Monday, June 28, 2004

3 Days in Tulsa, Part 2 - Saturday

I had had some trouble with the card reader Friday evening and was not able to clear one of the memory cards. When we got home late Friday night, I went ahead and hooked everything up to the desktop system in my office and was able to read the card without a problem. While I was at it, I went ahead and copied the pictures already on my laptop to the desktop.

As I was reviewing the photos, I noticed that several of them had lots of electronic noise - the digital equivalent of film grain. I was surprised by this since the camera I was using was capable of 8 megapixels, had a great lens and was set to its highest resolution. As I dove into the setup menu on the camera, I realized it was simulating ASA 800 film. Good for taking low-light pictures, yes, but it forces the gain on the CCD (the part of the camera that actually takes the picture) up so high that you get electronic noise, or grain, on your pictures no matter how good the light is. I played with it between 200 and 400 for the rest of the weekend and got some pretty decent shots.

I was excited so I got up around 7am on Saturday. I made sure batteries were charged, etc. and repacked everything so I could carry my rolling backpack with me instead of leaving stuff in the car. I went ahead and rousted Shelly at about 8:50am after posting a quick blog entry. We hit the road at about 10 and arrived at Expo Square right at 11:30, which is when Kristen Dalton was scheduled to be on stage.

Because we were just getting our bearings, I didn't get to listen to her Q&A but did manage to get a couple of pictures. She was wearing her hair kinda funky so I almost didn't recognize her.

Next up was Gil Gerard and Erin Gray. These two used to play Buck and Wilma on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Amazingly enough, Gil Gerard, before becoming an actor, was a rocket scientist. Seriously! He is a chemical engineer and worked on the boosters for the Titan missile system. After that he worked with Michael Landon quite a bit and a show called Sidekicks.

Erin Gray is one of those people that pops up now and then in a movie or on television. I remember her from Buck Rogers, Six Pack and Silver Spoons. She still works as an actress but also runs an agency that represents actors, such as Gil Gerard, for public appearances, etc.

Up next was Ray Park. Once again, he brought Daniel Logan and Sala Baker up with him. Nothing new there except a few more pictures.

When Penny Johnson Jerald took the stage, I snapped a few pictures for posterity, listened a bit about her work on 24 (a show I've never watched) and left.

We went to sit and chat at one of the tables near where the signing guests were seated. We weren't very far from Ray Park and he was pretty much right in my line of sight. There were about three 12-year-old boys milling about and all of a sudden, Ray comes out from behind his table and starts having slow-motion mock light saber battles with them. It was really cool! He's dodging swings from them, he's helping them dodge swings from him, he's rolling around on the floor... those kids were grinning from ear-to-ear. At one point, he located the 6-foot warhammer someone had made (one of the foam and duct tape versions) and brought that out and started swinging it (slowly). The boys took off in "terror" giggling all the way!

At 2:00, it was Ron Perlman. My wife likes anything associated with the short-lived TV series, The Magnificent Seven. We were back at the stage in plenty of time to see him.

It was very interesting to listen to him talk about his experiences. Most actors I've heard talk about prosthetics really don't have much good to say about them. You generally hear about how long it takes to apply them, how hot they are, how some limit your movement or field of vision... not Ron Perlman. Even with makeup as involved as Hellboy and Vincent for Beauty and the Beast, Ron really likes working in prosthetics. In fact, he said that he enjoys mask work immensely because it gives him a chance to really become someone and something different - to really get involved in the character.

At 3:00, they had a preview of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow featuring live and in-person, Bai Ling. I know Kevin has a thing for asian women so I was sure to snap a few pics for him... then moved on.

When that was over, Ronny Cox came in and did a 3 or 4-song set to preview his concert that was set to begin at 10:00pm that evening. Good music but not really my style.

At 4:00 was the headliner of the Expo (or so we thought at the time), Brent Spiner. You may remember him as Commander Data on Star Trek The Next Generation or Dr. Okun in Independence Day (the dude @ Area 51 that got nabbed by the alien). He also played Bob Wheeler on Night Court and Billy Bob Conroy on Mama's Family. Other credits to his name include Out to Sea and Dude, Where's My Car.

Brent, unfortunately, was a typical Star Trek star on stage. He was funny, energetic and captivating... and brought nothing unique to the stage. To a first-time con-goer, he would have rocked. To a seasoned con veteran... not so much. His presentation was a lot of fun but it was difficult to seperate the real information from the BS he was handing out (they all do it - usually giving grief to their castmates). There's a delicate balance you have to strike to be popular across the board and I guess once you've seen it a hundred times and once you've presented it a hundred times it gets a little hard to get excited about.

At the end of the day was the event I'd been most looking forward to - Supper With The Stars. Supper With The Stars is a charity benefit for the Tulsa Boy's Home. Basically, for $25/person you get a meal and some "unscripted" time with any of the celebrities who choose to show up. Last year, I had a most wonderful time and managed to see some of the celebrities that I would have missed (I was unable to attend on Sunday last year). The food was mediocre but spending time with the celebrities was fantastic.

This year, they finally managed to hire a decent caterer. Although the menu said burgers and hot dogs, we were treated to some WONDERFUL brisket and fried chicken. In addition, a new pizza place in town donated pizza for the event (the were also stocking the green room the entire weekend) so food was plenty and it was good.

Unfortunately, they screwed up the schedule in such a way that nobody really had time to rub elbows. Let me explain...

The event traditionally starts around 7:15pm and ends around 9:30pm. Last year, the public was let in at 7:15, the celebrities arrived 7:30ish and food was served around 7:45. The hosts asked everyone to let the stars finish eating before taking pictures and interacting. Everyone was pretty much finished around 8:15 to 8:30, giving everyone an hour or so to spend time mingling.

This year, for some reason, some knobhead decided not to even serve dinner until 8:30. Even though we were let in at 7:15, we were greeted with the same, "please try not to bother the stars until they finish eating" speech. Well, of course, the celebrities themselves got restless around 8:00 and started mingling. Then, just as the party started swinging, we were interrupted by dinner. By the time we finished eating, there were only about 3 celebrities left and about a half hour for EVERYONE to take a turn getting a picture or shaking a hand.

I managed to get several candid shots of the stars and came within inches of getting a picture of Shelly with Ray Park. I'm thinking of sending an email to the people at Starbase 21 about my experience. Now that they have the food right, I hope they can get the experience right next year. After all, I could care less about the food.

Next installment: 3 Days in Tulsa, Part 3 - Sunday

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