PASADENA – The image bouncing around my cranium is difficult to comprehend, much less explain, but as I sit on an airplane and head either to or from an event as I did this past weekend at the first annual One Ring Celebration known as O.R.C. I find it lurking behind other mental pictures waiting for its turn to be viewed.
As I jet across the sky at 600 miles an hour 30,000 feet in the air wishing the guy across the isle from me would stop snoring, I cant help but imagine that others are doing the same thing at the same time with others to follow or already ahead of us. We fly from diverse places all over the globe, both the famous and the unknown, to get together with a few thousand like-minded individuals for a weekend. Our virtual community (or parts of it) becomes physically based in the same time and spot for a few days. It is strange for me to think of it.
At times like that I cant help but ponder Daniel Falconer or Bruce Hopkins somewhere over vast oceans returning to New Zealand where it is already tomorrow while other friends return to Atlanta or Chicago or Ireland or Wisconsin or Pennsylvania. Others drive below us in cabs or vans or personal cars, coming or going to a common event. Just a few hours after returning from ORC, I wish to share with friends and strangers a bit about the event this weekend past that brought so many together.
DISCLAIMER: Usually I try to maintain some sense of a journalistic report but this time it is simply impossible. I wasnt present when many of the big names were speaking or if I was I was usually occupied with something else and I didnt notice it. I will leave it to others to talk about stars. This report is something more of a journal entry than a report, which I regret but cannot avoid. I just didnt collect enough information and wasnt in the right places to have credibility in that sort of news story. Consider this more of journal entry with consideration given to a broad (hopefully) audience. I will throw in a couple of pictures that I happen to know nobody else got.
First, let me say ORC was expensive. Then let me follow-up that ORC was a bargain! Famous people are busy people and everybody wants a piece of the action. They are in demand and because of that their time and energy are at a premium. Getting them all to gather together at one time and place isnt easy and it isnt free. The line-up was pretty incredible and all things considered, pretty cheap, especially compared to similar events.
There was also a completely different side to the convention as well. There was an art show, a screening room, a scholarly track, a costuming bonanza and there was the pure sociality of an event with masses of people with a shared interest. From an obviously biased perspective, I thought there was a considerable amount of riches available for everybody willing to seek them. There was also a lot of Hobbity love, I just happen to not know anything about it.
There was an absolutely first-rate schedule of scholars on hand. Given the luxury of choice I would have had an extremely difficult time deciding between actors and scholars. I caught parts of panels on music, Nasmith’s art, Tolkien & Lewis and mere moments of others and all were great! I feel that we could pull-off a whole convention of just this type and have a wildly successful event. It was absolutely outstanding and I hope it goes some way to dispelling the myth that TORn is just a movie site when in fact it is a Tolkien site. I will spare you all my ravings but I could go on at length about the greatness of the Tolkien minds not only speaking at the event but available for conversation and signatures. Next year somebody simply MUST have books for sale! Sales of Nasmith’s illustrated ‘The Silmarillion’ would have been grand.
Thursday was the great day of meetings. It was old friends and new friends in the lobby or the elevator and it was a day of meetings and hugs, handshakes and shoulder clapping. This of course went on all weekend, but Thursday hogged the initial wonder of arrival all to itself for most of us involved. Thursday was also about the wonder of 9 p.m. when there was a legitimate line to pick up credentials. It was a relief to see that people actually did want to attend!
Friday I was pleased to moderate a panel to discuss the fascinating and wacky world of the on-line community. Greg Wright of HollywoodJesus.com joined TORns message board moderators Altaira and Barlimans (TORns chat room) operator Balin. I tried to lob them some thought-provoking questions and those in attendance also had some excellent queries regarding the sociological aspects of an on-line community. I wish I had written down the answers but I recall Wright saying that, just as in the physical world, the more integrity, honesty and warmth a person puts into on-line relationships, the more genuine those relationships are. We also gave red stickers to the TORn message boarders in attendance, green ones to the Barlimans crowd and various other colors to various other websites in attendance so they could spot each other on their convention badges. Altaira also read responses to a chat-room poll she took so know it or not, several of you were present as well. The best part was: somebody actually came!
RINGERS: Lord of the Fans hosted a panel with Dominic Monaghan so I did indeed get to see one of the biggie actors on stage. It will be my pleasure to host the Ringers in Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah this very week for the world-premiere of the film and I felt that I should see what I could to know what was coming. My personal musical idol, Geddy Lee of Rush, appearing on film at a Tolkien-themed convention was another cant miss. Anyway, I was kneeling in front of the stage when Monaghan jumped off the stage to watch the RINGERS film clips and who should he sit by but TORn friends! I will include one of those photos here, but that was pretty fun! To the credit of the audience, they didnt mob him but respectfully watched the clip, or at least let Dom watch the clip while they unobtrusively drooled.
Friday was also a prep-day for the 50th Anniversary Party of The Lord of the Rings. Although it wasnt exactly the right day for such a party, it was our chance to celebrate it collectively. It also served as a smaller and simpler version of Saturday nights show so that those of us putting the event on could see how things might work. My most sincere thanks go to those involved who helped us all pull off the show. We had a few Middle-earth themed variety acts which the performers really put their heart and soul into. We drastically shrunk the stage for the interpretive dance of Beren and Luthien but they braved the performance all the same. We may have incorrectly listed The Littlest Orc as an incorrect name in the handbill (singing My Eye) and we certainly enjoyed the live performance of The Blues Hobbits. Our costuming friend performed, as Galadriel, a song she composed (wow!) about Frodo and his experience at The Mirror. We also had a pair of sisters perform a hilarious dance number that combined Hobbits, cheerleading and all sorts of dance moves into one funny performance. Our beautiful harp number seemed flawless to every ear (thanks to the Emerald Rose sound tech for teaching the secrets of sound for a harp) except for the performer who apparently didn’t give her best performance in her own ears. Well done!
I have no idea why the bar closed early and neither does Creation Entertainment!
World Without Sundays played and while they have been at several TORn events, I havent had the chance to listen carefully prior to Friday. Finally I can appreciate the following they have earned among TORnados. Yes! I regretfully missed an encore performance on Sunday night at a club but one cannot be in two places at once.
Finally, I was adamant in our planning for the party that we have TORn karaoke. As a tradition started at Dragon Con several years back, it was a new tradition that I wanted to be sure to include at our own party. The TORn staff (some of it anyway), after much prodding and pleading backstage gathered on stage to sing Queens Bohemian Rhapsody. A few of the guests of the convention also joined us on stage where Bruce Hopkins proceeded to go nuts, to the delight of everybody. During the course of the tune Hopkins decided to pick up the rented monitor and show it to the audience and dance around with it. I am betting I was not the only person thinking that somehow TORn was going to be buying the rental company a new monitor! I doubt the singing was much good but since the audience was pressed forward and belting it at the top of its lungs as well, I dont think it mattered. I regret Mrs. Cere not joining us on-stage but she did snap a very fine picture of the joyful madness of Bruce, who like all karaoke singers, was making the most of his 5 minutes of rock stardom.
DJDeathkiss from our own boards was pressed into service as DJ and several of TORn’s own took the stage to belt out some tunes. I will be the first to admit that the number of folks who stayed might have been larger but it would be nearly impossible for the number to grow more enthusiastic. It was enthusiastically delivered and appreciated by those who stuck around until the 1 a.m. curfew. I hope the feedback email (available soon if not already) reflects a positive reaction to karaoke.
Saturday was busy time and made Thursday and Friday feel like leisure time by comparison. I had three dear friends helping me prepare for the Saturday night evening entertainment that included the first ever One Ring Awards, the heir to the TORn Oscar Parties. TORn staffer Arwen (I THINK!? To me she is Catherine!) MrsCere and FrodoForPresident planned, prepared and bluffed our way through the One Ring Awards, pretty much all day. Its safe to say none of us are quitting our day jobs to manage stage shows.
Saturday was also the day that TORn founder and Sideshow Collectibles webmaster (of which Sideshow/WETA is a part) had agreed to don an Arwen dress and wig. It seems in a collectibles chat room he stated that if the Sideshow Minas Tirith statue sold out in a week he would wear a dress at ORC, figuring there was no chance. Seems he was wrong. “Calisuri in a dress” became my motto for the awards show so when he took the main stage earlier in the day, I made sure I was there to see how things went. Simply, CalArwen was a smash! He was a rock star in the halls from both strangers and familiar faces. Once on stage he introduced the much clamored for Pippin statue on the main stage in full Arwen regalia, to the delight of all. I also witnessed Boyd viewing it for the first time just before that and he loved it enough that he made Sideshow promise to send him one. (Sideshow sends all the talent the statues based on their characters – for the record.)
In due process I snapped CalArwen using the urinal, a photo that simply must circulate all over the world wide web. Xoanon happened to be walking by with his video camera just as Cali was walking inside so live footage exists somewhere. I hope to never see it. The whole thing made for some hilarious ‘men’s room’ humor, which I think is more than enough said.
On a sour note I did miss the TORn founders telling the story of TORn in the scholar’s room. I was a bit sad to be so busy and miss the tale in a format where they can’t easily brush of the question and change the subject, as they often do, seeking to duck credit where it is due. Still not-for-profit after all these years, the PTB have never exploited the web site or used their status for personal gain. (Not to say there aren’t nice perks on occasion!)
For the show we wanted the Hobbit/Actors involved since they had actually won awards being presented that night. We tried very hard to involve all the other available actors, the scholars, the artists, the Wetas, the TORn Founders and of course the descendent of the author. Many of them had spent long, long hours signing and had family and friends waiting for them so the scheduling of the thing didn’t really work out.
However, for the sake of fans and of the show, I kind of wrangled Mr. Billy Boyd to the stage. He was still hanging around when our great friends and the great band Emerald Rose finished their calming welcoming set, so I rushed everybody’s favorite Master of Ceremonies Quickbeam on stage to introduce him before he could escape. Coincidentally the first award was for “Best LOTR Actor in a Television Show” which was won by Dominic Monaghan on ‘Lost’, as voted by TORn users. We couldn’t pass up Boyd reading the nominees and announcing Dom as the winner. Thanks Billy and before you get too bugged, I did fetch you a couple of beers the previous night!
So with Cliff “Quickbeam” Broadway on stage, our little awards show changed literally by the moment behind the scenes. Our great friend and scholar Greg Wright was scheduled to give an award but his wife grew ill when the show started (was it that bad?) and they had to leave. True gentleman Peter Tait not only presented but sang us a lively tune as well. R. Tolkien himself helped with an award, as did the fun-loving trio of Jorn and Jarl Benzon and Sandro Kopp. Bruce Hopkins further engrained himself into the heart of TORn staff and readers by being so willing and open to help with anything while Daniel Falconer earned his reputation as a contender for the warmest man alive.
Author Peter S. Beagle honored us with his appearance as did Colleen Doran who tried to keep Elijah Wood’s award for “Best LOTR Movie Performance” in ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” so that Wood would be forced to pick it up from her home. Ringers’ director Carlene Cordova and director of photography Josh Mandell also chipped in and appropriately so did all four TORn founders. Calisuri did, once again, wear the Arwen dress (think Arwen crossed with Shrek’s Fiona) and was joined by Corvar, Tehanu and Xoanon. I am not sure one could find four people who enjoy being in the spotlight less. Only three times have all of the four been gathered together so for those who admire them so much (including me) it was fun to see.
In official behalf of TheOneRing.net and also in behalf of the handful of folks who pulled off this show, we can’t thank each and every one of you enough.
On the other side of the stage a whole gaggle of wonderfully costumed fans were also helping us co-ordinate the awarding of trophies. Each costumed carrier performed the duties we asked of them with great attitudes and with grace. It was wonderful to work with wonderful people. Creation’s sound tech Ben also offered invaluable service. Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! To all!
After the show, Emerald Rose treated us to an up-tempo set. The band played its heart out, as it always does, and they were true professionals as they always are. Dancing and singing and socializing ensued.
Sunday already felt like the end of things, but I personally woke up thrilled to know I could see the Charlie Ross One-Man LOTR show. I checked out the art show finally and visited as many good people at the show as I could. Despite having little business doing so, I was honored to join Ted Nasmith, Balin, Altaira and Quickbeam on stage as a panel where we proved how little we know about Tolkien and gave away some prizes.
Mr. John Rhy-Davies know far and wide as a gracious signer and autographer, took his sweet time with fans, performing many small acts of kindness that will not be forgotten. I can’t credibly report on much of the day except to say that when I finally saw Charles Ross perform, every expectation was met! The man packed into one 60-minute performance, all the essential moments from the Peter Jackson film trilogy including sound effects, special effects, the soundtrack and key emotional highlights. His voices were brilliant, his physical humor was inspired and his story telling was impeccable. His extra humor put the show over the top but what I loved most about the performance was his complete commitment to throwing himself fully into every roll. If I have my way, Ross will be back at ORC every year. I want to hear his Aragorn again right now and I want to watch his Boromir death scene, to see if he can nail it so exactly again.
Not only that, I want to sit with John Noble and watch as Ross imitates his famous scene of eating while also singing (dead on I might add) Pippin’s ‘mist and shadow’ number. Oh the though nearly slays me and at the same time I marvel how clearly he spoke the lines of the Great Eye and slipped in Rhys-Davies Treebeard AND Gimli, each notably different while the actor sat just behind him, separated by a curtain, hearing the whole performance. Just as in my praise of the scholars, I could go on and on. Whoops, I already did.
Well, there is more to the story but I think this will do. I am completely honest when I say; “I can’t wait until ORC2!”