And I have the aches and pains to show for it. Ouch!
The posts that I made about last years Dragoncon were built around how irked I was about the handling of certain aspects of the convention. This year was a whole different story, with over 500 guests and an army of 1800 volunteers to help shepherd the celebs and thousands upon thousands of fans through venues strung throughout four different downtown Atlanta hotels, I have to tip my hat to the Con organizers and express my gratitude to the volunteers who were nothing less than helpful and courteous.
I've seen large crowds in attendance at Dragoncon over the years, but I do believe that the Saturday crowd was the biggest assortment of humanity that I have ever been amongst at this show. It was crowded everywhere virtually all day long.
The show moved registration to the Sheraton, about a ten minute stroll from the Atlanta Hilton (where the celebrity "Walk of Fame" was located), and the processing of thousands of guests moved much smoother than ever. Even though there were portions of the programming tracks held in the Sheraton, my party of five spent the bulk of the day meandering between the Hilton, The Hyatt and the Marriott hotels. After a full day of plunging through the dense dealers rooms, the vast art contest ballroom (where the comic book artists alley was also located), waiting for photo ops with my daughter & her best friend with actor Tom "Draco Malfoy" Felton, and another ultimately being cancelled for my brother and me with the Babylon 5 hotties (Tracy Scoggins and Claudia Christian; who couldn't be located -DAMN) and enjoying lunch at the nearby Durango Steak House (yummy), we all had a great time, and then drove around downtown Atlanta for about an hour that evening, before munching out at The Varsity burger joint and finally heading back to South Carolina. An eighteen hour day that really left our tootsies dog-tired!
I have to give lots of credit to the visiting celebrities for just how much they put themselves out there for their adoring fans. Most of them were scheduled to participate in multiple photo opportunities for anyone willing to shell out varying prices to have their picture snapped with the famous. Patrick Stewart topped the list with a $200 charge, it would only set you back $160 to sit between William Shatner AND Leonard Nimoy or you could sit among the attending Battlestar: Galactica cast members (Mary McDonnell, Kate Vernon, Michael Trucco, Kandyse McClure, Luciana Carro, Michael Hogan, Alessandro Juliani, Aaron Douglas) for another $240. Despite those prices, most of the photo ops were very reasonably priced. My daughter Stacy's dream photo only set me back $30, and the one that I "almost got" would have been a mere $55.
I truly appreciate and respect the actors for taking the time to sit for these one-of-a-kind mementos, the folks who bought them were really thrilled to receive their photographs, but organizer Froggy Productions should have found a way to minimize the long wait time to get the pictures developed (four hours or longer in many cases), they had previously done this and were familiar with demand. Us single day attendees were left out in the cold with that kind of delay for their late afternoon & evening shoots.
The Walk of Fame was handled much better this year, with less gestapo tactics than the year before and having the actors themselves served by individual volunteer "handlers" for the autograph sales at point of contact was much easier and a nice throwback to how the show used to pull this off. Salute!
I picked up a Tom and Jerry sketch from Stephanie Gladden, an original page of Yanick Paquette art from the Terra Obscura mini-series from inker Karl Story, two signed Nocturnals graphic novels from creator Dan Brereton, finally got a chance to have Ken Steacy sign his old Famous Comic Book Creator card and picked up a celebrity autograph or two myself. This year I focused my attention on the casts from the late lamented Babylon 5 (Bruce Boxleitner, Claudia Christian, Peter Jurasik, Tracy Scoggins and Stephen Furst) and the recently ended Battlestar: Galactica [see list above]; a cooler bunch of people, you would be hard pressed to find and that's saying something with other fun, famous folks like Karen Allen, Malcolm McDowell, James Marsters, and cast members from all Star Trek series, Star Wars, Stargate, Heroes, Buffy/Angel, The Dukes of Hazzard, The A-Team, etc. [The chauvinist in me has to mention how beautiful all of the genre ladies in attendance were, they each deserve their very own "Gal" Friday recognition in the Catacombs, so look for them throughout the coming year.]
You would not believe how long the lines were, outside the Marriott hotel, for The Venture Brothers and Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Joss Whedon tracks. Phenomenal! Costuming, gaming, panels, film festivals all took a backseat position for us. Dragoncon is simply too huge a show, with just to much to see and do, in a single day. We are already talking about breaking this cut-bait & run tactic and taking the multi-day plunge next year.
Hope to see you there in 2010!