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  Post Office Box 67
  Fulham Gardens SA

  Phone: 0412 208 011

Armageddon Melbourne
19 & 20 October 2013

Armageddon returned to Melbourne with a huge line up of guests for all ages with stars from TV shows and moves from the late 70s all the way through to current shows such as Supernatural.  The Gold Passes as usual had sold out and it is still the best way to avoid huge line ups as Gold goes ahead of Silver and any other special tickets - Oz Comic Con should follow this system instead of the all premium tickets having 'equal' priority.  If you pay for the top tickets you should get the 'front of the line' experience as we enjoy at Armageddon.  It was also great to see this year that gold pass holders could stay in the stage areas between guests so if you wanted to see two or more panels in a row you didn't have to get up go outside and then come back in as was happening in previous years (and at other cons) you could just stay in your seat.  This system encourages more attendance at panels as you always head there early and often the previous panel can be very interesting and create interest in a guest or show.

As in previous years the weekend started with the cocktail party where gold pass holders get to meet and greet most of the weekend guests (never all and in this case Little Nell and Barry Bostwick had a prior engagement at a special Rocky Horror Picture Show screening nearby while Corey Feldman turned up for the TV cross to The Project and disappeared soon after).  To start the night organisers delayed entry for a cross to The Project and there is one thing that organisers need to take into consideration - the venue entrance is up a fair number of stairs and while some 'in the know' knew how to find the 'other' entry it was not made known to many who had issues with stairclimbing.  As I have one dodgy knee (which this weekend proved too much for it by Saturday evening) and starting and stopping on stairs is incredibly uncomfortable and if there is an option I will take a ramp or lift instead while standing with us on the stairs was a very pregnant lady who likewise should have been made aware of an alternative.  When we got to the top we were then told about this other entrance - would suggest for a contact noted on the cocktail party details email.  Once inside many left it until later to sort out tokens as the whole system seemed to take a long time and lets face it the main focus of the evening is the inform chats with celebrities.  Another suggestion with the cocktail party is that you either have to fight to gain access to the guests or you join a group talking to a guest and within a minute or two suddenly they've had the signal to move on (or fans are asked to move on).  Oz Comic con has a better system where if you are there in your group the handlers try to move the guests around the room to everyone and if there is someone you want to speak to you just ask them and wait and you will get a fair turn.  This would also help in getting around a very uneven and tricky venue if you are not aware of where the random steps are.  It was however good to see that the sound from the music videos was indeed background sound this year instead of 'disco' levels as it has in the past this made it a LOT easier to hear what was being discussed. 

Our group did however get to talk to Ben Browder (that was never in doubt) who still cannot work out why 'Australian women' refer to the 'porn mo' he had last year after filming the Dr Who episode set in the 'western era'.  Claudia Black was absolutely lovely despite feeling the effects of jetlag warmly greeting those she met and was wonderful to talk to.  Simon Fischer-Baker was very approachable and friendly to talk to while Billy Boyd, Rick Worthy and Jason Carter were seen deeply in conversation with groups of fans throughout the evening as were Tony Amendola and Dwight Schultz who is still easily recognisable as Murdoch from the A Team even 30 years later.  Richard Hatch is still a big fan of the Sci fi genre himself and was very approachable even when being moved on by handlers while the award for the celebrity guest who knew how to work the room and pretty much got around to everyone including one lady who was invited onto the dancefloor for a dance was Ty Olsson.  Apparently on Saturday he was also coming around to the front of the autograph table to meet and chat with fans as well -  I havent watched that season of Supernatural yet but you can see how he is a fan favourite from how welcoming he was to everyone throughout the weekend.  Dean Stockwell was even at the cocktail party chatting to fans despite his age and recent travel from the US. 

So it was on to day one at the new venue at the showgrounds now to the negatives first - once again the entry and exit doors and the stairs and access ramp inside.  Going in first thing wasnt really an issue as all the traffic was obviously one way at the very start but on coming out to head to the panels if you came up the ramp (since even from the start there was no way I was going to be able to go up those stairs all day) you were suppose to somehow cross the steady massive stream of people coming into the venue and then around tables to eventually get out.  For those coming up the stairs its no issue but for anyone using the ramp they are clearly not going to be able to force a passage through the 20 somethings charging in - yes I and others ducked out the side of the 'entry doors' on a few occasions and when it was clear enough to try and cross to the exit side I missed the gap that was virtually at the stairs and had some volunteer leap out in front of me and stop me dead.  That HURTS people with dodgy knees when you are clearly limping on one side and suddenly have to stop throwing all the weight on the good leg.  My suggestion would be to stick a couple of those volunteers on that gate outside that came up from the amusement rides and have that way as 'exit only' so it was easier for people to get from the photo/autograph area to the panels in the airconditioned building as often there was not a lot of time along with the door traffic issues it gets frustrating to try and get through.  Another access issue - why oh why put the extremely popular with people getting photos the 501st Legion in the main access walkway to the photo/autograph area.  Why couldn't  the area to the right of the stairs as you come in  not be better utilised for people stopping and gathering for photos.  Once past the bottleneck it was easier to get through but it was a pain when trying to get around between areas.  The Dr Who Tardis and Daleks were in ideal spots for photos where people could stop for photos and it was easier to get past as you were generally checking the stalls in those areas.  The marshalling area for photos and the extra space between the stalls and the auto queues worked well as it was very easy to get around that area and see if guests were back signing or away with photos, panels or well not there yet.....

The volunteers on the photo queues did an absolutely fantastic job this year with the staff I asked for directions either knowing where they were starting lines or gathering people prior to lines or knew who to go to for the same information and the photo printing was quite good the times I went through (though Saturday afternoon there did end up being delays but Billy Boyd and Evanna Lynch ended up being massively popular probably moreso than planned.  This in turn created a backlog into the afternoon but it seems all was caught up in the end.

The first panel I went to on Saturday was for Dean Stockwell who introduced his wife who joined him on stage.  Many people did not however appreciate a cigar that you could clearly smell in an enclosed area but otherwise it was a very entertaining panel with many questions about Quantum Leap and how Dean Stockwell was given plenty of leeway to work with the character and props (ziggy) and how both he and Scott Bakula were allowed to ad lib at times.  It was also interesting to learn that Dean Stockwell could not recall (nor could his wife) the last time he was required to audition for a part - but then his career did start in the late 1940s and he has been a household name for decades so its not a surprise that it was more a case of shows chasing the actor for parts over the years. 

I then went to the Richard Hatch panel on the Film Ink which was up against the Supernatural panel on the main stage which would explain the low number of gold pass holders in the panel resulting in Richard Hatch walking around between the seated rows in the centre aisle.  He went into detail about the work over the years to try and get Battlestar Galactica back (Richard wrote a series of books continuing the story and apparently some graphic novels as well) about the recent series and putting together various pilots.  There were also stories about working on the original Battlestar Galactica show and Lorne Green coming around for Christmas - a very entertaining panel. 

I had to leave for the day after a couple more photos to go to Caulfield (where at one stage I went past Gai Waterhouse in one of the corridors and she greeted me with one of the warmest hellos you could have in passing - the sci fi link? Gai Waterhouse prior to following her father as a racing trainer once appeared in Dr Who episodes during the Tom Baker era back in the 70s!) and must say the arrangements with the train running was fantastic the transport staff (sorry not from Melbourne so dont know who runs the trains) were very helpful in regard to the trains and timings and while on said train its the one weekend a year that you dont bat an eyelid at seeing Batman walk along an adjacent platform as the train rolls through a station.

Later on Saturday afternoon Ben Browder presented a very entertaining panel for the VIP pass holders followed by Claudia Black who was equally interesting I am told but on the main stage some were left a little bewildered by Corey Feldman (more about this guest later) while others attended the Space Milkshake movie screening at one of the other stages.

For most Sunday was a quieter day after getting most photos done on Saturday - I went through and got the autographs first thing Sunday and there was very little waiting due to many attendees being ultra efficient and getting their autos on Saturday.  After wandering around the numerous stalls it was time to head to the Ben Browder panel and this was an hour that ended too soon with the 'Australian women - porn mo' getting another mention however clearly Ben's wife agrees with what many of us thought and the 'porn mo' didn't last all that long after he got home nor has he been allowed to grow it again (Ben listen to your wife she knows what she's talking about!).  Then there was discussion about working with John Barrowman (and staying in hotel rooms NEXT to John Barrowman), Chris Judge and travelling to the Arctic for Stargate.  He also mentioned the differences between the workaholic Canadian and US crews who would work well into Saturday morning compared to Australian crews who 5pm Friday was knock off time no matter what for the weekend.  How to do 'space slo mo' for those catch up shots where no actor wants to be strung up on the wires again for a handful of shots and how in Australia actors are permitted to do a lot more of their own stunts compared to in the US/Canada.  Surfing was also brought up as the plan for some of the time prior to heading to Auckland for the second Armageddon and how he was planning to go out there with Billy Boyd.

The next panel I went to was the latter half of the Tony Amendola who is best known for Bra 'tac on Stargate and for Once Upon a Time but he has a massive resume of tv and movie work if you check www.imdb.com .  He gave some fascinating insights into acting and the method employed to make it look genuine (such as if once actor is holding another by a ponytail and the struggle that ensues but its really the 'victim' not the aggressor doing all the work to make it look like they are being overpowered by said 'bad guy'.  Or how a director got him to think differently between scenes for a particular way to play a character and the way characters are built up over time such as in Stargate or how Geppetto and his actions in Once Upon a Time makes an audience think about said choices.

After Tony Amendola was Dwight Schultz who spent time talking about his experiences that led to the portrayal of characters Barclay in Star Trek and Murdoch in The A Team.  Barclay was based on an acquaintance that he knew and sublet an apartment from while Murdoch was based on a petrol station attendant that he met after crashing his car on the way to work in a theatre where he had to make a phone call to advise he would be late.  There were then plenty of questions to do with Star Trek and more interestingly to me The A Team.  When it came to Star Trek the writers production staff etc were very strict and there was no ad libbing and lines had to be done as written due to the way fans would check terms used and ensure there were no mistakes but on the A Team there was more leeway so if you think he is adlibbing he just very well might be.  He also confirmed there were disagreements between George Peppard and Mr T towards the end with George Peppard coming from the Hollywood background and working with writers to improve the scripts and ensure the best possible episode was put together such was his knowledge of the industry whereas Mr T was what you see is what you get and he was incredibly popular with the younger viewers.  Mr T also use to spend a lot of time with the sick and underprivileged kids as was often alluded to during the show as his something his character did when the team were not together helping the underdog.  Dwight Schultz also did some great impressions of both actors and mentioned that he and Dirk Benedict got along fine with George Peppard and Mr T when there was three of them it was just a George Peppard and Mr T personality clash.  Differences in the team dynamics were also mentioned with the comparisons between the TV show and the recent movie such as instead of each team member having unique skills that worked as a team and batting for the underdog the movie had Face doing most of the planning and everything revolved around that character and they were against big government not the 'small town bullies' as such.   You could easily recognise many of the Murdoch mannerisms when he was demonstrating various accents etc.  Finally the panel ended and again it seemed to end too soon.

It was then time to head off to the final two panels of the expo in the VIP area firstly with Corey Feldman.  I'll start it with mentioning two other stars of the same age from the same era in Sean Astin and Corin Nemic (both of whom have done notable shows/movies since that heyday).  In Adelaide both could not have been better guests being at the cocktail party til the end, being there all day both days, remember many of us from the cocktail party and telling great stories at panels and just being overall brilliant guests.  Corey Feldman was due for the VIP panel at 4pm - now he had created a few sensations to that point during the two days with this guest arriving on Saturday around 1130am and last I saw was still sitting in the van for sometime while fans stood in line as they had been from around 930am that morning with many missing out on photo opportunities that they had planned but didnt want to leave the line.  Then I am told by others when he did alight from the vehicle instead of ducking around the back of the photo area as other guests had his security pushed people out of the way to clear a path through the photo line gathering area which Corey walked down followed by a bloke filming with a photo announcing that it was 'Corey Feldman coming through' in front of speechless onlookers.  When he was signing autographs & for photos Corey was very pleasant and did have a lot of items for sale on his table but as others said it was rough on those diehard fans who stayed in line for hours before he turned up.  Then in the hot conditions of the late afternoon when his first day photo session was due others told me that he then had to take 20 minutes to ensure he was spiritually prepared for the photo session.  Sunday was no better arriving sometime after 12 noon and at some stage it seemed that the hardworking organisers did have a meeting with this particular guest and as far as I'm aware after arriving late and the meeting he went straight to signing autographs (fans didn't seem to line up on Sunday until the saw him on the grounds) although there was no 20 minute wait prior to photos (and the venue was quite hot and humid even by early afternoon on the Sunday). 

Which brings us to the VIP Panel - Dave and Shania who were running the room got everyone ready checking who had questions and they were expecting him to turn up at any minute but soon it was 415pm and no guest.  Frantic staff checked and were told he just had a couple of signatures to do but soon after Corey 'disappeared' and it was said he had gone for a walk and finally well after 430pm worried senior staff came through and it was soon announced that Corey had left for the day (citing illness) and would not be at the panel.  Not to matter Dave and Shania kept us all well entertained with talk of Rubik's cubes and games of try to get the audience to 'find the celebrity guest' along with good impression of what 'Corey will do' and plenty of general discussion before finally instead starting to long build up to Billy Boyd who was due as the last panel.

Billy Boyd the most popular guest of the entire convention arrived on time for his panel and was very entertaining for the whole hour with stories about working on the set of the Lord of the Rings movies, about feet flying off and future plans to return to Australia and New Zealand for Dominic Monaghan's new TV show about deadly animals (really they could just do the entire series in Australia not just one episode).  Billy Boyd also mentioned the plan to go surfing with Ben Browder but had some apprehensions in that he was thinking nice social day out whereas Ben was seemingly planning to take on those 'Point Break' type waves.  Another entertaining panel and he successfully used the stand up and jump for a few seconds technique which actually did wake everyone up from that glazed over look caused by a long and tiring but good weekend and the hot and humid conditions inside the venue - in that respect the previous location was much better with the aircon.  

As usual at the end of the convention the dates for next year were announced with the same weekend (of the Caulfield Cup) looking like the likely timing and a return to the Showgrounds venue which may be bigger than 'Jeff's Shed' as the locals call the convention centre and the train running opens up options for future trips over for accommodation - this is a key issue as many of the gold pass holders as it turns out seemed to be from Adelaide or from country Victoria or even NSW who had travelled for the event.                      



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