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My report on the I-Con Convention

I went to New York from Thursday 18 April to Monday 22 April 2002 to go to the I-Con science-fiction and fantasy convention at Stony Brook University on Long Island in New York. The main reason for this was to meet Billy Boyd, although my decision to go was helped by the fact that various Babylon 5 actors would be there too, including my hero Jason Carter. After I had made the arrangements I also found out that Viggo Mortensen would be signing copies of his book Signlanguage as well as Lord of the Rings paraphernalia on two consecutive days in New York. In short, things were good and they just got better.
This report originally appeared on my Live Journal, but since it has by now scrolled off the page, I decided to move it to my homepage instead. If you can't be bothered to read all this I have a short version in Very Secret Diaries rip-off form (not very original by now, but such a good way of summarising something, even if Cassieclaire is much, much better at it than I am), but this version doesn't have photos.

Day 1 (Wednesday 17 April)

Chris left at about 8am to go off to Spain, meaning that I had to spend from then until 3pm trying to find something to do. Not good for calming the nerves, I tell you. Anyway, It did eventually get to 3pm and I caught the train and arrived in London around 6pm. Not much to report there, London is still horrible, I had a MacDonalds and then sat at the youth hostel and read for a bit then went to bed.

Day 2 (Thursday 18 April)

Got up at 6am, quietly packed and checked out, then took the Underground to Heathrow. God knows why you have to check in two hours before your flight leaves, because checking in and security stuff took up ten minutes at most, and then I had to spend over an hour waiting for my gate to be announced. Read a bit again. Book I’m reading, incidentally, is ‘Master and Commander’ by Patrick O’Brian, the reason being that Billy’s next film (The Far Side of the World) will have him playing a character from this series of books. So far I’m not impressed, it’s historical fiction situated in Napoleontic naval history and it all takes place on boats and stuff. Not very well written and far too many naval terms. But I digress.

Plane is a Boeing 777 (big!) and I have an aisle seat. Bugger. Especially with this weather I would have loved to have a window seat. I also feel a definite need to strangle the people who do sit at the window, since they all put their bloody screen down so I couldn’t even see anything from a distance. The flight was over with surprisingly quickly (considering it was a seven hour flight), but that was mainly due to watching Ocean’s Eleven and Gosford Park during the flight. I got two meals and was absolutely stuffed once I got off the plane, didn’t need to eat another thing for the rest of the day, despite it being five hours longer than usual for me. In general it was a good flight, though I am not impressed by the flight staff going ‘huh?’ whenever they didn’t catch what you said. And in a very disinterested tone of voice too. Whatever happened to saying ‘sorry?’
Anyway, flight arrived half an hour too early due to the good weather. New York is surprisingly hot: 28 degrees (82 for you Americans). I’m not in culture shock just yet, because I don’t see any humongous buildings yet, and JFK looks uncommonly small and rundown. I’d expected better. DiamondTook and her mother arrived about ten to fifteen minutes after I got to the arrival lounge and were surprised to see me there already, so I explained about the early arrival. I gave one of my boxes of chocolates to Diamond’s mother as a thank you for coming to pick me up and thanked her profusely. JFK is on Long Island and it takes about 40 minutes (at least) to get from there to Manhattan, so I am much obliged that she was willing to go through the trouble for what is essentially a total stranger.
Diamond and me talked a lot until we got to the hotel, which wasn’t much to look at, but you can’t really expect much more from a backpacker’s hotel. I got my key, got a padlock so I could lock my bag in the locker and Diamond and her mother left, agreeing to meet me again at Virgin Megastore for the Viggo autograph signing. It’s still bloody hot and I wish I didn’t have to take my coat with me, but my trousers have no pockets (bugger bugger bugger) so I’m forced to. Have to tie the sweaty leather thing around my waist, yuk.
Directions to Virgin are easy: walk down to West 14th Street (I am on West 20th), then take the Subway to Union Square. Tried to get a Subway token from a machine, but had to go to the ticket office in the end. Union Square turned out to be only two stops away, so I wondered whether I couldn’t have walked it. Ah well.
Found Virgin no problem, but as it was only about 2pm (signing would start at six) I went on my mission to make phonecalls to Chris and mum to say I’d arrived safely. Okay, first of all: American (New York?) phone booths have no indication as to how to make an international phonecall. Second: I didn’t have enough small change to do so anyway (stupid system of having one dollar bills instead of coins). After about ten minutes I found a store that sold phonecards, yay!
Okay, so here’s me, being used to a phonecard that you stick into the telephone and use that way. It looked a bit flimsy, but who am I to criticise American phonecards, right? Anyway, couldn’t find a phone booth anywhere that looked like it had a slot to stick a card in. Eventually I asked two policemen if they knew of such a booth, and they then proceeded to explain the workings of the card for me (which I could have worked out myself if I’d been smart enough to go read the instructions. This was a good case of RTFM for me.) So I have to call a number, then punch in the number of my card and then I can make a phonecall. I saw the light.
Called Chris (funny, making a phonecall from America to an English mobile phone which is at that time situated in Spain. Took about half a minute and I could hardly hear him) and got the response ‘Ah, finally, I was getting worried because you’ve already been there two hours’. Sigh. Men!
Called mum afterwards who was very glad to hear I had arrived safely and didn’t think Manhattan was too bad. Proceeded to walk all the way down Broadway after that, in the hope I’d run into some cool touristy thing, like the Empire State Building or something. Walked down for about 45 mins to an hour, then decided nothing was coming and started walking back (it was getting late enough to go back to Virgin anyway). When I arrived back at Union Square, this time pointing the other way, I was met with the majestic sight of the Empire State Building. In short: I’d been walking the wrong way all that time. Doh.
Sat at Union Square for a bit, both because my feet were killing me and I wanted to give them a rest and because I couldn’t be bothered to line up yet. Went to the queue at about ten past five and spotted DiamondTook there. I’d told her I was hoping to meet Cassieclaire as her sidekick Ashwise had posted on billyboyd.net that she was trying to get her to come. Brought my second box of chocolate just for that eventuality. Anyway, Diamond tells me Cassie’s best pal is a bit further up in the line, so we ask the chick behind us to hold our place and go up to see her. Ashwise turns out to be called Ashley and is the coolest chick ever. We bonded, go me! She said ‘oh, just stay in line here’, so we waited with them (probably saved us about half an hour at least there) and Ashley and me became each other’s photo bitches. I took hers, she took mine.
Six o’ clock came round, we were herded in fifteen at a time and despite assurances from a staff member earlier that only copies of Signlanguage would be allowed for signing, Viggo was signing everything you put in front of him. Lovely man, great Ewan McGregor haircut and very sweet and accessible. Got my first signature and a photo, yay!
Went back to hotel and read a bit more, but I was so absolutely shattered by 8.30 that I went to sleep. Not bad though, considering that I had travelled all day and my body thought it was half past one in the morning.

Day 3 (Friday 19 April)

Woke up around half past six and dozed a bit until seven, when I got up. Packed very quietly (so as not to wake up the girl who was sharing my room), checked out at eight and walked to Penn(sylvania) Station. I had figured out how to get to I-Con the night before (I’d been rather nervous about that, since I really didn’t have a clue) with help of the excellent maps on the wall of the hotel. It was piss easy: walk to Penn Station, find the Long Island Rail Road place and buy a ticket to Stony Brook, where I-Con was being held. Penn station is on the corner of 8th Avenue and West 34th Street, so it was only fourteen blocks up the road and right underneath Madison Square Garden!!! Eeeeeeeeee! Wow! Didn’t take a picture though, silly me.
Anyway, bought ticket, had to wait over an hour for first train towards Stony Brook. Had to change somewhere and couldn’t figure out where, but luckily the conductor woman told me. In the end it took about three hours to get to Stony Brook, so I was very glad that I had decided at the last moment to change hotel and share a room with some billyboyd.net people instead.
When I arrived there it was rather quiet, and the (campus) bus driver didn’t have a clue about this whole I-Con business. Thankfully a colleague did, so he dropped me off where I needed to be, but it turned out that the whole thing wasn’t going to start until in the evening, so I went back to the station and bought a ticket to Smithtown, where the Econolodge was, the hotel where the ‘Michigan Gang’ was staying.
I got out in Smithtown, which was eerily quiet. I got visions of those deserted towns you see in old Wild West films and was expecting some tumbleweed to roll past any moment. Since there wasn’t anyone there to ask directions from, I started wandering and after about ten minutes of that I wandered into a little restaurant to ask for directions. They didn’t know where the Econolodge was, but I had been really organised and brought address and telephone number, so they called it and got directions. It turned out to be about seven miles away, I got patiently explained directions until I mentioned I was walking, when they said ‘whoah, we’d better call for a cab then’. So they called for a cab, deposited me in the bar and gave me a free drink. So nice of them! I wonder whether it was the accent or whether I just looked a bit pathetic or something.
Cab arrived and dropped me off at the Econolodge no problem. The Michiganders had already arrived, so I went to their rooms and met them all. Very cool people.
We stayed and chilled until 4pm (they had just arrived and were rather shattered), then bundled into the minivan they had hired and went off to Manhattan where Viggo would do another booksigning, this time at some photogallerymuseum type place thing. Whatever. Took lots of swearing, cursing and road rage for Hawk to drive around Manhattan, which made it a funny experience for the rest of us.
Photogalleryplacething turns out to be right next to Times Square. Great view of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings from where we were in the line that had already started to form.
We were accosted by several people while waiting, and funnily enough all of them went ‘you must be the Michiganders’ because we were ‘six women and a sailorboy’. Sean was a nice beacon. We got our ‘wee scarvies’ handed out too. Explanation: one of the bb.netters decided we needed a distinguishing feature and decided that a little copy of Pippin’s cute scarf would be a good idea, since it’s not obvious, but very significant. She made ‘wee scarvies’ out of threads of grey wool with one purple and one yellow thread thrown in. I used mine as a hairtie for a little braid I made in my hair, where I wore it for the rest of the weekend. Very cute.
Ashley popped up again, this time wearing a t-shirt with that wonderful Aragorn/Legolas chibi picture where they’re playing tug-o-war with the sword. Am jealous. She pops off for a bit again (in search for Whores of the Ring, apparently) and the sky suddenly darkens and flashes of lightning start to show. Big fat raindrops start to fall, but luckily it doesn’t start bucketing it down until we are inside and dry. Very classy joint: they hand out free wine for while you wait.
When I finally get to Viggo I give him my second book to sign (Official Movie Guide yesterday, Visual Companion today). Said I didn’t really know what to say to him (I hadn’t really talked yesterday, but today he really seemed to take a lot of time for everyone, so I wanted to chat a bit) and he was very nice and asked where I came from. Told him I live in England but am Dutch and he said ‘ah! The only thing I remember is goeiemorgen’. Flabbergasted! Viggo speaks a bit of Dutch! Okay, I didn’t hear what he said first time round (bad accent and wasn’t expecting it), but he explained ‘good morning, right?’ so I am very impressed. He signs my book and since everyone else before me did so too, I had my picture taken with him:

Walked round the table he was sitting at and got my photo taken by Ashley and Hawk with my arm around Viggo and his around me! First actor hug, go me! Ashley had given him a copy of the very secret diaries yesterday (she does that to every Lord of the Rings cast or crew member she meets, she’s already given one to PJ, Fran and Ian McKellen as well) and she asked him now whether he’d read them yet. He said he hadn’t had the time yet, but they were on top of his bag for the flight home. She then showed him her t-shirt and he cracked up. Took a photo of her and Viggo with him pointing at her t-shirt which turned out ok except I scalped Ashley. (Sorry Ashley!)
Anyway, Legend and Lavagrrl had brought their billyboyd.net t-shirts and asked Viggo to sign it, explaining that we were going to meet Billy tomorrow. Viggo writes the following on Legend’s shirt (he inserted a little 'finest' in between 'very' and 'honorary' after I took the photo). On Suzie’s shirt he wrote ‘Billy Boyd is my master’. We were instructed to wear lipstick and give him two kisses tomorrow, wherever we want. Before you ask: no, I never did do that. Wanted to, but didn’t get the chance. Pooh. Still, very impressed with Viggo’s sense of humour. He’s a wonderful guy, very approachable and lovely. Great start to our meeting of actor people.
After we’ve all been we hang around to recover for a bit. Ashley says goodbye and we agree to meet up tomorrow. Once we’ve all recovered from the Viggo experience we return through the pouring rain to where we parked the van, where we get charged the extortionate amount of 45 dollars! Bunch of ripoffs.
After more swearing at the traffic we manage to make our way out of Manhattan and try to find John Harvard’s Brewery, where the first scheduled bb.net dinner is due to take place. After many u-turns and asking for directions (which turned out to be the trend for the weekend) we finally find the place. We’re at least half an hour late, but that’s ok since with us seven there there’s still only 17 people (out of an expected 40-odd). We go in, get a table and sit there having a drink while more people slowly come trickling in.
Various people arrived, including Cheese, who is responsible for setting up the new chat after Stew (the guy who runs billyboyd.net) was forced to close the official one down and Stef, whom I’ve been dying to meet.
The Michiganders are shattered since they’ve pretty much been driving since Thursday afternoon, so we leave immediately after dinner and go back to the Econolodge to go to bed.

Day 4 (Saturday 20 April):

Got up at seven, spent the next two hours showering and generally getting ready. This is the big day! We left at nine and got to Stony Brook after lots of u-turns and direction asking (but what else is new).
Think we got to Stony Brook around half past ten and proceeded to ask someone at a bus stop where I-Con was at. The answer was a rather tired and desperate sounding 'It's everywhere', which cracked us up. We picked up our membership badges, which need to be pinned on your person for full acces to everywhere. The badge joins the nametag I got given yesterday by Stef, which says ‘The Fellowship of the Wee Scarvies’ and ‘New York 2002’ on it. This is obviously for identification purposes, because when you’re meeting around 80 bb.net people in one go, you’re not going to remember their names very well.
The meeting was scheduled in the cyberbar at 11pm, so we made our way there and met all the others. Ashley popped in again too, bringing a load of very cool pins/badges from the New York Tolkien Society (the Frodo holding the ring poster on a little badge basically). Stef is wearing a hobbit lass costume and Rayvah and Yui both have Ringwraith costumes, so they re-enact the Weathertop scene for us. Much enjoyment all around.
We spend the next hour or so in the cyberbar in the futile hope that Billy and Stew are going to turn up. After this time I get edgy and decide to go do something, anything than sit in this stuffy room (was very warm and humid). Ashley is bored too, so we hook up and wander around. I finally got to give her Cassie’s box of chocolates as well, and she goes all squealy when she discovers it’s Cadbury’s. I feel loved (obviously told her that Cassie will have to share with her and that it’s not just for the diaries, but for her Draco stories too, especially Draco Sinister).
We wander into the main building to try and find out whether Jason Carter is signing anywhere today. On the way inside we run into two very authentic looking stormtroopers and we can’t resist having our picture taken with them. Shame Ashley’s didn’t turn out, but mine is great.
It turns out there is a corner in the vending pit where the Babylon 5 people are signing, so we go down the stairs and immediately find the right place, as it is right next to the stairs. Jason is there (squee!), as is Richard Biggs and a few more lesser known Bab5 people. They sell pictures of Jason which look a lot better than the one I got, and since they charge 15 dollars for an autograph anyway (greedy bastards) I decide to just buy a photo for $15 and get that signed for free. I strike up some banter with Jason (cool person that I am *cough*) and within two sentences he looks up and says ‘hey, you’re English!’ in a delighted tone of voice. I explain that I live there but am Dutch, we talk a bit about Lincolnshire (where he used to live) and he tells me to send his love to Nottingham. I ask whether I can have my picture taken with him and he says ‘of course!’ and walks around the table. I am still busy putting my precious signed picture away and he looks at the back of my pervy hobbit-fancier t-shirt and reads it out. I laugh and go ‘yeah’ and he sinks down on his knees (squee again!), so I tell him he doesn’t need to be a hobbit for me to fancy him.
Ashley takes the picture and it’s brilliant!:

I am by now pretty much ready to be Ashley’s love slave forever. Took another picture of him by himself, which is really cool too. Squeeeeee!
Additional note: everyone (and I do mean everyone) who has met Jason agrees that he’s a riot. He looks a bit older and skinnier, but he’s a great, wonderful and sweet guy with a great sense of humour. Actor hug count now on two.
Then it was time to go to the fist Q&A session with Billy, so we went to the gym hall thingy where it was being held. When Ashley and me got there it was still Brian Downey (from Lexx apparently) who was answering questions, since we had decided to be a bit early and get a good seat. The seat was at the side with a good view on the little podium they had set up. They had two microphones, one on either side, and if you wanted to ask a question you had to line up. Ashley decided to do so, so I was left on the seats to guard the bags and cameras. There was an open door at the back of the hall where I was expecting him to come through, but instead he came from completely the opposite direction, escorted by four stormtroopers!!!! It was so cool to see him in the middle of these stormtroopers, half a head shorter than them but still demanding all the attention! He’s still looking scruffy because of something he’s filming soon, and he looks absolutely adorable when he’s scruffy. I tried to quickly switch Ashley’s camera on and take a picture but failed miserably, so I’m hoping to grab some good pictures from other people. If anyone has a good Billy & Stormtroopers picture, please let me know!
The question and answer session was very cool. Lots of interesting questions, some not so interesting ones, but quite a few funny anecdotes from Billy. I honestly can’t remember many of the questions and there’s loads of stuff on theonering.net on it, so you’d better look there for it. Funny thing was that after the first few questions people started giving presents to him and asking for hugs, which meant that pretty much everyone (even the ones without presents) ended up getting a hug from him (especially when someone’s question was just ‘can I get a hug please’ and he said ‘I’ll never say no to that!’). I tried too after a while, but the lines were so long that they cut it off at some point or he’d never be able to leave. Still, people rushed up to him when he got off the podium and he never refused anyone who wanted to have their picture taken with him. He’s such a lovely guy.
Ashley and me left to go find some room that had an interesting thingy on, and when we walked out of the building she nudged me and we saw Billy and his entourage walk past. We sneakily followed, but I felt a bit bad doing it, so we hung back and lost them. Ashley said she wanted to check out some literary thing so we split up. (Found out later she’d sucked up to one of the security guys and managed to get into Billy’s press conference, pah.)
I wandered around a bit aimlessly, waiting for it to get late enough so I could start queuing up to get Billy’s autograph, when I happened upon the Sluggy stand. Pete Abrams was sitting there, as was Joe Sunday, and I had a little chat with them while Pete signed the Sluggy book I’d brought along. I said I’d come over from England and that I was meeting Billy and he went ‘oh, could you do something for me please?’ and then asked me to take a Sluggy flyer to give to Billy so he’d read it. I got Pete to write a little message on there (‘Billy, please read, this is important.’) and promised to give it to him. Hey, anything to get more talking time with Billy! Famous(ish) people hug count: three.
By then I’d meandered my way towards the start of the autograph queue, but they still weren’t letting people onto the track. God knows why, since we were taking up a lot more space where we were than on the track, where we would have been out of everyone’s way. Saw Ashley again and we ended up pretty early in the line.
Took a while to get to Billy, mainly because the bloody I-Con management had decided that the staff would get their autographs during the general session and before everyone else (great organisation guys!), so our line didn’t start moving until at least half past five instead of five o’clock. Ashley and I had each other’s camera’s again to take pictures of each other.
When we finally got to Billy I’d gotten my book, my gift and my Sluggy flyer out and then I just walked up to him and plunked the whole lot on the table. I explained that I’d been sent by Pete Abrams to convert him into a Sluggite and gave him the leaflet, then gave him my gift:

I gave him a copy of Laïs’ CD Dorothea, both out of a sense of patriotism (they sing some songs in Dutch) and because I knew that it’d be something he would definitely not have heard of. I said that I didn’t have a clue as to whether he’d like it, but that I was hoping. He was ready to write my name in it, but that wasn’t necessary since I’d put a little personal message in there. He then signed my book with ‘To Erica, thank you! Hope I like it!!! Lots of love, Billy Boyd. X’ I then asked if I could get a hug now and he immediately got up and hugged me! I drew back and Ashley squealed and apologised ‘cause she missed it (I’d specifically instructed her to take a picture of him hugging me), so I said ‘Sorry, I’m going to need another hug now’ and got one!:

Ashley got the picture this time and it turned out wonderful, and I’m forever in her debt for getting him to hug me twice. Heheh. Famous people hug count: four. Or five, depending on whether you count famous people or hugs.
It was her turn next while I was taking pictures, and she gave the copy of the VSD to Billy. Read Ashley’s account if you want to know what he said to her. See the pictures there? I took those! Squee! She then asked him to sign her poster (the four hobbits on Weathertop one) which he signed with ‘To Ashley, lots of love and thank you, Billy Boyd. X’ He wrote it with one of those silver pens though, and it made a big blot on the ‘and’, so he scribbled ‘oops’ with a little arrow underneath it. See it here.
That was our signing, so we moved off and waited for about ten minutes for that blot to dry, and I think that’s when I started shaking a bit. I really am not sure what things he said to me (even though, frustratingly enough, I can remember very well what I said to him), so I suppose I was more nervous than I thought, but it wasn’t until then that I got the shakes, so I’m well impressed by my own composure.
Ashley had to leave by that time, so we hugged and promised to contact and stuff (she wasn’t going to come on Sunday as she had too much work to do for uni *sniff*). I bumped into Stef and we made our way to where the actors’ panel was going to be. Clarification on that: it was called ‘Inside the actors’ studio’ or something (apparently a tv program in the US?) and it featured seven of the guest actors: Billy Boyd, Jason Carter, Richard Biggs, Andreas Katsulas, Brian Downey, Myriam Sirois (plays Sarah Cantrell in Legend of the Rangers apparently, but since it’s sadly not showing in the UK yet I haven’t seen her in that) and Herb Jefferson (Boomer in Battlestar Galactica).
We settled down around quarter to eight. The panel wasn’t due to start until half past eight, but it was okay since I now got to talk to Stef a bit, which I hadn’t really had the chance to yet. The panel started late, around twenty to nine I guess, and even then only Andreas and Myriam had arrived, but that was okay, since Andreas basically started talking the moment he sat down (proposed a Q&A to kill time and stuff), and the guy is immensely funny! Not at all what I expected, but he had us in stitches all the time. A little later Brian and Herb arrived, then a little later again Billy, and finally (at least an hour late, traffic problems apparently) Jason and Richard. This made things even more hilarious, because Billy is very funny and the Bab5 people were totally feeding off each other and hacking each other up in an old friends bantery kind of way. The best moment of the evening was at the end though, when the panel leader asked several short questions that every member of the panel had to answer. One of the questions was ‘What is your favourite sound’ and Billy went ‘ooh, mmm’. Okay, I can't really do it justice, but let's just say that I felt rather flushed. Anyway, the panel was the best thing ever and I have to get myself a copy of the video of it. I have photos of the panel, but they're all crap. Anyone who has any better ones, please let me know.
After it finished we went outside and had to wait a long time for Kim and a few others to finally come out. While we were waiting Andreas Katsulas passed by and I stopped him and shook his hand and I thanked him, then he bent over and in a sorta spur of the moment thing I kissed him on the cheek. Wow, I kissed an actor! Unfortunately it turned out that while we were waiting outside (about four of the Michiganders) the other three had bumped into Billy and Stew and Billy had been handing out gum to them. Not that I like gum, but from Billy I’d accept anything, and I'm rather annoyed that I missed that. So was Liz.
When they finally came out we went to the cybercafe, because the general idea for Saturday night had been to go out to get drunk (hopefully with Billy and Stew), but we hadn’t really made any definitive plans yet. Stew turned up for a moment to say him and Billy were going to the official hotel in Ronkonkoma and might come out for a drink and that we were very welcome to buy him (Stew) lots of pints. Which he got offered. Stew is very well liked.
Anyway, we obviously decided we should go to the official hotel, which we reached after countless u-turns, three or four direction checks and one wrong hotel. Turned out it wasn’t worth it since Billy and Stew didn’t turn up anyway (and I’m not surprised to be honest, Billy must have been absolutely shattered) and we weren’t really in the mood to mingle. We had one drink then left again. Was rather tired, so went to bed a bit before the others, though not much as I was still awake when they came in.

Day 5 (Sunday 21 April):

Didn’t get up so early this time, though Lavagrrl had forgotten to switch her alarm off, so it did wake me at 7am. Everyone spent a long time getting ready and I just read a bit, until we eventually got to the con at about half past eleven or something. Billy’s Q&A today would be at 1pm, so until then I wandered around in search for a telephone so I could call my dad (it was his birthday) and Chris to tell him I was still alive and having a great time. The telephone claimed I had 13 minutes for my call to my dad, so I thought that would work out nicely for two phonecalls. Of course, when you think such a thing it figures that it doesn’t quite work out that way, so I actually had a two minute conversation with my dad (which has to be a record, he never talks for that long), after which I tried to call Chris and got the message that my telephone card number was invalid.
Liz was with me, so we both started digging in our wallets for quarters, until I (again) noticed that the telephone gave no indication as to how to make an international phonecall, so I decided to make a collect call instead. That in itself was no easy task, because I called the operator number, got a gigantic menu to choose from, had to wait because none of the choices were right, got another small menu, had to say ‘information’, got an operator, said I wanted to make a collect call to England, heard ‘just a moment’, got another ringtone then another menu, then had to wait again and then finally got an international operator who connected me to Chris. Sheesh.
Anyway, we got a bite to eat then went to the Q&A hall where the charity auction was still going on. One of the bb.netters had bought the official I-Con picture, signed by all the main actor guests for $140.
There was a short Q&A for half an hour by the woman who played Na’Toth in Bab 5 (don’t know whether it was the first or second Na’Toth) and then it was Billy again. No stormtroopers this time, unfortunately. Q&A was just as funny as the day before and slightly more organised this time as we had been sternly instructed not to give gifts or ask for hugs (the latter was nonetheless blatantly ignored by two hideously irritating fangirls who were both nervous and unforgivably insolent (‘Don’t you think you should introduce yourself? Mister high and mighty actor?’ or something like that) and gave me the urge to shoot them on sight) and they had improved the sound quality a bit too, so I just sat and enjoyed the questions and didn’t bother to go up and ask one myself. The one that sticks to mind most is when someone asked for an anecdote that he hadn’t shared yet, and he talked about the time when they were flying loads of cast and crew members to a distant location accessible only by helicopter. Since it was a big set, they had lots of helicopters flying there, and the hobbits were all bundled into one of them. Now you obviously get one of these helmets with microphones so you can talk to each other, and Billy, Dom and Elijah kept doing things like *kchhg* ‘Bogeys at five o’clock’ *kchhg*, while Sean was going ‘quiet guys, they can’t hear each other!’ (him being the responsible father and everything). Then when they got off the helicopter and wandered off Billy looked around and saw Sean standing there and guiding the helicopters in by waving and stuff.
After Q&A I went to get an autograph from Andreas Katsulas. He was nice, but forgot to ask him to personalise the autograph, so I just got an ‘Andreas’. Still, got my picture taken with him:

Actor hug count now on 6. Also got him to sign my bag.
From where I was I saw that the Bab 5 autograph track was packing up, so I rushed down and managed to catch Jason before he left and asked him if he could sign my bag too please. Chatted with him a bit more, then wandered off to the ‘I am Inigo Montoya’ contest, which was basically a contest to see who could re-enact scenes from The Princess Bride the best. It was funny, but not as funny as I had hoped it would be.
The contest finished at four and Billy’s autograph session started at five, so I made my way to the autograph track again where I hooked back up with the Michiganders. I briefly brushed past Pete Abrams and told him I’d accomplished my mission of giving Billy the Sluggy flyer, then got him to sign my bag too. He drew a little Kiki on, yay! We eventually made our way onto the autograph track and spent another long time waiting, as again they let the staff and volunteers get their autographs first (and I think Billy was late too). I wanted to get my Visual Companion signed this time, and if possible my bag too, but they (again) came past us with rules of what we could and couldn’t do – one autograph only, no pictures with him, only of him, no hugs etc. etc. etc.
I’m last of the lot and give him the little card that the staff had handed out if you wanted your signature personalised. I’d written ‘Yes! I’d like it v. personalised please’ and he wrote ‘To Erica, Thanks for being so cool! You rock! Lots of love, Billy Boyd. X’ (in case you notice a pattern, that last bit is his standard signing thing). I then asked him if I could take a picture and he just looked up and smiled:

He was looking at me there... *siiiigh* Niin mie mieltynen sinuhun. Fate must like me by the way, because a) my batteries died within minutes of taking this photo, so I got it just in time and b) I'm a terrible photographer usually, but any picture I have taken of Billy during that weekend (or at least the close up ones) has turned out fantastically (including the ones I took on Ashley's camera), and IMHO much better than other people's pictures.
I walked away and Legend and Lavagrrl were talking to Stew. We got a group photo taken with him and we all got a hug, then we left to get to the second official bb.net dinner.
We had a table to ourselves and spent our time getting drunk on water (god knows how we did it, but we were just too giggly and chatty and stuff to be sober) and cracking up (again) at Liz re-enacting the moria scene and the new trailer with pepper and salt shakers, Japanese teacups (imagine a salt shaker on top of a teacup, that was Gandalf the White on Shadowfax), a greasy fork as Aragorn and various other pieces of cutlery as the remaining Fellowship members. We also tried the Watcher in the Water with bits of spring roll (tentacles) in a glass of water. Apart from that we kept ogling my beautiful Billy picture (long live the digital camera) and ate the food (pretty nice and an awful lot, I seem to have established my hobbit reputation by eating my soup the fastest and then eating Lavagrrl’s soup too).
We left fairly early because I had to get up really early the next morning, although we did have a drink at a pub before getting back to the hotel. I said goodbye to everyone at the hotel since I was getting up at 4.30 and didn't want to wake them then.

Day 6 (Monday 22 April):

Not much to say anymore really. I woke up around 4am (I always do that when I have to wake up really early, I don’t think I’ve ever made it to the actual alarm clock yet), got out of bed at 4.30 and quietly got ready to leave, so as not to wake Lavagrrl and Siofra.
The cab arrived at 5am, bang on time. Cabbie claimed the fare was $75 rather than the $70 they had twice assured me it would be, but I didn’t care since I was going to give him $80 anyway. The cab was scary. It had a gigantic gap between the seat and the backrest and I was afraid to move even a finger for fear that the thing would fall apart. Stupid git cab driver almost missed an exit and had to swerve like mad to catch it, resulting in him losing control of his car for at least ten seconds. That was the closest (okay, the only time) I ever felt like I could die in this entire weekend. I was incredibly glad when we finally arrived at JFK, not only because of the git’s driving skills (he hadn’t even apologised for the swerving incident), but also because he, being a cabbie, insisted on talking to me, and I couldn’t understand a word of what he was saying, bloody thick accent.
Anyway, checked in without problems, got through security without problems (first time in three flights that the metal detector didn’t bleep! Was very glad I wasn’t going to be strip-searched) and sat down for an hour and a half waiting to board. That’s when I almost started crying. My eyes got a little moist, simply because the whole experience had been so big. So I got a cup of cappucino and just sat there listening to my mp3 player until I was allowed on the plane.
On the way back I watched The Royal Tenenbaums (yes! Been wanting to watch that for ages) and Shrek and was again stuffed with a breakfast and a ‘light snack’. Arrived in London on time, turns out Chris had been waiting for two hours already, the poor sod. He’d left early from work to come and pick me up. I hugged him and then I actually did start crying. Probably both out of happiness and sadness. I told him everything on the way back, unpacked when I got home and showed him all my autographs while he downloaded my photos off the camera, I quickly checked my mail and then went to bed.
End of adventure. *sigh*

Page created 1st May 2002.
E-mail me: erica@ratauvan.co.uk