Gallifrey: Blackjack 21

I’ve been trying to convince my roommate Palle to attend Gallifrey One

for years but he had remained unconvinced, primarily because his previous experience with conventions was mainly WonderCon. When they announced Peter Davison as the 2010 Doctor guest he said he was in, and when Davison regretfully had to cancel I was sure he would back out, but to my amazement he didn’t.

Bless his heart, once he agreed he in all seriousness asked me “Which costume should I wear?” (all of them, Katie, all of them).

We headed out Thursday evening, stopping once at BevMo for supplies which I explained fell under the “survival” rather than “luxury” category and one last time at In “N” Out because. well; In “N” Out! We zoomed down I-5 listening to a BBC radio sitcom called Old Harry’s Game to get in the mood and made excellent time, arriving around 1:00am, tired but excited. As we pulled up to the entrance I spotted Mette Hedin’s familiar mohawk hanging with the smokers and hollered over to her. She didn’t hear me but within a second Bryan Little loped over, not to say hi but-because he thought Palle’s car looked neat. He spotted the Danish flag on the sunroof and was surprised to find Palle and myself in the vehicle when he ducked his head down. It was a good omen and a almost immediately put to rest any nerves I had about dragging a poor innocent newbie into his first proper convention.

The Brits and hardcore fans had been arriving since Wednesday or even earlier, so the low floors were already full and we ended up at the very end of the hall on the 9th floor. Knowing the stamina required for this con we unpacked right away and hit the sack. I woke up early enough for breakfast for a change and got my badge and program book. There was no pocket program so I removed the centerfold one in the program book and started marking the things I wanted to see which were plentiful. The Dealer’s Room and Art Show were scheduled to open at noon so I decided to hang my art and be ready for some mad consumerism when the doors opened.

Alas, it didn’t quite work out that way, when I poked my head in to the Art Show around 10:30am there was one person there and nothing at all set up yet, I figured I might as well start my paperwork but neither the computer or printer were ready either. I said I’d check back later and hung around in the hallway chatting and checking back in every so often until finally the flats were up. Sad to say, the hanging process went awry almost immediately and eventually I realized that it was 12:30pm, I wasn’t even half-way done, and I was distinctly Not Enjoying the process. I decided to call it a loss and skip the art show for this year.

Free of that commitment, I joined my friends in the Dealers Room and dropped some cash at the Big Finish table right away to get it out of my system. Springtime Creations had some wonderful new pieces including a very tempting “Blink” necklace, but my budget was limited so I regretfully moved on. I ran into Kevin Roche and we discussed Yipe! for a bit and then I found Palle, who was loaded down with a giant pile of Doctor Who books he had just purchased and grinning like a maniac.

About this time Jason Schachat arrived at the hotel so we met up, got his stuff and our purchases up to the room and I made introductions all around. Within a few minutes he and Palle were dropping MST3K references back and forth and I was utterly lost.

My first panel for the con was the Fraser Hines and Deborah Watling talk. Hines was a hoot at last year’s Gally, but I had not been terribly familiar with his companion or with the Troughton years in general at the time. I made up for that over the intervening year, however; Jamie has quickly become one of my favorite companions and Two — previously the Doctor I was least familiar with — is likewise in the running for favorite. The panel did not disappoint, and it was especially interesting because I had very recently watched Tomb of the Cybermen, which is the only full surviving serial with Watling as Victoria Waterfield. It was thought lost until the early nineties, and is a very good episode with some surprisingly creepy Cybermen scenes.

I got in a nap before opening ceremonies and then dressed for the Friday night party. Merv and Judith were throwing their traditional party, with help from Kevin and Andy. The party theme this year was “Voyage of the Damned” so I had thrown together a vaguely Titanic-era outfit and we headed down a little after 10ish. The party was going well although clearly a lot of folks were still at the casino and karaoke. I tried the drink specials of White Star Line, Gin and Titonic and Banana Kaffa Latta, which were all very tasty, although I mainly stuck with the White Star Line for the evening.

I was sad to realize I had missed the band, Tanuki Suit Riot, since one of the things I appreciate about Gally is that they seem to make an effort to provide a different special one-off event each year. Most recently I greatly enjoyed Offstage’s The Ten Doctors and Toby Hadoke’s one-man show. But as the Masquerade has grown so much and taken Saturday night over, the event is now up against the Friday night party — which is good in a way given how many more people are attending Gally now.

Still, I figured I would check out the casino and karaoke so Palle and I popped down to the convention floor. I could hear singing all the way from the escalator and sure enough the karaoke was still going, with Mr. Tony Lee belting out a Sinatra tune, “New York, New York,” if I recall correctly. The room was packed so we moved on. On the other hand, the casino next door was practically empty and looked like it might be over, so we headed back upstairs for the rest of the night. The party decor was brilliant as ever, Kevin had made a Help screen, there were portholes, and Andy had figured out at the last minute that a quick shave would render him capable of an uncanny Max Capricorn impression.

Leigh Ann Hildebrand and Leo Schwab made it down at the last minute and for a while it was a Bay Area Fanzine Lounge flashback as we sat around shooting the shit. After a few more White Star Lines and a Gin and Titonic I decided to bring my bottle of Sweet Tea Vodka down so as not to drink Merv and Judith out of house and home, alas I put it down on the bathroom counter while primping and knocked it down with my purse strap bathing the bathroom in the heady but tragic smell of spilled sweet tea vodka. For a wonder I didn’t spill a drop on myself though, so I counted my blessings and brought the Tito’s vodka instead.

The rest of the evening was spent in conversation, and I got a look at Mo Starkey’s sketchbook containing some wonderful Who and Tiki images. Eventually it was about 2:30am and the doors were closed, there was a bit of lingering but I was still tired from the trip and called it a night.

On Saturday, although I didn’t make it down in time for breakfast, I did discover that one can still order bacon and eggs even though the “eggs any style” dish is no longer on the menu; I call it a bacon omelette without the omelette. I had missed the Directors panel and was considering the Louise Page talk but it was up against the John Levene one, so I decided to join Palle at that and it was very entertaining — almost a little one-man show. Afterwards we wandered about soaking in the sights for a bit before the Barry Letts tribute, followed by the traditional food and nap to prepare for the evening.

I had volunteered to help Bryan and Mette in the pre-Masquerade green room this year, which was a fascinating glimpse into the process, and a confirmation that no matter how much I get into costuming I’ll probably never submit an entry. Still, I got to see a lot of wonderful costumes up close and the rehearsals of the Brigadier “The Unsung Hero” sketch. My main job, aside from seeing-eye for the limited-visibility Ood costumes, was being a stage ninja by retrieving a prop once they left the stage. Unfortunately the stage entrance was blocked by their exit and the folks getting ready to go on stage so I failed. I was a little surprised, honestly, that the convention didn’t have proper ninjas who would have been able to enter from the other side. Despite my failure it was clear their entry had gotten a very good crowd reaction, so all’s well that ends well. I joined them in the back of the hall and watched the end of the entries before getting changed for the night.

When I got back downstairs I ran into Wendy Newton and we both went to check the dance, which had started but was a little sparse still. We spent the rest of the evening alternating between the lobby and the dance. I misplaced my purse at some point (turns out I left it in the room on a refill trip), found someone’s dropped badge, got quite a bit of dancing in (Youtube’d for posterity, to my horror) and generally got a lot drunker a lot faster than planned apparently (damned Tito’s) but still managed to wake up entirely hangover free the next morning (bless Tito’s).

After a late breakfast I returned the badge to Reg and made it to the “Chicks Dig Time Lords” launch panel which was very interesting, and extra fun since Johanna Mead is a contributor. I spent some time hanging with Leigh Ann, Leo and Jason before it was time for closing ceremonies where the final attendance number was announced at 1,595. For those who had missed it, they showed the special messages from Moffet and Davison.

I took a pre-lobbycon nap, and the roommates woke me up around 8:00pm. While I pondered whether or not to shower I heard someone in the hallway shouting “Fire!” There was no alarm going, so it seemed odd. . . since one would expect folks to pull the alarm first and run around yelling second, but I poked my head out the door and indeed, the doorway two rooms down and across was on fire. Hmm. I told the boys and as I put pants on over my jammies, Palle grabbed the beer and Jason pulled the fire alarm, finally, and got some photos for the ‘zine (our man on the scene!) then we trooped down the stairwell to the lobby. The panicked lady who had been shouting started down the stairs a good minute or so after we did but hustled fast enough that she was nipping our heels by the time we exited.

There was no alarm sounding in the lobby, so we went over to reception to let them know that the fire was indeed real and not the traditional false alarm. And then we drank beer and waited for the hotel to announce it was safe to go back up. Lobbycon had already started so we hung out with Wendy, Kevin and Andy and some other folks for about 45 minutes. The firemen came and went so fast that I missed them entirely, alas, but eventually we checked in with reception and they told us they were moving everyone from the 9th floor down to the 3rd. They provided a luggage cart and up we went to get our stuff. The fire had been small, really, as the light fixture beside the door had apparently spontaneously combusted, but the whole hall smelled bad and god knows what chemicals were in the air.

The new room was the same except with a balcony over the pool and of course, closer to the action. Being the last night we didn’t bother unpacking but I changed into something more respectable and we returned to the lobby for the rest of the night. It was a smaller showing than previous years — apparently several regulars were absent from the con this year, but Kevin and Andy were still there and Bryan and Mette and their friend Maron joined in later. There was a table of podcasters and various other folks. Louise Page and Fraser Hines were there until the wee hours, and the tables piled up with the remaining alcohol from various folks long after the bar closed. Eventually I staggered off to bed around 5:00am after calling in for a late check out

There were still stragglers in the lobby as we got breakfast, said our goodbyes and loaded the car up. It’s always tempting to linger, and even though we managed to leave the convention space the #gally hashtag lingers on over on Twitter with folks posting links and gossip and counting down the days till next year (333 and counting).
~España Sheriff

SF/SF Issue 103, March 31, 2010