Spirit's Account of the
Las Vegas Breakfast and Bash

or, "Ohh, baby, please kick me, harder, harder."

June 1998


The Earth 2 gathering in Las Vegas rose out of the ashes of the canceled "Crossroads" convention, which was scheduled to happen during the week of June 15-19, 1998. Even though the con was canceled, most of the Earth 2 celebrities and fans still wanted to get together, and we did, largely due to the continued efforts of Char Haguewood and Beth Blighton. My sincere thanks to both of them.

Not only were Earth 2 fans present, but because of Beth, a contingent of Beauty and the Beast fans also attended, which was really nice.

This account is simply mine, told from my point of view. I had nothing to do with this shindig, officially or unofficially, except for taking snapshots at the breakfast.

Additionally, I do not, cannot remember everyone's name, or whether I met a particular person at a particular place. My three days in Vegas became a blur by the third afternoon. Please do not take this personally. Rather than risk forgetting names, I'm just not going to try, for the most part.

Monday, June 15

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport was pretty much dead on Monday night as I boarded the plane. I was so excited as I watched the ground fall away and I headed to Vegas, because I would be seeing some of my podmates again (New Mexico, 1997), as well as meeting many people from the mailing list who had always been friendly, but faceless.

I had never been to Las Vegas before, but I'd heard much. All the description in the world could not prepare me. The moment I walked into the airport in Las Vegas, I was struck by how many people there were. It was almost midnight on Monday. Why didn't they all go home and go to bed?

The second thing that struck me was the slot machines. Rows and rows of them, beeping and humming and churning and flashing. I immediately found them to be irritating. I continued to find them irritating throughout the entire trip. Enough said.

Riding to the hotel, all I saw were huge buildings, flashing lights, and billboards. Every billboard was advertising another show or another attraction. In many ways, Vegas is nothing more than a huge theme park disguised as a city. But it's not a theme park like Disneyland or Six Flags. They don't just want you to visit; they want you to stay. It's difficult to describe precisely, but as I rode into the city, I felt the fakeness of it all. It was so gaudy and plastic and flashy. I almost expected Mr. Roarke and Tatoo to meet me at the hotel, saying, "What is your fantasy?" As a kid, I would have found Las Vegas to be one of the greatest places on Earth. Now, however, I'm slowing down (by choice, mind you), and flashy attractions don't really do it for me any more. Vegas is chock full of the very things I'm trying to get away from. A little is nice, but there's such a thing as overdoing it. So I just decided to ignore the parts of it I didn't like and have fun with the rest.

The hotels are huge. Huger than huge. They are huge because each hotel has its own casino. The lobbies are about the size of football fields, and they are filled with more rows and rows of slot machines. The parts that don't have slot machines are filled with gaming tables. Each casino has ATM's so you can draw out more money, and they have no clocks, because they don't ever want you knowing what time it is, so you will stay there and keep gambling. The noise is constant, with music playing all the time. This never lets up; it's going 24 hours a day.

The breakfast was scheduled for Wednesday morning at the Tropicana Hotel. I stayed at the San Remo Hotel, which is next door to the Tropicana. (In Vegas, "next door" = "five minutes walking distance.")

I got to see Char, Maddie, Cathy, and Cheryl again, all of whom I'd met last year in New Mexico.

In addition, throughout my entire stay, I also got to meet for the first time Maddie's sister Ellen, Beth, Gina (who did Heart of Eden with Beth), Jenna, Susan, Bernd, George, Ashley, Zila (Liz, whatever), Kim, Kelly, A.J., Robin, and Jo Beth. I probably met a lot of other people I don't remember, as well as several B&Bers.

Some people arrived as early as Friday the 12th, and some left as late as Sunday the 21st. Throughout the week, we got together in little groups and went to see various attractions, or to shop, or to do whatever.

It's not really possible to tell you who went where, and except for the Breakfast, none of us did any one thing all together. So whenever I say "we," I mean "whichever group of people I happened to be tagging along with at the time," which could be anyone. Most of the time I was with Cheryl, Jenna, Susan, and Beth, and some of the time I was also with Char, Maddie and Ellen. Beyond that, I walked with George, Liz, Zila, and Bernd a little bit. I got to spend some time with Cathy and Kelly on Tuesday night.

The weather during my stay was very nice – sunny, clear, a tad on the hot side. High winds sprang up Tuesday night, but that was all.

Tuesday, June 16

I met with almost everyone for breakfast at the Tropicana. I'd only been with everyone for about an hour when Char said I was getting loud! I knew then that this was going to be a fun time.

We crowded into Cheryl's room to see newspaper clippings and photographs of the massive ice storm that hit Canada last winter. We then went walking to see what Vegas had to show us.

The Tropicana Hotel has colorful birds and reptiles on display along its main hallway, which connects the two towers. We strolled along here for a while. There was a monitor (a six-foot lizard), which was being set free briefly so the keeper could clean its case. It was pretty cute, as it crawled down to the floor, then scrabbled its way back up into the case when the keeper was done.

We went across the street to the New York, NY Hotel, which has a replica of the New York skyline as its front – Statue of Liberty and everything. Some of us rode the roller coaster, which was pretty exciting. Going upside down twice at breakneck speed is always a good way to start the day.

More wandering brought us to "M&M World," and then to the "Coca-Cola Museum." The Coca-Cola Museum was neat. There was a little show at an old-time soda fountain, and an exhibit where we could sample Coca-Cola products from around the world. There was also a massive soda fountain – when you put your cup underneath the spout, the Coke would shoot from a fountain about seven or eight feet away, hit a smooth ramp, and funnel into the cup, all without splattering anything. There was also a place to sit and watch Coca-Cola commercials from the past few decades.

We went to the Luxor and attended a viewing of the movie L5: First City in Space. This was at the Imax Theater, and was presented in the new digital 3D technology. It was pretty neat. The best thing about that film was when we were zooming over the simulated landscape of Mars. I swear I felt a mountaintop brush against my ear and my chin. Highly recommended.

During my stay, I really didn't care where I went. I spent a lot of time talking and walking at the same time, which doesn't leave any space in my brain to pay attention to where I'm going. I simply followed whomever seemed to be leading. Since most people in Earth 2 fandom are women, this led to an unfortunate habit, the first incidence of which happened before going into the Imax Theater.

We'd bought our tickets and were heading across the lobby. I was chattering away freely to Cheryl, not paying attention. As we headed for a doorway, she simply said, "Doug, go left." I looked up, and found that all the people I was with were heading into the women's rest room. I had no idea. I had my ticket in my hand, and I thought I was going into the theater. I suppose it wouldn't quite have been the show I expected.

Those who know me may very well say that I talk a lot. I will chatter on and on, loudly, and usually without any shame, thought, rhyme or reason. This means that twice more during my stay in Las Vegas, I almost followed the people I was with into the women's rest room because I was just chattering away. Cheryl had to stop me once more, and Beth did it again on Thursday. It got to the point where they began warning me beforehand.

Also before going into the theater, as we were sitting and waiting for the others, I playfully started kicking the soles of Cheryl's feet. She said it felt good, because her feet hurt from the walking. So I did it some more, and then started kicking Jenna's and Susan's feet as well. They started saying, "Ohh, baby, kick me, please, harder, harder." It was grand.

After the movie, we ate at the Motown Cafe. The food was good, and about every 15 minutes, singers came out and entertained us. The only song I remember is "My Girl." They did a great job.

We went back to our hotels. The things I've just listed may not seem like much, but it really did take a long time. There is a lot of walking in Vegas. We all drank a lot of water, because sometimes it got a bit daunting to be walking around in the heat.

Around 6:00, our three guests for the next day – John Gegenhuber, Marie del Prete, and Rockmond Dunbar – arrived in Las Vegas and checked in.

We met again at 7:00. John and Marie had just flown in, and needed to get settled, but Rockmond joined us. (My very first Earth 2 celebrity! I felt like a real fan.)

We went to the Hilton, which has a Star Trek exhibit and simulator ride, and it was this that I wanted to see most. When we got there, we were delayed for a bit because some high winds sprang up during the evening, and the exhibit's power was out.

Strangely, the slot machines 30 feet away from the Star Trek exhibit were working perfectly. (Hmm. Wonder why that is.) So we sat around for a bit, waiting for them to get the power back. I refuse to gamble, but as I was sitting down next to a slot machine, Rockmond handed me a quarter and said, "Play it." When I asked why, he said, "Because I know you're not going to use your own money!"

He was trying to get me hooked! Of all things!

So I played it, and Rockmond and a few others played some more for a while. He's a neat guy, and very nice to be with.

They got power back for the exhibit, if not the ride, and we could go in. This place is another I highly recommend. The floor and walls are starship-like, and there are shops where you can buy costumes, props, photos (autographed), paintings, etc. – some of them quite expensive. Two giant starships hang from the ceiling high above, and maps and directions are displayed in the Star Trek style, as if you were looking at a computer console on a bridge.

The place consists of a ring of shops and exhibits. In the center of this ring is Quark's Bar, and prices aren't that bad. To add atmosphere to Quark's bar, there are people who hang out in costume, sometimes acting rowdy, drunk, and almost getting into fights. I ate there with Cathy and Kelly, and we were joined briefly by a Klingon woman, and we chatted for a while.

They also got the ride working, and we did that. I won't say what the simulator ride story was, because it's quite clever, and I don't want to give it away. But it was fantastic, exciting, extremely well done, and something you should definitely not miss if you're ever in Vegas. I really felt like I was flying in space. It lasted about 10 or 15 minutes, and it's an adrenaline rush. (Char kept saying, "I'm rooting for the Klingons! I'm rooting for the Klingons!")

Wednesday, June 17

The Breakfast had finally arrived. We listened to a taped phone interview with Clancy Brown, and another of Jessica Steen, both of which had been conducted by Beth. During the Clancy interview, we also watched a video compilation of Clancy's work, with the sound turned down. During the Jessica interview, we simultaneously watched an Armageddon preview tape, also with the sound turned down.

This Armageddon tape, despite being 30 minutes long, didn't have any Jessica on it. Disney had promised to send a special tape with her in it, but they never did, and simply sent the standard one, despite the fact that Jessica's PR people pressured Disney for it at great length.

About 10:00 the celebrities arrived. These were Rockmond Dunbar (Baines), John Gegenhuber (Morgan Martin), and his girlfriend Marie del Prete, a make-up artist whom he met on the show. We had breakfast. I didn't get to sit by either John or Rockmond, but I still had a great time. This was the very first time I got to meet John Gegenhuber.

No one told me he's so damn tall!

I'm 5'10", and I'm not used to tilting my head back to look up at people. He doesn't look tall on the show, perhaps because of the character he played, but he cleared me by a good four or five inches. He also seemed to have an aura of power about him. (Really.) Even though he seemed just a little nervous, I got the impression that I was in the presence of someone who was still in his element. It was like he had a deep, professional calm about himself. It's difficult to explain. He somehow projected himself, just by standing there.

His slight nervousness actually put me at ease. I find it easier to approach someone if they're nervous, because that gives me something to work with – I can smile and say hello and be friendly, and it will have a good effect. (Hopefully.) I did this with John, and he seemed to appreciate it.

After breakfast, I really don't remember what we did. I think we mingled, and looked over tables. John was impressed by the calendar EvacPod put together last year! That was way cool.

We broke for lunch (yes, we just ate and ate and ate). At 2:00, we started the main part of the auction. The biggest sellers by far were the vest and two jackets donated by someone from the show. They all had the VA-1587 on the back. They ended up with three of my podmates, Cathy, Cheryl, and Maddie.

While auctioning each jacket, one each of our guests of honor (led by John) walked down the center aisle modeling it. Gegenhuber's runway modeling and strutting are equaled only by his cheerleading. (Marie didn't do too badly, herself! Someone needs to put this woman in front of a camera.)

The auction continued for a while, and people continued to look over the tables and buy things.

Around 3:00 or 3:30, the guests sat on stage and answered questions. They were very enjoyable and funny. John talked about an Earth 2 episode he and Clancy had been writing, and they talked briefly (but vaguely) about a script he and Rockmond were working on. Marie is short, skinny, and very lively, like a little firecracker. Even when there was a lull in the questions, they plowed on with stories and jokes.

John Gegenhuber will often go off on a tangent, then forget what the question was. At least three times throughout the afternoon, he said, "I forget what the question was, but the answer is, 'Yes.'"

We then lined up for autographs. Following Cheryl's lead (she had a good idea and I stole it), I asked them all to sign their birthdays in my calendar. I also got Rockmond to autograph a photo, and John to autograph the poem Cheryl wrote in the NP conzine.

During and after the autographs, we saw the bloopers reel, the music videos, footage of the 1995 Emmy Sky Ad, and other little knick knacks. We also took a lot more photos with our three celebrities.

At 5:00, we packed it up and called it a bash. But the day wasn't over.

That evening, I joined a bunch of happy people in Beth's hotel room. All the people who had requested to sit at Clancy's table had gathered there, and Beth called him on the phone, so they all got to talk with him. There wasn't time or money to ask Clancy to talk to everyone at the bash, and a speaker phone would have cost far, far too much. For these reasons, this event wasn't advertised, and it was a treat for the Clancyettes only.

I joined them for dinner at an Italian restaurant, the name of which I can't remember. We had a really great time (mostly because the Clancyettes were all kind of high after the phone call).

This might explain why one of us proceeded to tell a story with such energy and passion that when she reached the word "Bitch!" in an imaginary phone conversation, she inadvertently yelled it out loud to the whole restaurant. Her voice rose as she told the story, and it kind of popped out like a gunshot. It drew only a few stares, and her face sank to the tablecloth and she did not move for about five minutes. It was grand!

(And no, I'm not telling you who it was. Don't even ask. Unless you can top her payment.)

(It was Cheryl.)

Thursday, June 18

Our three guests had all departed for Los Angeles the night before. The bash was behind us, and more sightseeing and shopping were ahead.

Some people took road trips. Cathy and Kelly went to Zion, and Char, Maddie, Ellen, and Cheryl went to Valley of Fire. I stayed in Vegas, and walked around with Beth, Susan, and Jenna for a while. Susan and Jenna are also Doctor Who fans, like me, so I got to finally talk with them about my other favorite show!

Jenna eventually had to leave, but the rest of us continued to wander. We saw the moving statues at Ceasar's Palace, and a massive toy store with lots and lots of neat stuff I wanted to buy! This toy store had a replica of the Trojan Horse, which we could walk through, and one half of the second story was given over to Star Wars stuff. There was also a floor piano you could step on and make music, like in the movie Big! I got a kick out of that.

Walking and walking and walking and walking and walking. Like Gegenhuber said at NP'96: "Schleppin' across the planet." We then spent about two hours in Beth's hotel room just resting our feet. I almost fell asleep.

That evening, we met up with everyone who'd gone to Valley of Fire, and went to see the pirate show at Treasure Island, which lasts about ten minutes. It's a pretty big scale production. Another I recommend, but watch out for that heat.

We went to dinner. Waiting for the pirate show, and then finding a place that wasn't crowded, had taken so long, that I was running short on time, because I had to catch my plane. Cheryl, Beth, Susan and I got separated from the others (two taxis, you see), and we couldn't spend time finding them. (At least, I couldn't. The others weren't on a deadline.)

We ate at a food court, and talked for a few minutes more. We then went back to Beth's room where I'd left some of my stuff. I picked it up, said goodbye, and headed for the airport.

As it turned out, my plane was an hour late, anyway. America West was having a night from hell, and no one was happy. The baggage clerks and gate clerks were catching hell from irate customers, even though it wasn't their fault that the airline was behind. I felt sorry for them. I didn't mind – my plane was late because of a technical fault, and I'd rather be an hour late than crash. For me, it's a pretty simple choice.

I slept on the way home. Vegas had some really nice attractions, but overall, the city hadn't impressed me that much. I live half an hour from the original Six Flags, so I don't need to fly halfway across the country to see stuff like that. It's nice to say I've been there now, but I wouldn't visit Las Vegas again without a good reason. But I was very, very sad to leave. I really enjoy my fellow Earth 2 fans, and I didn't want to go home.

I landed at Dallas / Fort Worth International Airport at 5:30 Friday morning, Central Time.

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