Last year was my first time attending Gallifrey One, the Los Angeles-based Doctor Who convention now in its 19th year. So naturally I returned this year in a staff position, ‘cause that’s what happens when you associate with SoCal fen ― you wake up one morning assimilated into their ranks without knowing quite how it happened. (Ok, maybe I exaggerate a little. The truth is that one of my very first volunteering experiences back during Confrancisco was being a rover for the head of security, Robbie Cantor, now known as Robbie Bourget, chair of Gallifrey One amongst other things.)
I arrived at the hotel early Friday morning, and just like the last two times I’d arrived before check in time, the LAX Marriott found an available room and got me comfy right away. I unpacked and settled into the smallish room ― I am always surprised at how little this hotel’s rooms are, but since I didn’t plan on spending a whole lot of time in there, the bed size mattered much more to me than extra floor space. I was amused to note that the room had apparently been recently painted, since the door handle to the bathroom was still covered in blue masking tape which I left on there: Let’s see if someone spots it still there when LosCon rolls around in November.
I picked up my badge and hung my art, and since the Dealer’s Room was not open yet I figured I’d put in some work hours. Since my official position was somewhat alarmingly listed as Assistant to the Chair, I went and found Robbie to receive my orders. I got assigned to work pre-reg for a few hours, which was actually quite nice. Registration was brisk, and sitting beside the information desk meant I learned a bunch of stuff and was occasionally pressed into service as the information person myself. One of the fun facts I learned was that Joel Hodgson of MST3K fame would be showing up on Saturday for a talk about his new Cinematic Titanic project and might stick around to sign stuff. I was tempted to immediately call my roommate and make him jealous, but cell signal on the convention center level was as bad as ever, despite valiant attempts by convention staff to install some cell relays.
Eventually I escaped the clutches of the reg office and headed up to get some rest before the evening’s festivities. The big event for the evening was the Masquerade, but as is often the case I ended up sleeping right through it. Bay Area favorites Brian Little and Mette Hedin, who were attending Gallifrey for the first time, walked away with Best in Show for their Lady Cassandra which I had seen at SiliCon and I can imagine was a huge hit with the whofen present. I managed to see a few of the costumes once I got into my own aviatrix outfit and hit the party floor. Or to be more accurate, the party room, since the League of Evil Geniuses was the only party this year, with everyone dividing their time between their room, the lobby area outside of the hotel bar, and the Consuite, which closed a bit early for my tastes.
I tried an absinthe and champagne drink that was surprisingly tasty and ran into Merv of the Bay Area Doctor Who fan group Legion of Rassilon who had introduced me to the Nassau rum previously and promised similar goodies at his party the next evening. I also ran into Dan Harris, who runs the Who Cruise which was scheduled to depart on Monday after the convention. He was my roommate last year. Kevin Roche was wearing his Jungle Boy outfit which is always a crowd pleaser, and Johanna was wearing a Fanboy Appreciation costume in latex which seemed to be equally popular. Things were still swinging when I called it a night around one a.m.
Saturday I had been roped into running something called The Long Game, which was apparently cooked up when persons who should really know better noticed that the carpet in the Meridian Ballroom resembled some sort of gameboard. Convoluted rules where invented and unwitting fen were used as guinea pigs and lo! many hours of suffering ensued. Knowing little of this I agreed to run it along with Tadao this year. From noon until four in the afternoon I watched the slow obsessive progress of determined fen across the carpeted hall towards the end-point patch of carpet labeled Gallifrey, with much conniving, rules lawyering and cursing until the kids showed up (except that one time, sorry!). It was excruciating yet oddly compelling, like playing Monopoly against family members. We were all grateful when it was finally over, so naturally I have all sorts of ideas about how to run it next year.
I had intended to leave my duties early to see Joel speak but miscalculated how long his panel would run, so when I got back down to the programming area he was already in the dealer’s room signing. Now, I rarely get things signed and when I do it’s usually books, but this was a rare opportunity. I got an MST3K DVD as backup, since I had been warned that he might not have brought enough of the Cinematic Titanic DVDs for signing, and then I stood in the longish line. I also usually hate standing in line for things but Johanna wandered up with a cute plushie Cybermat called Delete and was kind enough to keep me company while I waited.
As my turn came up Bob May, better known as Robbie the Robot, wandered up and introduced himself to Joel and some amusing geeking ensued between the two of them. I am glad to say Joel was charming and spelled my name right. Also charming and an equally good speller was May himself, from whom I purchased an awesome robot. My consumerism was rounded out by stopping at the Big Finish table and grabbing two Eighth Doctor audios; “Seasons of Fear,” which is one of my two favorites ever and I which wanted to get signed by Paul Cornell and Carolyne Symcox, and the newest Eight called “Time Works,” which will entertain me on my commute next week.
I badgered Tadao into sitting down and getting something to eat for dinner and was quite proud of myself until the restaurant proceeded to add bell peppers to basically everything they could think of, triggering his allergies. So at least he got plenty of sleep that night. I myself thought I was taking a nap until I woke up at around midnight.
Sunday was already the end of the convention, something that always catches me by surprise at shorter cons. As a bookend to the previous evening’s staff assassination attempt, Robbie came down sick with something herself. As assistant to the chair, this meant I had the extremely daunting task of doing her usual charity auction job of keeping tally of the bids, bidders and items won. Luckily there was a lovely fellow called Chad doing this alongside me and he was able to show me the ropes. The auction ended up being quite fun once I was able to relax a little and pay attention. The Torchwood kids helped out as runners for the majority of it, thank goodness, else it would have been chaos. I was pretty bushed by the end of the auction but rather pleased with the fact that my math had been up to the task in the end. We ended up raising over $3,000 for the charity and on a whim I snagged a couple of signed name cards for Cornell and Symcox.
By the time that was over it was past six o’clock and closing ceremonies were already underway. I popped over briefly but the room was packed to overflowing, so I started helping with tear down and truck loading. After a couple of hours the hallways and rooms were bare of our presence and there was little left for me to do, so I called it a night. I showered and changed and proceeded to spend probably the most fun evening of the convention hanging out in the lobby area drinking black and tans with Johanna and the Torchwood kids, meeting a fan from Philadelphia who was attending his first convention since the mid-eighties and was heading out on the cruise the next day, and finally getting “Seasons of Fear” signed by Cornell and Symcox who were very gracious about being bugged outside of business hours as it were. I eventually ended up with a bunch of folks in the former LoEG party room until three or four in the morning. Perhaps the most exciting part of the evening, however, was when someone whose name I have sadly forgotten sat down and discovered a wallet had been left behind. I asked her to open it and see if it was someone one of us might recognize, and it turned out to belong to Carolyne Symcox! After a heady moment during which I considered how best to barter this hostage to affect future Doctor Who continuity, I turned it in to Robbie instead. I shall never make a proper archvillainess, alas.
Monday is traditionally the cricket match day, but there was none scheduled this year so I extended my already luxurious 1 p.m. checkout to 2 p.m. and had time for breakfast and packing at a leisurely pace before leaving the now sadly empty hotel. Before heading back to the Bay Area I did get to help unload the TARDIS over at the LASFS clubhouse and grabbed some In-and-Out, rounding out a very satisfactory trip.
As the rather tipsy fellow who brightened our convention experience towards the wee hours of Sunday night put it, truly this was the best Doctor Zhivago convention ever.
SF/SF Issue #62, March 19, 2008