The Super Megafest has become one of my many holiday traditions: the weekend before Thanksgiving, I head to the Framingham Sheraton for an unusual amalgam of sci-fi actors, classic celebrities, comic books, and cosplay. Though this year's event had fewer celebrities that personally appealed to me, those on the roster were ones I couldn't believe I'd have the good fortune to see in person. [photos after the jump]
Upon arriving, I made a beeline for the corner, where there was hardly no wait to meet Brent Spiner, who played Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Instead of a handshake, he offered a fist bump, citing a cold. Though I'm sure he was sincere, even if he wasn't, it seemed an effective tactic to avoid getting sick, given the number of fans I'm sure he was to meet at such an event. I had him sign a picture of Data as a poker dealer, though had I noticed that a shot of him as Sherlock Holmes on the holodeck was also available, I might've opted for that one. As he signed it, I told him how encouraging it was to grow up watching a show where an intelligent, socially awkward individual could be a respected and contributing member of a team. "Yeah, that's a neat thing they did there, isn't it?" he replied. While he next signed the insert from my CD of his 1991 album, Ol' Yellow Eyes Is Back, I commented that a film I rarely hear his fans mention is Out to Sea, a delightful 1997 comedy with Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, and Dyan Cannon in which he played a fantastic villain. "I thought that was a great film!" I told him. "So did I!" he agreed.
I next got in a rather long line for James Marsters, best known as the undead Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As with Mr. Spiner, I continued my trend of acknowledging the actors' lesser-known works, as I know from my limited experience in community theater that it's not always your best performance that's the one people remember. "I thought you were a great Lex Luthor," I told Mr. Marsters. He seemed genuinely surprised to hear that: "Oh! Thanks! It was particularly interesting to go back and do Smallville after that," he reflected, referencing his appearance on that show as Brainiac. He parodied a conversation with Michael Rosenbaum, that show's Luthor: "'So, you played my role, eh?'" Mr. Marsters told me he'll be doing more voice work on the Clone Wars animated series, though he doesn't yet know what part he'll play.
I hurried from Mr. Marster's table to the celebrity Q&A session, occurring every half-hour. I arrived a few minutes late to Mr. Spiner's session, at which point I was surprised to find fans asking not about his life on the Enterprise, but his life on the stage. Mr. Spiner is an accomplished stage actor, having appeared on Broadway before he did on Star Trek. He told us about his 1997 performance in the musical 1776: "We had the Tonies wrapped up… until Cabaret opened a week before the awards." Someone else also brought up Out to Sea, to which he said: "My life would be very different if people had seen that movie. My life would also be very different if Kevin Kline had never been born."
Mr. Spiner is a prolific Twitter user and spoke about the medium. "There is some Twitter pressure. If I don't write anything for three days, they have the cops looking for me." He asked my partner-in-crime, Gene, "Do you follow me on Twitter?" "I don't," he admitted, which prompted Mr. Spiner to ask: "What's wrong with you?"
Such acerbic commentary was surprisingly characteristic of Mr. Spiner's session. He badmouthed people he's worked for ("The Family Guy episode was awful. If I'd known I'd get three lines, I never would've done it. Couldn't Seth MacFarlane have given Patrick Stewart 43 lines instead of 47?"), expressed confusion over why people are so illogical as to wear shorts ("Because it gets so hot down there!" he sarcasticaly observed), and expressed no enthusiasm to reprise his role as Data ("I'm too old to be putting on that makeup. Do you remember what Harpo Marx looked like near the end? Maybe if they pay me $5 million.") But, like Don Rickles, he ensured "You know this was all in fun, right?" We did, and it was hilarious.
Surprisingly, the biggest laugh of the session didn't come from Mr. Spiner. Near the end of the session, I raised my hand for a question, and he called on me: "Ken, right?" I was absolutely shocked that he remembered me from an hour earlier. In that moment I was stunned, he explained, "I remember the names of everyone I've ever met. It's the strangest thing." I offered, "Wow — it's like you're a robot or something!" I thought it was a throwaway line, but the audience roared, during which Mr. Spiner stood there and silently glared at me. When he could be heard again, he turned to the back of the room, pointed at me, and called, "Security!"
But I did get to ask my question, and as I did the previous year with Jonathan Frakes, I told Mr. Spiner that I loved Gargoyles and asked what his favorite part of voice acting is. "I get to wear my own clothes, for one." But he confessed to not having seen not only JJ Abrams' Star Trek, but also most of TNG or any of Gargoyles. "The whole time I was recording that show, I had no idea what [Puck] looked like," he commented, referring to his character.
There were still several questions remaining when Mr. Spiner's time was up, so he quickly tossed out some answers: "When I was 14… It depends… and Mozart, I guess." What the corresponding questions might've been, we'll never know.
Next up was Peter Tork of The Monkees, who was in attendance at Super Megafest with fellow Monkee Micky Dolenz. Mr. Tork's session was well-attended but a bit more subdued. I couldn't tell if he actually liked the attention or not, and when he spent five minutes retelling his favorite Bugs Bunny skits, it seemed like a diversionary tactic to avoid speaking his own mind. But when asked direct questions, he didn't shy from the truth — such as regarding the prospect of a Monkees reunion. "When hell freezes over," he was quick to reply. Who's the holdout? "I will not work with Mike [Nesmith]. He renegs — he doesn't keep his word."
Another fan asked what kind of music Mr. Tork likes nowadays. "I like singer/songwriter. I'll be spinning the dial and come across a country song that's truly inspired, and the singer has something to say… Then the next song will be, 'My girlfriend left me so I'm drinking myself stupid.' I don't care for that." As a country music fan, I appreciated Mr. Tork's willingness to separate content from style.
Mr. Tork closed by inviting an audience member from the audience to do the Monkee walk, creating a wonderful memory for one lucky fan.
Also in attendance at Super Megafest 2009 was Larry Storch, whom I was fortunate enough to meet at the 2007 event; and Cindy Morgan, with whom I neglected to reminisce about a time, six years and three thousand miles ago, when I said something that prompted her to punch Bruce Boxleitner.
My expenses at this year's Super Megafest were typical for such an event. Brent Spiner cost $40 per autograph, or $70 for two, including the glossy headshot. James Marsters was $40, plus $5 for the photo. Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz were $25 each; I took advantage of the former to have signed my DVD insert from The Brady Bunch Movie. New this year was a local studio offering professional photos with your favorite celebrity. I saw a few of the pics, and they were high quality — but at $40 a pop, not including JPEGs, reprints, or autographs, it seemed an unnecessary indulgence even to someone who's willing to pay for celebrity signatures. Unfortunately, the studio's exclusivity meant no more impromptu posed pictures at the autograph table, like I got with