Thursday, March 08, 2007

100th post: Dinner with Shatner

I'm not sure how far back this was, maybe 1995. Voyager was the new Star Trek series. I was in a different Star Trek club than the one I am in now. I went to a lot of conventions. I had some fun.

Some people in the club I am in now and the club I was in then volunteered at a museum sometimes. I tried to do that for a while, but I quickly dropped out. I had volunteered at another museum before that one and was used to getting of stuff in return for my work. Working for no money is one thing, actually working for free is something else.

And I hate Dallas anyway.

This museum in Dallas was going to have a Star Trek exhibit. At about the same time, there was a small convention planned near the museum. People in the area were getting interested in Star Trek.

Wouldn't it be cool if we could get the actors who played the four captains on the four Star Trek shows all together for some event?

So I think I knew about The Legacy of Star Trek Dinner Gala before the actors did. More people got involved, and it looked like it might actually happen some time that September. There was all kinds of scheduling that had to be worked out, but none of the actors had actually said no, so maybe it would all work out.

Kate Mulgrew, Avery Brooks, Patrick Stewart, and William Shatner were all very busy people at the time. Finding a weekend when they were all free turned out to be very difficult. But it was finally narrowed down to two possible days: one day everyone but Kate Mulgrew was available, and on another day everyone but Patrick Stewart was available. Since Kate Mulgrew was the star of the new show, Patrick Stewart got bumped from the program.

Jonathan Frakes came instead, so they could still call it the four captains' dinner if they wanted.

Sometimes the local clubs are asked to help out at conventions and such. Volunteer security and directing foot traffic and stuff like that. For a while a friend of mine organized people from many clubs in Starfleet Region 3 (Texas, Louisiana, and Mars) to help out with such things, usually in return for free admission and free advertisements for the clubs and stuff like that. This was something she was not paid for, but it over time it seemed to develop all of the hassles of a real business. People she barely knew would call and complain that she did not pick enough people in a certain club, people demanded to work on certain projects after the schedule was already filled, I've worked twice as long as the new guy and he got just as many freebies as I did, mom always did like you best, etc.... She was getting tired of the whole thing. She decided she didn't want the Region 3 volunteer group anymore, just the volunteer group from her own club. If she needed more people, she'd ask for help from people in specific clubs, or maybe she'd just ask specific people.

So when this thing came up, she only had twenty slots to fill, and she was not going to waste them on the Region 3 group. I was one of the extra people she talked to about the Gala.

On that same weekend was a Stellar Occasions convention. I think Jerry Doyle (Mr.Garibaldi from Babylon 5) was there that year, but I'm not sure. Anyway, the point being that if I didn't get to go to this thing, I would not be totally crushed, there were other plans for the weekend. But it was really cool to be one of the few asked to work at this thing. And, if I skipped the costume contest on Saturday, I could probably do both.

There was maybe a bit of a problem. The volunteer group usually works in costume. Sometimes, they specifically work in uniform. Now, I have costumes. I enter costume contests. In a costume contest, for the most part, you do not want a uniform. Certain uniforms are really good, and if you have one of those uniforms the entire audience will be on their feet cheering just because you stand at attention. But most of us do not have those uniforms. Most uniforms are bought from a catalog and come in sizes S, M, L, XL, and you really shouldn't be in uniform but you've already sent us a check. Those uniforms are good, but not that great, and for the most part they should not be entered in contests but usually someone doesn't know that and does it anyway. I have never wanted one of those catalog uniforms enough to spend money on them, and unless I win the lottery I won't be buying any of the really good ones either. I have some homemade ones that are probably not even as good as the catalog ones, but sometimes I wear them anyway.

What I spend my time and money on are costumes, not uniforms. They rarely look just like someone else's, but they don't usually have to look just like someone else's. I made a few Centauri dresses that I liked, but mainly I was known for a certain borg costume. And this wasn't a regular borg costume, this was a parody costume with lace nylons and earrings and such. The last time I wore it, pearls were added.

So I didn't have exactly the type of thing that they wanted the volunteers to wear that night, but so far nobody had said that I couldn't wear the borg costume.

One of the companies involved with the Gala was one of those superstores that sells computers and stereos and such. It was owned by Tandy (Radio Shack), and I want to say it was called Incredible Universe, but there were a lot of these stores for a while, so I might have the wrong name. So this store was advertising the event, and they had a costume contest in one of their stores, and the first prize was two tickets to this event at Captain Kirk's table.

That store was in Dallas. I hate Dallas.

But never mind about the Dallas store. That same day the Arlington store was also having a costume contest. I heard that they were going to give away a phone that looked like Voyager or a shuttlecraft or something. And who doesn't want a phone that looks like a spaceship?

So a friend of mine was going to the Arlington store, probably to help out, and maybe to be a judge. But he wasn't going to enter the contest. He was wearing a uniform, probably size L. He was not wearing an elaborate costume. I went with him. I was going to enter the contest, unless they told me that I was disqualified for being a member of one of the participating clubs. I was wearing the borg thing.

While everyone seemed to know about the contest in Dallas, few people seemed to be aware of the contest at the Arlington store. There were about four people in uniform and two of us in other costumes, and half of the six were judges. Too bad, because it turned out that the Arlington store had the same prizes as the Dallas store. First place was two tickets to the Gala at Captain Kirk's dinner table. Second place was two tickets to the Gala at Captain Kirk's dessert table. And third place was that spaceship phone.

I won first place. This alien of a species I could not identify won second place. Another guy that was on and off with our club won the phone with a gold Voyager uniform, size S. And that was it. Only three of us entered. A little kid showed up in a red uniform, but he was almost an hour too late.

Who wants to compete against little kids anyway.

So that was cool. I won tickets. So my husband could go to the thing too if he could get off work. And they let him off work, no problem.

It didn't really sink in at first. I wouldn't be going to the Gala as a volunteer in either a borg costume or a uniform. I would be having dinner at one of the front tables, with William Shatner.

I needed a dress.

And, to go with that, my husband's suit didn't seem to fit him anymore. We didn't have a lot of money, but we needed to wear something. I think we went to Ross like a week or two before the Gala.

There is this whole other language to describe clothing, and I basically know none of it. The dress was very modest in front and a bit lower in the back. It had short sleeves. It was lace over something else. The skirt was sort of zig-zag in layers, so that in some parts the hem was up near the knee and in other places it was nearly down to the ankles.

And of course, it was black.

My husband was also all in black, with little glittery bits in his vest, and one of those shirts with the little collar that you don't wear a tie with.

And I still went to the Stellar Occasions thing first. I annoyed Mr. Doyle with my total inability to use a camera. ("Take the picture. Take the picture. Take the **** picture.") I spent most of the day in a Babylon 5 uniform and then changed into the dress at the hotel about two hours before dinner.

I have all kinds of stuff that would have been better with Will Shatner's autograph, but I didn't know what the rules were and I didn't want to risk losing my stuff, so I didn't bring much of it. I meant to put a couple of trading cards in my purse, but I must have misplaced them. And we spent a lot of time worrying about the camera. Flash photography was not allowed, and it was hard to find film that would work indoors without a flash. We found something that worked most of the time, but it made everything orange, almost red.

So we went to the place about almost an hour early. I saw a bunch of my friends, most of them were volunteers, but a few were guests in the cheap seats. And there were a bunch of other people that I didn't know with badges. I think that there were like four or five different kinds of badges. My friends had one kind, and the waiters and such had another kind, and other people doing different things had other badges, and then the people really in charge of the thing had a different color badge. So if someone told you something, you went with that, until someone with a higher color badge said something different.

We talked to people for about twenty minutes or so, and then one of my friends (in a Klingon General Chang costume) took us to our table. The table was still empty. I was surprised that except for the people with badges, there didn't seem to be a lot of people there yet.

And then I had to decide where to sit. Mr. Shatner had a place-card, but I guess the rest of us were supposed to figure it out for ourselves. So, does the first one there get to sit next to him or what? Or does he have a date? I don't want to sit in the chair next to his and then get asked to move because he has a date.

So I sit one seat over. In theory, I could get a good look at everyone from there. Kate Mulgrew's table was in front to the left, and Jonathan Frakes' table was in front and to the right. Avery Brook's table was just to the left of ours, and his chair was about six feet away from mine. This is good.

People are starting to come in, but not a lot of them, and most of them don't go to the tables. They're just sort of milling around the front of the room. Then I notice that one of them is Kate. Okay. We watch Kate, but we don't get up. Are we allowed to get up? This just isn't what I'm used to at all. Frakes comes in too. A couple of people go up and ask for their autographs. You're not supposed to do that now, are you?

There was a schedule printed out. We were supposed to be eating by a certain time, and then we were supposed to be having dessert by a certain time, and then people were supposed to be speaking by a certain time. So, even though we were the only ones at the table, someone brought us salads. Okay, we'll eat our salads.

Soon a couple more people came to sit at the table. They brought pictures. They were a father and son team who went to costume contests as borg. I'd seen them before, though never out of costume. They had won first place at the Dallas store. Two more people came and sat with us. I don't remember exactly what the deal was, but their tickets also came from a contest, but they didn't win that contest, someone gave them those tickets or they had the winning bid for the tickets, or something. Anyway, those tickets were originally won by my friend who was in charge of our little volunteer group, but she wasn't going to use them, so someone else got to use them. The guy who had won second place at the Arlington store came by so I could see what he looked like without the alien stuff. The waitstaff brought more salads.

The cheap seats were filling up. They were getting their salads. The front eight tables were still mostly empty. People are talking to Kate. Jonathan Frakes goes over to talk to her. That seemed to get everyone's attention. Like they weren't sure it was really Kate Mulgrew before that.

William Shatner came in, and someone told him where he was supposed to be. And he came over and pretends to look real serious and says "Eat...your...food." There was an implied "or else." We ate.

More people were getting up and asking for autographs. Now, I have been to many book signings and many conventions and such, and you're not supposed to just walk over to someone and ask for an autograph. I did that once, at my first or second convention, cause I didn't know any better, and I was embarrassed about it later. There is usually a set aside time and place for autographs, if they are even allowed, so that the actors aren't mobbed in the lobby and bothered by fans all the time.

On the other hand, there didn't seem to be anything on the schedule about autographs. And there was a warning about not taking shooting videos or using flash photography, but it didn't say anything about not being allowed to ask for autographs. And the man is sitting right there, and he doesn't seem interested in his salad, so why not? So I asked him to autograph my invitation to the thing, and he did, and my husband got his autographed too. And we took some photos of him with the orange looking film.

Everyone is going up front and asking William Shatner and the other actors for autographs. People in the really cheap seats are going to get autographs. Damn it, I'm going to go get some more autographs.

Just when I finally get up the nerve to do that, a lady with one of the important people badges asks me to sit down. And I'm like, but I'm at a captain's table. I'm supposed to be up here. And she says that they just can't have all these people milling around up front, so if I'll go back to my table someone will come and get me when it's my turn to get the other autographs. Okay.

So I go back to my table and other people are going back to wherever they are supposed to be. I eat my salad. The last three people come to our table. The guy that runs the Incredible Universe, the guy that bought my tickets for me, he sat down between me and William Shatner. And his wife and daughter sat on the other side of Shatner. Good. The guy who made this possible for me gets to sit next to Shatner. Couldn't be more fair, could it. Anyway, I don't remember the guy's name, but he was nice. He and his wife talked to Shatner about horses.

My husband said something about Avery Brooks coming in. Where? I couldn't see him.

Avery Brooks didn't sit in his assigned seat. He sat at the right table, just in a different chair. We were sitting back-to-back, and I couldn't see him without turning all the way around. He was in a very colorful outfit with boots and one of those little African hats.

Someone took our salads away and brought us chicken and vegetables. Shatner said he wasn't feeling well and sent it back and asked for all vegetables instead. Then he only ate the carrots. He looked at some pictures of me and the other two borg in costume.

Someone came and took two people at our table to a different table. They were supposed to be at Captain Kirk's dessert table, not the dinner table. So then we had two empty seats for some reason, and they can't have two empty seats at the front tables. How would that look? So they went back to the cheap seats and found a widow of someone who had worked for Tandy for over twenty-five years, and her and her grandson sat with us instead.

If you don't know, William Shatner has this problem that causes him to always hear ringing in one of his ears. Leonard Nimoy has a similar problem, in the opposite ear, so they think that they both damaged their ears during a certain movie scene that involved blowing up a door. So between the ringing in his ears and general background noise of people talking at the other tables, he couldn't hear us very well. So he made a point of getting up and going around the table and shaking hands with everyone and stuff like that.

Just about the time that everyone is starting to relax and talk to him, someone tells him it is time for dessert and takes him to the other table. I know that they're on a schedule, but that was a little bit unfair, since dinner got started a little bit late. The people at the dessert table had more time with him than we did.

And all evening, people kept being brought to the different tables to ask for autographs. Supposedly, someone is going to come and get me when it is my turn. I wait.

The people at my table are having a good time. The people at the Captain Kirk's dessert table are having a good time. The people in the cheap seats are having a good time. We're all looking at the actors.

The people in the other front six tables are all looking at themselves.

I don't think that they cared anything about Star Trek at all. It's like they just came so that people would see that they could afford the expensive tickets. From some conversations I overheard, some of them had never seen some of the shows and didn't even know who some of the actors were.

Whatever.

Someone took all the actors backstage. I still didn't have my other autographs yet. But I thought maybe I would get them at the end of the program. And I said that I would wait. So I wait.

People start milling around again. Someone from the Paramount station came over to talk to us. He was expecting Myrh the cat to come by later. I knew better. Myrh was at Stellar Occasions being MC of the costume contest.

This guy I know who has an excellent Klingon costume went to the microphone. "You will be seated." You do not argue with this guy. Today is not a good day to die. We sat down.

The guy from the TV station spoke first. I don't remember what he said. Then the guy from the museum spoke. I don't remember what he said either.

Then Kate Mulgrew spoke. She asked if we could see her okay, cause the lights were too bright and she couldn't see anything. So she was talking about what an impact Star Trek had made on people, and how recently she'd been to some thing where she met a lot of young women who had won scholarships and such, and a bunch of them talked about being inspired by Star Trek. So she just knew that one day one of them would cure cancer or something, and it would partially be because of Star Trek.

And then she talked about the hard work of being Captain Janeway on a weekly TV series, and how it was nice to be away from that for a change, wearing a dress.

Avery Brooks came out next. He was all into the Education is Paramount thing. And he was saying how in the beginning he wasn't even sure he wanted to be Captain Sisko. He didn't know if he'd like being associated with Star Trek. And then he was talking about it to his wife, and I don't remember exactly what she told him, but it was something like "Quit being dumb. Do it for the kids." I'm not sure if that meant their family specifically or that it was good for kids in general to have a role model, but that snapped him out of it and he took the job. And now he could go all over the country and tell kids to stay in school and all of that.

Jonathan Frakes came on stage, and he complained about the lights a bit. And he talked about how he wasn't sure about the whole Star Trek thing in the beginning. He didn't think people liked his character at first. At one of his first conventions he noticed a sign at one of the dealers' tables that said "Buy any action figure, get Riker free." But he was glad that he stuck with it. And he agreed that it was wonderful to be here "in a dress."

William Shatner spoke last. He came out and said, "I don't know what everyone was complaining about. I can see just fine." And then he was talking about how sometimes things happen to show you how insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things. He'd just gone with his family on a trip to Africa. And he was sleeping in a tent. And the guides had all warned them not to leave the tents, not to wander around at night, and all that stuff. And when you are in Africa, and your guide tells you to do something, you'd better listen.

But he heard a noise and woke up, and he went outside to see what it was. And it was this huge elephant. And he's standing right behind this huge elephant thinking, wow, an elephant, this is great. And he's trying to be quiet and not disturb the elephant.

And the elephant dumps on him.

So that was really funny. And then all the other speakers came back onto the stage. Someone had made these crystal statues to give to the actors to thank them for helping them with the museum's fund raiser. And they're all saying thank you, how nice, and stuff like that. Jonathan Frakes said, "Mine has Patrick Stewart's name on it." And we all laughed, but maybe it did have Patrick Stewart's name on it, since originally he was supposed to be there.

And then they all walk backstage. I have to run to the ladies room. There's a line, and this greatly upsets me because I still think that someone is going to escort me backstage so I can get autographs. I'm in the thousand dollars seats. Surely I'm going to get more autographs.

And I get back to the table, and people are milling around, but no one seems to know anything. Finally, I find someone with the important I'm in charge badges, and he tells me that all the actors left the building as soon as they went backstage. He's sorry about the mix up, but there's nothing he can do about it now.

So I never got my other autographs. But I have William Shatner's autograph, and that's the important thing.

So we went out to the lobby to talk to some of my friends. And we got someone to take our picture with the Klingon General Chang. Then someone from TV Guide took the Klingon's picture.

People were leaving. Some people went to another room for an auction, but I didn't have any money so what was the point in staying for that. My friends stayed and danced until the place closed, but I was tired and went home. I don't really dance anyway.

Really, I only got to talk to the man for like ten minutes. But who else gets to say that they had dinner with William Shatner.

5 comments:

Rachel said...

Happy 100th post!!!
I would not be considered a Trekkie but I did love Star Trek:TNG and had a HUGE crush on Wil Wheaton.
That was a great story. I have heard that William Shatner is a nice guy but has a bit of an ego.

nobodyinparticular said...

I'm glad to see this one. Looking forward to reading this, but tomorrow. If I read it right before I go to sleep, I fear I will dream of Captain Janeway all night.

nobodyinparticular said...

Fun story. Just a few comments -

Liked especially what there was about Avery Brooks. I'm one of those few for whom he is the favorite Star Trek captain.

I can just envision the " "Eat...your...food." bit, along with the trademark Shatner pauses.

I think that had to have been one of the golden ages of Star Trek fandom; the mid to early 1990s. Such fun.

I am pretty sure that something like this happened in Grand Rapids. I think there were some events, similar to what you describe, tied into what the museum had on display. I think I might have a "Legacy of Star Trek" ticket somewhere. However, we didn't get to the special events. We just went to see the museum display once or twice, and it seemed less impressive than all the goodies they had on display at the Las Vegas "Star Trek Experience".

I guess we missed something by not going to a couple of the events.

cube said...

Just found you via The Throwaway Blog. I know this is late, but just had to tell you how much I enjoyed this post. Dinner with the Shat man! Cool stuff.

cube said...
This comment has been removed by the author.