Houston Sci-Fi Toy Show
OFFICIAL FAN CLUB
March 22, 1998
by George "Stompy" Kuhr
The plans had changed many times. The show was moved. The dates were changed. Saturday was canceled. Guests canceled. My traveling companion backed out at the last minute. My wife bailed too. But I was determined. I was going. Chase needed me and I wasn't about to let her down.
It had all started several months back in Austin. I was helping out at the Fan Club table and mentioned to Chase that I wouldn't be able to see her in Houston but I would be back for the Dallas show in June. She got a rather sad expression on her face and said, "Oh I'm sure the con will find somebody to help out." Well I felt so sad thinking of Chase all alone that I asked Michele if she wanted me to go. Michele wanted me there, Chase wanted me there, so what was I gonna do? Cancel? So I decided I was going to go to Houston. Good thing too, Chase can't make the June show in Dallas.
I made the plans, I changed the plans, I re-changed the plans. Boy it sure is a good thing that I am flexible and easy-going. Saturday came. I had to go to a Fan Club meeting in Dallas of the USS Joshua since I am one of the Senior Officers. Afterwards we usually go out to dinner and a movie marathon. Since the Toy Show in Houston wasn't until Sunday at 10 AM I figured I could go to dinner and make an appearance at the movie marathon and then go to Houston in the morning. I stayed way too late and got home around midnight. I caught a couple hours sleep and left at 4:30 AM for Houston. It is 5 hours away and I had to hurry if I was going to make it in time. On the way down I noticed the planet Venus in my path framed by a lovely crescent moon. After about an hour on the road the city lights were behind me and I could see the stars. As I was gazing up, I saw a shooting star blaze across the heavens. I made a wish and smiled to myself. I have lived in large cities for many years and haven't been able to see the night sky very well. It was really quite beautiful.
I continued the Trek towards Houston. Luckily there was no traffic and I got in around 9 AM. The Toy Show hadn't sold out so they said the Fan Club Table could set up right next to Chase's. I quickly set up all the flyers and pictures of Chase I've collected over the last year or so. I put out info on CBA and looked over the display. I was ready to go but where was Chase? It seems I wasn't the only one who had had their plans changed. Chase's flight out of LA the night before had been canceled. They re-routed her through Nome, or Guam, or Outer Mongolia so that she'd get in around 8:30 AM after traveling all night. Chase came in around 11 AM looking radiant! She'd been up all night and just glowed. She was dressed in a silver lamé pant suit and 4" acrylic high heels.
Chase said "Hello" to the line and joked about her traveling woes on the red-eye. I had worked with her before so I knew how she liked things set up. The line started moving. Chase greeted each person in line, looked them in the eyes, shook each person's hand, and genuinely cared about each one. She autographed many photos, signed L'il Leeta figures, drew on Chris' wallet (Chris has Chase sign his wallet every time he sees her), and visited with each and every person. We read about this in every issue of the Newsletter but it always amazes me to see it in action. Chase was talking to one guest about the International Space Station, and another guy about his best friend to had been hit by a car and missed the show, she talked to some other folks about Star Trek: the Experience, she knows about so much and loves to interact with the fans. Truly, an incredible lady!
One benefit of working a show that is rather small is that there is plenty of time to visit. Tony Tamayo came down from Austin and was Chase's Official Photographer and Walker. Anytime Chase needed to go anywhere Tony escorted her because she couldn't walk on the plastic platform shoes. Sue Harke from Dallas was invaluable as our gopher and photo chronicler. And thanks to all the Chasers who turned out to visit.
Chase talked to some fans for 10 or 15 minutes each. She was sad that she was going to miss the bluebonnets. For those of you who don't know, the bluebonnet is the State Flower of Texas. They bloom EVERYWHERE in Spring here in Texas. One of the guests came back to the table and asked Chase if he could send her a gift. He is going to go out and photograph the wildflowers and send them to Chase so she can enjoy them when she is traveling. Chase has that effect on people. She is so gracious you just want to give her things. Sure it is only a picture but the gesture behind the photo is what is so sweet. Chase was very moved and it made the fan's day to have that moment with her.
Cristy Ruteshouser from Robert Picardo's Fan Club CARPE came to interview Chase. She sat by patiently while Chase visited with her fans. Finally at about 2 in the afternoon they were able to set up and interview Chase about her life, career, and interactions with "Doctor Bob." We can look forward to seeing the interview in Bob's Newsletter sometime before 2006. Cristy gave a beautiful bag to Chase and her husband went out and got Chinese food for all of us. Yum! Chase showed the bag to people for the rest of the day.
The convention promoter had arranged for me to take Chase to the airport. It was getting late and most of the dealers were packing up. I had no idea how to get to the airport so I asked at the front desk. The clerk had been in Texas for about 2 weeks and still was trying to find her house so she wasn't much help. I had driven by the airport exit on the way to the show so I had a general idea of where it was but I had never been to the actual airport and Houston Intercontinental is a BIG place, even by Texas standards. I asked Chase what time her flight was, assuming it would be around 8 or 9 at night. She looked at her ticket, "5:15," she said. Yikes! It was after 4 o'clock already and the airport was 45 minutes away. I tried to hustle Chase out of the room. Any of you who have closed a show with Chase knows what I mean. She visits again with everyone and invariably goes back to buy things for people she's forgotten to get gifts for. By the time we left the hotel it was 4:30 PM and we were 45 minutes away from an airport I had never been to.
"Stompy, do you know how to get to the airport?" she asked me.
"Well I have a pretty good idea," I sheepishly ventured.
We started off and went about 5 miles when traffic slowed down. There was a big traffic jam and we were still 30 miles away from the airport. We limped along, inching forward.
Chase was starting to get nervous, she needed to get back to LA that night! "Stompy, can you go a little faster?" she asked. I gave it a try, now zooming along at about 7 miles an hour. We made it through the traffic jam and I put the peddle to the metal.
I looked out the window and noticed the bluebonnets in bloom. "Chase, I'm afraid you're not going to make your flight, but at least you get to see the bluebonnets."
She looked out the window and cooed, "Oh how beautiful..." Chase had been up for around 17 hours straight and was upset that she was going to miss her flight. It was all too much for her, she started to fade out. She put her head down and fell asleep. She has a really cute snore. I raced as fast as I could, afraid Monday's headlines would read, "Crazed fan crashes Leeta into guardrail." We found the airport very easily. Houston's city planners need to be congratulated on their signage and city set-up. Still, this is Texas and the road from the entrance to the gate can be another 20 minute drive.
I screeched around hairpin turns and went as fast as safety would allow. We pulled up to the entrance at 5:20 PM and amazingly enough found a place to park. I sent Chase in to see if she could catch her flight and I schlepped in the bags. The gate clerk was very confused and had no idea how to see if the flight had left. He gestured wildly and uttered a few magic incantations. It had gone 8 minutes ago!
We asked about another flight to LA. There was one at 5:30 but we had to go to the gate to find out if there was any room on it. It was now 5:26. It was Texas. Each gate is about 100 miles away from the next one. We had to get to Gate 23 in four minutes. We dashed through the X-Ray machine and started off down an endless hall. I asked Chase if she wanted to see my OJ impression. She didn't get the joke so I said, "I'll race you!" Now realize that I am a big guy. It must have looked pretty funny to see this 300 pound guy with a huge box of pictures and a flimsy little outfit over one shoulder and this 5'0" barefoot sprite running through the airport.
We got to the gate and they were finishing off the last standby passenger and closing the gate. "Not again!" I sighed. They miraculously found a seat for Chase. She had to dig through her bag for some shoes to wear and was about to leave when she told the flight attendant to wait a minute. She put all of her things down and turned to me and gave me the biggest hug I've ever had. "Thanks for everything Stompy," she said in my ear. They whisked her off onto the plane and back home to Los Angeles. I was out of breath and my heart was beating rapidly but I think it was more because of the hug from Chase then our harrowing adventure. She is one very gracious lady.
Wishing upon a star really works.
George "Stompy" Kuhr
[Back to main news page]