After a wild couple of weeks touring New Zealand and guiding busloads of people through the countryside, Tehanu is back with her report on the Return of the Ringers party.

Parties are Fun…..or are they?

Regular visitors to TORn might have wondered what’s happened to Tehanu for the past few weeks. Well, after the madness of Return of the Ringers and the premiere the day after, I had several thousand hours of sleep to catch up on. But I was also tourguide to a busload of 46 LOTR fans doing a Red Carpet tour of film locations for 2 weeks. Those weren’t very compatible goals, what with the 6:30 starts and the relentless hunting for people, luggage, and film locations.

Tagging along was my fiance, who emigrated to NZ three days before we set off on this magical mystery tour; he was remarkably tolerant of having to share our lives with hundreds of other people since his arrival in the country.

I hear that the party was a lot of fun, and I certainly saw a lot of people dancing and laughing and talking and looking fantastic and glamourous. I saw them in a kind of blur, personally – like I’d occasionally crash into somebody’s plate or dodge their Springle Ring while I was racing around “running” the party (and I use that term loosely.) But other than that, it was like an extension of what is all about, for me – a place for Tolkien fans to gather together and meet other people to have fun with. Except we were getting together in real life for once. Seven hundred of us!


After months of running around planning for all this, and worrying that it wouldn’t work out (we thought of a hundred things that might go wrong!) it was a relief to sit on the front desk checking people in and see how the fans were all buzzing with excitement before they even got in the door. Sure, there was a long queue lining up and it took a while to get everyone through, but the mood was good and conversations seemed lively while they waited. From my point of view it was nice to say hello to a lot of people I’d only ever spoken to online before. I think a lot of people were pleased to find old friends from the Net to party with them.

Next LOTR party, I’m going to do all that stuff. This party, I didn’t eat, drink, dance or do anything other than direct traffic all night, and the other party organisers were the same. Everyone thinks we were locked in that VIP room exchanging meaningful looks and witty banter with the stars. Dream on! I don’t think I even had time to say hello to anyone except Bruce (hi Bruce) and Richard T. as I was busy running round getting the food, drinks and security organised for them and doing other things to counter the forces of Chaotic Good (‘cos with 700 people and some film stars and the media all in one place, chaos isn’t what you want.)

I think we ended up with a somewhat freeform party – apologies to all of you that hoped to win something in a costume or dancing competition. We got Ben Wootten and Bruce Hopkins to hand out spot prizes to worthy hopefuls, which was the best we could do once the stars arrived and derailed our schedule in the nicest possible way. Thanks for coming, guys, and I hope you had a good time!

The venue didn’t burn down killing hundreds of LOTR fans, and no stars were trampled into a millimetre-thin smear on the carpet, so two of my major goals were accomplished. (These were the two that had me waking up at 4 in the morning in a cold sweat for weeks beforehand.) So I’m really, really happy. Really happy that it’s over, too.

The Mouth of New Line had told me that the stars had way better things to do and far better parties to attend than ours on that evening. I thought she was likely to be right – this would be one of the last opportunities for the cast to all get together, and I imagined they’d have moments that they would not want to share with 700 of us.

So we’d been pretty blasé about security, in hindsight. Luckily the Chainmail Stuntpeople stepped in to help when the stars dropped in to say hello to the fans. (Lots of other reports have described that, so I’ll simply say ‘Thanks for coming, it was lovely to have you!’) I never did find out what the professional security folk thought about standing shoulder to shoulder with a crew of armed warriors as they escorted the stars on and off the stage. Sean Astin and Sir Ian McKellen acted like it was all in a days’ work, which it pretty well is after filming LOTR.

It’s now two weeks since the Premiere Party “Return of the Ringers” in Wellington and we can finally take stock of the result in terms of the charity we aimed to help. We set out to raise money for a charity that PJ had chosen – the Organ Donor Awareness Campaign. Yesterday I invited Andy Tookey, the campaign head, to come over and pick up a cheque for $13,107 NZD.

The Cheque Handover

Andy has been trying to raise public awareness of the need for more organ donors to help people in need of transplants. Organ donor rates in NZ are low, not from a shortage of compassion, but from the lack of information about the process. Our donation will be used to fund airtime for their ad campaign to run on TV; if that is not feasible, the campaign will direct its efforts to creating an educational package for schools.

To all of you who helped us raise this money – from the organisations and businesses in NZ who donated auction goods, the stars of 3Foot6 and Weta who autographed some of them, and you the people who supported us by buying tickets, drinks and T-shirts – a huge hug and a thank-you.

The Charity Auction

I especially want to thank Joel Bion and his wife Fran, for their generous personal contribution to the auction; Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor and their colleagues for finding time in their hectic pre-premiere schedule to sign our auction goods, and John Noble for stepping into the breach on the night and whipping up enthusiasm (and prices) at the live auction.

Thanks are due to the Chain Mail People (you know who you are) who helped with security and kept our beloved actors and Weta stars safe from our sometimes too-boisterous adoration! I’m never going to forget the sight of those staunch warriors forming a human corridor and shouting ‘Hold the line!’ as they escorted the stars to and from the stage.

Stunt Knights Do Battle

Thanks to Sean Astin, Sir Ian McKellen, John Noble, Bruce Hopkins, Lawrence Makaore, Richard Taylor, Gino Acevedo and Ben Wootten for turning up and giving the fans an opportunity to show how much they love them.

Last but far from least, I have to thank Lyric Apted and Rochelle Powers for their tireless work in organising the party. Although I had the initial idea to have a party for the fans at the premiere, any idiot could have thought of that. Actually making it happen depended utterly on their skills and talent for organising and keeping track of hundreds of details and connections. They deserve a lot more praise and attention than they got. Now you know who they are so there’s no excuse.

Staffer Shell With Gino Acevedo And Lawrence Makoare Staffer Lyric

Next installment: How I got into the premiere and what I thought of it.