The Lope: Trek Expo 2008

Monday, June 16, 2008

Trek Expo 2008

For the past few years, one of my more interesting gigs has been convention photographer for the Trek Expo science fiction convention in Tulsa. Since 2004, Ace has attended with me, in his quest to understand human subculture. If you're not a sci-fi fan, you might want to scroll past this one. If you are, welcome, and come dweeb with me...

Ace meets Nichelle Nichols at Trek Expo 2008 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, early this month at the John Q. Hammons UMAC Center. Nichols was of course Lieutenant Uhura in the Star Trek franchise.

She's had a number of other entertainment roles and is also a published author.

Although all of the above really matters, my main impression of her now is of a kind and rather regal woman who spontaneously went nose-to-nose with Ace.

Walter Koenig gave a somewhat different reaction when introduced to a jackalope in a starfleet uniform.

Koenig played Ensign Pavel Chekov in the Star Trek franchise and Alfred Bester in Babylon 5. He's had a slew of other projects and remains active in theatre.

Koenig screened most of a still-in-production fan film, Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, which starred himself, Nichelle Nichols, and a large handful of ex-trek actors who, in most cases, played their original roles. Remember Stonn from Amok Time? They did. And you get to see pretty actress Chase Masterson as a green Orion slave woman, which, you need another reason?

I must say it was a good flick - better than watching any Voyager episode, for example. The movie looks and feel low-budget, but that's part of its charm as a fan-produced effort that respects the integrity of trek's intermediate characters and allows their actors to stretch quite a bit. You can download it for free at their website.

Koenig watched from the back of the auditorium and then answered questions. You might be asking yourself how they get away with using Paramount-copyrighted characters and such. The answer is that Paramount has not interfered as long as no profit is made. Koenig remarked the film-makers are keeping the Star Trek franchise alive while they (Paramount) are making their next movie.

In what I suppose is an inevitable moment, life imitated art imitating life when someone asked Koenig to repeat a line from Star Trek IV in Chekov's Russian accent: "Can you tell me where the nuclear wessels are?" He obliged, but prefaced the line with a laughingly spoken "you do you realize this is a total prostitution of my work - a compromise of my art - I'm selling myself." It reminded me of Fry in Futurama asking him to do the same thing.

Other entertainment included the Enterprise Blues Band, a group of six actors, most with Star Trek connections, who formed a band about two years ago and play largely at sci-fi conventions. It's not unusual at these large sci-fi conventions to have entertainment - plays, singing actors/actresses - these things sweeten the pot for holders of ticket packages as well as furnishing, I suppose, a creative outlet for actors who might tire of answering the same sci-fi questions for the zillionth time.

When I first saw these guys on the schedule, I figured "Oh, a Star Trek theme band made up of actors - this might be decent, if we're lucky." Actually they were a pretty good rock/blues band.

J'lope (hey, what else would you call a Klingon jackalope?) hangs with three guys who were Klingons - (L-R) Richard Herd, Vaughn Armstrong and Steve Rankin have all played Klingons in various Star Trek shows. All are members of the band.

Herd has played several sci-fi roles, but is probably most recognizable as George's boss at the New York Yankees in Seinfeld. More interestingly, he participated in a 2005 sound remake of the German expressionist masterpiece, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

In addition to vocals, he plays the gut bucket, a string instrument made from a wash bucket. Read about the history of gut buckets here.

Vaughn Armstrong has played a bunch of different roles in the various Star Trek shows. He must be one of the go-to guys for roles that require good acting whilst wearing a pound of latex on one's face. Remember the Klingon death yell? Sure you do if you've read this far - it's that yell Klingons do when one of them dies...something about warning the afterlife that a Klingon Warrior is coming. Anyway, the first time that was seen, in Star Trek the Next Generation, this is the guy that did it.

Steve Rankin has appeared in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Voyager, Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: the Next Generation.

Casey Biggs played Damar, a Cardassian bad guy turned good in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and has had a host of other TV roles.

This was shot during practice before the show.

Biggs handles a phone call for Ace.

Actor William Jones furnished vocals and drums.

Rounding out the band was Ron B. Moore, a special effects guy who has worked on several parts of the Star Trek franchise, including a fan production called Star Trek: New Voyages

Moore brought along some prop material. I'm pretty sure these bugs are from a late first season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Joining the band only for its Tulsa appearance was an audience member who played a mean saxophone. If someone would care to comment with this gentleman's name, I'll be happy to add it.

Lolita Fatjo, formerly heavily involved in the production end of the Star Trek Franchise, now manages a number of ex-trek actors in their convention appearances.

Two Klingon femme fatales were there: Gwynyth Walsh (right) and Barbara March who played the recurring Duras sisters, B'Etor and Lursa.

It was a very pretty convention. Linda Park played Hoshi Sato in Star Trek: Enterprise. She just got engaged; that's her fiance on the left.

There's always gotta be a Star Wars person at these things. Amy Allen, who looks really good in blue body makeup, played a Jedi with a really complicated name on Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. She was the only actor present who seemed a bit shy; she cancelled her own stage appearance, but did hang around at her autograph table.

Ace dressed to meet Helen Slater, who starred in Supergirl. Now, Supergirl was not that great a movie (and I have a tendency toward understatement), but she also plays Clark Kent's mom in Smallville, which is actually pretty good.

I had a few minutes to chat with Slater and when she saw a photo of Ace in front of the Holbrook, Arizona, Wigwam Motel on my business card, she asked a few questions about roadside attractions and Route 66 which I was happy to be able to answer. Like many in Los Angeles, she did not know the location of Route 66 in that city. This is not surprising as it isn't marked well, if at all.

Slater is a timely guest in that this month is the 70th anniversary of Superman's debut in Action Comics #1. This past January, we visited Jim Hambrick's Super Museum (not associated at all with Trek Expo, but relivent to Supergirl) in Metropolis, Illinois and shot photos of his frighteningly large collection.

See some of Hambrick's Supergirl memorabilia here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

For the past few years, actors from the Jos Wheden projects Firefly and Serenity have been popular.

Adam Baldwin played Jayne Cobb in both productions.

He also played the Wolfram and Hart bad guy, Hamilton, in the vampire TV series, Angel, as Nosferatulope apparently knew.

There are always a few sci-fi authors and artists in attendence. This is Robin Wayne Bailey, author.

Author Michael Vance (2007 photo) also works for the Tulsa Boy's Home, for which convention promoter Starbase 21 helps raise money through a charity auction and a "Supper with the Stars" dinner on the Saturday night of the convention.

Artist Keith Birdsong (2007 photo) illustrates Star Trek novel covers and has worked as a stamp artist for the U.S. Postal Service.

R. A. Jones is a comic book writer and editor.

Ace finds an enviable perch with a performer from Tulsa Belly Dance. I neither know what belly dancing has to do with science fiction, nor do I particularly care. When buxom women appear in front of you and gyrate...well, it's like Santa Clause in that you just shouldn't question it too much.

Ace (center) wasn't bothered by the mystery of anomalous belly dancers either.

A replica of the Knight Rider car was on hand.

I'm thinking maybe this is cooler than the Toyota Camry I'm thinking of buying...

...and has a better instrument package than the Scion I'm also considering. Yeah, I can see going to my insurance agent for a quote on this.

Of course there's always lots of stuff to buy.

Of course, conventions don't work without fans. Now, contrary to the impression one might get from many of the television stories I've seen on sci-fi conventions, most people don't attend in costume. TV reporters seem to make a b-line for guys dressed as Klingons. But, you know - what's the fun of photographing people in street clothes?

Princess Leia and an elf (I think)

Nosferatulope sought a fan dressed as Illyria from the TV series Angel.

Darth Vader meets Supergirl.

All of this comes together because a small army of volunteers keeps it moving. Here, a few of them pose with actor Adam Baldwin.

Previous Years

Here's a look at Ace with Trek Expo guests from previous years.

2006: J'lope has a photo-op with Robert O'Reilly (Gowron in STNG and Deep Space Nine) and J.G. Hertzler (General Martok in DS9).

2004: Wil Wheaton was going to be here this year, but cancelled. That's too bad. His sci-fi claim to fame is his role as Wesley Crusher in Star Trek the Next Generation, but I really wanted to interview him about his role as a pioneer blogger, and touch on questions like how to stop hot-linkers.

2007: Kate Mulgrew played Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. I was never a Voyager fan, but man, look at her. And she was a very nice, too.

2007: Claudia Christian of Babylon 5.

2007: Robert Picardo played the cantankerous holographic doctor on Star Trek: Voyager.

2007: Ethan Phillips played Neelix on Star Trek: Voyager.

2007: Bonnie Piesse played the young version of Luke Skywalker's Aunt Beru in the latest two Star Wars films.

2007: Richard Anderson was "Oscar Goldman" in "The Six Million Dollar Man." I considered making a bionic jackalope to pose with him, but realized the bionic bit was done mostly with slow-motion and sound effects, and Ace in a exercise suit just isn't all that cool. I was more interested in Anderson's role in the sci-fi classic, Forbidden Planet.

2007: You know the now-iconic (and much borrowed for parody) crippled Captain Pike from the classic Star Trek episode, "Menagerie"? Sean Kenney played the guy in the chair. He also had small parts in that series. I don't recall if he was ever send behind a rock to check out a noise while wearing a red shirt.

2006: Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander Riker on Star Trek the Next Generation (STNG) was a pleasant enough guy. Ace wore his red STNG uniform to greet him. When things are rushed, as they were here, I often end up taking this basic photo...not very interesting or different, but I'm glad I have it.

2006: Frakes is married to soap opera actress Genie Francis, who played Laura Spencer on General Hospital. You can tell she's done product shots before.

2006: Christina Hendricks of Firefly, wrote "To Ace Jackalope - you broke my heart XOXO".

She even hammed it up a bit and posed, down-cast. Yeah, I love sci-fi.

See also The Lope: Starfleet Exam

Note added April 8, 2009: Guests for Trek Expo 2009 have been announced.


Anonymous Stacy Raven said...

Oh man! Ace got to meet Jayne from Firefly! I'm soooo jealous!

Wow, this looks like it was a LOT of fun. Maybe next year you can come with us to the San Diego Comic-Con, Ace. I think you would have a blast!


Wed Aug 06, 01:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Erin said...

OMG These pics are soooo awesome....but just a lil correction....Genie Francis plays Laura on General Hospital not All My Children :)

Mon Sep 08, 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger Ace Jackalope said...

Thanks, Erin. I corrected it. The last soap I watched was Dark Shadows in the 70's.

Wed Sep 10, 01:26:00 AM  

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