Boldly going where one man hasn't gone before...
by Martin Hafer
When I turned 50 a year ago, I decided that it was time to take a few chances and get the most out of life before I was too old. So, I have begun to deliberately seek exciting and scary new opportunities. Now I am not saying that I want to do anything seriously dangerous ... just exhilarating stuff that would make me feel alive; stuff I've been afraid to do all my life. So, just after my birthday, I scuba dove in a tank full of nasty-looking sharks and that same day, I jumped from a 700 foot tower, and I have the film to prove that I survived unharmed. Since then, I've done a few other scary things, such as getting a tattoo and hugging an adult cheetah. And I am searching for more things to do in my new quest. I plan to soon go to a local comedy club and take the mic. My latest adventure, however, was so far the scariest for me ... attending a Star Trek convention!! Now I know that may not sound scary to a lot of you, but I hate crowds, I hate going to crowded places on my own and I was afraid what these die-hard Trekkies would be like. Would they be smug jerks like Comic Book Man from The Simpsons?! I was boldly going where I had never gone before.
The annual mega-Trek convention just finished this last weekend and consisted of four straight days of interviews, autographs, photo sessions, parties and much more. Surprisingly, I did survive and actually had a very nice time. Hopefully, my experiences might make it easier for you to possibly take the plunge and know what to expect.
First, attending the convention isn't cheap. You can buy an individual day ticket, but most folks opt for a multi-day pass. The more expensive the pass, the closer you get to sit in order to see the interviews and talks in the largest auditorium, and space is clearly at a premium. The more you pay and the sooner you get your pass, the better your seat -- and that is important in a room that seats 4000-plus! However, it's not as easy as just paying the $789 dollars for the best pass. You see, the same folks keep coming back year after year and they can reserve the same (or better) seat for the following year at each convention. So even if you want one of these Gold passes, you might not be able to get one. I had to settle for the next best choice; a Captain's Chair pass at $509 dollars. But even that isn't so easy because the same problem exists. As a result, I was sitting about 30 rows back ... close enough to see if I squinted. Fortunately, the room did have huge video screens everywhere and the rest of the events were not a problem.
Second, attending the convention isn't cheap! I mention this again because there are more expenses. There is the hotel, which, by Vegas standards was cheap. There's the airfare and transportation. Then there's food. The days of the cheap buffets in Las Vegas are a thing of the past. The food is excellent at most of the restaurants, but you get what you pay for. Then, there's the gigantic vendor room, and everybody wants at least a Star Trek shirt or two or three or an autographed photo or a souvenir plush Mr. Spock. And speaking of autographs, you have to pay for most of the ones you get in person -- generally between $40 and $150 each. And the same goes for photos with the stars ... even the minor ones. A few will let you snap a photo of them for free at their booths in the vendor room but most do not. Now, I am not begrudging these folks the money. After all, they deserve to get paid for their time and many of the actors' incomes come mostly from these conventions. And I was amazed that such a high percentage of the cast were there as well as minor characters.
Third, the people are nice ... so very nice. While I had a stereotype that everyone would be really geeky, they seemed so normal. I was also impressed how inclusive these people were. I met people from all over the world, such as Singapore and the Philippines. There also were people there of all colors and lots of women--not just middle-aged white guys. So, although it ain't cheap to go to a Trek convention (and the same was true when I went to Comic-Con and anime festivals), my fears were mostly groundless about the fans. Yes, there were a lot of people there and at times it was crowded (particularly on Saturday and Sunday but Thursday was a dream because it was so relaxed and uncrowded). Everyone was so very nice and happy to be there and talk about their love for the shows! I agree with what William Shatner once said -- that even if the stars didn't attend the convention, folks would still come to connect with friends and dress up as their favorite characters. You cannot help but smile when you see people dressed as giant tribbles or like "zombie red shirts" (a nickname given to the characters you knew were going to die in the original series). And they all were so happy to be photographed!
Getting Into More ... Tribble!
Overall, I'd have to say that I am very glad I went. I loved meeting many of my old favorites. I also loved seeing that these actors are rather normal folks -- folks who all seemed to love working together and reuniting once again. And, folks who genuinely seemed to like and appreciate their fans. Heck, I had such a good time that I bought myself a couple Trek shirts and got some photos with a few of my all-time favorites. Am I going back next year? I am undecided. While I had a great time and confronted my groundless fears, I really want to sit closer and feel more a part of some of the celebrity interviews -- but getting such a pass isn't easy. It looks like I'll have to take my chances and see if, possibly, any of these premium passes become available. Plus, there are other things on my bucket list that I might just be doing instead in the near future.
As always, I'd love to hear from you. Have you attended one of these conventions or were you there in Vegas last weekend? And, if so, what was it like for you?