June 27, 2011
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Creation Entertainment's Official Star Trek Convention Salute to the 45th Anniversary continued Sunday at the Hilton in Parsippany, New Jersey. The largest crowd of the weekend had gathered to see Trek icons Michael Dorn and Nichelle Nichols, and everyone was still buzzing about Bill Shatner's surprise appearances at the show to direct the pilot episode of Creation's reality TV series FAN ADDICTS.
The day opened with a brief intro from Creation Co-CEO Adam Malin, clearly energized by the excitement of the weekend and the 45th anniversary. He introduced Richard Arnold, Gene Roddenberry's longtime assistant, who presented the second part of his 45th anniversary slide show salute. Richard's archival imagery was impressive, including production shots from TOS, behind-the-scenes images of the captains and cast members, and his own turn as a Romulan from the recent J.J. Abrams film.
Then it was time for the on stage appearance of Bobby Clark, the man who was the Gorn from TOS. Bobby recounted his performance on the episode, recreating the characteristic "hiss" voice of the Gorn, as well as describing the cumbersome body suit and headpiece he wore. He was a recurring character on numerous TV westerns; he appeared for more than 8 years on Gunsmoke in a variety of roles, and he invoked the great James Arness (who also starred as The Thing in the classic 50s sci-fi film), who sadly passed away recently. Clark described the "Arena" shoot at the famous geological formation Vasquez Rocks (filmed in November). Because the formations are so treacherous to climb, costumers accompanied Clarke up the rocks and then added elements including his headpiece to him once he was at the top. Fans also noted the CGI Gorn from Enterprise, and a hysterical Gorn reading Gorn Magazine from a recent episode of Big Bang Theory.
Exactly at 1 PM, the worldwide webcast of Michael Dorn's appearance began (this weekend marked the launch of pay per view webcast offerings from Creation in partnership with Startrek.com), as Michael burst on the stage to huge applause. Michael, looking lean and healthy, commented on his vegan diet, which accounts for his weight loss over the last several years. He offered the opinion that he felt Worf was not a good father to Alexander, despite good intentions. People inquired about his hobby of flying jets, and he mentioned that he had sold his jet and was renting planes when he needed them. The subject of poker on the Enterprise came up, and it was noted that no one ever exchanged currency in those games! Michael explained that it was about ego, not money! He also said his favorite script from ST:NG involved Jean Simmons' appearance (the episode was directed by Jonathan) and some interplay between Picard and Worf. His favorite concept from DS9 was hooking up Worf with Dax. He also likes being gruff and angry, as a Klingon should be! When asked to compare TNG to DS9, he said it wasn't possible because they were two completely different shows. TNG was like a party time for him, and he described working on DS9 as being in a church (offering a Gregorian chant to set the mood)! He said the makeup was the worst part of working on the shows: it was brutal to his skin, with caustic glue and adhesive, but it was good for his bank account! One interesting question pondered if it was difficult for him to "break character" after doing a scene, and his reflection was that it wasn't a problem, except that he developed the habit of talking in a low register. To that effect, he had the hysterical experience one time while flying and talking to air traffic controllers. After communicating with a traffic tower, they signaled back the inquiry, "Is this Worf?" To which he replied in a low, growling voice, "Yes, it's Worf!"
On Terry Farrell leaving the show, Michael regretted the fact that it broke up such a strong character relationship, but he supported Terry's decision. Worf's famous Bat'leth turned out to be a rubber prop, because the metal versions were too heavy and extremely dangerous. Michael would work out fight scenes with the stunt coordinator to choreograph the Bat'leth moves. Just like a Klingon, Michael doesn't like tribbles. They're too cute! He also commented on the Family Guy episode, noting that the cast recorded individually, not as a group. On being the most iconic Klingon character of all, MIchael stated that he was a big fan of TOS, and he jumped at the chance when TNG decided to have a Klingon crew member. While the rest of the crew was depicted as emotionally close, he made the conscious decision to play against that, as gruff and surly. He also ranted about some of the hairstyles they gave Worf, in particular a "do" with curls. Michael proceeded to demonstrate Worf looking in the mirror fixing his curls, to audience laughter. He also related how Gene Roddenberry came to him one day and said that his voice was too "American," and they tried several different vocal affectations until they were both happy with the approach. Asked if he would appear at a Creation event in makeup and costume as Worf, MIchael indicated that he'd be happy to do so...for one million dollars! He left the stage to a standing ovation from a packed house.
Following the Dorn appearance, a Trek scholar, Adam Hennessey, offered an informative and entertaining Power Point presentation on "The Ships of Starfleet." Hennessey clearly knew his stuff and offered an in-depth look at the many classes of Starfleet vessels, from Constitution to Galaxy to Sovereign. Trek designers including Rick Sternbach, Doug Drexler and John Eaves have created a rich visual and technical legacy that helped lend a true air of authenticity to the Star Trek continuity.
Afterwards, Malin presented a fast-paced and entertaining final No Minimum Bid Auction, where items sold for scandalously low prices. Banners signed by the attending guests were a highlight, as well as some rare Fleer trading cards signed by Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner.
Following that, Nichelle Nichols came on stage to thunderous applause. During the webcast, which lasted an hour and featured Adam Malin as interviewer, Nichelle touched on numerous subjects, including her important efforts to drive diversity in NASA's space program, her introduction to Gene Roddenberry on the set of "The Lieutenant," the casting/table readings for the second Trek pilot, and Roddenberry's changing nature, from serious to humorous. Particularly of note was her decision at the end of season one to leave the series. Chance brought her together with Dr. Martin Luther King, who begged her to stay on the show, because it was more important than just her career. Based on that plea, she stayed on, thankfully for all of us. Nichelle was beautiful in a black outfit and her elegant jewelry, and she spoke with ease and conviction to her adoring audience.
The show closed out with a final Yes No Trivia Competition, and attendees left the show satisfied with what was a very memorable weekend.
Click here to read Day Two's recap.