Friday morning we loaded up and headed to Dallas. We had a date with Alex Kingston, and we weren’t about to miss it.
Willie weathered eight hours in a car as well as a five-month-old possibly could, which is to say he was amazing. It’s not spoiling anything to tell you he was rad through the entire weekend, teething pains and all. They say to show not tell, so I’m supposed to intersperse him being the coolest baby ever all throughout this narrative so you come to the conclusion on your own that he’s amazing without me telling you he’s amazing, but fuck that. Hear me now and believe me later, he was amazing.
We checked into the Omni and were greeted with champagne, which was a new experience. I’m an easy lay so the Omni totally had me at hello with that bullshit maneuver. They could have tossed a Bud Ice at me after that drive and I’d have been ready to pull out the credit card for all those incidentals, baby.
We threw our shit into the room and hoofed it down to the FanExpo, which was a five minute walk down a hall and a twenty minute wait in another line just to get a wristband for a ticket I’d already purchased online. This is the harbinger part. I’m breaking all the rules tonight, baby.
We finally gained access and wandered around the floor for a bit before our photo op. If you’ve never done one, they’re always rushed affairs, and there’s no real face time involved. I’ve seen people get online and throw fits over this and let me tell you guys and gals, if you go into this expecting anything more than wham, bam, thank you ma’am, you’ve entered the land of expectations.
We did stop by Alex Kingston’s autograph table afterward to get her signature on the photo, and that’s where the magic actually happened. She cooed at Willie and said, “Hello, gorgeous!” She showed him her big-ass ring, which looked like a rose with diamonds set into it, and said, “You’re going to have to buy your girlfriend a ring like this in, oh, sixteen years.”
I fucking hope not.
She was absolutely stellar, though, and we thanked her and went on our way over to John Barrowman’s domain.
John got it into his head that he wanted this kid to give him pink belly. I shit you not, he pulled up his shirt and this little boy slapped him while a FanExpo employee down the table gave the most epic side eye that went on for so long I was able to point it out to multiple people.
“Oh wow, she doesn’t get it at all. Look at that side eye! Holy shit she’s still doing it!”
When we got to the table, John spent at least a minute rubbing Willie’s head.
“I love rubbing baby heads,” he said. “They’re so soft. I love to kiss them.”
Unfortunately he didn’t kiss him, but it would have been okay, although it might have prompted more side eye.
He then proceeded to take Gina’s camera and crank out a few selfies. He’s an expert at this, so they all turned out amazing.
On our way out we noticed Billy West, the voice of Fry from Futurama among others (you might know him as Doug Funny or Bugs Bunny from Space Jam or Ren AND Stimpy) had shown up. He’d been running late and they sent his line away, but he was there now and man we were aching to say hi after seeing him last year in Richardson, Texas.
When we got to the table we expressed our love for his podcast, which is fucking excellent by the way. I performed a short rendition of the Stingray theme song and we talked about zany marionette shows for a couple of minutes. We introduced Willie, and Billy decided to come around the table for a photo.
“Welcome to Earth, kid,” he said. “You took a wrong turn.”
Completely satisfied with all our life decisions up to that point, we returned to the room for some rest after the best day ever. As I drifted off, I told Gina, “Wow, that was the most amazing day. It was so perfect. Oh my God, I forgot my army shirt.”
Like Buckaroo Banzai said, revelations always come in the three B’s: the bed, the bath, and the bus. I’d checked and rechecked the luggage, and I’d forgotten something as simple as my goddamned shirt. Oh well. I groaned and gnashed my teeth while Gina Googled a solution. There was an army surplus store about eight miles away. I would have to make a run in the morning.
I woke up at 7 am, unable to take it anymore, and fired up the shitty hotel Keurig for some diarrhea water. I threw that down my throat, left the fam at the hotel, and went down to the valet to get the car. I had a mission.
Dallas highways are a spaghetti pile of drunken engineering. The GPS yelled at me and I thanked Odin I’d suffered through the twitch game parts of Grand Theft Auto. I hate that Dance Dance Revolution bullshit but if I hadn’t become begrudgingly adept I never would have made it to the surplus store where an old dude awaited to try to sell me $20 Dickey shirts.
“Where’s the surplus, man. I can rip the patches off, I don’t care.”
Eight dollars and sixty-one cents later, I was the owner of a brand new slightly used Marine Corps khaki shirt.
I raced back to the Omni, threw a couple more bucks at the valet (they say not to tip when you drop off but you know you’re paying for them to not fuck your car up, right?) and headed up to the room to get into cosplay. It was TIME.
We headed down the hall past the Roberta Flack quote emblazoned on the wall, which always makes me start hollering “Killing Me Softly,” and stood in line thirty minutes to get armbands for tickets we’d already purchased online. Then, we entered Pandemonium.
It was bodies wall-to-wall, straight up worse-than-Disney foot traffic. I’ve ranted about this situation many times before but the Dallas FanExpo keeps growing and their floor engineering remains a libertarian mess of “Oh yeah I guess this can go over here.” The autograph lines are about one foot wide taped off. The photo op lines are hemmed in by booths and convenience stands. People started behaving like cattle then like water. I’ve read before that when you’re in a crowd like that, it’s best to get the fuck out or risk death. If there’d been any reason to spook us, it would have been a global-news-making disaster.
I’ve been to Wizard World. They stanchion that shit off and everything takes place in an orderly fashion. We were caught, hot, in the middle of a crowd of people to see Catherine Tate, who maybe had a hundred tickets sold, but because the con workers didn’t line up the adjacent ticket holders properly, we were trapped in a scrum for 45 minutes while foot traffic from the vendors and autograph lines tried to squeeze through two feet of walkway. It was a nightmare.
I had ample time to let loose one of my epic tweetstorms at Dallas FanExpo. They actually replied and said they’d get right on it, but I didn’t witness anything you’d call a response.
We got our Catherine Tate photo, wheeled back around to get into Barrowman’s line, and waited another hour. My feet were on fire. and Gina breastfed Willie in line like the hero she is.
We had some time to burn before we could get the photos signed, so we caught Katee Sackhoff at her booth. I wasn’t aware she was a Whovian until I checked out her Twitter and saw that her profile pic is her face pasted on the Fourth Doctor. She was bonkers over Willie. She called him the best thing she’d seen since the woman at Dragon Con with the painted belly who was due to drop her baby any second and the doctor only let her attend because the con was closer to the hospital than her house. We got three selfies with her and I have my eyes shut in two of them. In the third one, her head is down. If anyone wants to Photoshop my open eyes onto one of the good ones hit me up. I’ll get you a $5 Starbucks (pun intended) card or give you a handy.
I need to reiterate how great Willie was during all this. He kept doing his baby things, you know, slobbering, puking, occasionally crying, but he weathered it all like a champ and we kept getting stopped for photos every five minutes. I lost count of how many people got our pics but our classic Doctor Who cosplay was obviously off the chain.
We got through Catherine Tate autograph line first and she laughed when I told my terrible Michael Scott joke, which goes, “Gina says I’m her Jim but I’m definitely more of a Michael Scott.” I also thanked her for being so real in Doctor Who. She really was the most human companion, and that’s the companion’s job. You can’t identify with a fucking space wizard. The people around him are supposed to be YOU.
We wrapped it up waiting an hour for John Barrowman to make his final appearance. In the meantime, Mark Hamill’s handlers had whisked him away and he still had thirty people in line. The fans proceeded to mutiny and wouldn’t stop threatening the staff with lawsuits until they went and dragged him back. It actually worked, which was one of the few fan victories this weekend. Norman Reedus and Jeffrey Dean Morgan ended up showing for only a couple of hours because of some scheduling mishap. There were hundreds of people who had to be issued refunds and they are pissed. Just check the Facebook page.
Our third meetup with John Barrowman was worth the wait. He said hello to Willie again, and he complimented our costumes. He actually apologized for misidentifying Gina’s outfit earlier at the photo op, and he and I compared watches. He’s a class act.
I keep saying I’m not coming back to Fan Expo. They are notorious for booking people who cancel at the last minute, overbooking celebrities who cannot possibly work through the number of tickets sold, and bad line management. I love small hotel cons where you actually get face time with people and make real connections. Everyone knows large cons are Disneyland but FanExpo can’t even get that shit straight. They aren’t Six Flags. They’re a carnival full of meth heads and rusty Tilt-A-Whirls with diesel smoke belching out the top and they’re in way over their heads.
This is the fifth annual event they’ve held and the third I’ve attended. The crowd management issues have increased exponentially and I’m not sure what it would take to get me back, except maybe Matt Smith, who they’re having at their secondary event, Fan Days, in October. You motherfuckers. I wish I could quit you.
In any case, we’ll be doing Friday and going home Saturday. This one was hell, and it was worth it, but I can’t endanger my child and exhaust my wife battling overcapacity crowds and unmanageable lines. Get your shit together, Dallas FanExpo.
We’ll be headed to WhoFest 4 in May and we’ll spend a weekend with Peter Davision and a few dozen other hardcore Whovians. Well also swing by Texas Frightmare to meet Malcolm McDowell. Small cons like those are where the magic happens, and that’s where I keep saying I’m going to spend my time, but this goddamned FanExpo keeps dragging me back for more punishment.
I’ll skip the angry email this year. They obviously didn’t read mine last year when I described the stunning innovations of roped-off areas and better space management. Maybe they’ve outgrown the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center but I’m not sure where they could go from there. If this is all the fourth biggest city in the United States can offer, well, maybe it’s all we deserve.
I’ll see you bastards again in October when Matt Smith inevitably cancels at the last minute like he’s done on us two times before. I’m starting to believe they’d never booked him in the first place and it was a charade meant to sell more tickets. I mean, The Crown is a great show, but Matt can’t really be up to all that much, can he?