I enjoyed seeing celebrities (more on that below) - who doesn't? - but for me, the highlight was getting to meet two of my friends for the first time in person. I knew Carol Ford was going to be there; we'd talked about it several times, and she was one of the first people I hunted out. You remember Carol from my interview with her about her Bob Crane biography and through that and some subsequent email conversations I'd gotten to know her well enough to know that I liked her. She was smart, funny, and incredibly knowledgeable about her subject.
who I interviewed last year, and another friend whom I had not previously met. He was delightful as well, and cut quite the figure with a very dashing top hat and cape. A few minutes chatting, and (as it was with Carol) it felt as if we'd been friends for much longer. It was great to see the number of people stopping at the booth to talk Bewitched, and I hope I didn't come across too heavy-handed in telling people they had to buy this book!.
I don't think I can stress enough how much fun it was to finally meet Carol and Adam-Michael personally.* Don't think I'm prejudiced, though, when I tell you that Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography and The Bewitched Continuum were two of the books on my "Best of the Year" list. For anyone interested in classic television, pop culture, or just looking for a good read, these books should be on your shelf at home.
*And neither of them ran away when I introduced myself, which was a real plus!
|I guarantee this is not how we got home.|
Next year, when I'm hoping to return as a speaker and author, I'd like to cover this not as a fellow fan, but as more of a journalist. I know many writers have written about the convention scene in the past, and we probably don't need yet another article, but I think it's a very interesting, literate group of people. We're all nerds in a sense, of course, and most of us know way too much about certain shows, but it still intrigues me as to why we all gravitate toward this subject. Sure, nostalgia is a big part of it, especially since the world has changed so much from that in which we came of age, but that can't be all there is to it. I try to answer some of that in my upcoming book, and I think it's an endlessly fascinating topic. But then, I would.
|The Brig and Captain Jack in front of the TARDIS|
|Side by side: two of the additions to the Hadley library|
The fact is, these items stand out because of the memories that are triggered by their appearance. And those memories, pray God, we'll always have.
We had two encounters with him. The first was on Thursday prior to his meeting with the fan club. We were heading out to grab something to eat, and as it turned out he was walking next to us. He asked my wife if she knew where the bar was, and she pointed the way. Don't mean that in a negative way at all; after a big day of meeting fans, a drink before dinner was probably a necessity.
The other encounter was quite remarkable, and very moving. At the Saturday night gala, we shared a table with a large family of three generations. Among them was a young man in a wheelchair, suffering clearly from both physical and mental challenges; a layman like me would have described him, in the pre-PC days, as being severely handicapped, quite possibly from some kind of accident. At any rate, his sister, perhaps not quite 10, had met Robert Fuller at a convention some years before, and for some reason the two of them had hit it off, and he had met with the family several times since, posing for pictures with this girl and her brother. Seeing Fuller at one of the front tables prior to the start of the dinner, she ran over to get him, and Fuller came over, put his hand on the young man, and whispered into his ear that "Bobby Fuller" was there (calling him by name), that he loved him and hoped everything was well. I was already really impressed with Robert Fuller by then, but that made me even more so. As I said, what a mensch.
And a word about Robert Conrad, who was a late addition. We'd been told he had been in poor health, that last year at this time he couldn't walk by himself, not without assistance. He looked old, and frail. But he was determined to meet everyone who wanted an autograph or a picture or a handshake, staying past the end of the autograph sessions if there were still people in line. He was happy to meet with and accommodate his fans. He stayed through the weekend, insisting on standing at the Saturday night dinner when he was introduced, even though he didn't have to and nobody expected him to, even though it was a struggle and he couldn't do it without help. He wanted to acknowledge the applause, the people who had come to see him. As he said, "I'm not an antique."
|Two of the female stars - Kathy Garver and Luciana Paluzzi|
In fact, everyone seemed to be having a great time at the convention. My wife mentioned that celebrities probably don't go to them if they don't enjoy such events, unless money talks louder than anything, and that's probably true. Nonetheless, the chemistry between all the guests was perfect; the women's panel, featuring Kathy Garver, Luciana Paluzzi, and Britt Ekland was just as funny and almost as bawdy, particularly Ekland. (Her feelings regarding her ex-husband Peter Sellers were not hard to read.) Paluzzi in particular seemed to be having a ball, often the first one to stand and applaud performers, other celebrities, and the staff. I didn't get a chance to ask anyone, but she must have been a blast to work with.
The Thursday night panel was Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood, the stars of 2001. They, too, were old friends, and their teamwork ran like clockwork. I got to talk with Lockwood for a couple of minutes when he was on his way from the bathroom back to the celebrity area, and he was a pleasure. It was interesting to hear them discussing the movie; they both knew that starring in a film directed by Stanley Kubrick was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and they were both apparently quite aware of the significance of the film as they were making it. Dullea, however, thought the impact would be of the moment; it was Lockwood who, as they filmed it, told Dullea that the movie would be a landmark that would be remembered for decades.
For me personally, in addition to meeting my friends and the rest of the vendors, the portion of the convention that was of the most practical interest was in the seminar room. Joe Bevilacqua's presentation on voice artist Daws Butler was entertaining and informative (particularly when Bevilacqua, a talented voice artist in his own right and protege of Butler, started flitting from one cartoon voice to another, often demonstrating the real personages upon whom the voices had been based.
David Krell had perhaps the most informative talk, at least in regards to what I do. He spoke on the year 1962, describing how an original idea to write about that year's baseball season had evolved to discuss the many notable things that had happened that year in politics, pop culture, and history. (The Cuban Missile Crisis, Marilyn Monroe's birthday song to JFK, and John Glenn's flight were only three of that year's events). Krell's talk helped me solidify the structure of my own upcoming book on the relationship between television and pop culture, and to understand why it takes decades to understand the impact of a particular era.
The talks were all good, all informative, but perhaps the most valuable information I gleaned from them was that I can do this. I can stand up and talk about these things. Not that I had any real doubts, but this confirmed my feelings. And this isn't meant as a criticism of these presenters, either. It's more a mark of the confidence I have in my own abilities, in my knowledge of the subject and the development of my theories.
And so, as the sun rose over BWI at 6:30 on Sunday morning, waiting to board a plane that wanted to go on time but had to wait an hour for a spare part, we say farewell to the Mid Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, and farewell to summer, at least for another year. I want to go back as a fan - not only was it fun, but I've found, in a sense, "my people" - the shared interests, the common language, the bonds that seem so difficult to form in this day and age. (Hats off, by the way, to Martin Grams, who does the incredible job of putting this together, year after year.) My intention, however, is to return next year as a participant, trying out my thoughts on the relationship between classic television and American culture. Can I pull it off? Stay tuned and find out.