Megacon February 16-18, 2007

A report by Diane Kachmar

 

            This con was set up a bit differently then what we were used to Ė as the con provided money (and nothing else) - for Transportation to and from the Orlando Airport.  There was no way I wanted David to pay $50.00 for a cab, when I had my car.  John and I set out early Thursday from the con hotel to pick up David from the airport.  It was a good thing we came early as Davidís plane arrived half an hour before it was supposed to.

            I had looked at his arrival time and realized there was no way to get us checked into the con hotel and David picked up on time if we did both the same day Ė so we drove up the day before and settled in on Wed.  The roads were (thankfully) the same as the last time I had a conference here.  I found the con hotel where I expected it to be, even though that corner now had different buildings.   Coming early turned out best, as it took the hotel an hour and a half to deliver the fridge to our room and they never did find any of the wooden pants hangers I requested.  I also needed two luggage carts to get all our con supplies up to the room.

            We rediscovered that the gridlock still reigned on International Drive, so we avoided that stretch of road.  After dinner out, we went searching for the Publix grocery store only to find it had moved, but we found it again.  I was reoriented as to where we were staying in relation to the Convention Center and knew Iíd have no trouble getting David in the next day.

            We wandered over to the Convention center around 2:00 P.M. on Thursday to check out the parking and what the drill was.  We parked up front in Lot A.  It was a long walk from the back to the front.  We had to go up a level, cross over and then go down again.  John was concerned that David would not want to do this each day.  I knew from previous events there, I could drop them off ďin frontĒ of Hall C and then go park.  I showed John where that drop-off was and he agreed that was what we needed to do.

            We went to badge pick-up.  I asked if the lanyards issued us meant anything and she said no, but only the guests had lanyards, everyone else would have colored wristbands.  My actor had to wear his or he wasnít getting in.  We tried to figure out where our table was, but they were only now putting up the tables and did not have them labeled.   They showed us their floor plan and we looked in good shape, so we took our badges and headed out to the airport.

            We were glad we left early, as it was twice around the garage to find an open spot near the elevator Ė and then in.  Once in, we found the floor for arrivals, but were in the wrong terminal.   We found Davidís flight on the board with his gate number and changed terminals.  Davidís flight was not on the board at the terminal we ended up in.  John made me get up and go ask the gate attendant, who confirmed I was in the right place. 

            I came back and John said, I think Davidís flight is in; Lou Ferrigno had walked past him.  I went over again and looked down the corridor where passengers are coming out the gate.  Finally I spot a tall, bearded guy wearing a baseball cap with a familiar stride.  I wave.  He waves back. 

            David gives me a big hello hug and asks where John is.  John stumps over and says Iím here.   David questions if John should be there.  John says heís all right and of course he came and starts complaining about the board not having the flight never mind Davidís plane is 25 minutes early!

            We ask David about his flight while we go down to baggage claim and wait for Davidís bag.   I find a spot by the carousel to wait.  I turn around and John and David are gone, so I walk around the carousel until I find them again Ė they had moved closer to where the bags are coming out Ė and David told us to look for lime green grips around the handles.

            John offered to hold Davidís carry bag and David handed it over.  John is surprised it is heavy. David explained he had scripts in there.  John shouldered the bag.  Before too long, Davidís bag came into view.  I liked the grips, so I asked David where he got them.  They will useful on my next trip.  John grabbed Davidís bag off the carousel, and lets him verify the tag.  I pull up the handle and took charge of it.  David started to protest, then let me.  He admitted heís been up since 4:30 A.M. and is looking forward to getting to the hotel, because heís tired.  We take him out to the garage and load his bag into the van.  I gave David a small blue canvas bag with snacks and drinks for his hotel room.

            We head back to the hotel.  David likes to ride with me and I enjoy him as a passenger.   He doesnít have any idea where weíre going, so I tell him what road signs to look for and how far it is.  David was amazed by the wild architecture of International Drive Ė high rise hotels and three amusement parks and a convention center that looked like a space station.  I identified everything for David Ė including the three story water park that really fascinated him, which, of course, being winter was closed. 

            As we pulled up to the hotel Ė I commented I didnít like the color Ė it was mustard yellow. We nicknamed it the Putrid Palace on the spot and it stuck.  So it was, come on, David, letís go home to the Putrid Palace and he would laugh and get in the van and off weíd go Ė down the back road to avoid the I-Drive gridlock.  David checked in and we agreed to meet at 11:00 A.M. in the morning.  That was Thursday.

            Friday we went to breakfast and got ready for the show.  A local newspaper reporter was supposed to come to the hotel and interview David, so I went down and waited and waited, but he never showed.  I talked to Noel Neill while I was there.  She had seen David on the plane the day before and we had a nice chat until her ride came for her.   I told her I didnít expect her to remember me, but I had met her Labor Day Weekend in 1975, when I was 17.  It was maybe 300 people and George Takei was there.  She was very gracious.  Bob May was also in the lobby, he went out with his rolling suitcase and got on the charter bus provided for the fans Ė that ran the three miles from the hotel to the convention center every half hour.

            I knew the con was going to be logistically hard, with the con hotel so far from the convention center, but it actually made for a much quieter hotel stay.  John comes down, tells me David called and wants to know when we are leaving.  I tell him to load the car and then go get David; it is obvious the reporter is a no show.  John brings David down, loads what he has in the van, and then I leave John with David to go upstairs for my con bag.  Finally we are on our way.

            We barely get there before the con opens.  I ended up having to park the van in remote lot D, so I was even later getting in than John or David.  I missed the tile picture presentation, but arrived in time to help John put the wall sign up.  We did okay in the corner, accept that the picture lines fanned out to the right, so the Gigi Edgely fans kept blocking that end of our table, jockeying to get in with her.  We moved the table over further and that seemed to help.

            David was the first one to try the green room next to us.  He came back with a chocolate chip cookie in hand and told me there was ďfoodĒ in there.  So I went in later, had a peanut butter cookie and thanked David for telling me.  We were in there Ė making tea (for both of us) when the jousting in the aisle knocked the green room down the second time.  First the front went, and then the far side fell, followed by the near side, like dominos falling.  All of a sudden David and I are out in the open.  They rushed in and asked David if he was okay.  We were fine.  It missed us totally.  But it did fall on the table where David would have been sitting if we hadnít been making tea.  I was glad when we moved.  David said he could see it falling, so it never concerned him that he couldnít get out of the way.  It was obvious sales were done for the day when the Farscape actors left for their panel, so we packed up. 

            David was not outside when I came around to pick him up, but John was.  He told me to go around again, as David was negotiating the new table and wouldnít be out for a while.  Sure enough, I got waved out and went around and when I came back David was there.  It was back to the hotel for dinner and then up to Carolís room for the Voyage DVD party, which was a total blast.  Voyage is a riot to watch with like-minded people.

            Saturday I woke up tired.  This happens at cons, because the hotel bed is too soft or too hard, I donít have the right kind of pillow, and the room is too hot.  Part of the problem was the cold weather.  I donít run the heat in the South but once or twice a year and invariably when it does kick on and warms the house, it wakes me up.  The hotel had been renovated, but they did not replace the 20-year-old air conditioners.  They were either ON all night or off.  So they ran all night on HEAT.  I finally worked through it by the end of the day. 

            It took a while to get our sales going.  This was odd, because we generally start off strong in the morning and then taper off.  Apparently everyone who was there to buy autographs was in Kevin Sorboís line or Sean Astinís line.  The Battlestar people came later in the morning.  Which was probably a good plan by the autograph seekers because these folks were three hour wonders - they were there and then they were gone.  Once the fans got what they wanted from Sean or Kevin or Jamie or Mary, they would come buy a picture from David, too.

            So I sat for while, while David wandered around the area, looking at some of the other tables.  John went looking for dealers he wanted to visit later.  Finally, John came back and there were four of five folks hanging around waiting for David, so I went out on the floor, found David and brought him back to the table to begin signing. 

            David was concerned when it took me 40 minutes to make it into the hall - they literally opened the doors behind me, but with the lull, it worked out okay.  David was very happy with the table he had picked out and explained to me how much better the location was and that now they could really see his wall sign all the way across the dealerís room.  I gave David my best Mike Myers salaam and told him, ďI bow to the superior Hedison.Ē  

            A couple of guys came to the table early on and told David they were glad he was there, they saw the sign and didnít know he was here, but it was so good to see him, he was the hero of their childhood - but none of them bought a picture.  One guy kept saying he had always wanted a real flying sub, so I teased him about the ďwhere are the flying cars?Ē commercial.  I canít believe he asked David if the sub was hard to fly.  David, to his credit, told the guy, with a totally straight face and a sincere inflection that no, it was very easy to fly.  

            It was going well.  Lots of people, lots of comments about how good Voyage was, how the chemistry between Richard and David made the show, how good David looked and how he could go be Crane (as the Admiral) right now in a new Movie and how much they loved the DVDs.  A personal favorite was the ex-submariner who walked up, showed David his service patch and declared that his 20 years of sub service was Davidís fault!

            Around 1:00 P.M., it didnít look like it was going to slack off any time soon, so I reminded David to take his break and call Bridget.  Davidís not getting any younger and I know Bridget worries about him out on the road, which is why I do all I can to help David at these events.  No sooner does David leave, these two guys show up with these huge styrofoam boxes full of wooden Seaviews, wooden Flying Subs and wooden mini-subs.  We tell them to park, that David is calling his wife and heíll be right back.  It took a while for David to come back - but he sat right down and figured out how to sign the large mounted Seaviews and the tiny mini-subs.  I tried to hold them for him, but David said no, let him do it and he managed to tilt, hold and sign all of them.  He did like the heft of the wooden Flying Subs and they are easily signed on one fin in black Sharpie.  Got that one down.

            We found out the hard way - in Maryland - that the only thing that looks good on the DVDís is silver Metallic Sharpie.  Black will work, but the silver looks better.  We actually gave one fan a bonus - she bought an open set of DVDS that David had apparently watched and didnít want to keep - so she got Davidís DVDS plus his signature.  That was one happy fan.  We moved more DVDs than I thought we would.  Some people still did not know they had come out, while on the other hand, many folks told us they could not wait to get set number four on Tuesday.

            One guy wanted his Flying Sub signed in gold - but the pen refused to go on the plastic and then we couldnít get the gold off - no matter what we tried.  David finally signed over it in black Sharpie.

            Another guy took his Fly Disintegrator blueprint out of the frame and brought it in.  He had apparently found Charles Herbert at another con and David added his signature next to it.  We sold out of Fly posters and Davidís (self-made) Fly lobby card that has him in his tux showing his wife the backwards bowl.  We sold out of the Young and Restless Arthur shot and the Ring and smiling Crane shots.  We sold a lot of the Russian Uniform from Time Bomb, after selling almost none in Maryland.  Go figure.  David would ask them if they wanted him to put in the episode this was from Ė so this show almost everyone got Time Bomb written on it.  No one told David to do this, he wanted to.

            We then talked about Davidís current projects - the Casino Caper audio book, the Uncle Vanya play at Actors Studio West.  David was glad I had read the play, so he could discuss with me.  David likes it when I show an interest in what heís currently doing.  David told me the play is dependent on the translation from the Russian - he had a really good French Translation.  He also told me it was a comedy.  It hadnít read like that to me.  It was a bunch of sad people who couldnít connect with each other.  Everyone in it loved the one person that didnít love them back and too many people in the play were living their lives for other people. 

            I donít know if I helped David any, but he did enjoy talking to me about Vanya and what he was going to do.  David played the youngest male in the play, the 40-something Dr. Astrov.  David freely admitted he was way too old for it.  I think they gave that part to David because itís a lot of memorize.

            David had some Another World fans at the table, who were getting excited that Davidís episodes would begin airing on the Soapnet cable channel sometime later this year.   David reminisced about his Spencer storyline and we talked about Justine and how she gave him a stroke Ė what an acting job he did with that Ė in the spring of 1995.   David curled his hand just he had when he was playing the stroke victim and made the AW fanís day.   She had watched the soap faithfully with her Mom and remembered David as Spencer quite well.   David said, unlike Voyage, which was too old, heíd get residuals when his Another World episodes started airing.  He knew exactly how much he would be getting, too. 

            We mostly got groups, a Mom with two kids and Mom would buy a picture or a Dad with two kids and Dad would buy a picture.  We got grandmas; we got kids buying for their grandmas.  Or weíd get:  my Mom is in a wheelchair (or nursing home) and wanted to come but it would have been too much, so sign this picture.  We did get a few in wheelchairs.  One frail woman came back a second time to ask for a kiss from Lee Crane.  David came out from behind the table and stood next to her wheelchair and kissed her very tenderly on the cheek.  She was so thrilled - apparently sheís had a crush on Lee Crane for years.

            A lot of the women told David he was their first crush, right up there with Bobby Sherman. I had to admit David was my second crush.  I remember watching Voyage when I was 8 years old but I had fallen hard (at 7) for Brian Kelly Ė who played the father on Flipper.  David agreed Brian was indeed a very handsome man and it was unfortunate that his career ended in 1970 with a car accident that left him in a wheelchair.

            Toward the end of Saturday, David asks me whatís wrong, that I looked sad.  Heís said this to me before and Iíve learned to own up that Iím tired.  I was passing behind his chair at the time, so I stopped, leaned over and hugged him hard, for caring.  Then I plopped in the chair next to him and told him I was wearing out, that I hadnít slept well, that I never did with the heat on, but I was hoping (now I was exhausted) that I would sleep that night.

            David said he never turns on the heat in California and that he likes to sleep cool, so he had run the air conditioning to cool off the hotel room and then turned it off and let the cold keep the room cool and apparently it was working for him because he was sleeping.  David said he was tired, too.  I promised David I would take a nap before I went to the DVD party that night, so heíd stop worrying.

            David knew all about the DVD party and had even asked me to tell him about it.  He knew some of it from when the other fans had arrived at 2:00 P.M. and told him about watching The Mermaid.  I had even contributed some comments to that, which amused David no end, because most of the time, I donít talk about Voyage unless specifically prompted to.  One guy did stump me - he wanted to know about the chlorine gas episode and I told him I couldnít tell him which one it was unless he knew the guest star.  He also thought there was a woman regular on the show, and we said, no, that was Lost in Space.

            Oh, there was one guy who wanted to know if David was in THE FBI STORY.  I looked at him and said are you talking about the James Stewart movie?  He said no, the TV show. With

Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.?  And I said, yes, two episodes, The Buyer and A Gathering of Sharks.  David beamed.  He loves that I know all his credits and can name tem that easily. 

            There was this con volunteer who would come over and hug David.  He would say, Hi, Cindy, and hug her back.  The third time when she was practically in his lap, I teasingly told Cindy she needed to be a bit more circumspect.  David laughed and said, no, that hugs were okay.   He did give out more kisses than usual this con.  I guess because they kept asking him for them. 

            David was ready to go by the time the dealersí room closed.  They sent me off early to get the car so I could pull up out front, load up and be gone.  David warned me that NASCAR was in town (the Daytona 500) and that there was going to be traffic.  How he found that out, he didnít say, but David would wander off to the green room or take a bathroom break and then come back and tell me things like this.  Good grapevine.  So we turned left on I-Drive and hit gridlock.  I edged over to the far lane and took the Universal Drive bypass and we got out of it very quickly.  I always took David up and down Universal to avoid the back up on International Drive.  He was happy I knew which back roads to take. 

            We told David to bring his bag to the show on Sunday, so we could take him right to the airport.  We agreed to meet at 9:30 A.M. and try to go over early so I wouldnít have to spend so much time parking the car.  I thought it was very sweet of David to do this.  I had told him not to worry, that driving him and parking and all that was what he had paid for with the transportation money.  I got a lovely hug and kiss goodnight and David went off to his room to pack and order room service and study his play.   He planned to go to bed early. 

            We ate in the bar - lousy service but good (over- priced) hamburgers, then I went to the DVD party.  The hotel was full of NASCAR jackets which made riding the elevators up and down a long wait, so at one point, I climbed the four flights up to Carolís room.  I finally went to bed around midnight and slept.  The air conditioning was driving my allergies crazy, but the room cooled down and if John turned the heat on later, I was too tired for it to wake me up.

            I was woken up by Carol Foss at 7:15 A.M. to come get a note for David because she had a sore throat and was leaving, before she infected David.  So I got the note, went to breakfast and came back to hustle John along as I knew David would be calling about 9 AM - heís always early - to see if we were ready.  No sooner do I get John out of the shower (he takes longer to get ready) and get in, then the phone rings at 8:45.   I tell John to get it - itís David and heís early. 

            David says heíll wait for us.  I knew David was anxious to get me there so I wouldnít have to walk in again from remote lot D, so I finished up and called David back like 10 minutes later and said letís go.  That was fast, David replied.  I said come on down, weíre ready.  So I get all the show bags lined up.  John leaves the room to met David at the elevator and they stand in front of the elevator and talk.  So I join them at the elevator.  We are way early.

            David goes to check out and John and I load the car.  I come back into the lobby and David is still waiting to check out.  He sees me and walks over, saying there is no one to wait on him.  I ask to see his bill.  It says his balance is zero, so I tell him, fine, letís go.  So we left.  Iím supposed to get a survey from Hilton after my stay, so I tell David I will complain for him.

            Davidís plan worked.  I do get to park in the front of the B lot and it only takes me 10 minutes to get in, but there we were with half an hour before we have any customers.  David was glad to see me roll in so quickly.  I thanked him for coming over early and gave him credit and a big kiss on the top of the head, to let him know much I appreciated that.    

            John and I start setting up.  There werenít that many people in the room yet.   About five minutes before the doors open a dealer came over to buy something.  And we were off.  David seemed happy.  I did a lot more of the selling on Sunday and turned John loose to enjoy the con before it ended.  I didnít want to walk around, but John did.

            They brought us water and David made a big production out of getting his open.  Give me that, I said.  I go to twist it open and it wonít budge.  Apparently the plastic is defective.  I finally crack the plastic and get it open, after swearing at it.  David grinned.  I tell him he would get a defective one. 

            David and I chatted about some of his early credits.  When I was reaching back behind me for my notebook to write them down, the chair tipped back.  I didnít quite go over, but I knew if I moved the chair would dump me over.  So I called John to come pull me back down.  David turns and goes, Diane! What did you do! 

            By this time, John has arrived and is pushing me back up and David grabs my leg and is pulling, too, and Iím laughing so hard, I canít explain to David what happened.  John is chastising me for doing such a stupid thing and I had to admit that I should have gotten up instead of rocking the chair back, so it tipped over.  

            We had agreed to pack up at 2:30 and take David to the airport at 3:00 P.M. as we did not want him to miss his flight home and security lines tend to back up on Sunday with everyone leaving.  David said he was going to find a quiet corner and study his play, so he didnít want us to wait around, so we saw him to security and let him go.  Then we went back to the con until it closed at 5:00 P.M. and looked at dealersí tables.  Then we ate dinner.  I told David I would leave the cell phone on and he was to call me if for any reason he got bumped or his flight was delayed, but he never called, so we figured he got home okay. 

            I was wearing a badge that said David Hedisonís personal assistant.  It helps me get stuff David wants from the con staff, plus other actors at the show tend to notice.  Iíve had more than one acknowledge that they saw me running around doing stuff for David.  I had a lovely chat with Wayne Pygram - who played Scorpius on Farscape.  I wanted to let him know how much I enjoyed him torturing poor Ben Browder.  He seemed pleased I thought he was so deliciously BAD.  Then he started quizzing me about David, did I like the work, etc.  He had seen me going back and forth to the green room several times and knew who I belonged to and why it had taken me to Sunday to work my way over to speak to him.  We agreed there wasnít much of anything healthy in the green room.  I came back later and offered him some of Davidís almonds.  I figured it was the least I could do.  Nice guy.  But then most actors are.  Iím sure he got told all weekend how great he was as Scorpius.

            David has to walk fast and John canít anymore, so John would let David go and stump in behind him with the cane and the sign at whatever pace he could muster.  So John is strolling toward Hall C, having already been passed by David, who is pulling the small rolling suitcase (with his pictures), when John gets passed by Noel Neill, who is 87 and who was also pulling a small roller behind with her pictures.  So John got left in the dust by the two oldest actors at the con! Not happy! 

            Noel Neill was incredible, the former Lois Lane was happy to see everyone, and had a totally legible signature to boot.  I hope Iím that sharp when Iím 87!  And that basically was the con. 

 

Diane Kachmar

3/9/07