OFFICIAL FAN CLUB
A Weekend With The Stars
By Doug Wilson
Posted at August 27, 2002
A galaxy of Star Trek's brightest stars descended on Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, last weekend for Slanted Fedora Entertainment's three day convention.
The Trek Nation's Doug Wilson was there to bask in the glow of Avery Brooks (Benjamin Sisko), Connor Trinneer (Charles 'Trip' Tucker), Alexander Siddig (Julian Bashir), Andrew Robinson (Garak), Robert Picardo (the EMH), Ethan Phillips (Neelix), Chase Masterson (Leeta), Max Grodenchik (Rom), Aron Eisenberg (Nog), former pre-production coordinator Lolita Fatjo, and Martin Rayner (Dr. Chaotica).
Unlike previous years when the convention opened its doors early on Friday, this year things didn't kick off until 3pm. As the only item on the schedule that afternoon was a screening of the Director's Edition of 'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,' we opted to arrive later in the evening. After checking in, I browsed the admissions desk to see what was on offer.
To my surprise and delight, Fedora was selling signed 8x10 photos of Ricardo Montalban (Khan Noonien Singh) from 'Wrath of Khan' for only $25, a far cry from the normal $100. This deal was in celebration of 'Khan's 20th anniversary. Of course, I bought mine right off the bat. To the side of the admissions desk where stacks of small, temporary tattoos which featured the 'Star Trek: Nemesis' logo. Being the swift and smart collector, I grabbed a few dozen of these complimentary tattoos, as did my sister. Further 'Nemesis' merchandise was also available - a black baseball cap with the logo embroidered in silver, and a pin bearing the movie's insignia.
The evening's entertainment was 'The Ferengi Family Hour,' which featured Max Grodenchik, his real-life fiancée Lolita Fatjo, fictional wife Chase Masterson, and fictional son Aron Eisenberg. They spent the next hour singing, acting, dancing, and making the entire audience crack-up a few dozen times. The show featured several parody songs, such as Max's rendition of the Sonny and Cher song 'I've Got You Babe' (which became 'I've Got Two Babes'), and The Addams Family theme, restyled as 'The Ferengi Family,' had us in stitches. They also preformed the unfilmed B-plot for the DS9 episode 'Change of Heart,' in which Rom's first wife and Nog's mother, Prinadora, comes to DS9 to try to get Rom back, as well as a wild skit about Grand Nagus Rom, Leeta, Nog, and Moogie's vacation to Disney World - in 2002.
As the evening's entertainment wound down, I stuck around to grab a black and white 8x10 photo of the Ferengi family, who were only to happy to sign it. The first day of this particular convention was over, and I headed back to my room to get some rest. Saturday would be the busiest day of all...
By 10am I was on the convention floor and during my second trip through the dealers' room, I was lucky enough to catch Martin Rayner alone at his table. Taking advantage of the opportunity, I approached and said hello. Since Martin was an "un-advertised extra guest," he wasn't included in the ticket price. I purchased a photo of Martin as Dr. Chaotica, and then spoke with him briefly, and he reminded me of Chaotica's catch phrase, "More Power to the Death Ray!" I then had a brilliant idea and asked if he would mind adding "More Power to the Death Ray!" to my photo, which he did happily. It's such a rarity to have an actor sign a catch phrase, so needless to say this was quite an additional thrill. Martin is currently doing a play, which he didn't mention the name of, and has had to lose his beard for the role.
After locating my mother and sister, we headed to our seats and listened to Martin give a little 10-minute talk before the Ferengi Family took the stage. Lolita and Chase were first on stage, both sporting leopard-themed clothing as they had the night before. Aron was fashionably late, as was Max. Though Chase and Lolita tried to get Aron to join in with the leopard-skin theme, only Max was daring enough to join in, wearing Chase's hat for the rest of the hour. The four answered questions, made jokes, and were quite enjoyable to watch.
Chase stars in a film with Bruce Campbell called 'Terminal Invasion' premiering on the Sci-Fi Channel on September 14th. She also has made a CD which she hopes to have released by Christmas. Aron isn't doing anything outside of the convention circuit right now, though he did joke he was considering becoming a member of the WWF and becoming The Rock's side-kick, The Pebble. Max is currently doing voice work for Activision for various CD-ROMs (that's a pun waiting to happen).
Lolita said emphatically (and filled with disappointment) that there will be "no DS9 or Voyager movie," citing money, the problems of re-building the sets, and low mass-market appeal as reasons. One of the many interesting things we were told is that the former Ferengi have been type-cast by, of all people, Brannon Braga. According to Lolita, Brannon hates the Ferengi, and Max believes that's all he sees in either Aron or himself. Both Max and Aron would be happy to do an Enterprise episode, but they simply haven't been asked. When asked who he keeps in touch with, Aron informed us he only keeps in touch with Armin and Max out of the old DS9 gang. When Chase protested, Aron countered with "When was the last time you called my house?"
Despite their friendship, Aron doesn't keep in contact with Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko), though he would love too. He compared the end of DS9 to the end of High School - although you've made friends and would love to keep in touch with them, you never seem to do so. He added that the chemistry between him and Cirroc was quite real, and they would be constantly cracking jokes on set. When someone asked Lolita what she would have done differently on DS9, she said "the only thing I would have done different would be to have kept it on longer," which was met with a round of applause.
Armin Shimerman (Quark) was unable to attend the convention as he scored a guest part (with has the potential to become a recurring role) in the the new David E. Kelley series Girl's Club. Lolita, who worked on TNG, DS9, and Voyager, was asked why left the franchise at the end of Voyager's sixth season. She replied that she was simply tired of doing the same thing, and although she's been working on The Dead Zone, her contract there runs out in a few days and she doesn't plan to continue. She is currently managing convention appearances for at least 30 actors, including Connor Trinneer. Oddly enough, she agreed to represent Connor before meeting him, and didn't know what he looked like until she watched 'Acquisition,' only to see her newest client running around in his underwear.
Lolita talked quite a bit about behind-the-scenes activities, such as the decision to 'kill' Captain Sisko, which was made by the entire writing staff as a whole. She also says much of DS9's story arcs where planned out from the very beginning, and not just made up as they went along, as Ira Steven Behr knew exactly what he wanted when he came aboard. It was a constant battle for DS9 to maintain their story arcs, however, because Paramount reportedly preferred standalone episodes. According to Lolita, they look for money in syndication and believe episodic series will make more than those with story arcs. She also said that on average, it cost Paramount $1.8 million to make each episode of the series.
Aron revealed that when he received the script for 'The Siege of AR-558' he was under the impression Nog was going to be killed, and was relieved to find that Nog would only loose a leg. He very much liked that development as it showed a little more "gore" than normal, and later gave Aron the chance to do his favorite episode, 'It's Only a Paper Moon.' With that, the Ferengi finished their talk and headed off to begin signing autographs.
After a brief lunch break, it was time for Alexander Siddig ('Sid) and Andrew Robinson ('Andy') to take the stage. Last year, Andy told us he planned to write a second Garak novel, however, that is no longer happening. Although he's received tremendous support from the fans and editors, the "corporate" people reportedly don't care about the work. Instead, Andy has adapted the idea as short-story to be published in a DS9 short story anthology in 2003. He's also rather dismayed and upset at how "out of control" Garak is, and how he's popping up in so many novels. Andy said he would prefer creative control over Garak, writing a novel each year and authorizing his use in other novels as he sees fit.
One audience member asked Sid what else he would have liked DS9 to explore. "I wanted to see more of the spy stuff, more Section 31 and Obsidian Order," he replied, and added that didn't understand how Bashir could refuse Section 31's offer, as the "spy stuff was exactly what Bashir was into." Andy and Sid were both disappointed that a DS9 film didn't appear to be on the horizon at the moment. It's their belief that if 'Star Trek: Nemesis' flops at the box office, the next film will be a "greatest hits" movie, combining the favored characters from various series. Andy said he wishes that DS9 had done more episodes like 'In The Pale Moonlight' which showed a much, much darker and realistic side of war than ever before on any Star Trek show.
The next guest was the one and only Avery Brooks. In six-plus years of attending conventions, meeting actors, and getting autographs, I honestly don't think I've ever been this excited. Avery Brooks is one of the rarest convention guests. Despite his elusiveness, Avery is one of the funniest, most intelligent, witty, talented, stylish and hip individuals I've ever had the pleasure of encountering. He's calm, cool, extremely intelligent, and is quite an impressive public speaker to boot.
Avery entered to nothing less than a standing ovation. He wore a white suit with a multi-colored shirt and sunglasses. Right off the bat, one of the first questions to Avery was, "Who's your tailor?" In the deepest, hippest way, he responded simply, "Sears and Roebuck." He then proceeded to join in the laughter, proclaiming, "It's true! It's true!"
The questions started up fairly quickly as flash-bulbs lit up the room. What's Avery's favorite episode? The same as Sid's, 'Far Beyond the Stars,' with the pilot episode, 'Emissary,' a close second. In fact it was the script for 'Emissary' which convinced Avery to take the role - which he almost didn't accept, due to a comedy of errors involving scheduling, fate, and screen-tests that was only resolved because of Paramount's persistence.
When asked about 'In The Pale Moonlight,' and how Sisko basically had the Romulan senator assassinated, Avery replied that "[the] military and duty require you to do extraordinary things." He used the September 11th tragedy as an example of this. Avery is currently concentrating on his music. He plays the piano and all woodwind instruments except the flute. "And I'm working on the singing thing," he added. In fact, Avery has completed a CD, but isn't sure when it will be released. While on the topic of music, he was asked what his favorite type of music was. He replied as usual, without hesitation, "Good music."
Continuing with the questions, Avery was asked whether he found acting or directing more challenging. While he finds directing more interesting, acting is more challenging. One fan was curious as to why Avery doesn't do interviews. "Unlike some actors, I practice restraint," he replied. "I'm more interested in living what I believe than talking about it." Avery apparently holds the crown for the most bloopers on the DS9 set, saying they happened "daily." Avery also plans to do a production of 'King Lear' at some point.
One attendee was anxious to hear Avery's opinion on Sisko's 'death'. "Ah, but see, he's not dead," he replied. When he received the script for 'What You Leave Behind,' he was quite upset about Sisko's 'death' because "the brown character never makes it to the end." So, he went to see Ira Steven Behr, and Ira looked at him, shook his head and replied, "No, don't you understand? We've made him a god." Though he liked that Sisko wasn't dead, he would have preferred him to stay human because of Jake and Kasidy's pregnancy. "Every parent wants to be there to watch their child, to force their child to brush their teeth," he said.
Apparently, Sid isn't the only cast member who hasn't seen anyone from DS9 in awhile. Avery hasn't seen anyone but Cirroc, who he sees quite often since Cirroc and Avery's son are best friends in real life, and Armin who he saw briefly at a rehearsal in Washington, D.C. Apparently, the chemistry between Avery and Cirroc is quite real. When they first met on set, Cirroc ran over to Avery and hugged him, and said "Daddy!" Avery considers Cirroc "like another son." Avery is also quite a fan of baseball, but he's not quite sure where Sisko's infamous baseball ended up after the series finished, though he suggested someone should ask Nana Visitor (Kira Nerys).
Last, but not least, Avery was asked if he'd participate in a DS9 movie. "They'd have to ask me first," he replied, grinning.
The day was capped off by 'Dinner With The Stars.' Sid and Andy were busy preparing for their play, 'Into The Matrix,' which allows you the rare opportunity to see them portray Bashir and Garak live. After some musical performances from Chase and Max, the lights dimmed, the room grew silent, and we all awaited the entrance of Andy and Sid.
The play is set three years after the end of DS9, with the Romulans and Klingons in orbit around Cardassia, threatening to conquer the planet. The only thing that prevents them from doing so is a plague which is ravaging the planet. Garak goes into what's known as the Vinculum, a place filled with witnesses to everything Garak sees and experiences - his fantasies, realities, thoughts, dreams, and memories. After a few minutes, our dear Doctor Bashir enters the Vinculum as well.
'Into the Matrix' draws upon Andy's novel 'A Stitch in Time' and explores the pasts of both Garak and Bashir. One scene in which Sid portrayed the 6 year old Bashir was so moving - it almost brought everyone to tears. We see Enabran Tain, Paladine (from Andy's novel), Bashir receiving his genetic enhancements, his father parading him around and showing off his intelligence, and at one point a mysterious man in black with blond hair, encountering Bashir as a young cadet asking him what his secret is.
The play was quite complex, and the people who weren't hard-core Star Trek fans were quite confused. I must say it was probably the best 'Dinner With The Stars' theatre piece I've seen yet. I hope Andy and Sid decide to do it again in a few years, as they said this would probably be their last performance.
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