Sunday, November 18, 2012 marked the third and final day of Creation Entertainment's Official Star Trek Convention San Francisco, held at the stately Westin St. Francis. The weekend had already brought wonderful celebrities, enthusiastic audiences and some amazing surprises- like Nichelle Nichols’ unscheduled appearance, but some of the best excitement was still to come.
Convention host and Creation co-CEO Adam Malin, in buoyant spirits from such a fun-filled weekend, opened the festivities with an unexpected treat: a reading of our beloved DeForest Kelley's homage to Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek, “The Big Bird's Dream.” This lengthy piece of poetry and prose is decades old and somewhat forgotten, but not to the legion of older fans who used to flock to the Trek shows to see De, one of our true heroes. He will forever be remembered with great love and admiration.
Malin then introduced character actor Michael Aron, known to most fans as Jack London from the classic TNG two-part episode “Time's Arrow.” Michael is fairly new to the convention circuit, but is relaxed and a great speaker with the audience. He reflected that the experience filming TNG was a great one. He was honored to work with acting talent like Brent Spiner and Patrick Stewart. Currently, he has a creative company that specializes in web design and also donates its services to not-for-profit companies. He also owns a motorcycle shop and loves to race bikes.
On Jack London: he did some research to capture a 19th-century vibe, including watching old John Wayne films. Regarding working on a Trek show: he knew he was getting involved with something that would stay with him as an actor for years to come. As a sci-fi fan, he was doubly excited to be working on TNG. The shoot ran five days. As for Brent (most of his scenes were with him), he was great to work with. Brent recounted to Michael a time on TNG when, in the middle of filming, Sean Connery walked into the middle of the set, asked to find someone, then promptly left. Michael also filmed more than 100 episodes of a teenage soap opera, Trucks, as well as numerous TV commercials. He has also appeared in a Star Wars video game (where he dies).
Next up was TNG superstar LeVar Burton, who got a standing ovation for a welcome. Looking fit, relaxed and dressed in an elegant, casual manner, LeVar was clearly pleased with the audience's enthusiasm. He proclaimed San Francisco his hometown, although he hails from Sacramento. He used to work at Shanks Arco gas station, but was surprised to discover it has been paved over and turned into a department store. The mention of Reading Rainbow brought a thunderous cheer and applause and the audience sang the song. LeVar said that Reading Rainbow is now available as an app on the iOS platform, with books and videos. Since launch in June, they have downloaded more than 600,000 books. On his name: his given name is Levardis, but when he decided to become an actor and not a priest he shortened it. On becoming Chief Engineer of Enterprise: since the NCC 1701-D can essentially fly itself, LeVar and Rick Berman thought it might be good for the Geordi character to go down into Engineering. The rest is history.
On a Reading Rainbow for adults: it's in development. One attendee queried why, since Kunta Kinte was so cute and adored by women, Geordi kept str
New York and work in theater, but he landed the role and it changed his life forever. It's a strange twist of fate that the legendary Ben Vereen played his grandson in Roots and his father on TNG. One mother testified to how Reading Rainbow encouraged her daughter to become an educator, which clearly moved LeVar. As for the VISOR, it started out as plastic, but in the second season they molded a metal alloy to the shape of his face. Unfortunately it weighed almost three pounds.
Suddenly, a dweebish fan (Brent Spiner incognito) stepped up to the microphone and asked "Mr. Leburton" if he could purchase the "Eddie" series (Eddie at the Hotel, Eddie at the Star Trek Convention) on the Reading Rainbow app. LeVar indicated that it wasn't currently on it, but that he would look into it. LeVar asked how many Eddie books there were. Dweeb fan replied 1500! Brent got a huge applause and LeVar called him the funniest white man he knows.
On technobabble: one fan claimed the math he spoke was very accurate when her engineering class watched clips from the show. LeVar said no one was more surprised by that than he was. He mentioned being in development on a feature film. On working with Jimmy Doohan on “Relics”: the combination of Scottish storytelling and Scotch whiskey was unbeatable. He has enjoyed his two appearances on The Big Bang Theory as a "tag" (at the end of the show). Judging by the standing ovation LeVar received upon his departure, it's obvious fans can't get enough of this talented and witty gentleman.
Next up was Hallie Todd, who played Data's creation Lal. She feels very blessed to have played that role. She almost passed on the audition; in fact it took three calls to get her to try out, but famed casting director Junie Lowry was persistent and she finally came in (after watching the episode “Datalore” and being "riveted"). She has primarily made her career in TV comedy, particularly as the mom on the Disney Channel series Lizzie McGuire (with Hilary Duff). After that, she got into teaching and writing with her husband. She's a fan of the Game of Thrones book series. She noted that the week she filmed “The Offspring” it was around Christmas time and there was great craft services for the holiday. There was also a great vibe on the set because it was Jonathan Frakes' directorial debut and everyone was supportive of him. She also liked the fact that there was no real prosthetic makeup for the character.
After Hallie came the final No Minimum Bid Auction of the weekend. Adam Malin flew through a cornucopia of rare collectibles and merchandise, all selling at considerably below their retail value. Of particular note were Fleer collectible card sets and the notorious Borg Cube toy from 1994, as well as another shooting script from Enterprise signed by Scott Bakula.
Then it was time for the arrival of George Takei, who was greeted by a packed theater and a standing ovation. George wasted no time noting that his father was born in San Francisco, that the city is the home of Starfleet, and that Star Trek IV was filmed here. Looking at almost 50 years of Star Trek, George thanked the audience for the phenomenon that has helped buoy his career for so many years. He spoke at length about the battle for marriage equality in the United States, one of the reasons that compelled him to finally come out as a gay person. He also spoke about the tragedy of Japanese American internment, which motivated him to develop a musical about the experience that recently finished a sold out run in San Diego. He is laying plans to bring the show to Broadway, and then form a touring company to bring it to other cities in North America.
One attendee wondered if any of TOS cast knew George was gay back during the filming of the show. George offered the anecdote about a time when a handsome male extra came on the set. Walter Koenig (who is heterosexual) gestured to George, as if to say, check out this sexy guy, wink wink! Another fan complimented George on his famous voice. George spoke a bit about his voiceover work, including the ghost ancestor in Mulan. He has recently recorded a children's book in audio form. He also impressed the audience with the admission that he is 75 years old (still fit and vital looking). Finally, he spoke about the thrill of performing live theater. As he was about to leave, LeVar Burton came onstage and the two hugged in a Kodak moment. George left the stage to another standing ovation.
The final guest of the weekend put an appropriate exclamation point on the festivities: Brent Spiner came on stage to yet another standing ovation. He started out by telling the audience that he and Data are a lot alike; in fact, they are EXACTLY alike (laughter). He did a spot-on imitation of Sir Patrick Stewart that had everyone in stitches. On Marina doing a split during yesterday's on-stage presentation: she boasted to Brent of being very "loose." Brent replied "you're telling me!" Regarding Data as an android: he claims to have had his body opened up in every part except one, which they are saving for the next film. Is Denise Crosby as hot as she seems in "The Naked Now"? Duh yes. When told Denise had said they were playing cards behind the door, Brent said that she was ashamed, but not to be, because they were young and impetuous.
On musical theater and doing Sunday in The Park with George: he (like everyone) is a huge Stephen Sondheim fan and was honored to have worked with him. His recent album Dreamland was an attempt to get back into it. Having a family with kids in L.A. makes it hard to get musical theater gigs. On villainy: he thinks it's more fun to play villains and enjoyed his run on Warehouse 13 very much. He had previously worked with Saul Rubinek. There was a tragic story regarding David Rappaport, a little person previously seen in Time Bandits, who was in a TNG episode. In the middle of filming the episode the actor took his life, which necessitated re-casting the role. Brent suggested Saul and he came aboard and took the role. When an opportunity came up on Warehouse 13 for a recurring villain in the latest season, Saul suggested Brent to the producers, and he won the role.
One young fan asked how Michael Westmore managed to take Data's head off in one episode and "sacrifice his body." Brent replied he had no idea. Another asked what it felt like to be the most gorgeous, sexy man in the world. Brent said it's a burden, but someone had to do it. The fan replied to let her know if he ever got divorced. On Spot (the cat): there were several cats and they were all lousy actors.
A fan sang an operatic strain from Sunday in the Park... and asked about Stephen Sondheim. He was having lunch with Sondheim some time ago in LA with John Logan (screenwriter of Nemesis) while they were developing Tim Burton's film version of Sweeney Todd, and Sondheim told him that he wrote music for the Leo G. Carroll TV series Topper some 50 years ago. Suddenly a geeky-sounding fan girl called out to him and it turned out to be Marina Sirtis, who came up onstage and did a perfect split. As if this wasn't already a lot of fun, an incognito LeVar Burton (in fan falsetto) appeared out of nowhere to compliment him for his role on Night Court.
This wonderful interplay between the various TNG actors during their appearances throughout the weekend testified to the lovely bond that exists between these cast members, honoring 25 years of their groundbreaking TV series. This camaraderie extended to the audience, who shared an ecstatic weekend of first-rate entertainment celebrating the continuing saga that is Star Trek. Creation Entertainment had clearly accomplished its goal in bringing the Trek fan community together once again for a celebration of life, love and adventure.
Click HERE and HERE to read StarTrek.com’s recaps of day one and two. Click HERE to check out Creation Entertainment’s schedule of official Star Trek Conventions. And stay tuned to StarTrek.com for coverage of Creation’s upcoming events.
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