Star Wars: Celebration3, Indianapolis, IN
Diana, Csillag, MaceVindaloo, BunchBox, Susu, Runt, Rosie, VagBoy
A few of us had never been to a science fiction "con," let alone a Star Wars "Celebration" type of event. It was truly an experience, and totally worth it despite the fact that it was a huge event with over 30,000 attendees and B-level celebrities and the ensuring chaos which happens. We had been told by previous attendees of C2 that it would be fun and exciting, but also pretty much organized chaos. Okay, it was fun and exciting ... but organized??? Alas, not with GenCon in charge! (More on that later.) Fortunately, with previous experience to rely on, we did not waste our limited time, and got to (mostly) see and do what we wanted.
Knowing ahead of time that it would be worthwhile to have fan privileges, we joined Hyperspace (the Star Wars Fanclub) and bought four-day passes, even though not all of us would be able to attend all four days. It was a better deal financially than individual one-day passes, plus we wouldn't have all those pieces of laminated plastic to have to find on the right days. Though that didn't stop other fans from buying individual entries just to get the passes as mementoes ... we're serious!
Fan membership would get us things like access to fan lines, eaerly entry, the fan lounge, fan access to the C3 store, and tickets to the Celebration at Celebration party. It would have been worth it for the most part, but we did notice that a lot of the almost-draconian sounding rules were not implemented at all. For instance, non-fans had to be accompanied by a fan and show a green "friends and family" ticket to get into fan-only spaces and events ... but no one was collecting or checking. What a bummer! We actually LIKE draconian rules if they really do give us "extras" that others can't have. (That's the bratty "nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah" thing coming out in all of us ...)
Some of us who arrived on Thursday (the first day) and eschewed the $40 membership fee reported standing in the non-fan "will-call" line for up to three hours just to get into the convention center to pick up our stuff! Even the fan line took just over an hour ... the most discouraging thing was walking along the line looking for the end of it. Seriously, you walk around the block ... up the stairs ... across courtyards ... down corridors ... under the cattle-train railway ... within view of the power factory ... lots of Disneyland-esque zig-zagging cattle-pen style roped off lines ... lots of shivering fans because it was way cooler and damper than the weatherman had promised!
Midwest weather in April (i.e. springtime) can be extremely unpredictable blazingly hot and muggy, or windy and freezing-cold, and everything inbetween. Today, it was cool and overcast, but at least the rain held off, which was good since all of the lining up was outside. We did get to see the RCA Dome complex, having to shuffle along most of it. For those fans attending in costume, the weather was a blessing or a curse. Stormtroopers, Vaders, rubber-masked aliens, and wookiees would not be bothered by cool temperatures, but some slave-Leias and Padmés certainly knew they weren't on desert Tatooine or summery Naboo, or climate-controlled Coruscant! Still, they were all very amenable and nice when people asked for a photo with the dressed-up replicas of the movie denizens.
By the way, don't cut in line ... no matter how sexy your girlfriend looks in her Slave Leia costume. You will be remembered for the rest of the con!
When we finally got close enough to the entrance, stormtroopers and bounty hunters greeted us! These were largely members of the 501st Legion a nearly decade-old fan group which started in South Carolina. They play Imperials whether stormtroopers, denizens (bounty hunters, etc.), officers, general scum and villany, and they do so with a deep sense of responsibility for their local communities. Many will attend such things as charity openings and fundraisers, march in the Disney parade on Star Wars days, etc. It's a big thrill to see them outfitted and doing security! And they do stop traffic, too! (And we especially love seeing them pushing strollers in which baby clones napped ...)
The convention center quickly became crowded as fans hurried to see the C3 store (lines were cut off very quickly each day of the con), the exhibition hall, panels, and show stages. Our intrepid first day arrivals scoped out everything that was worth seeing and took note of which shows later arrivals should not miss seeing.
The layout of the hall is a large "L" so one could not actually count on being able to run from room to room to see different things on a tight schedule. Also, when the halls are packed with 30,000 fans, you don't get to move very fast! Some times, the corridors were more jammed than the halls and displays. And many things, like the LucasFilm archive display, which showed props and costumes, had long lines from the get-go. Plus when you consider people with clunky costumes, limited visibility, fans asking for pictures of other fans in costume, heavy packages of purchases or R2 models for the 'droid races, people in wheelchairs, small children, pregnant women (in Padmé costumes!), you don't get to run or even walk particularly quickly. So just enjoy and consider the corridors part of the experience.
There were two costume-based competitions the first one a traditional "catwalk" type of contest. Warwick Davis was the MC for these and it because clear that he did not read the SW-expanded universe materials! "Who makes up these names??" he sighed, more than once, when he had to pronounce the names of fabrics and characters being work or depicted. The costume competition was very entertaining and showed great persistence and ingenuity on the part of competitiors. General Grievous was a particular favorite, as was the life-size Luke on Tatooine complete with Kenner packaging (!) and a life-sized (!) animatronic tauntaun with Han Solo astride! Why do fans do this? Mostly for their own pleasure, but also as part of their portfolio for hoped-for work. Many are theatre costuming majors, seamstresses (especially those who created clothing in the "Padmé" division), actors who do look-alike appearances (like the Vader who make a living at store openings and the like), actors, set decorators, etc. An award would be a nice boost on the ol' resumé, for sure.
There was also another costume competition which was performance based ... many lightsabre demos, songs, "interpretive dances," and one accordian-playing Jedi (singing about drinking beer ... as in "I sense much beer in you"?) Each of the costume competitions was sub-divided into categories to keep things fair. For instance, kids had their own category. And Padmé has so many costumes that inspired so many that she got her own category. The light side of the Force saw many, many Jedi and species, as well as some great Expanded Universe costumes including Lieutenant Kettch of Hawkbat Squadron! The Dark Side showed villains from 'droids to cyborgs, to Imperials, to made-up or little-known Dark Jedi. And "denizens" were those other scum and villany, and there were quite a lot. It did also include species like tauntauns that don't fit into other categories.
Speaking of costuming, there were several panel discussions on how to create a group like the 501st Legion (which received the ultimate accolade they show up in Ep3! Not themselves, but an important group of 'troopers is given the designation "501st" check out the Star Wars Ep3 Visual Dictionary for specifics!). In these panels, discussion of techniques, assembly, care, wearing, realities were all mentioned, and questions and answers abound. The problems of dealing with licensing, sales, etc. were also brought up. There were a lot of different panels for different kinds of collecting, getting into aspects of the "biz," etc. We couldn't attend everything, but in any fan-con, look carefully at the program so any "must-see" sessions are on your schedule. (A couple of us desire to be stormtroopers and denizens, so we ended up at those.)
On Friday, while waiting for late arrivals to make it to the convention site through wild Midwestern spring storms and traffic snarls, we made a point of seeing shows such as the MIT Players' Star Wars, Musical Edition, Charlie Ross's famous / notorious The One-Man Star Wars, and USC's Festival Theatre USA's Star Wars in 30 Minutes that we'd spotted in the program. We dropped in and found them to be so funny our guts ached from laughing so hard! They definitely warranted a second viewing, so we advised forgoing seeing George Lucas on Saturday morning ... besides, people had been lining up since midnight on Friday night in the rain and the cold to be admitted to that! Okay, we're Star Wars freaks ... but we also like comfort (thus our selection of nice hotel!).
We knew the later Huttie arrivals would love the shows, so we got to the large Sagamore Room early enough to get better seats near the front. We're so glad we did, we could see the hilarious cake-walking and tap-dancing stormtroopers! What genius the Musical was! And the other two shows were amazing too ... we understand that LFL won't let them sell videos of the performances, but we are wondering if we should do some illegal taping! It's that good, and we really wish we could have seen these shows more often.
Getting ahead of ourselves a bit here ... As a special treat for the fans, before the Musical began, Master Replicas, a company that specializes in creating working, "authentic" models of movie props, put on a very impressive demonstration of the lightsaber duel between an unnamed Sith and an anonymous Jedi. They were flanked by members of the 501st Legion, giving it an ominous, "authentic" feel. The characters were dressed in very realistic-looking costumes and the duel was beautifully choreographed to show off the lightsabers. What a way to whet our appetites for the movie to come! In truth, the fighters were from a martial arts studio in Connecticut, so it was completely passionate and safe as a demonstration. It was inspiring, and Master Replicas ran out of lightsabres to sell before the weekend was up! (And we bet the martial arts dojo got a lot of people signing up for lightsabre lessons. We love good promotional investments!)
The greatest thing was being surrounded by dorks who truly appreciated this type of entertainment. No explanations were needed and standing ovations came easily! It's like we were all relieved to be with out own, as dorky as we considered OTHER people ...
GENCON SU- ... 'nuff said
GenCon specializes in organizing fan events and conventions, but we all agreed, they suck at their job. They didn't check for tickets for memberships; this may seem "equable" but it's certainly not fair. The materials before C3 indicated that unless you did certain things in a certain order, you would not get access to certain events, places, things, or your loved ones could not accompany you. It was all bullshit, it turned out! No one checked for passes or tickets. In particular, to get into the "Celebration at Celebration" party on Saturday night, you had to buy a $15 ticket in advance, and they had apparently sold out. The tickets were so easy to counterfeit it wasn't funny. We're really surprised there wasn't a riot or a stampede -- there were over 10,000 people in the corridors and autograph hall lined up to get into the party! Why piss off that many people because security (the guy in charge was named John and he was flaming clueless!) is disorganized? The fans were amazingly courteous, what can we say?
What's worse, they didn't have any system for lining up for the party. The security people kept telling us to go into the autograph hall and line up. Then others would tell us to leave the hall. Then others asked who was lined up for the party. As one of us screamed in frustration, "Do they think we're standing here for fun???" Well, yeah, we are ... but this wasn't fun. And the party was nearly two hours late in opening. And it was over-full because no one was checking for or taking tickets. What's more, the party sucked ... the metaphor was a carnival and seemed to have nothing to do with Star Wars except for some songs the band played and the names of drinks like "Naboo Princess" and "Yoda Soda." Big fat f***in' deal!
Basically, they used far too many volunteers rather than paid staff. Rather inexcusable considering how much money they likely made selling valid tickets to the event. And don't even ask about the C3 store! They'd decided to sell only a certain number of items per day, and let in only a certain number of people ... that doesn't sound like a "real" store, does it?? So lines would "cap" before noon, meaning to buy anything, you had to line up really really early in the day, and if people in front of you bought stuff you wanted, you had to wait again tomorrow ... There was even a "7-hour wait from this point" sign for the store line!
What's worse, if you made a turn and walked all the way down the corridor, there was another kiosk that sold a few C3 things, like the supposedly exclusive talking Vader, that you were supposed to only buy one of per day. We managed to get as many as we wanted. And there was also a "order form" desk so you could pay for your items and have them shipped home. Loopholes everywhere!
There's more disorganization re: GenCon, but it would take a whole website to detail them all. We'd never hire them to handle anything, that's for sure. Their website sucks and there's no way you can contact them, either. Grrr.
And those lines ... gah! All GenCon's fault!
SH ... SORTS OF THINGS
There was a lot going on, and GenCon had tried to organize speakers and panels of all sorts, including actors David Prowse (who was a pratt the rumors are true, alas), Kenny Baker, Jake Lloyd, Jay Lagai'a, Peter Mayhew, etc. as well as many behind-the-scenes people like Stunt Coordinator Nick Gilliard, and the art department, as well as actors and crew from the original trilogy like Femi Taylor (who played Oola in both ROTJ and the extended mix, 16 years later! She revealed that there was no skin-suit ... that was just her and a bucket of green paint ... the fanboys nearly had to "be excused" when she answered that question!) and the crew who played Jabba in ROTJ and whined about how animatronics and CG were destroying the art of puppetry ... It was regrettable that many of the minor-minor players are somewhat whiney ... But many others were gracious and felt genuine lucky to have been part of the historical Star Wars universe.
The Exhibitor's Hall, which housed the many vendors, was packed and big. The hall was often so packed you could not see your friends just 10 feet away and cell phones became really important for finding and meeting one another. There was a lot on sale here, even stuff you thought every fanboy and fangirl had already bought up years ago, from Pez dispensers to "monkeyfaced Luke" action figures. There was less of the D&D stuff this time around, replaced as they were with computer-based games. It was a fun zoo, even though some of the vendors were pratts, too. But again, most were cool and nice and helpful.
Cingular Wireless actually outfitted their salespeople in Jedi-like outfits with belts tooled with the company's logo. They also let you pose with their Master Replicas lightsabres by big stand-ups of Anakin, Obi-wan, Vader for photos. And walked the corridors giving out free stuff. One walked around with cellphones in a display attached to him; we thought he should have dressed as Max Rebo.
Things like the LFL Archive Exhibit, the Fan Room which displayed fancar depictions of X-Wings, Falcons, and Vader's "Staff Car" SUV, as well as fan-built dioramas of the Death Star, 3/4 sized X-Wing Model ... well, there's just too much stuff to list.
We must mention the fanfilm screening though one of us opined, "those films suck" and we beat him up. Obviously, he didn't understand the nature of fanfilms! They all actually rocked, naysayers and those who didn't get it notwithstanding. For instance, a great film based on Fight Club required that you not only be Trilogy-literate, but you are a deep fan of the Brad Pitt / Ed Nortion cult classic. The guys behind us who complained, "It started slow," got scowls from the likes of us ... So appreciating a fanfilm is like the ultimate dorkdom!
Remember, art is never passive ... the audience must make the effort to understand the piece, as much as the artist must convey their vision through their medium. And that's not just for SW sh ... sort of things! (It's easy to criticize others, and if you do so without just cause, shame on you!)
Speaking of dorks ... en route home, we recognized many C3-goers in the plane and airports. It's odd, but many SW-fans seem to hide in normal life. We only get to display our dorkdom with other known fans, making C3 a rather unique venue. We can wear costumes and sing filky songs and do interpretive dances about what it means to be Prince Xixor ... and not be ridiculed as "Trekkies" or freaks by our peers. Actually, we see "freaks" as a good thing ... but we don't want to be pointed out for it. C3 is likely the final time in our collective lives we don't have to defend our faith!
So you won't see us wielding our lightsabres in public or necessarily declaring ourselves as Sith Lords (of which Vader is only the 12th, by the way!) or Jedi outside the "online community" of which most of us are members. We have families and kids, believe it or not, and we do need to watch our reputations. But we're around, and we're obsessive, and though we don't live in our parents' basements, we can be just as nuts when allowed out! May the Force Be With You, and see you all on May 19th!!
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