Sunday was not a kind day for our favorites in the entertainment world. Mere hours after the passing of Caroll Spinney, the kind soul behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, we were further saddened to hear about the passing of actor Rene Auberjonois from lung cancer at age 79. Many a youth cackled at his small but lively role in Disney’s The Little Mermaid as the French chef who tries to turn Sebastian the crab into an appetizer, but he’s been around since I was a kid. His repartee with Robert Guillaume on ye olde sitcom Benson (among other fine costars including Star Trek: Voyager‘s Ethan Phillips) taught me the comedy value in sparring opposites and well-timed barbs. It probably also taught me that haughty, no-nonsense stuffed shirts had much to learn about being kinder to coworkers, so there’s that value.
I didn’t hear the news till earlier today of the September 21st passing of actor Aron Eisenberg. We didn’t realize he wasn’t that much older than us. Age 50 is far, far, far, far too young. Really, all ages are far too young, but you know what I mean. I’m not sure my thoughts run more deeply than “This really, really sucks,” but we do have a few mementos for our remembrances.
On Friday my wife Anne and I had the sincere pleasure of attending the inaugural Louisville Supercon, run by the company responsible for Florida Supercon since 2014 and Raleigh Supercon since 2017. Like many convention companies they’ve now turned their attention to the Midwest, which has been enticing and enthralling show promoters for a good five years now, ever since they noticed some of our states have money and geeks in them, in that order. Mind you, I’m not complaining.
Our first venture into the state of Iowa left a lot to be desired, but it was a milestone in our travels: the first time we ever visited the birthplace of a famous personality before they were born.
Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. From 2004 to 2011 we recounted our experiences online at length for a close circle of friends. From 2012 to the present we’ve presented our annual travelogues here on Midlife Crisis Crossover for You, the Viewers at Home, which I’m grateful includes some of those same friends. (For newcomers to the site, our complete road trip checklist will direct you to hundreds of previous entries covering our explorations, including remastered retellings of our pre-MCC outings in 2001, 2006, and 2011.
Every tradition begins somewhere. As longtime friends and readers might expect, ours began with a convention.
A battleship turned into a museum was a fascinating concept in itself. Their vintage aircraft collection was a value-added bonus. But for our money the greatest exhibit of all aboard the USS Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum was a premium exhibit space on the upper deck showcasing the great-granddaddy of the American Space Shuttle program, the one that started it all, the Space Shuttle Enterprise.
Parked beneath the Enterprise is a second vehicle: one of the shuttles used in filming episodes of the original Star Trek series during its 1966-1969 run. Because someone among their ranks has dual senses of humor and awesomeness, we have the Enterprise shuttle and an Enterprise shuttle, basking together with an aura of simulated starshine for ambiance. Call them the Astrodynamic Duo.
Thirteenth time’s nearly the charm for the long-running film series, which needed to make up for the ground lost by JJ Abrams’ 2013 superfluous Wrath of Khan remake. This time around the Powers That Be went with a different style of director — Justin Lin, mastermind behind four Fast and the Furious entries, including the one where nearly all the heroes teamed up and became the AAA Avengers with their very own Fast and Furious Cinematic Speedway. Lin knows a little about diving into established universes, and a lot about spectacularly timed whiz-bang action sequences. I assumed sight unseen that Star Trek Beyond would therefore have some of the best starship battle sequences in all of Trekdom (or at least it had better), but would he be capable of the kind of cerebral depth that the old-time fans demand from their Enterprise crew?
My wife and I once, and only once, stood in the same area code as Leonard Nimoy. On Thanksgiving weekend 2001, Nimoy was one of the most special guests at Indianapolis’ annual Star Trek convention, during the dark-ages period when it was run by a notorious out-of-state company. The autographs and fleeting moments with all non-Nimoy actor guests were included in the ticket price, years before al-a-carte autographs at skyrocketing prices became the industry norm. In-person autographs from the esteemed Mister Spock were permitted only to VIP attendees who paid extra for the Saturday evening “Dinner with the Stars” gathering; all other attendees like us received non-personalized pre-signed photos with admission.
That’s ours scanned and shown above. At the time Anne and I were best friends with separate low-rent apartments and not much disposable income to pool together. The VIP package was beyond our means, but we were thrilled simply to inhabit the same building as the greatest science officer in pop culture history.
We had terrible seats at his Sunday Q&A, near the back of the long, long ballroom. We have no live photos of him from this occasion because our primitive 35mm cameras were useless against the vast gulf of heads between us and the stage. And yet…what mattered most was we were in the same room as The Leonard Nimoy.
Captain’s Log, stardate 2114.198, Day Three of our trip. Our time frame, destination, and course were all charted months before our missions were chosen. During the itinerary process we discovered one optional assignment that was not indigenous to our target area, but had been established in the Twin Cities area a mere two months before our arrival. While surveying the metropolitan areas themselves was our primary objective, my First Officer and I agreed this might be the sole opportunity of our lifetime to take advantage — not only as a recreational side quest for the sake of our crew (both of us), but as a fact-finding investigation for our colleagues back at HQ.
So that’s why we returned to the Mall of America: not because we love shopping (meh), but because we figured such excellent timing obligated us to check out the traveling museum tour known as Star Trek: the Exhibition.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: on Thanksgiving weekend my wife and I attended the nineteenth Starbase Indy, a homegrown, fan-run convention that’s more intimate than your Wizard Worlds and more stable than your out-of-town, fly-by-night upstarts.
Part One was the costumes; in Part 2, the actors and special guests. A few even dressed up for the occasion.
On this weekend in 1988, the inaugural Starbase Indy introduced Indianapolis to the amazing world of Star Trek conventions, though it later expanded its dominion into other sci-fi TV shows. Setting aside several years skipped during turbulent times, SBI is one of the most persistent fan-run geek conventions in Indianapolis. It’s a fraction the size of Gen Con, Wizard World, and our other regular cons, but we’ve attended SBI more times than we have any other con. The smaller scale allows for shorter lines and less suffocating crowds, while still attracting talented guests from shows and works we know rather well (and some we don’t). For local geeks such as my wife and myself, it’s a regular highlight of our average Thanksgiving weekend, more fun and with far fewer confirmed fatalities than Black Friday.
2014 marks SBI’s nineteenth iteration, and a more diversified guest list not only from Star Trek, but also from the worlds of Stargate and Battlestar Galactica. Before we cover the guest list, though: mandatory costume photos!
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
This weekend was that time again: our annual excursion to Rosemont, IL, for Wizard World Chicago. My wife and I took plenty of photos as usual, many of them usable. We’ll be sharing those over the next several entries…
…and so on. Part Six, then: the actors we met, along with a few folks from the wonderful world of comics.
We saved up for months to bankroll this outing. The guest list blew our minds. Some of them were the the highest-ranking names on my wife’s long-standing autograph want list. A few were people you’d never expect to fly out to the Midwest for pretty much any reason. So we made it work. Costs were cut in other areas of life. Discounts were researched and implemented. We ate cheaply for a while, and we’ll likely continue doing so while we’re catching up after the fact.
Honestly: unless you live in New York, L.A., London, or San Diego, how often in your lifetime will a genuine Doctor of recent vintage appear anywhere within 200 miles of your hometown? So yeah, we took the plunge and met former Doctor Who star Matt Smith for a jolly, five-second photo op. To be honest, the photo-op price was a better deal than his autograph prices.
I rarely trumpet this service, but Midlife Crisis Crossover maintains an open policy of Ask Almost Anything, which extends not only to regular readers and commenters, but also to constant Likers, silent Followers, and fleeting passersby. If you have a question, a suggestion, a comment that’s constructive or Dadaist, or a listicle request that the mainstream media refuses to attempt, simple reply here or to any other post of the vaguest tangential relevance, and our trusty MCC staff will be happy to escalate it into a Main Topic for a future entry and explore the subject further in depth. Or I might just reply to your comment, who knows.
Every so often we also review queries and curious sentence fragments from passing search engine users, because even the silent, fleeting passersby deserve to be heard, even if they’re no longer around to find the answer they needed. Because I need a break from movies and I’m working six days this week, a quick dive into the ol’ mailbag feels like a nice way to relax for a few minutes.
* the real life of capatian jack sparrow/ not the movie
Few moviegoers realize the character of Captain Jack Sparrow is based on the exploits of real-life pirate Jakub Sperovicz, a pirate from Warsaw who was renowned for his lifelong battle with rum addiction, his eventual arrest on multiple counts of boatjacking, and his CG monkey. During his heyday Sperowicz was in his mid-60s and suffered from chronic psoriasis. His story was tweaked a tad for typical Hollywood purposes.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: photos and notes from this year’s Starbase Indy, an annual Indianapolis sci-fi convention my wife and I rather enjoy. Last time we showed you the costumes: this time, the guests.
The headliners: two main cast members from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. At far left: Armin Shimerman, who played Quark, the devious Ferengi bartender. At far right: Rene Auberjonois, who played Odo, Changeling security head. If your TV experiences resemble mine, you’ll also know them as Principal Snyder from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Clayton Endicott III from the old sitcom Benson.
On this weekend in 1988, the inaugural Starbase Indy introduced Indianapolis to the amazing world of Star Trek conventions. Though it later expanded its purview to include other sci-fi TV shows, and was in limbo for a few years during a dark era (long story), its current owners and staffers have spent the last ten years valiantly returning to its glory days and rebalancing the original confluence of actor appearances, hobbyist events, and fan participation/interaction. For local geeks such as my wife and myself, it’s a regular highlight of our average Thanksgiving weekend, more fun and with far fewer confirmed fatalities than Black Friday.
2013 marks SBI’s eighteenth iteration and its twenty-fifth anniversary (for the asynchronous discrepancy I again point you to “long story”), but shows no signs of deterioration. If anything, this was the most efficient SBI yet — speedy photo op lines, gregarious guests all happy to be here, multiple events requiring more room space than usual, wider snack selection in the Con Suite. Best of all: two of the headliners were main cast members from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the greatest Trek series of all time in our household.
Naturally there were also costumes. Apropos of our ongoing TV marathon (as previously mentioned), we had to mark the occasion by meeting a Doctor.
Most of you have already seen the new “announcement trailer” for Star Trek: Into Darkness, apparently heralding the real teaser trailer scheduled for release on December 17th. Internet fans continue debating the exact identity of the villain played by TV’s Sherlock, the inimitable Benedict Cumberbatch. The early rumor-mongers assumed he was Khan, but the more recent consensus is the superhuman Gary Mitchell from the original series’ second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. 1966 special effects limited Mitchell’s displays of power, but if that’s SuperCumberbatch’s true identity, then today’s cinematic tools have upgraded him to the same weight class as General Zod, Hancock, and the Chronicle teens. I look forward to seeing him punch the Enterprise out of orbit, and to watching the new Captain Kirk devise something besides an instant avalanche to end their rebooted confrontation.
After Mitchell’s ostensible facelift and the redesigned Romulans who menaced our new crew in director J.J. Abrams’ first Trek film, it’s safe to assume other classic Trek villains are vying for their turn in line to be extracted from mothballing and upconverted for future sequels. The possibilities are many:
* Apollo: The alien in a toga from “Who Mourns for Adonais?” who pretended to be the original Greek god impressed me when I watched the episode as an eight-year-old. In today’s world, imagine Our Heroes taking on an Apollo straight out of the new Clash of the Titans, all muscles and bone-crunching sound effects and flared nostrils and blinding lens-flare armor. Considering that Luke Evans had so little screen time in the Titans role (his one big scene was deleted and made him look petulant), he could reprise the role here and enjoy actual screen time for a change, not to mention superpowers.
Let’s face it: costumes are the real reason to attend a sci-fi convention. Celebrities are okay. Talented writers and artists are nice to meet if they’re not terrible people. Panels, Q&As, and fan club meetings are great opportunities for great minds to hang out together. There’s also something to be said for wandering the dealers’ room for new hobbyist purchases, whether new items you’ve never seen or vintage collectibles you could never afford. My wife and I even attended an interesting lecture on nineteenth-century forensics, which drew comparisons between the original Sherlock Holmes stories and later historical developments in the field.
When it comes to Internet recaps, though, costumes are the main attraction. They celebrate our favorite characters, they showcase the creativity and inspiration of dedicated fans, they enliven the dullest moments of any convention, and they help distract us from garish hotel carpeting.
Among the best of this year’s bunch: a pink samurai, hanging out for a moment here with one of Indianapolis’ own Naptown Roller Girls.
Despite the focus of Part One on Klingons extraordinaire Robert O’Reilly and J. G. Hertzler, they weren’t the only unforgettable personalities appearing at this year’s Starbase Indy convention. For Trek fans who’d attended previous cons (and therefore already had the chance to meet each Klingon warrior), the headliner would be Nicole DeBoer, making her first Indianapolis appearance. She’s known to us as Ezri Dax, a season-seven regular from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, who had big shoes to fill when Terry Farrell’s Jadzia Dax exited the series.
As if Black Friday weren’t busy enough, my wife and I attended the seventeenth iteration of Starbase Indy on Friday and Saturday. This fan-run Star Trek convention is a longtime Thanksgiving weekend event that she and I have done several times (see previous entry). The convention cordially welcomes actors and fans from other shows and universes as well, but Trek still commands center stage.
Two of this year’s guests approached their Saturday Q&A with an unusual flourish. Fans of Star Trek: the Next Generation and Deep Space Nine will remember Robert O’Reilly as Chancellor Gowron, ruler of the Klingon Empire and frenemy of Worf. Don’t let his now-genial features fool you. Once upon a time, Gowron’s gaze was penetrating and frightening. Today his voice is no less stentorian.
J. G. Hertzler was DS9’s General Martok, a longtime ally of Worf, key player in the Dominion War, and successor to Gowron upon his death at Worf’s hands. As with O’Reilly, Hertzler could still be heard at the back of an auditorium even when his microphone malfunctioned.
O’Reilly and Hertzler shared a Q&A on Saturday in style. With the remarkable assistance of makeup artist John Paladin, the dastardly duo spent a few hours donning familiar faces and uniforms that the fans haven’t seen in a very long time.