From the moment Danielle and I landed at McCarran Airport, getting to the Las Vegas Hilton was our sole focus.
<begin tedious details here>
– We picked up the rental car.
– We navigated through Las Vegas lunch hour traffic.
– We avoided random traffic cones in the street that served no apparent purpose.
– We parked in the free garage at the Hilton.
– We meandered through the Hilton casino looking for the Star Trek convention.
We Danielle asked for guidance from a quaint security guard who pointed us to the convention area.
<end tedious details here>
At 12:15pm we arrived at the Will Call
window table in front of the dealer auditorium. After some brief information gathering, we figured out that we hadn’t missed the Wil Wheaton autograph session. We didn’t yet know when it would be, but we hadn’t missed it. One step at a time.
Looking through the program, we discovered that the schedule included Wil Wheaton’s book reading at 1pm. His improv group, Earnest Borg 9, would perform at 6:40pm, forty minutes after the scheduled end of festivities.
Since we had more than forty minutes before the reading, we circled the dealer auditorium to learn what kind of
crap memorabilia was for sale. We saw little of interest, with the limited array of oddball items available. It was just Star Trek figures, t-shirts, videos, and pictures. Our senses were overloaded, so we weren’t scanning closely enough to find the hidden gems.
The multitude of autograph tables with unrecognizable celebrities did catch our attention. Most of these people seemed to be no-name, B-list stars, but in the Star Trek universe, they were Big™. Even if Big™ is defined as Alien #3 in any random episode, Star Trek actor is never a small role. Strange.
(I was excited to see one particular star, one not named Wil Wheaton. More in my next post…)
Realizing that we wished to get good seats, we left the dealer auditorium to seek out the room for Wil Wheaton’s book reading. We found this quickly, but it was occupied by an appraiser who determines the value of Star Trek memorabilia. Think Star Trek Antiques Roadshow. With thirty minutes to go until 1:00, we picked seats near the front and waited. I don’t wish to give the impression that the appraiser was boring, because he wasn’t, but we were restless. We had no Star Trek memorabilia to sell, so we just wanted some Wheaton.
We got the brilliant idea to seek out the Photo-Op with Wil Wheaton in the dealer auditorium. We had some time to kill and pictures would be cool. We journeyed back. After some head-scratching, misguided navigation, we found the booth and got in line. Within a couple of minutes, a volunteer let us know that only one actor was taking photos at the time. It wasn’t Wil Wheaton.
Twenty minutes to go, so we had to hustle. When we got back to the correct auditorium, more people had filled the seats. Worst of all, the front row was packed. We were bummed that our plan had backfired on both fronts, but we gambled and lost. Vegas, baby, Vegas.
At one o’clock, the moderator thanked the appraiser and led into his Wil Wheaton introduction. He then pointed and asked Wil to come up front. He’d been sitting in the audience all along. Doh!
He bantered, then read from Just A Geek and Dancing Barefoot. We laughed. Even though I’d read all the stories, he entertained me. Hearing him read his stories is the same as hearing David Sedaris read his work. The words are great written on the page, but reading them aloud infuses them with their full spectrum of life. I can’t wait for the unabridged audiobook. (Here’s a picture from the reading.)
Brent Spiner’s speech was scheduled to begin at 2:00 in another room and that was fast approaching. A steady stream of people had begun to leave the book reading for that already. I like Brent Spiner’s work, but even if I wasn’t at the convention specifically for Wil Wheaton, the reading was too good to think of leaving. Since many other people were enthralled enough not to leave, we had a surprise guest. From WWdN:
My performance from Just A Geek and Dancing Barefoot was awesome! The room was almost full, and I felt like the audience was “with me” the entire time. Near the end of my time, Brent Spiner walked into the room, and told me, in front of everyone, that he’d read Dancing Barefoot “cover to cover,” and that he liked it! Then he told me to wrap it up, so “these people can come over and listen to me talk.” It was really funny, and really cool.
Two pictures I took are here and here.
At the end of the reading, he announced that he’d be in the dealer auditorium to sign autographs, which was our cue to run, don’t walk to his booth.
Ok, so we walked. We were semi-self-respecting adults conforming ourselves to public standards. Besides, we had to look cool since Wil was behind us. He probably didn’t notice us, but he certainly would’ve noticed if we ran to the auditorium like a couple of dumbasses. So we walked.
While he settled into his booth, greeting people he knew along the way and chatting with his wife, we waited. When I meet celebrities, I hate to be anything other than last in line. I get self-conscious and would rather not have the added pressure of people behind me, waiting for my brain to snap back on its hinges. If we didn’t have a tight time window with just enough time to check in at New York, New York and munch at Gonzalez Y Gonzalez, I would’ve snuck my way to the back of the line. Instead, we waited in the middle, in the order that we arrived. This was ideal, I realized, because I had time to “prepare” my comments without over-rehearsing. Who knew?
The moment arrived. We focused on Wil and stepped to the table with autograph tickets in hand. “Do we give these to you,” I said.
“Yes,” he said. “What would you like me to sign?”
He had pictures available, which were included in the price of the autograph (I think). He also had books available for sale, so Danielle bought a copy. Having already purchased mine, I handed it to him.
“Did you buy this in a bookstore?”
He looked at me, stood up, and stuck out his hand. “I want to shake you
r hand. Thank you so much for buying my book in a real bookstore. That’s so cool.”
Not being a published author, it struck me as quaint that a person buying your book in a store would be so shocking. When I imagine myself in his situation, as someone “washed up” in his first profession, who has found his next passion, it made sense. I liked him more than I did when we arrived in Vegas.
I began to tell him how I’ve never seen Star Trek and the rest of the story about my original impression of him. I got through my being from Virginia and that I knew an extra on Toy Soldiers. When I mentioned the title of the movie, a pained look comes over his face.
“I was an asshole to your friend, wasn’t I?”
“I believe the word he used was ‘dick’,” I said.
“Tell your friend I’m so sorry.”
Danielle speaks. “How old were you when you made that film?” I know the answer to this, only because Wil is 11½ months older than I am. That’s simple math for me.
“I was 18. I was a bit of an asshole to everyone at that age.”
“You were a teenager, that’s what teenagers do,” she said.
“I know, but tell your friend that I’m so sorry.”
“We were really just high school friends,” I said. I followed with the shortened version of the remaining details about how I became a Wil Wheaton reader. Anne Wheaton walked to the table and sat down next to Wil.
“Anne, this is Danielle and Tony. They came all the way from Virginia.”
She looked at us and smiled. She seemed a little timid about his enthusiasm, which we suspect is due to the crazy Star Trek stalker factor. A logical and valid concern.
She wrote a few posts for WWdN that I thought were excellent, so I compliment her on her writing ability.
“Oh, but it takes me 50 times longer to write than Wil,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter how long it takes. You write well and that’s the key.”
Our time was up (which is why I like being in the back of the line… more time to stare at the celebrity), so we thanked Wil one more time and walked away.
As I’d learned from his writing and acting, Wil Wheaton is funny. He’s a great writer and performer. When I meet celebrities with sketchy reputations, I’m always apprehensive because I don’t want to be disappointed. Wil Wheaton did not disappoint. He exceeded my expectations. I’m happy to report that Wil Wheaton is cool.