Rolling the Dice at Supernatural VegasCon
There was no way that VegasCon this year was going to outdo VegasCon last year, when all four Winchesters were onstage together and the actors were every bit as emotional about that as the cheering fans were. There was no way anything was going to top Jensen Ackles turning into an effing rockstar right before our eyes belting out Sister Christian at the Saturday Night Special. I left VegasCon last year on a high, clinging to my fellow fangirls in a sort of euphoria that was hard to believe wasn’t the result of some illegal substance. A Supernatural high, if you will.
So yes, there was no way that was going to happen again. This year’s Vegas Con was definitely different – awesome in its own way, but full of more highs and lows than generally happens at a con. There are several con chapters in Fangasm in which things went rather amusingly awry for us; this year’s VegasCon will probably be part of the eventual sequel.
I almost didn’t go.
Anyone who knows me knows that’s a big deal. A few days before the con, I got an email telling me that I was no longer allowed to post anything about the ‘private’ meet and greets. Not here on the blog, not on twitter, not on facebook, not on tumblr, not anywhere. If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you know that a few years ago I was told not to post transcripts of the meet and greets, only tidbits, which is a rule I’ve followed ever since even if it rankled. Suddenly it was nothing. Zilch. Nada. Never mind that there are plenty of details from every meet and greet on tumblr if you know where to find them, but those blogs aren’t public and widely read. I spent three days trying to decide whether I still wanted to go, and wondering why this was getting to me so much. It’s not like anyone pays me to write up the meet and greets. I just figure if I’m lucky enough to go, I should share. That’s what fandom does.
The thing is, this is important to me. Supernatural is important to me. Fandom is important to me. We started this blog to share with other fans, in the spirit of fandom which had so impressed us. It’s what we wrote about and celebrated in ‘Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls’ – here was a world where people actually GAVE to each other. Wrote fic and made vids and created amazing art and just SHARED it. For FREE. The gift economy of fandom was so inspiring – and so unlike the rest of the world – that we had to write about it. I love that about fandom.
When we’re lucky enough to go to a con – and we’re well aware that does make us lucky – then we live tweet as much as is humanly possible. I take as many (admittedly inferior) photos on my phone as I can and tweet them out to everyone who isn’t there – just as I appreciate everyone else who does. When I have the privilege of going to a meet and greet – and it IS a privilege – I share that too. There are tens of thousands of fans who will never be able to go to a con, let alone a meet and greet. Many fans have said that at least they feel, for a moment, like they were there.
Over the years, we’ve received thousands of tweets and emails and in-person messages telling us that it was reading ‘Fangasm’ or this blog that convinced the person to scrimp and save and throw caution to the wind and go to a con. I’m guessing we’ve been some of the most effective free advertising the cons have ever had – if you read the books or this blog, you know that what we write is usually overwhelmingly positive (and genuinely so). You seriously cannot get better advertising than that!
So I was upset that I can no longer blog about the meet and greets. I’m glad that the actors feel comfortable sharing things they usually wouldn’t in a smaller group, and it’s understandable that they wouldn’t want certain things widely shared. I certainly wouldn’t want anything to jeapardize them doing meet and greets! But it still feels antithetical to fandom. I’m not sure anything can really be construed as ‘private’ when there are 20 people in a room raising their hands and asking questions of a celebrity paid to be there, after all. But if that’s the way it has to be, I guess I’ll deal – after all, there were fangirls waiting for me in Vegas! As much as seeing the cast who I’ve come to love, cons are all about seeing my fellow fangirls!
And there was a lot of fangirl fun at VegasCon. We had way-too-big breakfasts at Hash House and waited in way-too-long Starbucks lines and got spiffied up for some gourmet food and drink and a rooftop view at swanky Nove. Fangirls make it all better.
Day No. 1
Thursday was a strangely laid back day with only four guests, and very different without Rob there (he had a really good excuse though, since he was filming our favorite Show…) Richard has enough energy for three people, luckily, and we got treated to an amazing rendition of ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ as he performed with Louden Swain.
Richard was also clearly thrilled with the signs that some fans distributed – when he saw many of us holding up signs that read “Thursday People Love Dick” he grabbed his phone and took some photos, then jumped into the audience so he could actually be IN the pictures.
It was a nice moment, because Richard works hella hard at these cons. In fact, he’s played an instrumental part in making them what they are.
Back in the early days of the cons, it was a tradition for me and Kathy to meet up with Richard at the end of a con for drinks and to compare our perspectives of how things went – from the guest side and from the fan side. Needless to say, they didn’t always match, but we both appreciated the insights and it helped us understand what the cons were all about. For all of us. Those insights went into our books when we wrote ‘Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls’ and they went into helping Richard shape the cons into the best possible experience for both fans and guests – which in turn has helped them be as successful and long-lasting as they are, far exceeding any other show conventions!
Richard also wrote some of his insights into the chapter he contributed to our other book, ‘Fan Phenomena: Supernatural’. If you haven’t read it, it’s got Richard’s trademark quick wit but it also has some surprisingly serious thoughts about his own journey with Supernatural, fans and conventions.
Alaina Huffman was first up, and her energy was a great way to start the day. Whether she’s sharing behind the scenes tidbits about filming as Abaddon (like her death scene with Jensen Ackles when she was so focused on keeping the wires out of Jensen’s shot that she “forgot to act” lol) or talking about her four kids, Alaina’s enthusiasm is infectious.
Also, she may have the best legs of anyone anywhere ever. No, seriously.
Then we had Brock Kelly, who hasn’t been to a con in quite a while. And boy, did he grow up! He doesn’t look much like Jensen or Dean, but he does look really damn good. He’s also come a long way in his level of comfort with being onstage and answering questions, and did a great job entertaining the audience.
Matt Frewer, of Max Headroom and many other sci fi classics fame, was a first time SPN con guest. I think Richard and the band were fanboying a bit, which was nice to see. He turned out to have a great sense of humor and was very entertaining, bounding back and forth across the stage sort of like a big overgrown puppy. He got a lot of questions about the many genre roles he’s done, and gave some great answers.
Jason Manns did a panel that was half singing and half answering questions, which worked really well. It was nice to have him back at a con – a reminder of the early days once again. I’ve missed his beautiful voice.
Jason was one of the first people we talked to while we were writing ‘Fangasm’ – he first told us the story of the “flying fangirl” and volunteered a free download of one of his songs to be included with the book, which was incredibly sweet. I love ‘Soul’ and I love that it’s part of ‘Fangasm’!
And that was Day 1! There was some grumbling (in addition to mine) about ticket prices, but frankly it’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re enveloped in a room full of Supernatural love.
Thursday night cheered me up even more – it was the screening of the Supernatural Fandom movie, introduced by the Kostermans and Jason Fischer, who stayed around to chat afterwards. I thought the film was excellent; it captured the spirit of fandom that I keep babbling about here, as well as the cast’s affection and appreciation for the fans and for each other. The new book I’m finishing up is all about the phenomenon of this show and this fandom and how lives have been changed (or even saved) on both sides of the fan/cast divide. I know how emotional and genuine the actors are about that, because many of them have written chapters for the book – and they are all powerful and heartfelt and kind of amazing. I thought that came through in the movie too, and was happy to have a little part in it.
Then we had the only remaining Gold cocktail party on the con circuit, which I went to for nostalgic reasons. There were even a few centerpieces to judge! (There’s a chapter in Fangasm that paints a somewhat humorous take on what these parties were like in the first few years of the SPN cons). I caught up with some fangirl friends and had a lovely chat with Brock Kelly, who was fascinated with the fact that four of us at the table were professors who research, write about and teach this show. He was like, what???! He also melted us when he told us that he and Colin had gone out to dinner the night before, and how nice it was to see him again after so long. Awww. They totally have a young Sam and Dean vibe going.
By the time I made the long trek back across the casino floor to my room approximately ten miles away, I fell asleep with a smile on my face. And I didn’t even stop at the Spa, though they had a handy dandy Supernatural special running all weekend. Hmm. Sounds tempting, doesn’t it? Are Sam and Dean included?
Day No. 2
Friday saw Richard once again holding down the fort as both emcee and band front man, and he once again did an admirable job. Not that we didn’t miss Rob and Matt!
Kim Rhodes and Briana Buckmaster kicked off Day 2. Both are con veterans now, but I’m absolutely certain that none of us are ever going to get enough of them. I love the two of them together – they start out a panel announcing that they’re about to talk about their periods and then we go from there.
They are both an inspiration to this largely female fandom – they tell it like it is onstage, without apology, and I think we all appreciate it. When they talk about the pressures of the business for women, about Kim losing a role that was created for her because she was “too fat” or Briana talking about how she doesn’t like to talk too much about her body image because that gives others the right to talk about her body and fuck that – we get it. They are us, we are them. We validate each other.
I also invariably LOVE whatever they’re wearing. Here Briana answers a question and Kim – and all of us – appreciate the view.
Colin Ford’s panel was a highlight, especially when Brock Kelly joined him and they went into Sam and Dean mode onstage. It was like being sucked through a time machine, eavesdropping on young Sammy and his big brother. Colin and Brock have that same brotherly dynamic and a clear affection for each other which was lovely to see. Look at them together and tell me you don’t see young Sam and Dean, with Sam looking up to his big brother.
They even acted out the scene from the pilot where Dean comes to get Sam at Stanford, much to the fans’ glee.
Colin looks exactly like I picture Sam when he went off to Stanford every time I read a Stanford verse fic, seriously. And he’s a genuine Supernatural fan who keeps up with the show and very much wants to see that episode filmed! In fact, Colin didn’t read the rest of the script of the episode he filmed this season, because he’s not quite caught up and doesn’t want to be spoiled. Now that’s genuine fannish behavior right there. Brock too told us on Thursday night that he watched the show regularly for many seasons, and he now needs to catch up.
We had solo panels from Gil McKinney, Osric Chau and Jim Beaver to round out Day 2. Gil graced us with a song or two, which is always a highlight of his panel. He has an amazing voice, which will soon be heard in the new Chad Lindberg project, Party Monsters. Gil is playing the Phantom, and I think I speak for everyone when we say “GREAT CASTING!”
Osric showed up in amazing cosplay – I never cease to be amazed at the time and energy and conscientiousness he clearly puts into his cosplay (as do the people who help him make the costumes). This one was spot on, and I must say Os wore it well. Osric’s panels are always fun because he blurs the line between ‘us’ and ‘them’ at cons, proud of being a fanboy and completely unassuming. And fandom loves him for it.
Wonderful to have Jim Beaver back, since he doesn’t do too many conventions. There are few fans who don’t miss Bobby Singer on our Show, and most of us have a great fondness for both the character and the actor who plays him. Jim has been on many many shows and films and plays, of course, and he answered questions about all of them. I think he too has a soft spot for Bobby, though.
After a fun fangirl dinner at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the lights of Vegas, I headed to karaoke. Karaoke was great as always; and unusual in that it was skewed toward the ladies. Kim, Briana and Alaina kicked ass, and we even had a surprise appearance by the actor who played Kim’s husband on The Suite Life (who happened to be performing in Rock of Ages at this very hotel). I joined the Creation gang onstage for the last number to sing Carry On, stayed up way too late and had way too much fun, then headed back to the room at 2 am. (Btw, standing next to Colin and Brock during Carry On, I confess I got all wibbly when Brock kept slinging his arm around Colin’s shoulders all big-brother-like)
So, Friday night was fun, I was feeling a little better, starting to get into that good mood that cons usually bring….
Approximately 3 hours later, I’m awakened from a blessedly sound sleep by my lovely roomie Shay, who isn’t sounding all that lovely.
“What’s that noise?” she’s saying. I sit up, listening. Shit. What IS that noise? Gurgle gurgle blurp blurp. It sort of sounds like a volcano is getting ready to erupt from the bathroom.
We look at each other, bleary eyed.
Me: Maybe it will stop.
Shay: Yeah, maybe.
Michelle: [still attempting sleep]
We lay back down, optimistically trying to go back to sleep. Every few minutes, the gurgling sound starts up again. Is it getting louder? Is it just my imagination?
Twenty minutes later, the unmistakable sound of rushing water comes from the bathroom. Huh. I guess one of my roomies decided to get up ridiculously early and take a shower. It’s still dark, so I squint to see who’s in the other bed.
Shay? Check. Michelle? Check. Then who the hell is taking a shower in our bathroom???
Shay realizes it at the same time I do, and beats me to the bathroom. The next thing I hear is her bloodcurdling scream.
OMG it’s overflowing!
That was a serious understatement. Not a trickle, but a veritable geyser is spraying from the toilet, and as we watch with horror, it grows darker and darker. As in, browner and browner.
Shay: Is that? OMG is that…
Me: [muffled because now my hand is over my face to block the stench] OMG yes!
For a few long moments, we’re just frozen in disbelief. It looked like a scene from a horror movie – or perhaps from Supernatural. It was gushing up from the toilet, and from the tub – at such a rate that already we couldn’t get into the bathroom to retrieve any of our stuff.
Shay ran to call the hotel desk, while Michele and I basically held our breath and tried not to lose our dinner. Fifteen minutes later, as the foul water is starting to seep into the carpet outside the bathroom, a harried maintenance man arrives.
“Shit,” he says.
“Yes, shit! Exactly!” we all say in unison.
Apparently this isn’t the first time this has happened to the Rio, which is disturbing in and of itself. Maintenance man calls for backup.
“No, NOW! If we don’t stop this quickly, we’ve got a major disaster on our hands.”
So here we are, in our pj’s at 6 am, frantically trying to pack up our things and get out of the room. I’m sobbing about the essentials that I need in the inaccessible bathroom, because you damn well know that if we don’t take them with us, we will NEVER see them again. Finally maintenance man constructs a bridge out of wooden planks and makes the dangerous (and nauseating) trek into the bathroom to retrieve our stuff. A bellhop comes up and loads our hastily packed belongings on a cart and takes us to another room. Nothing like stumbling through the casino at 6 am in your pajamas while people are stumbling around the casino trying to get to bed. At least we fit in with the stumbling.
I confess I had been saying every now and then “What a shitty hotel” about the Rio, but I didn’t expect it to be literal!
So let’s just say we were really tired on Saturday – and once it’s Saturday at a con, there’s no way you’re going to catch up on your sleep any time soon!
Day No. 3
Rob and Matt finally joined the con on Saturday, which felt so good. Richard, Matt and Rob together are the anchors of a convention. They’re meant to be a trio – it’s true what their theme song says, “Three is a magic number.” When it comes to these three, that’s very true.
When Richard missed part of a con to direct Supernatural, it felt the same as it did without Rob and Matt there this time – fine, but just not quite right. They got a huge ovation for their panel on Saturday and Richard was even more Richard with his two buddies there.
Matt seems to be enjoying his new gig on General Hospital, and is looking mighty fine with all that long hair. Etc.
As are Richard (also with all that long hair…) and Rob.
Gil and Osric were up next. These two together are always wonderful, ever since that first time they were thrown onstage together – inexplicably – two strangers who didn’t even know each other. And yet they made that awkwardness work, and it’s still working, now with a lot of chemistry and a bit of added innuendo. Gil and Osric flirting or making each other blush is the best thing ever.
Also they looked damn hot in those suits. Good idea, Osric. I love that Osric tells Gil what to wear and he just does it now, like no questions asked.
Kim Rhodes and Jim Beaver are good together too, not just because they clicked as Jody and Bobby on the show, but because in real life they so respect each other. Kim has talked before about what Jim’s support has meant to her, since they share both challenges and joys when it comes to parenting. Also, Kim brings out the saucy in Jim, which is a delight to see.
There were both humorous and serious moments. Jim’s story about writing a script and creating a character for himself to play – and then auditioning for the part and having them tell him that he didn’t ‘get’ the character??? OMG I laughed so hard I was crying. This business, seriously, WTF?
Oh, and Jim, don’t look so surprised that we’re OOHING and AAHHING when you take off your jacket.
We also had the costume contest on Saturday, where I was excited to see some more Just My Imagination cosplayers – I had to tweet this photo to Carrie Genzel and Everett Shea, who were thrilled to see their characters represented so perfectly.
I’m sure director Richard was just as thrilled to see them.
Mark Sheppard, exhausted from having a new baby at home, also did a Saturday panel. Actually his panel was started by his 10 year old son Will, who was absolutely adorable. And ridiculously poised and polite for a ten year old! What’s more, he actually answered questions, unlike his father.
Mark’s panel was actually a bit gentler than usual too; I think that new baby girl has softened up the king of hell a bit, and it’s quite lovely to see. He was downright playful with Richard, as you can also see.
Misha’s panel was a joy – I love how real he is onstage. Or anywhere! His panels have become one of the highlights of the con for me, simply because he’s so genuine up there. I love his quirky sense of humor, and his open curiosity about – well, everything!
The chapter he wrote for our book ‘Fan Phenomena Supernatural’ is all about his struggle to negotiate ‘celebrity’ and to figure out if he needed to adopt a persona in order to be ‘famous’. I think you can guess his decision at the end of that chapter, right?
His stories of his kids are hysterical, and his self deprecating banter isn’t fake. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, but he knows what is in fact serious and important. Richard gave him a shout out earlier in the day, saying that if everyone did the sort of things that Misha Collins does to help others, the world would be a better place.
He’s also thoroughly unashamed to wear his favorite tee shirt onstage and show us all the giant hole under the arm, and I find that refreshingly adorable. Also, I always love Misha’s jeans. Just sayin.
He also gave an adorable answer to a shipping question, creating the Pimpala ship out of Castiel’s pimpmobile and the Impala. He didn’t give it the portmanteau, but tumblr and Instagram were on that shit immediately.
Misha for President!
More fangirl dinner and drinks, and then it was time for the Saturday Night Special, which as you know is often my favorite part of a con. We were all still emotional about having Rob “back”, so his enthusiasm was infectious. My friends and I were saying that Rob really is the emotional heart of the cons. Maybe because of the stroke he had at a con, and how that brought fans and cast together and allowed us all to express our love for Rob – and each other (That’s what Rob’s chapter in the new book is about). Maybe because he puts so much of himself out there onstage and in his songs. Maybe because he trusts us enough to sing a song like “She Waits” and knows we’ll have his back. And we do.
Jensen had wanted to come but was tired, so opted to get some sleep and feel good on Sunday instead, which was probably a good decision even if we will always want him there. And who knows, maybe Jared will come to an SNS soon, now that both Jensen and Gen have outed him as a good guitar player!
Saturday night turned the tide for me and got me back into fangirl mode. I defy you to stay in a bad mood when Louden Swain is onstage! Rob, Billy Moran, Mike Borja and Stephen Norton never falter in their enthusiasm and their playing is tighter than ever. How did we get so lucky, to have a house band like this one??
Creation’s Adam Malin played keyboards, Stephanie Dizon and her awesome voice sang with the band, and beloved photographer Chris Schmelke played bass on one number, looking like a rockstar himself.
And if you think the actors aren’t talented musicians too, just take a look at Richard and Rob rocking out together – or better yet, find the video and listen!
Mark never looks happier than when he’s playing drums, and damn, is he good!
Ruth Connell and Kim Rhodes both wrote chapters for the new book about how their interaction with fans has changed them. Both were nervous about singing in front of people, requiring a lot of backstage love and encouragement from their peers – and a lot of cheering from fans. But both did it, and guess what? They are awesome! They flew into each other’s arms afterwards, Kim lifting Ruth off her feet in their shared celebration. It’s moments like this that make the Saturday Night Special so damn special.
Briana is writing a chapter too, though I haven’t seen the first draft yet so I’m not sure what it will say. What I do know is that Briana was made for the stage – she inhabits it like a rockstar, with a voice that pretty much left us all dumbfounded the first time she opened her mouth. Also, it’s adorable that she flusters Rob so much (as does Ruth). So cute.
Gil knocked our socks off, both solo and singing with Osric.
Jason Manns and Rob sang ‘Hallelujah’ and made me wish I had tissues in my backpack. So haunting, so beautiful. One of my favorite songs, and they put so much feeling into it.
And of course, ‘A Little Help From My Friends’, with everyone onstage and backing Rob up. (Except Matt, who had to leave before Mama’s Jam, which made that song entirely different – we missed you, Matt!) Friends was as emotional as ever though.
As the song came to an end, Mark Sheppard stepped to the front of the stage as he always does and orchestrated our continuing “woo woos” as he grabbed Rob for a kiss and led the guests in leaving the stage. I always get emotional then, just seeing how much they love each other – and how grateful they will all always be that Rob is still with us. We all feel the same, which joins us all in that feeling of togetherness and support that Rob is singing about.
That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
Stay tuned for VegasCon Sunday, and more from Seacon too! For those who celebrate, a very Happy Easter!
Thanks to the endlessly patient @arkine13 for the watermarks and edits
You can check out our books, ‘Fangasm
Supernatural Fangirls’ and ‘Fan Phenomena
Supernatural’ at the links on this page