I stole this style from a Tintin Comic book, isn't that cool?

The Letter

Well, it all started with an e-mail on February 26, 1999. I had just finished my second year of Registration at Katsucon, and I was planning next year. A woman by the name of Kari Embers wrote me and said, "My name is Kari Embers, and I work for Imagine Con. We are currently organizing IMAGINE CON 2000, to occur April 20 - 23, 2000. I was wondering how we might be included in your list? The URL for our site is http://www.imaginecon.com. Check it out if you're interested!"

Was this spam? I sent her a reply back, and it seemed that her and a man by the name of John Prescott wanted me as a guest! Well, one long ICQ chat later, I found myself a guest for Imaginecon. John said, "It will definitely be an occasion [sic] NOT to miss. As far as attendance is concerned, we would love to see anywhere from 10-40,000 throughout the 4 day weekend. We are taking an extremely proactive marketing strategy, and we want EVERYONE to attend." They ask for a bio, and then I find myself on the web page. They said they would draw out a contract on pay and freebies I would get shortly.

I went ahead and told everyone. I hadn't been a guest at a con in a while. And I thought my second book would be out by then, a perfect time to plug it. Since Imaginecon was new, there were suspicions by my pals in the convention committee. Is it a real con? Shortly thereafter, some of my merchant friends said this was the real thing, and the way it was being planned, it was going to be BIG. I started to hear ripples throughout the convention community that Imaginecon was a marketing dynamo, appearing at many cons, and they really had it together. I was glad to get in at the ground floor. I was one of the first people to have a bio on their page, and I was being billed with Larry Elmore! I felt secure that this would be a good thing.

But time went by, and I started hearing less and less. My first indication that something was going wrong was that John and Kari dropped off the face of the Earth, e-mail wise. I never got a contract, and their site was being updated less and less. Kari got back to me in July, stating she got divorced, had to back to work full-time, and dropped out of Imaginecon because she could no longer devote her time to it. Finally, in October of 1999, I got a reply from John who said he was getting my e-mails, but he was really busy, and would get back with me shortly. Then I didn't hear from him until January of 2000. I sent him a mail asking if he wasn't interested, I would consider dropping out. This got a hasty reply, "yes, we are extremely busy, and yes we still want you as a guest! although we can't supply you with a room . but, to make up for that we are having one heck of a green room for the authors that attend the show. so you won't have to spend an arm and a leg on food for the weekend! we also have a really great deal with the quality inn at only 55.00 a night and its the closest hotel to the convention center other than the con hotel."

Well, bummer. No pay, I have to pay for my own room, and then I didn't really know how I was going to get there. There's an old saying, "An oral contract is only worth the paper it's printed on." I guess ICQ chats and E-mail fall under that category as well. But $55/night wasn't so bad, and it was Virginia Beach, so if the con sucked, I could still go to the shore and bum around town. I hadn't been to Virginia Beach in over seven years. I contacted some friends down there, but they had all moved, or didn't reply. But Sean, an old friend from FanTek and Prune Bran days said he was going. And so were some new friends of mine, Paul and Lisa. Sean even said he'd give me a lift. I figured I have fun one way or another.

In March, I stated hearing a familiar name, "Bill Warner." I knew I heard that name before. Bill was running programming for Imaginecon, and asked if anyone wanted to do any panels. I volunteered for a few, and later found myself a moderator for four of them! Bill kept the communication up, informing us of changes, cancellations, and the hole in the wall that was my view of what was going on inside Imaginecon grew larger. And I cringed a bit at what I saw. Particularly when we got an announcement that we'd been double-booked with a wedding. Shortly thereafter, and only a week before the con, we're told that all programming but con suite and staff suite were moved out of the Doubletree into the convention center due to a contract dispute. Things looked worse and worse.

A friend of mine who runs conventions, and has done so for many years, told me that he was approached to co-run the con, but declined. We also heard from famous named like Mark Hammill (Luke Skywalker) and Apollo Smile (self-made rock star and anime girl) that they got a bad feeling and backed out. Ray Park (Darth Maul) backed out, stating that payment and contracts were never sent, and that e-mail and calls were ignored. Troma stated the same thing. Hmm Darth Maul had the same problems *I* did. I felt a bonding moment, there. :)

So by the time I was ready to go, I fully expected a disaster. I made plans with Sean to have fun any way we could, and since Sean grew up in Virginia Beach, he knew where to go. Maybe I could sell some books. We left on a sunny Thursday.

Thursday - We arrive to a Ghost Con...
Thursday morning began like any other. I hadn't finished packing yet, so I completed that, and got a call from Sean that he would be by around 9:45. He was only a few minutes late, and so I said my goodbyes to my son, and set off.

I like kids. Well, I like polite ones, and the Heare family has some pretty cool kids. Six year old Chance and almost-two-year-old Scarlet-Rose entertained me in the back seat most of the way. I stayed in the front seat until we got to Fredricksburg's "Race Trac" gas super-station (like 12 pumps and a large supermart), where gas was a paltry $1.23 a gallon (it was about $1.63 elsewhere at the time), then Lou Ann got in the front and I stayed in the back. We got to Virginia Beach around 3pm, and dropped the kids off at "Pop-pop's" (Sean's dad's house), and then we set off to enjoy Imaginecon!

The Quality Inn was no different than most of the smaller beach hotels I recall from my last visit to Virginia Beach back in 1993. It was four floors of scaled-down luxury that opened to a common walkway balcony in the front. At least it had an elevator, which was a godsend with that heavy box of books I had to haul to the third floor. What was even better was that my room was right next to the elevator shaft, so no long walks to get to my room. Sean and Lou Ann helped me get the stuff to my room, and then it was off to their hotel, the Doubletree, which was listed as the "Official Hotel" of the Pavilion.

I don't know why. I mean, it's nice and all, but despite what they lead you to believe, it's not really quite "next" to the Pavilion. From what they advertise on the web, you'd think that it was adjoining the Pavilion, like a lot of "Official" hotels do with their convention centers. No such luck. It has a steep hill down and then you have to cross a small street and a giant parking lot to get there. Outside. And since it rained most of the weekend, this kind of sucked. What made it worse was that across the street was a local dive called "The Abyss," witch attracted the bored youth nightclub element during the later hours. And the biggest irony, the Quality Inn was closer. And half the cost per night as the Doubletree.

Sean and Lou Ann got their keys, and went to the room to dump off their stuff. Then we went exploring. We didn't see any fen or fandom-looking people for quite a while. We thoughts maybe there was a hotel exit facing the Pavilion, and our search came up with an interesting find. Half of the rooms that the Doubletree screwed Imaginecon out of were obviously under major renovation. The worst one was the Cedar Room, which had no carpeting, exposed joists and drywall, construction equipment, and spirals of exposed glue on the cement floor. I could see why the hotel wouldn't let us in. Well, we never found any exits close to the Pavilion, so we went out the main door, around to the back of the building, across the street, and across the parking lot to the Pavilion Convention Center.

A building that was hit by an ugly stick
This shrunken picture does not truly capture the essence of seagull droppings and jet fuel coating this building like a grayish glaze. Note also the lack of cars parked there. On a Friday afternoon.
This was the Pavilion. What looked like several dirty airplane hangars covered with seagull droppings had a more elegant courtyard entrance, where a solar-paneled sculpture was framed by some trees that hadn't been pruned in a while. The uneven cement pavement was littered with mulch and dead leaves. The sounds of birds chirping echoed across the smoked glass as they darted from bench to bench, fighting for territory. It was actually fairly peaceful. Too peaceful. As in almost no one there. It was Thursday afternoon, and I saw maybe about 10-12 people milling about inside this huge glass-enclosed hallway.

We went to a table that said, "Pre-registration," and were fooled by the sign. See, at most cons, "Pre-registration" is where one goes when they are pre-registered. Not this con. It meant "Pre-registration" as in "before you register." We were instructed to go to "Registration" by a slightly bored female with dark hair and eyes that spoke of ennui that would turn rainbows to shades of gray. So we went around the corner to a box office in a rather awkward place to line people up. If they were expecting 15-20,000 people, I shuddered to think of what this place would look like. Especially because the counter was manned by quite possibly the slowest moving people on Earth. It was like Planet of the Hip Injuries. It took about half an hour to get to the counter, and there were only three people in front of me. When we got there, we were informed that Registration didn't open until 6pm, despite my programming schedule stating that events started around noon. "We're running late," was the response from a man who fit the classic nerd stance, including ill-fitting yellow dress shirt and thick-rimmed glasses. I bet if I could see behind the counter, he would be wearing brown slacks and $1.99/pr jogging sneakers. I informed him I was a guest, and I needed to find the green room to get the latest programming schedule. He then looked behind the counter for a box, and asked which guest I was. I told him, and after a brief search, he gave me a badge with a programming schedule attached via rubber band. He never even asked for ID. I would like to think he memorized everyone's faces beforehand, but I really believe that I could have said, "I am Gary Gygax, inventor of Dungeons and Dragons," and he would have given me Gary's badge with the same lack of enthusiasm. Sean said I should have. I asked again about the green room or a guest liaison. Around that time, one of the younger people behind the counter admitted out loud the frustration of being "abandoned by the senior staff," and no one was telling them anything. The man in the yellow shirt had no idea where the green room was, but told me that security would know.

Just then, security passed by, and his badge said Brett McLean. Brett was very nice, and despite taking us all over the upper floors and window boxes looking for the green room, he finally admitted that he didn't know, either. Neither did anyone on his walkie-talkie, although many agreed that "we saw someone taking soda there." After some sincere apologies, we left Brett to do his job.

My badge, by the way, was rather odd as well. It was laminated and clipped, but the clip hole was not centered, and whoever designed them did not leave room for the clip hole on the badge. So, across the top "Imagine Con" had a huge oblong hole across it, causing it to say "Imag --- Con." Next, the Larry Elmore illustration of a scantily clad girl and her spaceship were slightly out of focus (something he later complained about at his table). The part of my badge that signified I was a "Guest" was written so with white lettering on a very light gray background, making the word invisible from a distance.

Right away, I knew this con would not meet expectations. Programming was screwed up, no one had any maps of the place, and no one knew where anything or anyone was. You just had to wander around and find things. The programming schedule was laid out in the most peculiar manner. It was cross-indexed by room, not by hour or subject. And the times they did have were grouped by 10-1, 1-5, 5-9, and so on. To top off this cacophony of scheduling, it was all being updated anyway. As a matter of fact, the programming schedule I had was being updated as late as Friday, and no one was being notified. It's fairly bad when the guests aren't notified when or where they are supposed to be, but the attendees weren't given an updated schedule ever! They just made large ones and posted them by the rooms. I was on five panels, and the most that anyone attended was about eight audience members. The average was around two. Book signings were a disaster, but more on that later.

Sean and Lou Ann said that they were hungry, and I agreed, so we went down to the waterfront, and ate at the Jewish Mother, a deli I had eaten at before. They give you crayons at the table so you could write graffiti on the wall, which I thought was really cool. I scribbled "Punk Walrus" as best I could with a dull blue crayon on bumpy wax-resistant paint. I had a great RB and Turkey sub, and took my two decorative toothpicks and stuck them in my pickle to make a "slug pickle," which Sean said was a great name for a band and then became a private joke for the rest of the con. Then we went to a CVS to get supplies, and then we went next door to "The Heritage Bookstore," dedicated to Edgar Cayce, the famous Christian ESP spiritualist. It looked a lot like stores all over Salem.

We went back to our hotels, where I waited for Amira. She arrived at about 7:00, and we talked while she unpacked. Then we went back to the con, where I finally found this mysterious "Bill Warner" I had been getting e-mails from. He was in a foul mood and was updating the programming and book signings with his assistant. After pestering him with questions, he started making sarcastic comments like, "Are you still here?" At least he gave me answers. Many of the other guests couldn't find him at all, and some missed signings and panels because they were either rescheduled and not notified, or completely forgotten altogether.

Around this time, I started making friends. I haven't been to a con this far south since my Prune Bran days, and I didn't hardly know anyone. This is when I started meeting authors. It was kind of sad, but a lot of us guests were starting to huddle together in small "survival colonies" just to find out when or when they were supposed to have programming. I met two people that were really cool. First, I met Mel Melrose who told me he was here for his wife, Anne. Mel and I had some common traits in work, International stuff. He ships custom-made diesel engines all over the world. My current job is to make, ship, and maintain node testing equipment, so we had a lot of stories to swap about customs and dealing with end-user stuff that probably would be too boring, even for this review. Shortly thereafter, I met Anne. She was one of the people defending Bill Warner, and I am glad she did. I was ready to kill the man, but she assured me that he was under a lot of stress, and despite my first impressions, he was actually a nice guy.

Some of you who know my tales of fandom hear my story about being famous that I hoped I would never forget. Back in 1987, I was guest artist at EveCon 4. I was 18, and fairly full of myself. Long story short, I met this girl named Sherrill, who showed off her pet stuffed hedgehog, "Spiny Norman" (named after the Monty Python sketch where a giant hallucinatory hedgehog stalked Dinsdale Piranha). She introduced herself in a sweet way, and then asked who I was. I said, no, ANNOUNCED I was Grig Larson, guest artist. She said two words I hope to never forget: "So what?"

This lesson comes up from time to time when I am a guest at some convention. I really needed it at this con, and Anne was the perfect person to keep me from going ballistic on poor Bill. As the con unfolded before me, Bill was less and less a bad guy, as much as he was someone who got shafted after the aftermath of a political feud I don't even want to find out about. And I found he was also a fan of Firesign Theater, so he can't be that bad. I also found out he was a fellow author, and once nominated for a Nebula Award (one person asked, "What's a Nebula?" and I answered, "A large ball of hot gas which isn't particularly bright named after the astrological phenomena of the same name.").

But Anne, Mel, and another author (I forgot her name) hung out for a while, trying to figure out if we actually had a panel until we finally got Brett McLean (bless his soul, he was such a cool guy all weekend) to find Butch Allen, Bill's apologetic assistant. Butch had a more updated schedule, which he said was at the printers, but assured me my panels were still only in the evening, I didn't miss anything I was supposed to be at. So I hung out in the dealer's room for a while. It was the only way to exchange information about the latest programming changes. I also found out some very interesting things.

About half the guests didn't even bother to show up at the convention. Many of the guests I spoke to were surprised to find out I had been getting e-mails at all from Imaginecon, and some of those who didn't attend had gotten so little contact from the convention, they assumed that the convention was cancelled or simply didn't want them anymore. More than one guest confessed that they showed up expecting that the con was cancelled and were just going to use the excuse to visit the beach. They were going to write the whole thing off as a business trip, and were now glad they wouldn't have to worry about committing tax fraud. Some guests showed up only to find they were simply a guest, and weren't scheduled to do anything, which didn't really upset any I spoke to. Many complained about being unpaid, and some of us "lower guests" also mumbled something about paying for our own hotel rooms.

When the merchant's room opened, I spoke to some of my merchant friends who had a few words to say that were fairly unpleasant. Many knew right away they were going to lose money, and loose it big time. I would say only 2/3rds of the enormous space were actually filled. There were a lot of empty tables and booths, and I used the opportunity to drop off CastleCon flyers and Castle Fanzines. Paul and Sean were also dropping them off. Finally, tired and in need of sleep, I went back to the room, and ended up talking to Amira into the wee hours of the night.

Friday - If it were a cartoon, we'd be hearing crickets

Asphalt Wasteland
The Quality Inn parking lot on Friday evening. This was to get a lot more crowded once the merchants abandoned the Doubletree, citing high prices and sticking it to the con. Then it was PARTY TIME!
Friday brought dismal skies that were to be for the rest of the weekend. I went to the con, and saw maybe a hundred people milling about in the gigantic pavillion

To say the mood was ugly would be an understatement. The merchant space never filled more than 2/3rds of the table (so I put down CastleCon and Katsucon flyers on them). I spoke with some merchant friends, notably Tiger of the "Den-O-Sin" (get it, Den-O-Sin = "denizen?" I just got the pun two years after being Tiger's friend). Tiger gave me a leather back massage, and desperately tried to sell me a pair of leather clawed gloves. During my time with the Den-O-Sin, I learned that some merchants were really, really mad. Miraj was so mad at everything, especially the Doubletree. A lot of the merchants got so upset when the found the Quality Inn was half the cost and closer, they all left on Friday, canceling their reservations at the Doubletree. They told the management they were leaving because the Doubletree screwed Imaginecon, and by Saturday, my hotel was the party hotel. Some merchants were talking about blacklisting already by Friday. You never want to hear a merchant say that. Bad bad bad thing to hear.

The art room was really sad and pathetic. It was in a dirty little side room (storage?) attached to the dealer's area, and wasn't much larger than a standard hotel room. More than half of the room was Larry Elmore's stuff, and about 3/4ths of the total art in the room was "NFS" (Not For Sale). I saw it twice, and spent maybe about ten minutes total in that room the whole con. Some of the NFS stuff was enormous, and took up whole panels, leaving little room for other artists. I later heard that many artists dumped BaltiCon to be at Imaginecon, despite the outrageous hanging fees, only to be screwed out of space when they got there.

Miraj and Amira, beautiful as just themselves.
People *always* want some half-nekked sexy photo of Bellydancers, but I wanted to catch Miraj as herself. Here is my friend Amira with Miraj, posing in a moment of convention-complaining. Both are wonderful, sensitive, and caring persons.
While I was in the dealer's room through the whole con, they had some lady who was really a bad announcer on the PA system. I mean, yeah, I can forgive occasional slip-ups, but this lady made a mistake almost every single time she announced something. And most of them weren't just mispronunciation errors, either. An example would be, "Sign up for the Costume Contest will end at 11am." It was already noon. There would be a pause "Uh, sorry. Sign up for registration ends at 3am. No, sorry, Costume Contest rules will be stated at I mean, sign up for the Costume Contest will be from 11am to 3pm. Please pick up your rules at registration. No, pick them up at the dealer's table." It was like they hired a lady who could not read and announce at the same time. Add to this she couldn't pronounce words like Anderson ("Anderseen") and Jabba the Hutt ("Jobba the Hat"). And no, she didn't have a foreign accent. Yeesh. I'd hate to hear what she called the "Call of Cthulhu" tournament.

The convention center had its own concession stand, which had movie-theater prices for some fairly bland food. But what made it truly awful was that the convention center would not allow you to bring in your own food, which REALLY pissed off the merchants, who were already working at a huge loss. And they announced this over the PA system repeatedly, "The Virginia Beach Pavilion would like to remind you that food or drink of any kind is not allowed in the Convention Center, Hallways, and Courtyard. There are food concession stands in the Game Room and Dealer's room where a variety of delicious foods are available for purchase." After a while, they started sounding less professional. "We feel the need to remind you that only food served in the Pavilion is allowed to be eaten in Pavilion. We are seeing some people with McDonalds bags and other food in the hallways and the dealer's tables. This is not allowed under contract, and if we see you with food, we will be forced to ask you to leave." As far as I know, no one actually enforced this, because I saw McDonald's bags everywhere all weekend, but man, did that come off as being anal and money-grubbing.

The game room was only occupied at about 10% most of the time, and probably only 60% at its peak. All time, Gary Gygax was pretty accessible. He was plugging his new game system pretty hard. There were also RPGA tourneys, game demos, and some impromptu sessions. I went to a panel held in the game room by some live-action Call of Cthulhu gamers who showed how to make some pretty awesome props. One of their props included an object that "spoke" clues (it was a "brain case") via a remote walkie-talkie. They also had some anecdotes about chasing people in the woods, and how to properly pad weapons so you only do fictitious damage instead of real damage ("Aw, dude! What a realistic head wound, how did you get the blood to keep pouring like that? Dude? Dude?").

At one point, Sean, Paul, and Andy dressed as Spanish Banditos and went around claiming they were in a rogue LARP. Later, Paul and Andy (dressed in the Catholic Hit Squad outfits) were handing out CastleCon fliers and asking people if they had "found Bruce." This of course confused them long enough for Paul to put the filer in their hands and say "The answer to these and many other questions are found here at CastleCon." I could never get away with promoting Katsucon this way... what a pity! And just to make sure people didn't think they were completely serious, Paul was carrying a 2 1/2 foot long clown fish. And if they asked about that, they got a flier too...

I knew I hung around these nuts for some reason.

I went to the local McDonald's that was so slow, when we got in line, it was breakfast, and when we got to the counter, it was lunch. No lie. Forty minutes in line to move ahead 5 people. The service was really, really bad, which seems to be a recent trend for McDonald's in general. The staff seemed to be really interested in this one drive-thru customer who was smoking a joint, which slowed down things even more.

My book signing
Here I am signing books. I only sold two, which was two more than Kevin J. Anderson! Note the tired and bored Barnes and Noble employee in the corner.
Oh yes, the signings! Yes, I actually had a book signing. I found out about it... um... ten minutes after it had happened. See, this is what happened. Originally, I was supposed to have a table to myself. Then I was going to be part of a "group signing." Then at the con, I found I wasn't in *any* signing. This was supposed to be remedied, but when they posted the final signings up in the con suite... I wasn't in them! What the hell??? So I went down, found Bill and demanded to know what happened. He apologized, and said that there were two lists, one with Barnes and Noble, and one with the other guests. Well, I wasn't on the Barnes and Noble lists, and no one could find the other list (most of those authors bailed anyway, or did signings at their company's table). So they gave me Mark Rainey's slot. So I ran to the dealer's room, set up my books, and staked my seat.

Almost no one showed up to the first "wave" of signings. In fact, out of three people already scheduled, I was the first to show up, since no one bothered to notify those authors, either. No one mistook me for Mark Rainey, because so few people came to my signing. Not that I was alone. Sean stuck around, and drummed up support. A few friends I met at the con showed up as well, one of them invited me to march with her at the Gay Rights march on the Washington Mall next weekend (if you read this, what's your name? I forgot!). Bob Snare came by, and after a while, at least I got people to look at my book or talk to me, making a small self generating and sustaining crowd. The girl and her boss who manned Barnes and Noble didn't seem to mind I bought books directly, since they were kind of distraught about how little traffic they had gotten. The girl told me that up to that point, they had sold only about six books. SIX BOOKS! Hell, the whole con I sold five, not much more! By Saturday evening, they packed up and left. Too bad, since B&N was one of the major sponsors of the con.

Later that evening, I had my two panels. My first one was with Gecko, where we talked about the future of anime. A few people attended that one, and we had a panel right after about "Modems and Mimeographs," a panel about fanzines and moving special interest groups to the Internet. About two people were in the audience for that one. Our panel consisted of Butch Allen, Bob Snare, and myself. It was here I started making friends with Bob, a pretty cool artist. At the panel, I ended up handing out Castles, mostly because I had them on me, and the Castle is the fanzine I knew the best. I ended up giving away all my copies to other people. Bob and I hung out for a while, and then we bumped into each other a lot at the con thereafter. He even joined my group when we went to Rocky Horror that night.

Paul the Virgin...NOT!
Sean, in an effort to embarrass Paul, claimed Paul was a Rocky Virgin. Paul, not to be outdone, went along with it. Note the 'menstrual red' letter V they painted on his face. They also did a public spanking.
Rocky Horror. I hadn't seen a live cast since my Prune Bran days. I was looking forward to this. The group that was doing this was called "Fishnet Inc., " and they had a great opening sequence. First, they did the usual, "Please don't throw anything," speech that I usual give when Strange Tea present RHPS. Then they had a rather elaborate "Virgin" ceremony, when Sean claimed that Paul, a long-time Rocky Veteran, was a virgin. They painted a red "V" on Paul, and had people line up onstage where they were spanked with a large black oar with a pair of lips painted on it. Then they had a small film short where a guy did this elaborate song and dance about tits, and how he loved them. It was real classy, it had showgirls and everything. Then they showed some shorts from Shock Treatment, the little-known Rocky Sequel. Then came Rocky.

Pudgy Dr. Frankenfurter's Paddle
Here we see a Pudgy Frankie and his pal Riff spank an unknown lady, who is enjoying herself way too much. I had a picture of Paul being spanked, but it didn't come out.
I try to be supportive about people who still do the cast thing and such, but this was kind of sad. Half the people weren't into the parts, they did it like it was routine and not fun anymore. The guy playing Dr. Frankenfurter man, I hate to say this, because I certainly am not in any sort of shape to criticize, but this guy was short and a bit pudgy. Not really ugly or anything, and he really was into the part, but you just don't picture Dr. Frankenfurter being played by Danny Devito. The audience was only about 50 when they started, and was about down to 20 halfway through. Sean and Paul left early, stating they were having a party later, and invited me to come. Soon after Bob left, saying he was tired. I was one of the only people giving lines in the end, and my voice was going hoarse. I got tired, out of breath, and to hoarse to keep shouting or I feared going mute. It was too bad, a group of people in front of me were enjoying all my lines. This was odd, because I usually do this with a much larger crowd, and often my lines are drowned out by someone with better timing. Some of them kept laughing and turning around to see who was making the lines. But even with my ego being stroked, I got so exhausted by the floor show scene, that I decided to go back to my room and sleep.

I left the Pavilion, and immediately stepped into drug central.

That woke me up. The parking lot was PACKED with people who were obviously regulars to the Friday night festivities that were going on. It was like a huge convention of violent and bored youth gangs rolled in while I was watching Rocky. Damn. I was out of my element. I sized up the situation. I could go back to my hotel, but to get there, I had to go across a dimly lit parking lot behind the Pavilion shipping docks and though a small patch of dark woods. Or I could go across the brightly parking lot to the Doubletree, where I knew there was a party I had been invited to. Tired or not, I went that route. I passed by gangs of Virginia Beach youth having a good time. Across the street was a place called "The Abyss," a nightclub of sorts. I smelled the telltale plastic acrid smoke of burning cocaine, which in my day used to mean freebasing or speedballing, but in this day and age, I quickly learned that this was the smell of crack. I saw quite a lot of people in various acts of dealing and imbibing items that were either illicit or at least illicit for their age. Loud music and roaring cars only quickened my pace, as some youth shouted and jeered at other people or me, it was hard to tell. For the most part, they left me alone, and I was fairly innocuous. Man, I was scared for my life, but made it without incident to the Doubletree.

The party had Paul, Lou Ann, Sean, Lisa, and Andy, and really, was the high point of the whole convention. It lasted until 5:30am, where my instincts to not be a bore overcame my fear of walking back through the crack house parking lot. We talked about everything and anything, and I learned a great deal about running LARPs, how Paul and Lisa met, and all kinds of good stuff. Luckily, by the time I left, dawn was almost cracking, and the parking lot was vacant. I passed by the Pavilion in the dawn's early light, and it looked almost pretty. I noticed the doors were locked, and no lights were on. So this con also shut down at night, I noted to myself. Just after I passed the Pavilion, the sky opened up, and I was drenched by the time I got to the hotel. Then my key didn't work, and Peter had to let me in.

Saturday - It's almost a con! Just add attendees...

Squish Balls!
Yes, things were so boring at the con, I even took a picture of these promo foam stress balls for some Tolkien fan site. I bought four rolls of film for this?
I went to sleep and woke up in time to shower and head to the con for two more panels. My first was at 11, and was about "Television and Technobabble." But my voice was super-hoarse from the Rocky thing, talking all night, and now I had a slight cold from being cold and wet. Luckily, most of my guests did the talking. Butch and Bob were there, and Butch spoke from a NASA standpoint that was very interesting. Then I waited an hour, and then was in my 4th panel, "Days of Future Passed." Gecko, Butch, Bob, and myself were there, and we spoke about "What happened to all the stuff they promised us would be around in the year 2000?"

Now I had the rest of the day to myself. I followed Paul, Andy, and Sean for a while. Paul and Andy were going as a priest and a nun for some reason, and while they dressed, we talked more about fandom. Then Paul found out he forgot to bring his collar. We used a dollar bill instead, using the Illuminati pyramid with the eye thing facing out. But we needed tape. Where to find tape? The hotel desk was no help, they just said something really non committal in hopes that we would just go away. Then we noticed that some people were setting up in the convention function space, and we decided to ask them.

It was the wedding party that was double-booked with the convention, thus throwing us out. We stepped into a landmine of stress and decorum that clashed like a dimensional rift of absolute absurdity and perfected normalcy. We had just approached someone setting up a wet bar in front of the large function space, but before we could hear the answer… SHE appeared.

She was one of those stereotyped skinny blond women with makeup that was applied so thick, it reminded me of those over-tanned women who run cosmetic counters in department stores. "Can I help you?" she asked, as aggressively as crocodile guarding her clutch of eggs. Her skinny body was wrapped in a bundle of white fabric that looked like a shiny paper mache. She was not the bride, although she was dressed in white. Right away I knew whoever she was, she was in charge, and we were trespassing in her domain. Paul and Sean gave her space just out of human decency since weddings tend to be stressful enough.

"We were asking if any of you have tape?" asked Sean.

Almost before the word "tape" had ended its punctuation, she snapped, "We don't have anything like that here." Her sentence was delivered rapidly without a moment of thought, and the punctuation stabbed the end of the sentence like a vicious fencing sword, implying that not only does she not carry anything as mundane as tape, but asking any more questions would cause the heavens to split open, and the Earth swallow us up. She did not move from the stairs. Her mind must have acted feverishly fast, because the pause that followed was heavy with, "Are you still here?" Sean later described, "She was in ecstasy from the giant 16-inch dildo of snobiness shoved up her butt," and said in retrospect that he should have been snobbier.

"Okay, then," said Sean in a perky annoying voice. Perhaps he wanted to shatter the tense moment with humor, but the humor was lost in the rift of caste that separated us from the woman on the stairs. "Thank you," he added in a kind of apologetic voice, attempting to switch tactics to maybe get the woman to pity us, or maybe even crack a smile. Her icy stare at Sean slid across his Teflon personality, scraping the air with a frustrated tension that left both sides uncaring. We left quickly, and I watched the woman walk back up the stairs. She had a look in her eyes like she had efficiently snipped an errant weed from her garden of perfection.


The gang: Paul, Lou Ann, Lisa, Sean, Carolyn, Bob, and me in the back.
The gang: Paul, Lou Ann, Lisa, Sean, Carolyn, Bob, and me in the back.
We finally did find some tape. I wandered around the con alone for a while, and then just rubbed elbows with people. I met some interesting people, and part of the fun was, I knew some of them were very famous, but I had no idea who they were! I was later introduced or shown who they were. Here were some of the guests I managed to meet and/or talk to:

Chase Masterson: Winner of a "Most Popular Science Fiction Actress in 1999" by TVGuide's Online People's Choice Award, she is best-known for her role on Deep Space Nine as Leeta, an exotic Bajoran who was married to Quark's brother. Very pleasant person, she is. One of those guests who seems to be all there and focused in on being friendly to those who support her. I was embarrassed that I had no idea who she was (I haven't watched TV Sci-fi in years), but luckily Sean knew her from a previous event where he was in the hotel check-out line with her. Apparently the Doubletree tried to shaft her on the bill (along with a lot of other guests).

Julie Cole: Honestly, if someone had told me as a kid I would meet the girl who played Veruca Salt ("Daddy, I want a goose that lays a golden egg NOW!") in the Gene Wilder version of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," I would have said you were nuts. Well, I met her. It seems that all her agent would give her was photos from that movie, which led me to ask, "Is that all she ever did?" Thankfully, no. I found out that she did a lot of British Sci-fi TV work, but didn't seem bitter about being labeled as Veruca Salt. She really looks like a grown up version of that bratty girl; it must be the jawline.

Yvonne Craig: During the party the night before, some of us wondered aloud what happened to the green dancing girl from the original Star Trek series. She's still around! Not very approachable, but there she was, alone at her table. Did you know she also played the original Bat Girl?

Richard Hatch: Captain Apollo from the old Battlestar Galactica series. I never liked the series that much (too campy for me), but there he was! Nice enough fellow, but he was one of the many guests who were grumbling with their agents about the convention.

Happy gulls and buoys.
I think these seagulls wandering around the parking were having more fun than I was.
After seeing all the guests, I got kind of bored, and since I hadn't slept more than a few hours and walked ALL over the place, I decided to go back to my room before it got dark. I tried to order Chinese food, because I was craving it so badly. On my TV, there was a basket with menus, so I went through them. I called one Chinese food place, but they didn't answer the phone. I looked in the yellow pages, and saw only three more places that delivered. I called another. This place got bought out, and while they don't serve Chinese, the did deliver Sushi and "American Faire," (hamburgers, hot dogs, subs, fries, etc)... I declined. The third place said that they didn't deliver to the Pavillion area because it was four blocks away, and they only delivered within three blocks (kind of a short range, don't you think?). The fourth one stated the number was disconnected. MAN! I was ticked. So I saw a Papa John's menu, and called there. They no longer delivered to my hotel! Arg! But they gave me the new number of the people that did. Finally, an hour later, I got a rather delicious pizza, which I shared with Peter.

After that, I pre-packed for the next morning and just fell asleep. I had a slight cold from the rain before anyway, and I was tired. So I slept away Saturday night, although the partying in my hotel was really loud and woke me up a few times. It didn't annoy me, because I just fell right back to sleep, but I am glad I was so tired. My room was right next to the elevator shaft, and people would hang out an talk while they waited for the elevator. I can't help but feel I missed something.

Sunday - Did you hear rumors about a con this weekend?

Final Imaginecon Attendance Totals
  • Total people thru the doors = 1223
  • Total people from outside Hampton Roads = 512
  • Total people from outside Virginia Beach =859
  • Total people with no city/state listed = 25
  • Most Distance to get here: England
Easter Sunday. Sunday I knew I had a panel at 1am, so I packed up, helped Amira and Peter pack up, and then carried my stuff to the Pavillion. The panel "Dying is Easy, Comedy is Hard," went well, maybe 7-8 people were there. I was with Jody Nye, Bill Warner, and Lawrence Watt-Evens, who didn't remember me, but did remember my friend Dave. Lawrence seemed pissed at everything, and got mad I called him Larry. I then waited for Sean and Paul, who were supposed to pick me up. Sean had earlier invited me to his family's Easter Brunch at his father's house.

Brunch (which was at 3pm), was superb. Best food I had in a while, and good company. I ate with Sean's father, sister, Lou Ann, Chance, and little Scarlet. And the cat Desireé (aka. "Dizzy"), who couldn't be certain whether he liked me or not. We then took a long ride home, where Lou Ann got car sick, and we had to stop by their house for a while. I didn't get home until 11pm that night.

All in all, I didn't really have a bad time. In fact, I had a rather good time, but not really because of the con. I don't want to say "in spite of the con," either, because I have to be fair and understand their point of view. Yeah, they screwed up pretty bad, but then again, this was their first time. I met and bonded with more people at this con than I have in a while, so while I wouldn't say the con was a success... it wasn't a failure for me. *See Sean's version of the con!
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