My best friend Marion, a huge Jonathan Frakes fan by trade, and my humble self, disciple of the one true, holographic way were on the road once more. Our first three-day convention tickets. The most exhausting weekend of our tiny lives. Why has it to be over now?
The opening ceremony, due for 18.00 started punctual as a clockwork at 18.34 (The delays unfortunately were a trademark for this event). They started with a very loud video clip with pictures of the Galileo convention in 2001. The film left me with the question how they kept Garrett Wang from dancing in front of cameras for a total of seven years?
After a few words of introduction by the event managers and the host, the stars were called on stage one by one to say hello to the audience.
One by one there were the German voices of Riker and Geordi, Richard Arnold (no convention would be complete without him), the Nemeceks, Jeremy Bulloch (Star Wars' Bobba Fett), Herb Jefferson Jr. (from Battlestar Galactica), Marjorie Monaghan (exactly, Freya from the Voyager episode "Heroes and Demons"), Stuntmen Todd Bryant and Scott Leva, Mark Allen Shepherd (who, like his DS9 - character Morn, did the salute without saying anything), Carel Struycken (Mr. Homn), Lolita Fatjo (Voyager's script coordinator), DS9's Chase Masterson and Aron Eisenberg and our man: Robert Picardo! Since Jonathan Frakes did not arrive before Saturday, Bob was the only guest to get standing ovations as early as during the opening ceremony. He was pleased to be in Germany once more and promised to spend the weekend, improving his German. All of that he said in a nearly perfect German, so with this likeable understatement he made sure to have the laugh on his side.
Babylon 5's Claudia Christian also didn't arrive until Saturday. Alas, the guest stars Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, Ethan Phillips and -- only one day before -- Max Grodenchik had canceled in advance.
After the guest stars had left the stage the "first 6 minutes of Star Trek: Nemesis" were announced. What we saw then on the screen was a bunch of confusing scenes. Nonetheless the fans cheered.
With this the opening ceremony ended, so the autograph session was about to start. Alas, there was another weakness of the organisation. The first panel (with the German voices of Riker and La Forge) was on, but the auditorium was nearly empty, as everyone jumped up and ran out to get their things signed. At least I have to give it to the securities that they managed to tame the crowd in the corridors. So they finally could lead the people in order, row by row, as we've been sitting in the auditorium. Nearly two hours later they called row No. 9. In serpentines we were lead from table to table. Due to the autagraph prices our serpentines lead us straight to Bob Picardo. (I should mention that, in the past, at most German Star Trek conventions the autographs were included with the ticket prices. It's of course a little expensive now.)
Of course you can't keep a real fan from his star with this. I had some covers of my favorite Joe Dante DVDs for Bob to sign and his book. And, of course, resistance was futile when I saw that cute ECH picture. When the assistant told me the complete price my weak knees even became a little weaker, but wouldn't I do everything for this man? ;)
I turned to Bob saying: "For this price I'll take you with me after this." "I'd love to come with you" was an answer I didn't expect, to be honest. Maybe I should have persisted? ;) Bob was surprised and pleased when he saw what I wanted him to sign. Obviously fans don't come very often with non-Star Trekstuff. He hadn't seen the German cover of The Howling before, so he studied it for a while. I have to say it was very cute when he chose the right pen for every signature to perfectly go with the picture. Then he smiled at me and presumed I'd probably like him a lot. Marion confirmed, as I was totally speechless. I still try to come up with a spontaneous, cool answer....
Then I took my heart and asked him for a photo of the two of us, Marion was supposed to snap. He agreed and asked to lay his arm round my shoulder. Of course it was okay with me. The next moment we found ourselves in a tight embrace, cheek to cheek. That was the moment my brain probably went out of order, as I really found the chuzpe to ask Bob for "one little kiss for free". I still wish he would've left me a few seconds to moisten my lips. Sorry, Bob, in case it scratched a little. Being prepared I'm usually a better kisser, too. We'll have to try it another time, okay? ;)
Bob was also pleased when I gave him the Gummibaerchen (a popular German kind of candy made of fruit juice, said to be unknown in the US) I chose as a late birthday present, together with a birthday card I did myself (Yes, I am the only one conviced I'd be a cartoon artist). And I won't mention that I had to retun to give it to him, as I forgot before... Forgetfulness - my second name for the lasting of that convention... Blame it on the excitement to meet him. :)
The second day started for us with an appearance of Fatjo, Masterson and Eisenberg together. They had to alter their performance due to the missing Max Grodenchik. That also was about the "Ferengi Family Hour," a little comedy-play with songs they were about to perform that very evening. When we heard who should step in for Max we knew where we'd spend the evening. Bob Picardo had agreed to stand in for Grodenchik and sing some songs of his CD during a little musical revue. Of course we had our tickets little time later.
Aron Eisenberg then told a few stories from the Deep Space Nine set and taught the audience to do the "Ferengi Love Dance."
In the following the beautiful Chase Masterson told about her favorite episode of DS9: "Doctor Bashir I Presume," and she remarked the reason why she'd love this one so much would be working with Robert Picardo. She was enthusiastic about his commitment and energy, leaving one mostly breathless. She obviously was impressed by Bob daring to alter his lines in the script for the final take. She told about "Hello, my name is Dr. Zimmerman. Have you heard about my work on Star Trek: Voyager?" (a version she considered the funniest one) and the end product "... have you heard about my work on the kama sutra?". It was good to find out that Bob seems to have his colleagues' sympathies, too.
After that we saw Carel Struycken. Not much to say. He really isn't an entertainer. After he answered three questions he didn't know how to go on. That's a pity, as he probably could've come up with interesting things about TNG or The Addams Family.
Nearly the same with Claudia Christian who cancelled her show after ten minutes, lacking of questions and interested audience.
Nothing spectacular at the auctions. Maybe that they gave away originally signed photos of Leonard Nimoy or the divine Patrick Stewart for ridiculous low prices.
Then the autograph sessions started, and though I had everything signed I wanted, I still had a crush on one of the EMH photos I had seen... Well, I could claim that's true. Alas, the truth is, I was looking for an excuse to see Bob from near once more. At least I was honest to him! Bob recognized me and was pleased to see me... or he pretended to... He even dedicated the autograph, reading my name from the visitor's passport. I anxiously asked for one more photo "just to be sure". Bob asked who'd take the photo as I wasn't in Marion's company. My saviour, one of four guys sitting near us at the auditorium, answered. Bob claimed he'd be reserved in case the guy'd be my boyfriend. We could deny, and once more I found myself in Bob's embrace, his cheek to mine. (Just a quick note for the ladies: He was a little unshaved. *g*) I couldn't resist from thanking him with a little kiss to his cheek.
Only short time after Bob's first panel started. He entered stage accompanied by the enthusiastic cheers of the audience, singing "La Donna é Mobile". First the original followed be the "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy" lyrics. (BTW: This scene was dubbed on German TV back then. And one can't say the guy lending his German voice to Bob is a gifted singer.) He did up to 30% of the panel in German language, not without mentioning from time to time how bad his German is. He also informed us, with some pride in his eyes, that the Doctor will be this year's Christmas ornament by Viacom. (Alas, those things are hard to get from Germany, not to talk about reasonable prices) Then he told about the brand-new "Space Park" theme park, opening its gates in 2003. Two weeks before he was there to do some filming, as he'll be one of the featured Star Trek actors! Alas they'll use his German voice to dub it, though Bob offered to speak the text in German. He'll probably appear in person for the opening celebration and I hope I'll be there, too.
As a further proof of his lacking German knowledge he read a little scenario to demonstrate what might have happened if Voyager's EMH would be running on Windows 98. Even more remarkable as the German version of "Please state the nature of the medical emergency" is a little challenge for native German tongues, too. But nothing compared to: "dreimillionenvierhunderteinundfünfzigtausendzweihundertvierundzwanzig" (3,451,224). Windows users in the auditorium enjoyed that satire very much. Before opening the microphone for the questioners Bob sang, matching with the Christmas ornament "I'll be sold for Christmas". Thanks to the audio engineer for turning the volume down before Bob's head blasted. Since his microphone was out of order a few minutes before I don't think Bob could be surprised.
300 Euro (~ 300$) was the proceed of an original voyager cast photo signed by all actors, and with a Robert Beltran signature that didn't cover the important parts of Jeri Ryan. *g* The money goes to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
After that he read a chapter of his "The Hologram's Handbook", just "Anatomically Correct". As one would expect the topic made a hit at the audience. (For me it was the terrible moment of perception that I had fallen for a not fully equipped hologram back then *g*)
The questioners used the microphone in big numbers, me within them, full of courage waiting for my spot. The first question being asked was about Bob's membership in the Planetary Society, a question he obviously loved to answer. He informed us about the work of the Society, about all the planets being discovered, just since he started doing Voyager. Next question was related to his appearance at Home Improvement and his work with Tim Allen. Bob took the opportunity to tell a funny story about what happened to him a few weeks ago in a plane. The board cinema presented Galaxy Quest. After some time Bob discovered that most of the passengers didn't watch the screen but "that Star Trek" guy being kidded in that movie. Other question were about his singing (especially the change from singing classic to jazz he's doing so easily) und his talent for impressions. Though he claimed Garrett Wang and Robbie McNeill would do it much better, amongst others of his collegues, he put a little fun on Robert Beltran and his problems to keep his texts in mind, and about Beltran's answer machine ("Hello, this is Robert Be.... oh, shit!")
My question was related to Joe Dante's new film, Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Alas, Bob will have once more only a tiny part, but with co-stars like Brendan Fraser or Steve Martin. He told about a very funny scene together with Steve Martin, where Bob will portray an ACME employe. The movie sounds very promising and I'm looking forward to enjoy Bob Picardo on the big screen once more. I was surprised and happy to find out that Bob recognized me from the autograph line and even remembered my name. Well, to introduce me as "his biggest fan" to the audience was a little overstatement (but only a little!). *blush* At least - when I conveyed greetings from our Cristy Ruteshouser he took the advantage to tell about robertpicardo.com, and CARPE, not without mentioning Cristy's work in a very positive way.
Bob became a little serious when he told about Kate Mulgrew's last day on Voyager's set. Nobody appeared to thank for the cooperation and say goodbye to her. No one but Robert Picardo himself. Though it seems to be quite normal for this business, it shows sadly enough, that the Voyager cast obviously didn't have those magic chemicals between all of them the TNG crew probably had. One reason more to emphasize the achievement of Bob Picardo, as an actor and as a person.
"Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" was the end of the panel. He did it with updated lyrics ("Star Trek fans they are like Dracula - they want new blood like Scott Bakula") Again Bob got standing ovations and unstoppable cheerings.
The official highlight of the day was the first appearance of Jonathan Frakes who really impressed me. Frakes was absolutely unstoppable for the total of one hour and the fans laughed their heads off. He talked to single Bolians and Klingons and really had the audience like a puppet on the string. His anecdotes about turtle head and Old Baldy and his other collegues did have a little of "X-Factor". You'd never know whether he was telling the truth or hoaxing us. An event, for short.
In the evening...
the Ferengi revue took place. Lolita Fatjo called Max Grodenchik live. He apologized in German and very many words that he couldn't come, since he got a role in the new Jim Carrey movie. After that Chase Masterson turned the men's heads, wearing the little black dress and doing some bar songs and her Monroe impersonation with "Latinum's a girl's best friend". Aron Eisenberg and Lolita Fatjo entered the stage only for a few minutes, then the excitement really started. A nice but notheless unnecessary "New York, New York" by the host delayed it a little. Then the host asked for our understanding that Bob Picardo would do his show wearing a hat, cause he was freezing during his panel. :}
Bob started his show with "What's My Name." Again he did lots of his announcements in German, followed by "Sixteen Hours" and "What's New Pussycat." For the second one he got help from some girls of the convention management, since he had forgotten to get some stand-ups of the Voyager ladies. One of those girls was passed by an over-enthusiastic fan from the audience who ran on stage without any invitation... even faster than I could've ran on stage without invitation. *g* The last song was "I Had You Babe," which Bob did together with another girl from the stage team. Thank God, Bob neither looks like Sonny Bono nor does he sound like him. So we can forgive that we saw the smallest, curliest, asian-looking, light-voiced Cher in music history. J Unnecessary to say, the evening ended with more cheers and standing ovations.
We decided to calm down a little that sunday, so we only attended the panels we really wanted to see. And how could it have started any better than another appearance of Bob Picardo?
This time he entered stage with the wonderful and so true "Song Of Hologram"; again he went on in German. Again he told about the "Space Park" in Bremen coming out with some details of the shooting. I especially enjoyed the story when he was supposed to fire a phaser and couldn't resist from yelling "bang bang." (Separating the Cowboy from any Indians. *g*)
Also wonderful: his proof of German song knowledge, from an old pal of college days originate from Germany: "Ohne Wurst, ohne Speck hat das Leben keinen Zweck." (I don't know why a no-chicken. I'm a stranger here myself) Words that became his choice for living as he said....
Once more Bob answered questions from the fans. The first one was about his part in Toy Story which Bob identified as Small Soldiers at the instant. Going with this he reported from the shooting of Explorers, mentioning the Star Trek movie set Captain Starkiller stood in. He also narrated about his private life, about how he's driving Nicky and Gina to school in the morning and outed himself as an enthusiastic amateur cook. I didn't mind that the questioner in fact asked for the description of another exhausting day at the Voyager set. I enjoyed it very much. :) Being asked about the Voyager episode "Body and Soul" he mentioned Jeri Ryan's achievement in portraying him (Probably I wasn't the only one impressed by this). Obviously Jeri had fun doing it, as she seemed to have some difficulties to stop it after the shooting.
Another question about Bob's singing followed, and he confirmed what I was thinking all the time... he didn't do all the singing in "Virtuoso" himself.
The audience opposed very heavy about his statement the Doctor would've been the less rewarding part in the Voyager cast, because he considered it as a character without emotions and humour. His first convention took place in 1996, when he had to step in for Brent Spiner. Of course, after only a few Voyager episodes, he was afraid the audience would kill him, but they celebrated him like one of the huge "old" Trek stars. His first casting he did (as we all know) for the role of Neelix, he also told the famous story from "Transplantations" (His lungs have been removed. Have you seen them?") not without mentioning Beltran's convulsive laughter. (Now I can think why the actors always had 16-hour days) One question was about a photo they showed on the stage's screen the day before, showing Bob dressed up as Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor on Voyager's set. (It was a Halloween costume) He did some additional parodies. Not only Jerry Lewis, but Arnold Schwarzenegger, imitating his accent during a story about Bob's "appearance" as Johnnycab in "Total Recall."
Of course the inevitable autograph parasite was there, too. (At least this guy didn't get a kiss for not paying. Ha!)
In between two segments Bob fulfilled the wish of a female Trekkie, that caught him at the hotel on Friday, begging him to let her sing with him. He called her onstage, and then tried doing "You Are My Sunshine" together with her. She definitely bit off more than she could chew, as Bob did his best to sing so low one was able to hear the girl. He also stopped his tries to sing the song in two voices like he did with Jeri, when he saw it was impossible for her to find the key. At least he was a perfect gentleman once more when he took the responsibility for this little musical desaster.
He ended with his version of "Someone to Watch Over Me" leaving out the word "erection", because of the children present. :) (Speaking of this I'd love to discuss my thoughts with Mr. Picardo: Little girls play Indians. Big girls play doctor.)
The deafening enthusiastic cheers sheerly wouldn't end and caused at last a curtain call.
Some time later the second Jonathan Frakes panel followed, which Marion had waited for so long. Like the day before he was in top shape, running all over the stage all the time and even managed to get rid of the autograph parasites. Worth mentioning that he did some jokes about Bob time and time again ("Was Bob Picardo here? Did he war a wig? No? Did he wear a hat? Oh, like we wouldn't know he's bald!"). Since Frakes was breaking into singing again and again the situation desperately yelled for it... And - YES - suddenly he tugged Bob Picardo on stage and they did a song together, "On The Street Where You Live" from "My Fair Lady". As you can tell, it was the absolute Nexus for me and Marion. Needless to say the fans nearly went crazy about this.
After Jonathan Frakes left the stage the end was near. The closing ceremony was up. After the usual words of thanks the guests were called to stage one by one. Since Jonathan Frakes didn't participate, Bob was the only one again with receiving the standing ovations (though this is hardly necessary being mentioned again and again. It's natural!)
A nice occurrence when the ladies were handed some flower bouquets. Bob catched Chase Masterson's flowers before she could. Of course he handed them over to the laughing Chase, who nearly ruined the bouquet when she tried to pull out a single rose for Bob.
After a rerun of the video with dancing Garrett Wang the convention was over irrevocable and left us with the usual mix of enthusiasm and dejection. We saw a decent convention with a great Jonathan Frakes as "headliner," but with a Robert Picardo who has won some hearts without any doubt.
A Thank you to the convention management of Galileo 7 for presenting a fantastic con with a few pardonable faults.
Thanks to all of the guests for providing some hours of entertainment.
And most of all: A big, big THANK YOU to Robert Picardo for giving me three days I'll never forget. Bob, you are the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be! Big smack! (again)
Thank you also to Marion who cared to bear me all weekend long. ;)
And, last but not least, thanks to Marion and Gina for helping me with this and keeping me from writing too much crap. ;)
Feedback is greatly appreciated atEmergencyMedicalHologram@gmx.net
Photos by Ulrike, Gina andSusanne
Check out trekonline for more photos.