grand Canyon. Maybe, next time.
The following day, we picked up Cheryl and Dava from the airport and then drove to the Phoenix Comicon to pick up our badges. We had a little bit of an adventure as the Google map directions had us on the wrong street, but we soon found the correct location and found a parking garage near the center and parked. I was not very impressed with a woman helping at the ticket exchange line. There was a slight problem with my registration and she got all flustered at me and then under her breath, and bitterly whispered, “Look at these lines.” Lady, you have no clue what LINES are until you visit Emerald City Comic Con. Sheesh!!
After getting our badges, we then wandered around the exhibition hall, one, to get a better idea where everything was, and two, to shop at the various booths. We found lots of intriguing items for sale, but I only purchased a Babylon 5 button and a Tron button. Then we headed back to the condo, stopping at a grocery store for a case of bottled water and lunch fixings.
Friday morning, we headed to the con for the first panel of the event, which was Tron with Cindy Morgan and Peter Jurasik. Of course, Bruce Boxleitner was originally scheduled to be at that panel, but Peter and Cindy were quite appealing. Cindy is lovely as ever and Peter was charming. Peter, at one point during the panel called Bruce on his cell phone and Bruce answered, “Greetings, programs” and then he asked if Cindy was behaving. Cindy rolled her eyes. I always love the banter between those two. Then later that morning, we attended J. Michael Straczynski: A Special Babylon 5 panel. JMS is the creator and writer of Babylon 5. Traditionally, what happens in panels is the guest interacts with the emcee for about a half an hour and then they open the floor to audience questions for twenty minutes. With the JMS panel, they opened with audience questions, followed by J. Michael Straczynski delivering memoriams for Richard Biggs, Andreas Katsulas, Jeff Conaway, and Michael O’Hare. It was very touching reminiscence of his friends and colleagues. In addition, he fulfilled a promise he made to Michael O’Hare about taking his "secret to his grave," and told the audience the real reason Michael O’Hare left the show at the end of the first season of Babylon 5, as he was struggling with a crippling mental disorder.
After the JMS panel, we went to find a restaurant to eat lunch and we stopped at the Hard Rock Café. I ordered nachos and the plate was HUGE! I was only able to eat half the plate and was still stuffed by dinnertime. Then we went back to the convention center and I obtained autographs from Peter Jurasik, Cindy Morgan, Bill Mumy, and Stephen Furst. Funny side story, Peter referred to our little group of women as his “wives” which he affectionately said in his ‘Londo Mollari’ accent. Stephen, who was sitting next to Peter, was also quite engaging and we had a great time talking with them both. Finally, I was able to met and talk with J. Michael Straczynski. I am sure he is tired of hearing over and over again from fans who say they are screenwriters, so I talked with him about some screenwriting and writing books he has written. I guess they are out of print – so the search begins.
On Saturday, it was all about Babylon 5. We started the day with a photo-op of us with the cast of Babylon 5. I love the photo, although I admit, I am not quite sure what Walter Koeng is doing – he appears to be doing the “swim,” a dance popular in the 1960’s. Then I had to meet Jerry Doyle. I bought a copy of his book Have You Seen My Country Lately: American’s Wake-up Call and he autographed it for me. Then Cheryl and I attended Garrett Wang’s panel. I loved him in Star Trek: Voyager. He is quite the entertainer and had us all in stitches with his stories and impersonations. I especially loved the impersonation of Kate Mulgrew he does. He also does a very funny William Shatner.
The rest of the afternoon was spent sitting in the main ballroom to make sure we had good seats at the Babylon 5 panel. I sat through a panel for Farscape, with Gigi Edgley and David Franklin. I admit I have never seen the show, but from what I saw from the interaction of the actors; I might just have to check this show out. I also sat through Tara Strong’s panel. I am sure she is a very lovely lady and is a talented voice actor for My Little Pony, The Powerpuff Girls, Rugrats, and more; however, I actually saw my very first ‘Brony' and all I can say is “Yikes!”
Finally, it was time for the main event and the Babylon 5, super-sized panel. We were lucky enough to get front row seating and loved every moment. It was engaging, heartwarming, entertaining, touching, humorous, and moving. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house after the wonderful words from the cast and JMS had said about their follow cast members who had passed on. The panel started with the emcees announcing the cast and then Bruce Boxleitner appeared in a cheesy pre-recorded video message, saying he was sorry he was not there. <Insert huge eye roll> Even the actors, held their tongues, but it was painfully obvious they were as unhappy about Bruce not being there as much as the fans. JMS seemed unhappy about the direction of questions the moderators were asking, (which were pre-selected questions from Facebook) and him and Jerry Doyle stole the show and steered it in the direction they wanted it to go. Often irreverent, there were some amusing antidotes, funny pranks pulled off by the cast, wonderful remembrances, and toughing moments. Mira Furlan was particularly moving with her monologue. Babylon 5 had a great ensemble cast and I loved the energy and chemistry they brought forth with this very panel. I really believe it brought closure to not only the cast, but the fans as well. I am so glad I was able to attend and witness it firsthand.
Those on stage included: J. Michael Straczynski, Robin Atkin Downes, Julie Caitlin Brown, Mira Furlan, Bill Mumy, Tracy Scoggins, Pat Tallman, Jason Carter, Peter Jurasik, Jerry Doyle, Claudia Christian, Walter Koenig, Stephen Furst, and Andrea Thompson. The panel actually went on for almost two hours and included an “In Memory” video for those cast and crew members who had passed and then there was another video showing clips highlighting J. Michael Straczynski’s work, followed by a presentation, where he was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding contributions in popular culture in television, film and comic books.
Later that evening, Cindy Morgan treated her “ladies of Twitter” to pizza and soda. The poor pizza delivery guy – had complete ‘deer in the headlights’ look on his face. We all laughed and talked and got silly and had a great time together.
On Sunday, we arrived at the con and for the most part split up for the day, each doing their own things. I wanted Mira Furlan’s autograph, wanted to meet Walter Koenig, and then I wanted to attend Bruce Boxleitner’s Lantern City panel with Mira Furlan, Gigi Edgley, and Matthew James Daley (writer and producer). I have to admit though, I don’t know much more about this project leaving the panel then what I knew going in. It does sound intriguing and I wish the creators, writers, and the actors best of luck getting it picked up as a series. I really liked when Gigi gave the best description of the series yet: “Shakespeare meets the industrial revolution.” It sounds very creative and I really love Bruce Boxleitner, Mira Furlan, and John Rhys-Davies. Also had to laugh when Matt mentioned it would not have a five-season story arc.
After the panel, I met up with a family friend I have not seen in almost *gasp* 20 years. She treated me to lunch and dessert. It was great catching up with her and it was almost as if twenty-years had not passed between us. Then after getting back to the convention center, I met Tracy Scoggins, chatted some more with Peter, Stephen, and Bill. All three of them want to see what I can do to help them get into Emerald City Comic Con. (Hell to the yeah!). Also talked with Wil Wheaton. . . finally. He attends ECCC every year, but his lines are so long, I had not had the chance to talk with him yet. We talked a little bit about the movie Stand By Me (since it was filmed in Oregon and a high school buddy of mine was in the movie). He was a very pleasant man and very approachable. I also talked with Garrett Wang (whom I loved as Ensign Kim in Star Trek: Voyager). He is hysterical! I also had my picture taken with him. And he also wants to come to ECCC. I guess I had better go put a bug in someone’s ear about possible guests for next year.
Then while Cheryl and Dava were standing in line waiting for Wil Wheaton’s autograph, the fire alarm went off and they evaluated the hall. Everyone was calm as I think most of us assumed it was a prank, but we later learned it was not, and someone had spotted smoke on the third floor of the north building and the alarm was sounded. Because of where we were at the moment the alarm went off, we had to climb four flights of stairs to get to the street level. As I huffed and puffed I thought, "Who needs a treadmill?"
Even though less then ten minutes later, they were letting attendees return into the building, they were not letting us back downstairs to the exhibitors halls, so we decided to call it a day and head back to the condo. That evening, we all went out to Denny’s for dinner and spent the evening packing and talking until all hours of the night.
The next morning, Elaine dropped Cheryl, Dava, and I off at the Sky Harbor airport. I had a great time at the con and I very happy I had the opportunity to attend. I especially loved the B5 and Garrett Wang panels. My color-me-jealous moment was when Dean Cain wrapped Elaine up in a big bear hug –Hey! Where’s mine? And although I had to do this trip on the cheap, I still was able to do a lot of fun things.
However, my flight home was where the biggest adventure began. It started in Phoenix, when I swiped my ID at the kiosk, and the screen read, “Can not find reservation.” I totally began to freak out and was worried I had made a mistake. I flagged down a ticketing agent and he found my reservation and handed me my boarding passes. The flight between Phoenix and LAX was uneventful and we landed about 90 minutes later. I had a 3 1/2 hour layover in LAX (what I do for cheap tickets) and went to go find some lunch and chill out at the airport. When it came closer to the time to fly home, I walked over to the gate and noticed the next gate over had a direct flight to Seattle, while I had to fly to Portland and then change planes at PDX on my way to Seattle. “Darn!” I thought. “Why didn’t I get onto that flight?” However, the flight to Seattle was overbooked anyways. . . so I sat at the gate and then sat and sat. I guess there were mechanical issues with the plane heading to Portland, so United exchanged planes and rolled a new plane to the gate. I might add; by now, the plane flying to Seattle had left. Sigh! I was also told I would miss my connecting flight to Seattle. There was a bit of confusion, as I thought the ticketing agent was going to get back to those of us headed to Seattle, but no one came and talked with us, other then the one announcement saying we would miss our connecting flight. Then I almost missed my flight to Portland, because I was waiting for that agent to get back to me. Over the intercom, I heard my name announced for final boarding call and I hoofed it to the other gate and got onto the plane. A few minutes later, the captain announced there was a problem with the plane, followed by more announcements, and then he shut down the engines and finally, the jetway was rolled back to the plane for us to unload. It appeared no one was getting to Portland or Seattle tonight. And although it was a bit of a nonsense, I am grateful the problems were discovered on the ground and not in the air. I walked over to customer service and informed them of my dilemma and they got me a direct flight to Seattle the following morning and also give me a voucher for a hotel for the evening and a couple of food vouchers. I never stayed at a Westin Hotel, and have to say the room was quite comfortable. I also enjoyed the dinner I had that evening in their restaurant, The Daily Grill, and I really appreciated the free shuttle service to and from the airport.
Yep, it’s a weekend I will never forget.