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» Sunday, September 04, 2011
Dragoncon 2011, Day 3
First things first! Happy birthday, James!

We began the day with another breakfast at Cafe Momo, and then it was on to the panels. The difference in the crowds from yesterday (the big day at the convention anyway) was startling. I had no trouble getting a good seat near the front at James Darren's panel, which was held in the same room that Ernest Borgnine had been in.

I have to admit, I did not watch The Time Tunnel (it was actually on after my bedtime) and only saw the film Gidget (one of his other iconic roles) until a few years ago. Nevertheless, I loved his panel, especially hearing stories about the musical talent he worked with, from standards singers to rock'n'roll pioneers. Once he was in Las Vegas when Ella Fitzgerald was about to perform. He found her in her dressing room afraid to go on stage because she didn't know if they would like her! He said even Frank Sinatra got a case of nerves before he went on.

Apparently he had a semi-recurring role on Deep Space 9 after we stopped watching it, as a lounge singer on the holodeck. The shoes he wore in that part were made for Dean Martin, but Martin didn't like them.

Anyway, Time Tunnel. He actually had planned to turn down the role, but Irwin Allen personally asked him to take it. I asked him what historical events he would have liked to have seen if the series had gone for a second season and he mentioned the crossing of the Delaware, Jesse James, and the Crucifixion, if the latter was written well.

Oh, his part in Gidget, the infamous "Moondoggie"? It was originally written for Elvis Presley.

But his fame sometimes escapes him. He performed at the DragonCon banquet last night and a kid asked him if he was dressed up like Christopher Walken. LOL.

So I emerged from the International North ballroom to...immediately get in line for the International North Ballroom. As I said, you could tell it was Sunday, as here it was 1/2 hour until Martin Landau's panel and only about 40 people were in line. (The room was pretty much filled, however, by the time the panel was five minutes in.)

One of the first questions to Martin Landau, who sports a beard and hair that touches his shirt collar, and who looks a lot like an erudite college professor, was if the cast of the television Mission: Impossible were asked to be in the film. Yes. They were going to kill them all off. He said Peter Graves was horribly disturbed that they made his old character of Jim Phelps evil in the film. He always tried to protect the character. The series itself had "a very friendly set," and he enjoyed playing Rollin Hand, especially Rollin playing someone else. He always tried to make the performance not quite perfect, since he didn't think anyone could play another person exactly perfect.

Space: 1999. Well, he liked the first season better. :-) The second? Two words: Fred Freiberger ... "dot dot dot" LOL.

Let's see: North by Northwest. Well, he went to see Alfred Hitchcock for what he thought was an audition, and Hitchcock had already cast him. He decided that he would play the character very subtly as gay, and afterwards people would ask James Mason, who played his superior, if he was bisexual. He would reply dryly that no, he wasn't, "but Landau played it that way, so my hands were tied." I can see I'm going to have to watch North by Northwest again, as he played it so subtly I did not notice it.

And then questions about Ed Wood. He thought the idea of doing a film about Bela Lugosi odd until he watched some of Lugosi's films. They began making the film in color, and then both Landau and Tim Burton realized at the same time that it needed to be in black and white to "look right."

Next, I managed to make it into the Christopher Lloyd panel by the skin of my teeth. Centennial I was now standing room only, and outside the room wasn't making it any better. Two lines were being formed, one for Lloyd and one for William Shatner in Centennial II-III, and the staff was trying to direct them. Unfortunately, a very LOUD rock band was playing in the foyer area and the lines could not hear the instructions the staff was giving them. Very, very bad planning. If they must have music in that area, it needs to be quieter.

Christopher Lloyd has done many things, and understandably his panel hopscotched from Dennis the Menace to Clue to Who Framed Roger Rabbit to, of course, Taxi, Back to the Future, and Star Trek, not to mention Buckaroo Banzai. In fact, he said the latter featured the worst makeup he ever had. He felt he could not express himself with his face because it was so stiff.

As earlier in James Darren's panel, he was asked where he would go if the DeLorean worked: he chose the Battle of Hastings, the Age of Pericles, and Neanderthal times.

Other tidbits:
• Many years after Dennis the Menace, a young man approached him at a restaurant. It was "Dennis," now in medical school.
• One of his favorite roles was doing Death of a Salesman in Vermont.
• Two of his favorite roles: Dr. Doom and Captain Kruge. He was impressed that Roger Rabbit was all animated by hand.
• His classic "yellow light" speal in Taxi was improvised right before filming.
• His favorite "exotic" makeup was Captain Kruge.
• He once rode the Back to the Future ride with his ex and they were making out on the ride. He didn't realize they filmed all the cars for security reasons. He was embarrassed to discover that the security people got quite a chuckle about what was going on between "Doc Brown" and his ladyfriend.
• The famous "clock scene" at the end of Back to the Future was very intense because he was actually up that high. Later they filmed some scenes in a lower set, but those looks of terror on his face were real.

Once again the Centennial level was so crowded that I just went out the doors and down the damn stairs again. It was warm and smothery out, but I still walked down the hill to avoid having to go through the Marriott. I was headed for the Sheraton and an "Everything Doctor Who" panel. This was held in the larger room that they had, which is really where the BritTrack needs to be meeting, or at least something a bit larger than that tiny "Macon" room. Indeed it was conversation about everything, including a restored "Day of the Daleks" with new special effects, pros and cons about standard and Blu-Ray, and the fact that Steven Moffat has four unfilmed Robert Holmes Doctor Who scripts in his possession. Ooooooooooh!

The Macon room showed off its shortcomings immediately as I bolted upstairs for the Ken Spivey Band's "Time Lord Fest": Ken's and Donald's repertoire of Doctor Who themed songs along with prizes and a small costume contest. It was a barrel of fun, especially as most of the crowd had not been at Timegate and had not heard the songs, but it was hideously crowded and there were rude people up front who kept talking while Ken and his dad were performing. Are you listening, DragonCon? BritTrack needs a larger room! Trek Trak has one!

James had turned up, perspiring and miserable, for Time Lord Fest, then we made our way back to the bowels of the Hyatt where we went to a fun Jonny Quest panel. The older ones of us remembered the original series, the younger ones The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest. Much badinage about Dr. Quest's pessimism, Race's tendency to kill everything, Hadji being comic relief—nonsense! Hadji was the typical 1960s "wisecracking sidekick." Bandit was comic relief. Oh, yeah, and debates on whether "Questworld" was exciting or boring. My vote: boring!

It was time for the second ARTC performance of the convention, so we headed upstairs to the now familiar Regency VI-VII. The Sunday show is usually a more dramatic presentation, but this started off with a more whimsical presentation, "You've Got Mail Demons," about a scientist, his niece and nephew, and an e-mail spam killer that gets too effective for its own good. This was followed by the somber one-man "The Music of Erich Zann," an H.P. Lovecraft tale about a tormented musician, and finally "Sarabande for a Condemned Man," a tale about a man thirsting for vengeance, the thief who must bear the brunt of his rage, and a very charming clockwork songstress. A super show, with Kelley Ceccato's "Sarabande" a standout.

James went off to one final panel, and so did I: "Steampunk Themes in Doctor Who." The verdict: they've always been there, starting with William Hartnell's frock coat and the Edwardian coatrack in the TARDIS control room. As someone pointed out, "steampunk" is more than brass and goggles, it's an attitude. And there will be more in the future. We finally decided that the perfect story would be the Doctor teaming up with Nicola Tesla fighting an alien Thomas Edison. :-)

Then it was back to the truck and back home to prep for the final day and to sleep perchance to dream...

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