Recap: Creation Entertainment's Official Star Trek Convention in San Francisco
Creation Entertainment beamed into the beautiful city by the bay for their annual Official Star Trek Convention, held over the three-day weekend of Nov. 8-10, 2013, at the beautiful Hyatt Regency SFO.
On Friday, convention host/MC and Creation co-founder Adam Malin opened the festivities with a remembrance of past conventions. Creation has been producing genre events for almost 42 years and their enthusiasm for sci-fi in general and Star Trek in particular seems bigger than ever. Malin quickly got the show underway with the arrival of Voyager fan favorite Tim Russ, who was warmly received. Russ looked great and recalled his satisfying stint on the series, in particular his enjoyment in portraying a Vulcan. Russ recounted having appeared previously on both TNG and DS9, as well as in one of the films. Executive producer Rick Berman was quick to offer the Tuvok role to Tim based on his track record with the franchise. He also recounted his brief appearance in Mel Brooks' Spaceballs.
Next up was Suzie Plakson, who portrayed Worf's ill-fated lover K'Ehleyr on TNG. Suzie has had a successful career on comedic TV with guest stints on shows like Everybody Loves Raymond and How I Met Your Mother. Soon after arriving on stage, Suzie introduced makeup artist John Paladin, who'd turn the actress into her iconic Klingon character before everyone's eyes. Suzie recounted fond memories of makeup legend Michael Westmore, who collaborated with the actress on the original makeup. Quickly, Paladin's makeup application transformed Suzie into her character, and then the house lights darkened and thunder crashed as spotlights revealed K'Ehleyr. In character, the actress admonished the audience to pledge not to reveal her secrets. She declared that she did not go down (be murdered) without a fight! She called her story as presented incomplete. She claimed to be speaking from "beyond the veil" and that, on the other side, Duras had begged her for forgiveness. She told the audience that once we depart this mortal coil it's too late, so love deeply while we are still alive. Fitting words from this warrior woman, indeed!
Next up, Creation presented a copy of Gene Roddenberry's personal collection of Star Trek blooper reels. Time has done nothing to diminish the hilarity of these gems of another era. The final guest of the day was John de Lancie, who looked fit and energetic. He discussed his epic 5,000-mile sailing voyage that he recently undertook. John is also going to be singing on an episode of My Little Pony, which fans know he has made a documentary about (the fan phenomenon called Bronies). John was asked which of his epic Q costumes was the most difficult to wear, and the surprise response was the future soldier outfit. He also enjoyed acting with his son in an episode. On the difference between acting and voiceover: for voiceover you must imagine your environment and project more; for acting, it's more about reaction. On acting on TV versus film: on TV shows, they are so busy getting work done quickly that an actor can slip in more work with autonomy and less micro-management, which can be a good thing. He is also celebrating the 30th anniversary of his role as a psychopath on Days of Our Lives (he skewed the role in a comedic manner and the approach was a huge success). John left the stage to huge applause.
And with that Day One of the convention concluded.
Day Two began with host Adam Malin's reminiscence of past Creation events and guests, including George Lucas, Gene Roddenberry and Dr. Isaac Asimov. Following that, Malin interviewed actor Michael Aron, who portrayed Jack London in the two-part "Time's Arrow" episode of TNG. Aron enjoyed working with actors Brent Spiner and Jerry Hardin (as Mark Twain) in the episode. He also revealed that he was up for the role of Picard's son in the episode "The Inner Light" (a role that ultimately went to Daniel Stewart, Patrick's son). Michael currently has a motorcycle accessories store in Marin County and is a motorbike enthusiast.
Next up, Malin conducted a fun and insightful interview with show business legend Lee Meriwether. Looking beautiful, fit and dressed in a stylish pant suit outfit with scarf, Lee recounted her seven seasons working with the beloved Buddy Ebsen on Barnaby Jones. She also recalled her exciting season on Irwin Allen's Time Tunnel with famed character actor Whit Bisell, describing the enormous, cutting-edge Tunnel set as "state of the art" for the time. She (like most actors) has an understandable aversion to pyro effects and Irwin used to love them, employing them constantly on the sets. She also had warm words of admiration for her ensemble on the Batman movie, including show biz legends Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin and Caesar Romero. She described star Adam West as humble and generous, and revealed that she aced the role by preening like a cat at her audition. Of course, she had great things to say about Star Trek and her episode, "That Which Survives." Bill Theiss created a unique costume for her that was revealing but covered her belly button (a sixties taboo). She was ecstatic over meeting DeForest Kelley, and he kept pulling down the material on the costume that covered her naval, "looking for a clock." The last day of the shoot she turned the tables on him by sticking a watch face inside, so when he pulled down the material it exposed the watch, which completely broke De down! It was obvious from the standing ovation she received that she is a truly beloved member of the Trek family.
Following that, Creation held a Costume Competition which featured almost 100 contestants in an array of creative and colorful (and sometimes downright sexy) costumes. The grand-prize winner was an amazing Gorn, followed by an authentic-looking Guinan and a handsome Khan/Marla McGivers couple.
Next up, the audience was treated to a visit from DS9 Ferengi Rom and Nog (Max Grodenchik and Aron Eisenberg in full costume and amazing makeup courtesy of makeup genius John Paladin). The characters had a hysterical dialogue with one another, sang a rap song and answered audience questions both in and out of character, much to attendee delight. Rom and Nog were followed by an installment of Creation's No-Minimum Bid Auction, and then William Shatner took to the stage to a thunderous standing ovation. Looking vital and handsome in a crisp blue collared shirt and sports jacket, Bill started by talking about his new progressive rock CD just out on Cleopatra Records (co-host Malin's band XNA's record label) and produced by XNA/CIRCA producer Billy Sherwood (guitarist/songwriter of YES). The album is an ambitious exploration for Shatner and features a renowned team of music artists. Bill also revealed plans to offer his recent one-man performance as a TV or film broadcast. He talked about the travails of working on Broadway, where -- decades ago -- he appeared in The World of Suzie Wong. Asked if he is still a Montreal Canadians fan (he grew up in Montreal), Shatner went into a rant in French. Although he favors skiing, he managed to root for both the U.S. and Canadian hockey teams in the last Olympics.
Asked about the notorious Gorn by a young fan, Bill claimed it was an urban legend that the actor who played the Gorn (whom Trek fans know is Bobby Clark) was the actor who played the monster on the wing in the Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (not true)! As for how he defeated the super-powered Gorn, he simply replied, "I'm Captain Kirk!" On social media: he has been busy working on documentaries and studying fan social connectivity, and calls it almost ritual celebration of our sci-fi mythology. Once again fans were not disappointed by Mr. Shatner, as evidenced by the huge applause as he left the stage. Autographs followed, capping an exciting, fun-filled day.
Sunday came quickly as the convention opened with a massive crowd (both Saturday and Sunday were sold out). Malin started the show in an excited mood as anticipation built for the arrival of 7 of 9 herself, Jeri Ryan. Ms. Ryan, who rarely makes convention appearances, looked as fit and stunning as ever as she arrived onstage to a raucous audience welcome. Jeri fondly recalled her time on Voyager. She had big words of praise for Kate Mulgrew. Regarding 7's on-again, off-again romance with Chakotay, Jeri felt that its final outcome was not properly set up over the course of the series. She spoke briefly about her stint on Dark Skies, the abortive sci-fi series of several years ago in which she played a Russian agent. Jeri also described herself as a pinch-hitter, having come out to several TV series in the midst of their runs. She enjoyed working with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson on their Voyager episode. She has been enjoying her home life with her master chef husband and says she no longer has to cook! She said she misses the antics of her ensemble on Voyager, particularly the boys. Jeri left the stage to a standing ovation.
Next up was Creation's Yes-No Trivia Competition, in which groups of 30 contestants at a time were brought to the stage to answer some very difficult trivia questions, until only one fan was left standing. This event seems to be an audience favorite.
One of the highlights of the weekend came soon after, as Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis and Gates McFadden took to the stage. The three were clearly in high spirits and received a very warm welcome from the audience. They spared no time before tearing into their fellow cast mates, admitting that the TNG set was one where although fine work was being done, fun with the order of the day, sometimes to the exasperation of visiting directors. Of course, Sir Patrick Stewart ("Old Baldy") was taken to task as usual, and since he was not present, he was unable to rebut their playful ribbing. Clearly there was a competition about who is considered the hottest cast member, but what stood out most was their obvious love for the fans.
The final guest of the weekend was Voyager favorite Robert Beltran, interviewed by Malin. This format worked really well, as Robert revealed details of his upbringing in the California Inland Empire. His mother organized union activity for tomato pickers and helped elevate their wages. Robert come from a large (10 children) and artistic family, including his brother, who is a noted musician and bandleader. He began his acting work in theatrical productions at his high school and eventually traveled to Los Angeles, where he appeared on stage and television. He was recognized for his acting talents by luminaries Marlon Brando and Ricardo Montalban, both of whom attempted to cast him in films that never got off the ground (as is frequently the case in filmmaking). Being cast as Chakotay on Voyager was a major career move for him and he enjoyed the early character development of the character. Later on in the series, however, he felt the character had some missed opportunities in terms of development, which he regretted. He was pleased, though, to end up with 7 of 9 as his girl! These days, he continues to work theatrically in both the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas (he just wrapped a Bay area series of performances of the comedic drama Solitude). Now happily married and the father of a dynamic little three-year-old girl, and sporting beautiful long silver-gray locks, Robert looked supremely happy and quite pleased with the audience's obvious adoration.
And with that the convention ended its epic three-day run in the beautiful city by the bay. Once again, Creation Entertainment lived up to its reputation, delivering a professional production with considerable amounts of love and reverence for Star Trek and its wonderful fan community.