Slanted Fedora's Tennessee Trek

Johnson City, Tennessee - February 27, 1999
by Kendra Dowlatshahi

Robert Picardo in Johnson City, Tennessee

Months ago when I learned from CARPE that Robert Picardo was actually going to do a convention in my city, I could hardly believe it. I thought there had to be some mistake - or, at the very least, he would have to cancel for some reason before the big day arrived. Johnson City is not known for its impressive Trek conventions, and in my eyes, you can't get more impressive than someone from Voyager - and in particular, the good doctor himself.

To my astonishment, the day finally arrived without glitch or cancellation. Besides Mr. Picardo, we were fortunate enough also to have Grace Lee Whitney and Chase Masterson with us. Ms. Whitney was first to speak, and she talked a good deal about her new book and her life since Star Trek. Not being an avid TOS fan myself, I hadn't given much thought to this part of the con, but I'm happy to say it was a lot of fun. She is quite a charming and entertaining guest, and I'm thrilled she was here.

Next up was Ms. Masterson. She had visited us before and is always a joy. She talked briefly about how she got her role on DS9 (she had originally auditioned for the part of Jake Sisko's girlfriend) and about some of the other work she had done when her career was just getting started (snake handling in a video, for one!). A hot topic during her time on stage was the ending of DS9's run and how things were going with the new Dax. Chase was very complimentary of Nicole de Boer and explained that Terry Farrell's leaving was a business decision. She also said that she would be very sorry to see the end of DS9, and it had become a very important part of her life. She said she would miss working with the other actors, especially Max Grodenchik and Wallace Shawn, the Grand Nagus. I had known for a long time that this would be the show's final year, but hearing Chase talk about it really made me realize it. When she mentioned that she had been notified that Leeta would be in the final episodes, it suddenly hit me that this is the end of a great show. I'm sad to see it go, but I'm very glad to have had these seven seasons.

While I enjoyed Chase's entire time on stage, the thing that impressed me most about her was the love in her voice when she spoke of her son. Her birthday had been the day before, and she told us about a card her son had made for her. It was so touching that she shared that with us. It's fantastic to go to conventions and hear the "inside scoop" about the shows, but the really wonderful thing about them to me is when we can demystify the stars a little bit and see the real people underneath.

Robert Picardo and Chase Masterson in Johnson City, Tennessee

After Chase had been on stage for about 45 minutes, someone asked a question about what it had been like to work with Robert Picardo in a shower scene on DS9. The person who asked the question was Robert Picardo! Chase called him up to the stage and they both entertained us for a few minutes. It was positively hilarious! As everyone can well imagine, Bob got a huge round of applause and quite a warm welcome. He wasted no time in sending the entire audience into gales of laughter. At one point, I could barely breathe! He told numerous jokes about our city and its name, and I highly doubt that any of us natives will ever think of our town in quite the same way again!

The questions started off by someone asking which of the women wore corsets under their uniforms, and Bob very astutely answered that he wasn't even going to touch that question. He assured us that he does not and then went on to say that he also doesn't ever exhale. He has been holding his breath for five years on the show.

The next question dealt with Bob's role in First Contact. He explained that his experience on the movie was very brief and that he only worked on it for about two and a half hours. He said they had actually used Voyager's sick bay set but had redressed it, so he had a feeling of "it's my home, but who are all these people in my living room?" He told us how his role had come about by his giving the idea to Rick Berman, followed by Ron Moore and Brannon Braga, and said that he thought it had worked out very well. He next tried to clear up the rumors about Kate Mulgrew's leaving the show. He was adamant that it in no way would affect the sixth season. The problem seems to come with regards to a possible seventh, but he seemed rather confident that things could be worked out before then. He emphasized that Kate is a "great lady" and is putting her family and personal obligations above her work, which he said is how it should be.

Next came my "moment in the spotlight." I actually got up the nerve to ask a question! I've been to a number of cons before, but I'm not the type to ask a question in a public forum, so this even surprised me! Somehow I thought it was only fitting to pipe up and say something when it was in my own backyard. I asked him if he thought Naomi Wildman, played by Scarlett Pomers, would make any more appearances on the show. I think she's been a magnificent addition to the season this year, so I was anxious to know if he thought she would keep returning. He was very complimentary of her and said she was a "doll" and a "very sweet little girl." He said he certainly hoped she would be back. According to Bob, his daughters are fascinated with why Miss Pomers is on the show, and they're not!

Bob continued to keep us in stitches with numerous tales about his theater work and some of his previous roles, such as on the TV drama China Beach. He told us how he had a hairpiece glued to his head on that show because "back then, in those days, you couldn't be a bald guy and kiss beautiful women!" He also advised that if you're wearing a hairpiece, he doesn't recommend that you wear it under a helicopter!

Not being one who likes to be too spoiled before an episode airs, I was relieved that he didn't tell too much about the rest of Voyager's fifth season. He did throw us a few tidbits, though, about an upcoming one where the Doctor teaches Seven how to go on a date! Hmmm... this sounds very interesting. However, no one mentioned the end of the season and whether or not the crew would get home, and Bob didn't bring it up, so I got to stay blissfully in the dark.

One of the most interesting stories he told was about a trip he and his wife had taken to Jordan on invitation from the then-Crown Prince Abdullah. The Prince had had a short, non-speaking appearance in the second season episode "Investigations" and had subsequently invited the Picardos and Ethan Phillips and his wife to visit his country. They all accepted, and Bob said they had a wonderful time. The country, he said, was beautiful, and he sounded very glad that he had been able to tour it.

Unfortunately, the hour flew by, and it was soon time for him to wrap things up. Next followed the autograph line, and since it was a small con, things moved pretty quickly. When I reached the table, I introduced myself and told him that I was a member of his fan club. He replied, "The cutest women are in my fan club." Needless to say, I enjoyed that very much!

It was hard to believe that the con was almost over. What a wonderful day it had been! Never in my wildest dreams did I think that Robert Picardo would visit a little city in East Tennessee, but he actually did, and I enjoyed every minute of it! My sincere thanks to Mr. Picardo and the other guests for agreeing to come all the way down here to a part of the country that doesn't see too many conventions and sometimes feels very much out of the Trek loop. We very much appreciate the time and effort everyone made to bring it to us, and I hope we will get more cons in the future. I'll end by giving everyone a suggestion: if you haven't ever seen Robert Picardo at a con, go! And if you have, go again! He's definitely worth seeing as many times as you can. Just his one hour on stage kept me laughing the rest of the day. He's a truly special con guest, and I hope I'll be able to see him again someday.


Report and photographs © 1999 by Kendra Dowlatshahi. Report and photos reproduced on the Official Robert Picardo Home Page with permission of the author/photographer.
Maintained by E. Cristy Ruteshouser (

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