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Monday, May 01, 2006

Armageddon: The Aftermath.

[Intrepid reporter Hadyn Green set off with a note book, recorder, camera and a media pass from bFM to document the cultural phenomenon that was Armageddon.]

Cosplay girls

[New updated version with more text and photos]
Saturday,
8am: It’s still one hour before the doors open to New Zealand’s largest popular culture expo, Armageddon. The rain was falling softly but steadily onto the large line that had formed in front of the Queen’s Warf Event Centre. The guys at the front were typical of the event’s stereotype demographic: black coats, white skin, slumped shoulders.

José (producer and occasional DJ for bFM’s Wednesday Wire) and I flashed our media passes and microphone and pushed to the front. We decided to interview a few of these hardy souls and in doing so learnt our first lesson of the day: geeks fear outsiders. Monosyllabic answers and sideways glances were what we received for the most part. So we headed inside.

Inside we saw Bill. Bill runs Armageddon and is a ball of energy but because of this he is very difficult to talk to. We first met him on Friday night to get our precious passes. He was wearing a Batman t-shirt. On Saturday it was a Bizarro t-shirt. He was in his element.

I was acting as José’s pimp (or producer). I was setting him up with celebrity interviews and pointing out “interesting” looking people. But first things first, I needed a photo with Jewel Staite (star of Firefly and Serenity).

Jewel Staite is hot; really hot. As I waited in the queue I struck up a conversation with other fans. There were two girls (somewhere between 13 and 16yrs old) who were listing their favourite episodes of Firefly…by name. A pre-Armageddon party was held the previous night at Syn; the bar owned by Hell Pizza. Media weren’t allowed. Boooooo. The girls had been and said that it was amazing.

We got our celebrity interviews later in the afternoon. Jewel was first up. She was actually, dare I say, pretty boring (emphasis on the pretty). She spoke about the huge fan up-swelling that had turned Firefly from a cancelled TV show to a feature motion picture. She had nothing bad to say about her fans but her husband lurked in the background prepared at any moment to leap out and stop any fan that got an inch too close.

In all of the interviews and articles I have read about Firefly and Serenity there is always a large amount of talk about how fans saved the series after the Fox Network tried to kill it. It's has been four years since Firefly was cancelled and a year since the release of Serenity (by Universal, not Fox) but that tension is still there. Jewel told us of Firefly's obstacles (it was screened out of order, the pilot was screened four weeks in, it was scheduled at 8pm on a Friday) then she told us about being shown a sheet detailing the profits Fox was making from it. Millions, mainly through DVD sales.

As José interviewed, I photographed and talked with the helpers. One quietly mentioned that the whole thing was really badly organised. He referred specifically to the photo sessions. One scheduled for 10am was bumped back to 2pm and the signing sessions seemed long and drawn out. He also said that he was hung-over. It seemed to be a recurring theme for both days.

I wandered over to the New Zealand artists. Sadly they had fewer visitors than the site selling Frisbees and stuff to make your teeth light up. I chanced upon an artist from Whanganui, Jem Yoshioka. She was selling beautiful prints and other original artwork. I bought two pieces: both had an art nouveaux feel, one was a print of a black girl in Victorian clothes, the other was an ink sketch on wallpaper. [I will post her name and website when I find the card she gave me]

We managed to catch up with Shane Rangi at the Weta stand. I was supposed to work with him on a 48hr film competition team but he had to pull out to be in a multi-million dollar historical epic. Some people have no priorities.

While we chatted a girl came up and asked for his autograph and said “I recognise you from Narnia”. I asked “does that ever actually happen, people recognising you?” “No.”

Shane told us about some fans who he was warned about including a “face licker”. This woman would pose for a photo and just as it was being taken she would lick the celebrity’s face.

Then in a complete coincidence John Billingsley told us how he was licked by two women at a convention in San Francisco. John was a brilliant interviewee. He and his wife Bonnie had only just arrived in Wellington, but had been touring New Zealand for little while. They did say, however, that Wellington smelled much better than Rotorua.

John Schneider was the biggest star at the expo. He was charismatic and charming. All of the women were fawning over him and so were a few of the men. He actually seemed to enjoy the whole experience of being here in NZ and being mobbed by fans. He even acquiesced to a slide into the General Lee, which he accomplished with flair and poise. He mentioned that he was off the Chiefs/Hurricanes game that night and was looking forward to it so I returned the next day and interviewed him for the Dropkicks (available Thursday).

John has his own General Lee. But he didn't buy it from the series like some wussy millionaire. No, he built his from scratch and he races it in the states.

He also voiced his disappointment at the recent Dukes of Hazzard film. Then he said that he was currently trying to make his own version with him as director. Though given the amount of swooning going on around him I would suggest that John could star and the thing would make millions.

Finally we spoke to Claudia Christian. She was…well, she was…she…um. Let’s put it this way. When José sat down the first thing she said to him was: “Are you looking up my skirt?”

She was loud with a brash American sense of humour. Her jokes were often of a sexual nature and she laughed a lot. I wondered if she was in a “sci-fi convention mode”. When we asked her real questions, the jokes disappeared and she showed a serious side. Her experiences with fans were a little more extreme than the others we had spoken to.

One fan thought that they were married and broke through security at a convention yelling that she had left her wedding ring behind. Another thought, after seeing The Hidden, that she was an alien from Jupiter that had come to Earth to spread the AIDS virus.

Fan does of course come from the word fanatic. Maybe Jewel’s husband wasn’t so dumb.

Claudia had a lot of merchandise available for purchase and signing. These included her CD and prints of her nude photos from Playboy (no links for that one). I was there when one intrepid young man chose one of, what were being called, her "naughty photos". There was no embaressed exchange. She signed the photo, had a chat with him and a laugh before he left quickly hiding the photo in his coat.

Bad guys go to buy snacks

[Caution: the following contains architecture]

Lastly we did an interview with Phil Jimenez. As well as being a brilliant artist, Phil is a citizen of New York. We had a long discussion about architecture while we waited for the circus that was revolving around his coffee. All he wanted was white coffee poured over ice, he never got it. He spoke about how happy he was to see “green buildings” not so much because they helped the environment but because of the thought human beings could (and would) actually build these things.

I told him about Waitangi Park and the new Stats building and how there were not just environmentally sound but also took into account “people space”. He liked the sound of that. We talked about the failed stadium project in downtown New York. He outlined the fight that finally stopped the project. One person with the power of veto realised that no one else had considered the residents, only the multi-billionaires who would make more money from the project. So he vetoed it. Tom would’ve loved it!

He said that he had a chance for a brief glance around town and compared Wellington favourably to San Francisco (including the weather). He said that he loved museums and thought that the space inside Te Papa was amazing and he didn’t mind the exterior either.

King Kapisi

By the second day José had a giant hangover and my legs were giving out. José got quick interviews with King Kapisi and Oscar Kightley and then we called it a day. We had seen Armageddon and it had nearly overwhelmed us. But we came through mainly unscathed, a few dollars lighter and stronger for the experience.

Oh and for those who read about it on Wellingtonista, I got my matching set: Photos with the General Lee at age 5 (or so) and age 27. [To be posted here in the near future].

Here is a link to the Flickr set I’m slowly adding to if you would like more photos.
Non-Flickr photos were supplied by Mike.

3 comments:

llew said...

Excellent!

Gina said...

Nice report! Will there be pictures to go with the John Schneider interview? :-)

Chris (top hat) said...

Ha sorry for the poor outside interview