Convention Reports

Aliso Academy Charity Convention

Agamemcon II

My tale begins with taking to the air, as the site for Agamemcon II was fully a nation's breadth away from where I live. In a relatively short period of time I saw many of the sights I'd never before encountered, having never traveled that far west: The City of St. Louis, Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon. My whirlwind tour continued as I caught a shuttle bus to the Con Hotel from LAX airport, some 23 miles away..... I was taken to Burbank, CA by way of Hollywood, where I saw firsthand the famous sign in the mountainside, Mann's Chinese Theater, The Walk of Fame, Sunset Boulevard, and The Hollywood Bowl concert hall.

After taking 5 minutes to finally settle into my hotel room, I set out for the con, being held two buildings over at the sizable Burbank Hilton Hotel/Convention Center. By the time I had arrived, I'd already missed presentations given by Stephen Furst and Robin Atkin Downes, Wayne Alexander was just finishing up his talk, and I was determined not to miss anything else. One of my major reasons for flying out all the way cross-country for this con was that I was to meet MANY of my on-line friends, many of whom I've come to know quite well over the period of a year and a half, but whom I had only known as text on a screen in the chatrooms. I quickly found one such friend, B5Fanatic, who at the time was speaking with Maggie Egan (known as an ISN reporter for B5). I registered with the con, and turned 'round to find myself surrounded by more of my friends from on-line, fully a dozen of them in all. I was just in time to hop on the line for my first autograph of the con: Wayne Alexander (Sebastian/Lorien).

As a cartoonist, I decided a while ago to put my creativity to use, and started drawing caricatures of the celebrities whom I'd be meeting at the conventions I attended. Wayne was quite surprised with his, even more surprised to discover I'd brought him a copy as well. I'm hopeful my friend's pictures come out, the dropped-jaw look of utter amazement on Wayne's face was PRICELESS.

I took the next hour and a half at the con to examine the dealer's area, completely stocked with cast photos, B5 role-play games, Music CD's posters, T-shirts, everything for the consummate B5-er..... Even weaponry! (No, no PPG's, or anything remotely like that, but many a nice sword on hand, one of which I'd later wind up taking home with me). All the while I was better acquainting myself with the folks I had just met, and more were introducing themselves as I went along. Koshka, G'Quan, B5fanatic, StarFinder, Eric, Allisa, Anlashok_na, Ellie, Solomon, Garybaldy, Bluewolf, Bajele, Diamond, Raven, Lazer, Mara Jade, Murum, Korey, Aurora, Blinky, Alegna,TheHare, Tiggeroo, NTO, ..... All here, all at the same place, all at the same time...... and no one thought about taking a group picture until later on into the weekend........*smirk*

Looking across the main lobby for the con I noticed a familiar face to me, a man wearing a Hawaiian shirt, whom I recognized as Jeffrey Willerth (known to Comlink chatters as "Reelkosh", known to fans of the show as the man behind the encounter suit first as "Kosh", then as "Evil Kosh"). I quickly jogged over to say 'hi', and to solicit his autograph (no time like the present, I thought) after signing the picture I'd drawn of him, he then walked over to where Wayne was still signing, and they compared caricatures, then hammed it up for photos.

Jeffrey Willerth had been on his way to the Auditorium when I and my friends had intercepted him, we followed and sat for his presentation, in which he was answering questions from the audience. Jeffrey told of a time on the set in which he was toilet-papered while in the encounter suit, and how hot, and lacking in comfort the old Kosh outfit had been, recalling how it had not exactly been made with his frame in mind. By comparison, the "evil" Kosh had been built for him specifically, he likened it to being the "Porsche of Encounter suits". He then went on to talk about future production considerations with which he was involved, including a Sci-Fi show about a world with no fossil fuel, where everything is powered by steam.... an idea swiftly shot down when Raven's daughter, Mara, asked "if all the planet has no fossil fuel, what do they burn to produce the steam?" Jeffrey was stopped dead in his tracks and fell target to wave upon wave of hysterical laughter as he simply froze staring at Mara, no immediate reply in mind. He finally replied "You'll have a career at JPL someday...." further laughter, then more Q&A followed by his signing at the autograph table.

8 O'Clock came up quickly on this, the first of 3 days, but it signified the beginning of the birthday party for Wayne Alexander. We had all gathered to party to the music, partake of the B5-B-day cake, and to chase many many balloons around the tables in an impromptu game of keep -away, in which the balloons were batted all over the place. Bluewolf, a chatter from the Comlink chatroom, presented Wayne with an ornately decorated sword as a gift. Wayne graciously accepted, and whiled the night away, partying with the congoers.

The next morning brought more excitement, and more stars as Agamemcon II sprang to life with a panel featuring members of the production staff; folks who work so hard to bring us the sets and props we see on the sets of Babylon 5. On the panel were Nancy Tarczynski, Matthew Plummer, Chris Nagle, Mike Cobert, Alan Kobayashi, and Bear Berge. The discussion largely focused on discussing what they perceived to be their greatest challenges in the production of the series. The general consensus held that their greatest challenge, and their greatest accomplishment is in the creation of the sets we, as the viewing audience will not see until early next year: Crusade.

I continued to meander once more throughout the dealer's room, passing time until Jeff Conaway (Zack Allen) would take the stage. During Jeff's talk, he recalled how he was first introduced to Babylon 5. He had been bed-ridden with a summer flu, and wound up flipping channels on TV. He thought he caught a glimpse of Bruce Willis on the screen, but upon further watching of the show, he realized "it wasn't Bruce, but he was doing a hell of a job acting..." Jeff soon found himself hooked on the adventures of Sinclair, and Ivanova, Garibaldi and Delenn, Londo and G'Kar. When he was contacted for an opportunity to appear on the show later that year, he leapt at the chance. He was quite proud of holding the all important position of the man who checked to see how Garibaldi was doing on a daily basis. "For three years It was my job to walk in and say 'How ya doin', Chief?". Jeff is proud of his promotion to security chief "now people say 'how ya doin', chief' ME". Jeff went to sign following his time on stage, and I waited on line to add Jeff's autograph to my growing collection, missing the next talk, given by famed B5 director David Eagle.

I managed to catch the closing remarks on a presentation given on the costuming for B5, as I took my seat for Bill Mumy's talk. It didn't take long into Bill's Q&A for someone to ask what he felt about the new Lost in Space feature. Bill hesitated, then very carefully worded his reply. While he did not speak ill of the new effort, he didn't sing its praises either. "The special effects are good....the cast.....*LONG pause* good, and I'm sure that if they do a sequel they can do even better." Returning to more comfortable subject matter, Bill commented on how unique B5 is in the way the characters have changed over the course of the 4 and a half years. When Lennier first appeared on B5, he was perceived as a quiet pacifistic guy, Bill reflects, Now we've seen he can be a TOUGH, quiet guy, and he went on to tell us we hadn't seen ANYTHING yet. He went on to tell us of a practical joke that He and Claudia Christian (Ivanova) had played on Jason Carter (Marcus) Doing a rather passable imitation of the famous ranger throughout. The joke was to lead Jason on about midway through the season that he was to be killed off in the upcoming episode. Jason was devastated, and the rest of the cast took part in this deception, all except for Mira Furlan (Delenn) who thought it was a cruel and evil thing to do, and she'd never look at Bill the same ever again.....They eventually let Jason in on the joke, letting Jason off the hook. Ironically, Marcus's fate was to be sealed a half year later. Bill stated he was no longer on the set, so he had no idea what was going on with the upcoming new series. You just gotta love these folks, those with knowledge about Crusade tease us with that knowledge, and those no longer on the set have wasted no time in letting us know they're just as in the dark as we fans are. On the music scene, Bill informed us his band, the Jenerators, will be releasing their second CD later this year. Bill was later joined by Mr.Morden himself, Ed Wasser at the autograph tables.

Saturday Night is typically the time of the weekend for the creative fans to shine in the Masquerade costume call and contest. Throughout the day, I had been dressed in a Ranger costume I had sewn together for Halloween last year. I had intended to appear at the masquerade dressed as a Centauri on Hawaiian vacation, but I couldn't get the hair quite right. So, I appeared at the costume call as a ranger, more specifically, as Ranger Marcus (given my girth, MY rendition of Ranger Marcus was significantly larger, so I had the emcee announce Marcus had just returned from a year long assignment to Burger King, a joke which was not lost on the audience) There were many sights at the masquerade: Rangers,. Centauri, a Narn, and a Vorlon, who, while escorted by two telepaths, launched into a song and dance routine which won them best of show. The man in the encounter suit was fellow chatter Lazer, who was escorted by his wife, Raven, and daughter, Mara. Bajele took the award for best Novice costume craftsmanship, and an additional award was issued to the Vorlon trio for best use of a household appliance (the encounter suit's head was a modified Dustbuster).

The later evening broke down to a series of room parties at the convention hotel. I found myself hopping from room to room, partying, and at one point, logging on-line to chat with folks In the B5 fan club chatroom.

DAY THREE........ As the famed Ginsu Knife commercials contend, "BUT WAIT! There's more!!" I re-joined the action at Agamemcon towards the end of a panel discussion on Battlestar Galactica featuring Herb (Boomer) Jefferson Jr., Anne (Selena) Lockhart, and Jack (Bojay) Stauffer.

Next on the agenda was a makeup demo of particular interest to me: How to make someone a Centauri. As I had mentioned, I had wanted to do a Centauri skit for the costume call, but couldn't do the hair, what better way to solve this dilemma than to see the work in progress and take notes. My camera recorded the various stages of the transformation of a gentleman whose wife had won him this distinct honor in a charity auction held the day before. The demonstration was given by Kim Ferry, who got her break on the set of B5, making up Centauris for the show since season 1. She is responsible for Londo's crest after the Optic Nerve makeup folks are done with Peter Jurrasik, and she's also the one responsible for all the extras done up as Centauri we see in the background. As she worked, she told a funny story of how she had fallen victim to a prankster who thought it'd be funny to rock the makeup trailer while she was working. Kim decided to get back at whoever had been doing it by making herself up to look like she'd gashed her head from a fall when the trailer was rocked. This of course called quite a bit of attention to her, and eventually brought out the guilty party. After revealing it was all a hoax, the prankster sighed with relief, the execs who'd caught wind of this incident got a good laugh out of it, and Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar) who'd been so concerned for Kim's well being throughout the entire incident felt betrayed that she wouldn't let him in on the joke. By the time she had finished her tale, we found ourselves face to face with a Centauri, A Rather TALL Centauri, but one who looked like he belonged at the royal court nonetheless.

Our resident Centauri took a seat amongst the audience as Kim finished, and Alan Kobayashi took the stage. Alan had worked on the production staff for B5, designing logos, signs, and graphical displays which helped to lend a feel of authenticity to the sets. Alan observed minute details added to the sets, in many cases too small to be read on screen, are important in helping set an atmosphere for the actors, making their surroundings seem more 'real'. He even showed us an alien advertisement for a "whatever-it-was" as plugged by a Gaim. Alan went on to tell us he was intimately familiar with that project, as it was he who had been dressed as the Gaim for the photo shoot.

Ed Wasser followed Alan's presentation, taking the stage, and in true Morden style asked the audience "What do you know". Many questions were asked of Ed pertaining to his impressions of what his character would have thought in given situations throughout his appearances on B5. Mr. Wasser replied that he didn't engage in the practice of "Thinking for his character". He simply looked at his stint as lines on a script. He'd come in, he do the lines, and that was the whole of it. He did admit to being rather fascinated with the time his character appeared to Londo as a charred mass. He rather liked the flaky appearance, and rather enjoyed the morbid task of 'picking at the dead skin makeup', it was just as creepy for him to do it, as it appeared to the fans on the show.....

It then came time for Doctor Franklin to make a Con-call. Richard Biggs took center stage, sporting a goatee. Early on he established that he would not be appearing in Crusade, but he mentioned that Joe (Straczynski) has left an open door for any number of the B5 cast to cameo on episodes of the new series. In the character of Dr. Franklin, his promotion to Chief of Earth Dome Medical will have him out of the space-faring action of Crusade.. As a primary cast member, Rick had been asked to comment on the now infamous Claudia Christian incident, resulting in her departure from the series. Rick offered what I consider to be the most concise, unbiased, straightforward interpretation of the event I have heard to date. The actors contracts were all up after season 4, Joe hadn't yet landed the deal with Warner Brothers or TNT, but he was close. Joe asked that all the cast give him a month more to resolve the issues, a month in which Claudia had been approached with several project proposals. When the deal came down, and TNT picked up B5, he asked the cast to sign back on for the final year. At that point, Claudia requested a guarantee in writing that would state she could take a certain period of time off for a film project. Joe couldn't provide a guarantee in writing, arguing that if e did so for one, it's not fair to the rest of the cast. Without a written guarantee, Claudia felt she could not commit to the next season, given she had the commitment to the movie deal she'd been approached with. The series B5 continued on. and Claudia is pursuing her individual career. Rick declined comment on all the fervor which had surrounded this incident on the internet with heated messages on the part of the B5 fans, the staff, Joe, and Claudia. As the actor himself, Rick expressed an interest in doing sitcom work. He wishes to expand his career in that direction, but will keep an open mind towards whatever he's offered, "...even if it means another doctor role," he smirked

The final panel I was to attend for Agamemcon II featured a panel of directors whose bodies of work are well known to the fans: David Eagle, John Copeland, and Tony Dow. John dominated the panel by addressing the web-based criticisms about the 5th year, and was cornered into a question about his feelings over the 'Claudia Incident'; "Initially, yeah I was p*ssed, but it's the nature of the business, we had to move on." After an hour of questions and answers, John announced he had a promo trailer for us, something which had just been completed to use to "sell" crusade to sponsors. Keen eyes of the fanatical science fiction fans picked out about a quarter of the footage in the montage had come from the film "Aliens" (the one Sigourney Weaver stars in) The rest was comprised of new CGI and Matte painting work of new worlds to be seen/explored, and much footage from the 4th season of Babylon 5. Nothing about the new ship or its crew just yet.

The con broke down into last minute shopping at the dealer's room, autographs from Tony, David, and John, and a feedback forum held by the organizers of the convention. With the official proceedings largely concluded, I took the opportunity to relax a bit, having dinner in the company of close friends, then stopping off for a stint in the hotel's hot tub and pool. Lazer told fellow con-goers of the massive report and spectacular splash when I cannonballed into the pool, discretion prevented me from repeating that stunt in the hot tub....

Thoroughly relaxed, and just a wee bit waterlogged, I changed, and decided to investigate the final item I discovered on the agenda for the convention. I realize I had mentioned it had already concluded, and for all intents and purposes, it had. The stars had left, the vendors were gone, the tables were folded, and the halls were empty.........all was quiet save for one room. It was there that the last of the Con-goers had assembled. A relaxed mingling of folks who were there to share memories, have a few drinks, look at some photos, and say our good-byes. I remained to the bitter end, helping folks tidy up a bit after all was said and done, then talking about ideas for the next year's con, of which I want to take an active part.

Monday morning came all too quickly, and with it my long trip home. wishing Garybaldy well, I set forth to the airport, recounting my entire experience. There is no word or collection of words I can find to describe the deep rooted warmth of my heart, having met all the fantastic people in person whom I'd come to know so well on the internet. It felt more like a close family reunion than a meeting of casual acquaintances. I log on to the chat now and I can see the faces, and hear the voices of those who once more appear in front of me as text on a screen. I can recall the behind the scenes stories from the cast as I watch Babylon 5, and even point out a prop, or a piece of furniture and I can say "I met the person who made that.....". I came home with more than a collection of autographs and some trinkets, I came home with stronger friendships which aren't terribly impaired the great distances, and the memories which bring a smile to my face every time I think about them. It helps to provide us with incentive for doing it all over again, the sooner, the better!

Respectfully submitted, Todd (Scotsman) Brugmans

Charity Event at the Aliso Academy for the Deaf

On March 27, I boarded a plane from Atlanta, GA to Los Angeles, CA for the express purpose of attending a charity event put on by Rick Biggs.

This event was to benefit the Aliso Academy for the Deaf and was to be held at the school in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA(hereafter abbreviated RSM) which, I learned from the nice lady at the school, was located south of Anaheim.

At LAX, I met with my companion, Jan and we rented a car and set out for our hotel.  There was a bit of trouble there, which I won't go into for time purposes. (g)  But we got settled in and went to dinner.

Early in the morning, we set out for RSM.  We gave ourselves plenty of time to get there and had very clear directions.  We gave ourselves so much time, in fact, that we were able to have lunch and get gas before the start time of 1 pm.

Even so, Rick was already on stage when we arrived in the tent that was set up in the parking lot of the school.  He and Jeffrey Willerth were warming up the crowd with trivia questions Jeffrey thought up on the spot.  (g)  And the crowd needed warming, let me tell you. El Nino had apparently played havoc with the weather; Rick made jokes about waking up during the previous nights storm and wondering if this event was going to happen at all!

There was a group of about 150 people there and the whole cast was to be in attendance, save for Tracy Scoggins, Stephen Furst and Pat Tallman.

Once the trivia questions had all been asked and answered (I answered the last one and received an autographed picture of Stephen Furst as a prize), the main event could commence.  Rick began bringing out cast members two at a time to answer questions and auction items.

Jason Carter was first up.  A bundle of energy, he explained how Marcus was in cryogenic sleep since season 4 and that explained the shortness of his hair.

Bill and Mira, the Minbari, appeared together.  Mira spoke about her upcoming (now out) CD and helped Bill auction a couple of dayrunners and a Delenn standup, autographed by Ms. Furlan.

Brian Cooney, the chair of Wolf 359, showed up with auction items from Wolf including a t-shirt signed by everyone at Wolf (the entire cast) and other items. 

Robin Atkin Downes and Julie Caitlin Brown appeared together.  Julie did most of the talking and Rick asked Robin if he'd died yet.  (g)

Andreas Katsulas and Peter Jurasik appeared and did their usual stand-up routine sparring, and doing a "Me and My Shadow" routine with their respective standups.  The lady who bought Peter's got a quick kiss from the Centauri so when I bid on and won Andreas' (as a birthday gift for a friend), I asked for and received a quick kiss from the Narn. (g)

Then, Bruce and Jerry showed up.  By now, it was extremely cold and the wind was blowing hard.  Jerry said something about auctioning off a cup of coffee; a few hands were raised in agreement.  They had coffee and other items available for purchase.  Jerry was wearing a red, white and blue windbreaker type jacket and jeans.  Bruce had on jeans and a jean jacket.  Bruce had cut his hair really short - I liked it - and Jerry had shaved his head completely!!!

According to him, he was sitting at home the previous night, bored (here Bruce interjected that that showed us how exciting a life Jerry led), and decided to see what he could do to "endear himself" to the producers, since they were about to start filming "River of Souls".  At first, he thought he'd shave half his head and half the goatee, which he was growing back.  But different halves.  Then he thought that would look just too strange, so he just shaved the whole head.  He looks extremely good, this way, imo.  Me, I like the beard too, but I don't think he does, as the last time I saw him, here in Atlanta, he had shaved it off again.

They signed and auctioned off a couple of dayrunners and scripts - the dayrunners are made of aluminum and are specific to TNT's showing of Babylon 5, really nice things.  Then Brian showed up with the pictures.

Somehow, he had gotten the publicity shots of each of the actors blown up and signed.  They were being auctioned as a group, although he didn't yet have a couple of them...including Jerry's, which he said he'd left at home.  But the winner was supposed to get the missing pictures within a couple of weeks.

I bid once on the pictures but wasn't really thrilled -- until my friend Jan (I love you too) nudged me and said  "Tell them if they throw in a kiss from Jerry, you'll up the bid."

Silly me.

I did.

Jerry looked out at us, scratched his head, and said "Let me get this straight; I have to kiss Rick?"  Rick was acting as runner, holding the items and running back and forth showing them to prospective bidders. He looked shocked, but I think it was an act.  I said "No, me."  and Jerry said something like "Okay, then."

The bidding went on.

As it got higher and higher, Jerry looked out at us and asked "How much for sex?"  I thank goodness he didn't hear my answer.  At least, I hope he didn't hear my answer. (g)

Here, I have to say that the fellow (yes, fellow) I was bidding against was a nice guy but at one time during the bidding he said "Just sit down and be quiet!"  That wasn't the right thing to say.  I upped it.

I got it.

I got the kiss too.

And then he asked me questions.  I remembered my name, but he expected me to be more coherent after that?  (g)

Jan taped the event and on the tape, I saw him says that "that chick is crazy" about me after I went inside to take care of the monetary arrangements.

I don't mind that he thinks I'm crazy.  You only go around once in life. And that day, and being that close to Jerry, was worth every penny.  Not just the good works that the school can do with the money, but the airfare and the hotel and everything else too. 

Thanks very much to Jerry....and to everyone else for a wonderful experience.