At first glance, it may seem like the title of this piece is a lead-in to some strange fictional tome. But trust me, the story is true.
The last weekend of April of this year, Calgary hosted their annual “Comic Con” – a gathering for vendors of (mostly) useless, but really really cool stuff for us lifelong geeks to go and waste our hard-earned (or, in the case of many university students, borrowed) money on acquiring.
At this point, it behoves me to mention that I’m not trashing anyone or anything. I also have spent my hard-earned money acquiring (mostly) useless stuff. I, for example, have a radio-controlled Dalek. Why, you ask? Because I can! That’s why!
See? I’m just like the rest.
Let’s face it, a radio-controlled Dalek is pretty much a waste of money. It doesn’t actually do anything, besides trundle around saying “Exterminate!” Every now and then. When I first acquired the Dalek, a smuggled into my mom and Dad’s house and set it behind my mom while she was talking on the phone. She hung up, turned around, and just… Stopped.
The dog looked up. My mom rolled her eyes and gave me the oh-my-god-you-didn’t look.
“Halt! Or you will be exterminated!”
The dog got up and came over, ears pricked up and smelling this strange talking piece of black plastic.
Then the Dalek moved. Backwards.
The dog went nuts, barking at it. After a few minutes of a tense canine-Dalek standoff, my wife came in and negotiated a truce.
“A truce,” of course, defined as my wife telling me to stop annoying the dog and turn that damn … toy … off.
Since then, the Dalek has pretty much sat atop a set of shelves from Ikea (I have common sense, after all) gathering dust.
Now imagine a “convention” (read: trade show) filled with geeks selling similar stuff to other geeks. Some geeks, dressed like Imperial Stormtroopers, or (much to my liking) Na’vi. Mmmm.
But I digress.
I usually try to stay away from trade shows. To put it mildly, I hate them. Miles and miles of booths with quasi-interesting displays, usually populated by clean-cut, tired-looking salespeople wearing golf shirts passing out brochures. Or, in the case of Comic Con, miles and miles of booths with quasi-interesting displays, usually populated with odd-looking, costumed, tired vendors selling, as I said above, (mostly) useless “collectables.”
Shows such as comic con will also contract various celebrities to visit, give a talk, hold a panel discussion, sign autographs, and participate in a “photo op”. Of course, these don’t come free, but star-struck fanboys and fangirls are usually only too willing to shell out the cash for a chance to have some (mostly) useless collectible signed by their favourite star.
Some of the celebrities attending Calgary Comic Con and Expo were Erin Grey, Peter Facinelli, Brent Spiner, Malcolm McDowell, The Honky-Tonk Man (??) and Leonard Nimoy.
In the weeks and months leading up to the convention, Mr. Nimoy’s attendance was widely publicised, so, despite thinking to myself that it would be nice to meet him, I decided to miss the event as (a) the admission price was horrendous, and (b) the crowds of geeks would be insane.
I went about my business on the Saturday, catching bits about the comic con on the news. All of a sudden, a text message from my friend, John came in:
“Dude! I’m at ComicCon as Leonard Nimoy’s bodyguard!”
John is trained in security and has served as personal security for VIPs before, including the Dali Lama.
So we texted back and forth a little bit, I told him I was turning green with envy, and it was a pretty damn cool deal he had going on there, and that was that.
Or so I thought.
A while later, another text came in:
“Want to come and help out tomorrow?”
I read it again to make sure I was reading it correctly. Did John just invite me to come down to ComicCon and help out? With Nimoy’s security?
I asked him to confirm what I thought I was reading.
He confirmed it.
I asked what I would be doing – I was a bit concerned about what I would need to do if things got tense.
“Basic crowd control, getting VIPs a drink of water if they need it, that kind of thing.”
I talked it over with my wife, who could tell by my body language that if she said, “no”, I would never have let her hear the end of it.
I’m no fanboy. As you can see, I had already decided to pass on the opportunity to pay to enter the convention, and then pay for the privilege of greeting a celebrity and having their name written on some trinket in permanent marker. However, when the opportunity came to work the show, behind the scenes, and spend some decent time helping Mr. Nimoy out (and get into the show for free) I jumped.
So I got up on Sunday morning and spent a few minutes trying to decide on what to wear. I was already told that jeans were perfectly appropriate, so jeans it was going to be, but I needed something security-esque. Official, yet casual. Authoritative, but not imposing. Serious, but not intimidating. I settled on a black turtleneck.
So, looking like a young version of Steve Jobs, I showed up at the Calgary Comic Convention and Expo, and presented myself at the volunteer room.
My name wasn’t on the list.
I needed to see somebody named Jean, but he wasn’t there yet.
After a few text messages and discussion, I found out that my friend John was stuck behind a bunch of marathon runners, but he told me who I needed to see and what I needed to say, which worked and I got my pass.
Being official, I was now able to get into the convention before the general public, which was nice, as I was able to browse the various booths and take in some of the (mostly) useless collectables that were available. Since I wasn’t out for buying anything, it was a nice few minutes for exploring, visiting with a fully-functional R2D2 unit, and avoiding the Imperial Stormtroopers stomping around.
Finally, I wandered over to Leonard Nimoy’s booth and hung out with John’s other recruits. We joked around, chatted, and remained quite jovial until John managed to bypass the marathon and get on down to the convention.
After a quick briefing, we were ready to roll. The doors to the convention opened, and before we knew it, the line up for autographs by Mr. Nimoy had extended across the convention hall to the other end.
Then Mr. Nimoy arrived. We were positioned strategically to provide crowd control and he took his seat.
Crowd control at a geek convention in Calgary is rather interesting. First, it’s Calgary, so the chances of anything major happening are rather small. Second, it’s geeks. Really. What are geeks going to do?
There are three kinds of geeks in the world:
1) Skinny geeks.
2) Fat geeks.
(If you have to ask about Sheldon, you’re not a geek. Trust me.)
I’m the first kind, so my ability to stop a geek of the second kind, or, really, anyone, is somewhat limited, but then again, as I said, these are geeks.
The line moved. Things got signed. People asked questions. Mr. Nimoy answered them. Over and over again.
At one point, Mr. Nimoy asked, “how long is this line?” When he was told, he groaned and put his head down on the desk.
I turned to him (my job was to usher people out of the exit when they had finished getting their autograph) and said, “this has ‘long day’ written all over it.” He made eye contact with me, and then went back to what he was doing.
Eventually, the line dissipated, and was closed to new additions as lunch time was approaching. At the very end, one young guy showed up and asked to come in. As nobody else was around and Mr. Nimoy was still finishing a few last autographs, we said okay.
When this guy got to the front of the line, I immediately realized that he was “one of them.” A true “fanboy”. Mr. Nimoy was the immaculate professional and politely listened to him babble on and on and on about nothing, then said “thank you,” and got up to leave.
Fanboy wasn’t satisfied. He wanted Mr. Nimoy to write “best wishes”. Mr. Nimoy wanted lunch. I wanted Fanboy to leave. Eventually, John came over, got rid of Fanboy, and told me to get going – escort the golf cart with Mr. Nimoy on it around to his green room. The object being to ensure that nobody had snuck into the back passages and was waiting to ambush Mr. Nimoy. Fortunately, nobody had, and Mr. Nimoy went into his green room for lunch.
Outside the green room, another security guy came up to me. He said, “Hi, I’m Jean.”
I shook his hand and introduced myself.
“Who are you and why are you here?”
Ummm… “I’m helping out with Mr. Nimoy’s security.”
“Who invited you?”
“Oh okay then. I saw you there working and I’ve never seen you before, so I needed to make sure.”
A few minutes later, John showed up. We had grabbed some lunch already, so John said, “come on,” and headed for the door to Mr. Nimoy’s green room.
I’m no professional actor, but I was pretty sure that a green room is considered a private sanctuary.
And I was right.
We headed into the green room and were just sitting down at a table when Jean came over and very directly, succinctly, said, “guys, OUT! Now!”
I laughed. (Quietly)
After all, how many Calgarians can say that they’ve been thrown out of Leonard Nimoy’s green room?
John was surprised, as he explained he had been in the green room over lunch the day before, and there didn’t seem to be any problems.
A few minutes later, Jean came out and politely explained that – as I had surmised – the green room was off-limits to everyone without an explicit invitation, and even with an invitation, you still don’t go in.
We ate our lunch in the hallway.
A while later, other celebrities started showing up, including some young guys who played the werewolves in Twilight – or something. They visited with Mr. Nimoy for a few minutes.
After lunch were the photo op sessions, so the area immediately adjacent to the green rooms was full of people waiting to shell out money. I didn’t immediately notice, but there were a lot of Very Young Girls there.
One of the young werewolf actors needed an escort to the men’s room, so Jean pulled me aside and sent me to escort this guy. Everything went smoothly, and we came back to the green rooms and in he went. At this point was another guy. Jean looked at me and said, “go” so off we went.
We walked past a line of girls obviously waiting for their photos, and I heard whispers spreading through the crowd. The guy went into the men’s room, and I followed him in to do a quick security sweep. As the men’s room was clear, I came back out again.
As I opened the door, there was a collective intake of breath from the crowd, and a cheer began as cameras started to flash.
Then they saw it was me.
The cheer petered out into a loud “awwwww.”
I just shook my head and laughed.
Mr. Nimoy showed up with an escort of his own, and disappeared into the men’s room. His escort waited outside with me.
Then the door opened and the guy I was escorting came out, with a huge smile on his face.
The crowd erupted.
We walked back to the green rooms, this guy high-fiving girls and brushing their hands. He tapped one young blond girl on the head (she must have been about 14) and she almost collapsed to the carpet in tears.
Finally, we got back to the green rooms, and he disappeared back inside.
I turned to another volunteer and said to her, “who the hell was that?”
“That was Peter Facinelli.”
“Okay then.” (I paused.) “Who is Peter Facinelli?”.
“He is in Twilight.”
I’d guessed that much, but as Twilight isn’t aimed at my demographic, I have never seen it, nor do I really have any desire to. I shared that explanation with the volunteer girl.
“He plays the Dentist. The dad.”
I really wasn’t any wiser, but at least I had some information to go on.
Later, I did some research and I learned that Mr. Facinelli is married to Jenni Garth from Beverly Hills 90210. The lucky so-and-so!
I should point out I have nothing against Peter Facinelli at all. He seemed decent enough. We didn’t talk, we didn’t shake hands. In fact, we didn’t interact at all except for my escorting him to the men’s room.
I just didn’t know who he was. I respect him for his career, and, if I meet him again, I’ll treat him with the same dignity and respect I would treat anyone else. He’s a celebrity. I’m a geek. That’s the way of things.
As my time as a volunteer was drawing to an end, I went and said my goodbyes. I made a point of thanking John, Jean and Gary, (Mr. Nimoy’s agent) and departed.
As I was heading home, I reflected on the day. Security for Leonard Nimoy, and escorting Peter Facinelli to the bathroom.
I chuckled, picked up my cell phone, and called my friend, Julie.
“Are you a fan of Twilight?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied. I could hear curiosity in her answer. She knows I have no interest, so she clearly was wondering why I was asking this question.
“Who plays the dentist. The dad?”
“Umm, I’m not really sure. … WHY?”
“I just escorted him to the bathroom.”
“SHUT UP!!!!!! Where the hell are you?”
“I just left the Comic Con.”
“Oh! I had heard he was there. Did you get a photograph? His autograph?”
“No. I didn’t.” I shared the story and ended the call, remembering the experience of the screaming throng of girls, and laughing again.
Who would have thought that the highlight of my day of helping out Leonard Nimoy would have been escorting Peter Facinelli to the bathroom?