Our Squirrel group scattered in all directions on Saturday. Each of us wanted to play in and see the view from a different tree. My focus was checking off a big must-do item on my list: stalk, I mean, pester, err, I really mean to say meet Craig Parker. If you don’t know who the heck that is, the role most people in this hemisphere know him for is the Lothlórien elven warrior, Haldir, in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Haldir was one of my favorite characters from the books, so it wasn’t a big stretch for me to react with a “WowZah!” when I saw his version on the big screen. Parker next showed up on Western television screens playing another favorite book character, the villainous Darken Rahl, from Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. So the fates conspired — I was doomed to become a fan of his and add him to my “list”. Plus he’s a New Zealander, and let’s face it, I’m a sucker for a good accent. I could listen to him read the phone book cover to cover. I also never, ever considered I’d get a chance to meet him, but now, it was going to happen. Forgive that little excursion into Fangirl Land.
Back on track: Saturday mornings at Dragon*Con begin with the largest annual tradition of the convention, the Dragon*Con Parade. Well-known in the Atlanta area, the parade draws spectators from the general public as well as those in town for the convention. ‘Cause who doesn’t love a parade? It’s a major event for the cosplayers, and many of the guests participate in the colorful spectacle. Jedis, Zombies, Superheroes, Stormtroopers, Darth Vaders, every character from Game of Thrones, characters from video games and comic books, and many others were represented.
Kristy and I opted not to attend, and enjoy a bit of down time before our long, jam-packed day began. If you don’t schedule some rest periods, you’ll burn out before a con day is over. The one thing we forgot to take into account was we needed to be on the other side of the parade route to get to our intended destination, the line for the Lord of the Rings panel and my first in-person look at Craig Parker. We set out and tried to make our way through the parade crowd, but it was so densely packed we didn’t make much progress. It reminded me of the crowds for the Magic Kingdom parade at Disney World. At that time, we didn’t remark much about the crowd density, and credited it to the attraction of the parade. We ended up taking a several block detour around the parade route.
Of our group, I’m the only major Lord of the Rings fan. Kristy accompanied me to the panel so 1) I didn’t have to go alone and 2) Sylvester McCoy was one of the panelists, so she hoped there would be some Doctor Who-related questions. Other than that, she really had no interest. Later, she would tell me that she didn’t recognize any of them without their costumes. We arrived a bit earlier than I usually get in panel lines. Circumstances worked out that way; it wasn’t deliberate. Between the slightly early arrival and the fact that the parade crowd hadn’t yet filtered into the buildings, we were closer than I’ve ever been to the front a panel line. For a panel I wanted to see probably more than any other at this year’s Dragon*Con, heck, at any Dragon*Con I’ve attended. I didn’t count but estimated there were probably no more than 20 people in the line ahead of us, and we were still inside. One of those amazing points that make you feel like the universe has lined up in your favor.
Although we had to wait a while cramped against a wall in a hallway, the seats we snagged were on a close row, in the center section. We were seated well in front of the camera operator’s stand; close enough to snap good pictures even with my old, not so great camera. When packing, I had been unable to locate our good camera, so had to take my old one. Besides Sylvester and Craig, the aptly-named panel (A Wizard, A Hobbit, An Elf, and A Dwarf) included Billy Boyd and the impeccable and dapper John Rhys-Davies. McCoy and Rhys-Davies stole the panel from the two younger actors with their hilarious accounts of various set hijinks in which they were involved, on The Hobbit, LoTR, and other productions. McCoy modeled the custom Day 127 jacket given to those involved in The Hobbit production. I knew Rhys-Davies was a brilliant, scholarly type, but what I didn’t know about him was the great sense of humor he possesses. The two of them kept not only the audience but also Parker and Boyd laughing so hard they could barely answer questions directed at them. I loved Rhys-Davies’s story of telling some young ladies that if he knew Orlando Bloom’s phone number, he would gladly give it to them from pure spite. Actually seeing Craig and being in the same breathing space — priceless. Worth every penny I paid for the ticket.
Our photo op with Richard Dean Anderson was scheduled next on the agenda. The Lord of the Rings panel was held at the Hyatt, and we planned to walk the Sky Bridge to the Marriott. As we exited the ballroom, we noticed the thickness of the crowd, but attributed it to the fact that a big panel had just let out. We flowed with the ooze of humanity toward the walkway. Just before we entered, the line stopped. Fifteen minutes later, we had crept across the bridge, with many starts and stops. Ironic that the sky bridges are full of signs that state: Do not stop on bridge. Images of the crowd scenes in Metropolis played in my mind. Once we arrived in the Marriott Atrium, threading through the crowd proved almost as difficult as when we had tried to maneuver through the parade watchers earlier. All in all, it took us at least a half-hour to get from where we started to where we were headed in adjoining hotels. On Friday evening, we had all remarked the convention seemed more crowded than any of us remembered, and Saturday proved it true. The massive crowds had to be close to capacity for all the hosting venues.
Even with the delays, we ended up about the mid-point of the line for the photo op session. But, for a session, it was a fairly long line. Richard Dean Anderson is a high-draw guest. The photo guys ushered us into the holding room, where we stood on taped lines on the floor like well-trained “sheeple”. So many people were in the room the temperature started to rise. Programs and badges quickly became makeshift fans. Babies and small children cried and fussed. Time passed. Still no RDA appeared. After about 20 minutes, an announcement was made. RDA was delayed because the Fire Marshal closed down the Walk of Fame due to overcrowding. The staff held the guests until all the fans had been cleared from that floor of the Hilton. When he was able to show up, he came into the holding area and apologized to the group for the wait. Because of the delays, the photographic staff were trying to move as quick as possible, which meant “cattle herding” the line. Yet RDA managed to be gracious and appreciative to every person. The man has real class. I had heard he is reserved and doesn’t enjoy convention appearances much, but does a few each year so he can meet the fans.
It’s a good thing I’m known as a Squirrel because there are times when I have the attention span of one. Waiting in a long line tends to be one of those times. I noticed several people squished into one corner of the photo room. It looked strange, so it caught my attention. Slowly, it dawned on me that one of the faces was familiar, Billy Boyd. One of his photo op sessions was after the RDA one, and since the RDA one was pushed back, so was his. He wore a beige plaid shirt with a beautiful, hand-embroidered design on it. Trying to figure out the design, I got a little too focused on it. The upshot is I was staring a hole through Billy Boyd, and got caught. You know that feeling you get when someone is looking at you? Yeah, I looked up and he’s staring right back at me, an amused smile on his face. I grinned, gave a small shrug and looked elsewhere. As we rounded the last corner of the U-shaped line, we had to walk by him and his staff escort. By this point, I was paying attention to RDA. I felt a finger tap my arm. I turned, and it’s Billy Boyd. The floor needed to swallow me up at that very moment. He asked me who Anderson was because he hadn’t recognized him and his staff escort didn’t know either. From the length of the line, he knew he had to be well-known. I replied with his name and that he had played Jack O’Neill on Stargate. It was obvious he had no idea who the character was, so I said, “He was MacGyver!” That he knew.
Right after that, it was our turn for a photo. As we walked into the area, Rick turned, his back to me, and greeted Kristy. Then, he greeted me, paused and asked, “Could I get you to do something for me? Even if it’s a little weird?”
Dumbfounded, I said, “Sure.” I’ve been a mom long enough that not many requests shock me. But his did, a little.
“Would you mind looking at my teeth and letting me know if I have any food bits stuck in them? I had something to eat on the way over, and I’ve been worried that something’s stuck in my teeth for all these pictures.”
If the Billy Boyd incident hadn’t been weird enough, now I stand there in front of all those people, looking in Richard Dean Anderson’s mouth. At his request. I felt like a trader at a horse market. But RDA has very nice teeth, and nothing icky was there. I’ve had an up-close, personal view.
At first, Kristy was amazed by the fact she was meeting RDA, a feeling she described as “Neat!” with an ear-to-ear smile. As she watched the toothy encounter unfold, she thought: “I can’t believe she’s looking at his teeth!” Well, I couldn’t either.
But I’m that person in the store, restaurant, whatever public place, that strangers approach and tell their life story, which most of the time is a weird tale. My family and friends have dubbed me the “weirdo magnet”. Judging from these two incidents, my “weirdo magnet” works on celebrities, too.
We headed for one of Kristy’s must-do events, the second John Barrowman panel. Due to the lateness of the photo session, we had to scamper to get in line. Well, we planned and wished to scamper, but once again, the massive crowd slowed our progress to a crawl. We walked almost an entire circuit of the outside of the downtown Marriott before locating the line end. Because of the line length, we were concerned about making it in and were convinced we would end up in an overflow room. The staff opened the entire ballroom to accommodate the numbers of people. We did have seats, but so far back that we couldn’t see the stage very well and had to watch the panel on a screen. While the Dragon staff seemed to be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people in attendance on Saturday, they did an excellent job seating panels. None of the panels we attended had the lines cut off. That panel may have been getting close because a staff member did come by and assign each person in line a number.
In the original schedule, it was the second Torchwood panel, but Kai Owen was called away, and it was changed to a John Barrowman solo panel. However, he convinced his partner, Scott, to be his special guest. Barrowman always makes it a priority to express his appreciation and gratitude to his fans, and it’s one of the constant themes of any panel. Highlights included his announcement that he would be a recurring cast member on Arrow, but wouldn’t give spoilers other than hinting his character wasn’t such a good guy. Early in his career, when he worked at a show in a theme park, his jealous understudy slipped him a laxative that took effect during a show. Once again, we found ourselves laughing to the point of tears through most of a panel. One question he was repeatedly asked was his favorite superhero, since he is a self-confessed comic book nerd. He avoided it for most of the panel, but he and Scott finally revealed the answer in a most interesting way. Both dropped their pants and revealed their favorite superheroes by their underwear. Barrowman: Superman. Scott: Batman. Hard to top that kind of ending.
At this point, our plans for Saturday were only at the halfway mark! As I mentioned before, it was a jam-packed day — our busiest day of the con. We needed a rest and some sustenance beyond our protein bar and nut snacks in our bags. Plus I needed energy to face my big moment of the day — the moment I would come face-to-face with and talk to Craig Parker. Several of our comrades wished to be witnesses to the moment. I’ve always prided myself on the ability to not act star-struck in front of a well-known actor, and I must confess, have mercilessly teased some of my friends who have succumbed. The time of my impending doom and fall to ordinary blushing, sweaty-palmed, giggling-like-a-teenager fan girl status rapidly approached.
Stay tuned for part 2 of Saturday’s adventures!