Super Celebrities at the Super Megafest

24-Nov-09 4:26 PM by
Filed under Celebrities, Potpourri; 2 comments.

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]

Brent Spiner signs a photo for a fanUpon 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.

James MarstersI 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."


A Super Time at the Megafest

20-Nov-07 10:33 PM by
Filed under Celebrities, Potpourri; 9 comments.

Despite my geekiness and enthusiasm, I've never felt the motivation to pursue the objects of my affection by attending a convention. But when Super Megafest promised to deliver a bevy of cult icons to my backyard, Hiphopguy23 and I couldn't resist.

My past experience with conventions came at the now-defunct Electronic Entertainment Expo, a trade-only show of the gaming software industry. Those events spanned multiple football fields and were packed with blaring televisions, free giveaways, and celebrity promotions. There, simply by standing in line for an hour each, I'd gotten the signatures of such stars as John de Lancie, Nicole de Boer, Robin Shou, and Wayne Gretzky.

I'd fortunately not been to E3 for awhile, as otherwise those experiences may've made for even more unrealistic expectations of the Megafest. This primarily sci-fi convention filled a large hall at a Sheraton hotel, its adjoining corridor, and one nearby conference room. It was a good size that required at least an hour to take in, but it was not anywhere that one could get lost. The variety of unique and exclusive products could entrap a fan for hours with DVDs, toys, shirts, guitars, and especially comics — but Hiphopguy23 and I weren't there to spend money.

Unfortunately, expense was another area in which E3 and Super Megafest differed. Whereas celebrities were paid to endorse a vendor's products, here their sole purpose was to supply fans with autographs… and so those fans became their financial backers. A personalized glossy of Adam West went for $50; other actors' costs were more reasonable, but charged extra for a photo of the fan and star. Though as a convention newbie I accepted the reality of the arrangement without much distaste, I still had to wonder why an actor like Ray Park, who currently has five projects in production, would need this income.

Ken Gagne & Ray ParkI hope this observation does not reflect poorly on the actors, as I was honored to meet each and every one of them. Mr. Park kindly took the time to talk to me about his work on The Descendants, a series he hopes, but does not expect, to see available next year. He even did me the honor of a free photo.

Margot Kidder was similarly amicable. Though no star had a line longer than five minutes, I was disappointed to see her so underwhelmed with fans that she had time to be reading a book about the history of the CIA. So I chatted with her about Superman Returns. "I liked it, though I think it wasn't aimed at kids," she commented, "so I think they missed the mark in that regard. But I liked it." Another fan, looking at the glossies of her work on the Christopher Reeve films, asked if she missed those days. Her answer was either self-evident or profound, depending on the age of the audience: "I don't have to miss those days; I remember them."

But it was the two other stars who were the highlight of my day. I hadn't gone to the event wanting Helen Slater's autograph, but of all the actors at the show, she was the least what I expected. Whereas all the other actors have gotten older since their prime, this former Supergirl, now singer/songwriter, has hardly aged a day. I was surprisingly nervous to approach her, as the last woman to make me bashful, another female celebrity, was a very long time ago. Rather than a color photo of her in Kryptonian garb, I chose to have signed a black-and-white glossy of Ms. Slater as she is today. I almost can't stand to have it mounted on my wall, as she far outshines the others I keep there.

Just as powerful an addition to my collection (of both autographs and memories), but in a very different way, was Larry Storch. I grew up on the comedy of F-Troop, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Dobie Gillis, and others that were clean and funny, derived from true situational comedies. Nowadays, shows like Seinfeld are built on nonsense concepts with characters who are hateful, unrealistic, and insulting — but back when shows had theme songs with lyrics, the writing and acting were far cleverer. Larry Storch as Corporal Agarn was one of several people who exemplified for me the potential of acting and comedy, both of which I now pursue myself on theater stage. To shake his hand and tell him what he meant to me was a golden moment.

Hiphopguy23 did not get that chance with George "The Animal" Steele, who cancelled due to the popular affliction of wrestlers: poor health. But I think we both had a good time at our first such convention and considered every dollar well-spent at this one-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

[Hat tip to GeneD. for informing me of this event!]