First of all, I want to mention that my poetry reading went extremely well last night. Several people came up to me afterwards and told me how much they liked it. My only regret is that I forgot to nudge them to sign up for my mailing list. But this is the first time I've done this in a long time, so I guess that's excusable.
I will share more details sometime next week, after I'm done catching up with my Otakon write-ups.
On Saturday, we had an addition to the Press Relations staff. So we had our boss, The Pottermaniac; The News Producer and his cousin, Quack; me; The Rock Chick, and were joined by a staffer I'll call The Golfer, because he just graduated from Penn State with a degree in Golf Course Management and currently works for a golf course. He was all tanned, his hair bleached blonde, as a result. Incidentally, he'd worked under me as a gopher several years ago when I was a registration lieutenant.
Me on Saturday morning
The first order of business was to deal with more press registrations. While the bulk of press comes in on Friday, there are always a number who come on Saturday or Sunday. The work was sporadic enough that we had time to joke around and have fun. Before things got really crazy, we took some pictures. First, here's The Pottermaniac in the outfit she wore that day, which she nicknamed her beer wench outfit.
And here's The Rock Chick, ready to rock.
Quack had just started playing Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay on his laptop when The Pottermaniac returned and asked me if I would handle a press conference with the Japanese voice actor, Kappei Yamaguchi. She told me it was in Hall D, which she told me was on the fourth floor.
I had not been to Hall D yet, so I didn't realize the information was wrong, and I made my way to the fourth floor, meanwhile fielding a phone call from a friend, The Paralegal, who was just in town for the day. When I arrived, it didn't take long to learn that Hall D was not on that floor. I consulted my map and learned it was, indeed, on the ground floor. I zipped by Info Desk, asked them for the quickest way for staff to get to Hall D, and took the back hallways.
When I arrived at the room, coming in from the back loading docks, I knew immediately there was a problem. The door was locked, and I heard what sounded like live music. So I tried a different door, which took me through a curtained entrance. Peeking around, I saw there was a band on-stage doing a sound check. Clearly, we wouldn't be able to use this room for a press conference. Not only that, but the people I was supposed to be meeting were likely at the other entrance. I suppose, since I was wearing a staff shirt, I could have passed through the room where the band was rehearsing, but I didn't think of that at the time, so my first response was to call The Pottermaniac and apprise her of the situation.
I tried to call, but I didn't get a response, and her voice mailbox had not been set up. So I sat down briefly on a chair, trying to figure out what to do next. Just then, the head of Exhibitions walked by and asked if I was taking a break. "Far from it," I told him, and I explained the situation. He asked if there was anything he could do, and I told him I was just going to keep trying to reach The Pottermaniac. So he nodded and continued into Hall E, which is where the Art Show and Artists' Alley were located.
As I was trying to call yet one more time, the head of Exhibitions returned and said, "I found them for you." I followed him, as he told me that our Treasurer had spotted the voice actor and his people wandering around the Art Show and asked if she could assist them. She heard they were looking for their press conference, and she grabbed the head of Exhibitions, figuring he might know something about it. Having just spoken to me, he did indeed know something about it, and wasted no time grabbing me.
I introduced myself to the group, which I later learned consisted of Kappei Yamaguchi along with his manager and an executive from Madhouse Studios, along with one of our staff translators. Kappei Yamaguchi looked very different from the picture I'd seen, where he had short, wavy hair. Since then, he'd grown his hair and had it braided in cornrows in the front, with his naturally curly hair puffing out in back.
I told them that we were having an issue with the room and were trying to figure out an alternative. Just then, I got a call back from The Pottermaniac, who had been working hard to find a solution (which is why I couldn't reach her on the phone). She told me that they'd found an available room in Panel 3 and that she was working to get it set up for us and was making sure that the press were notified of the room change.
The head of Exhibitions asked if it would be helpful if he escorted Kappei Yamaguchi and his people, so that I could go ahead and ensure everything was ready. I thanked him profusely, and we agreed that he would let them look around at the art for five to 10 minutes and then lead them upstairs.
When I arrived in Panel 3, The Pottermaniac was there, speaking to a sound technician and making sure he set up the microphones properly. She had already seated the press, who were waiting in the two rows closest to the stage, with their microphones in place and their cameras ready.
In about ten minutes, Kappei Yamaguchi and his people arrived, and I double-checked with him to find out how much time he had for the interview. Considering that we were starting late, he was very generous with his time and said that he would take questions until about quarter after noon. It was about 11:30 when we got started. After he was seated, I told the press that we would be starting, and I let them know how long we would go, telling them I would notify them when the time was getting close to the end.
The Pottermaniac stationed some gophers at the doors so that no one would try to enter the room early for the next panel, thus interrupting the press conference. She also took care of getting some bottled water for Kappei-san and his people.
The press conference went smoothly, with a mix of questions that showed the press had done their homework. They seemed particularly interested in talking to him about his most popular roles, such as playing the voice for Ranma in the classic series Ranma 1/2, and more recently, playing the voice of Cartman for the Japanese dub of South Park.
Kappei Yamaguchi seemed to be having a good time, answering all the questions cheerfully and at length, sharing little stories about his experiences, both with his work and in dealing with fans. I didn't find out until later that it was this translator's first time translating a press conference. He did very well, taking notes during the questions and responses, so that he could hit all the major points.
Even though the whole incident had been a little stressful early on, I felt very good when it ended. I had ducked into the hallway at one point to speak to the Guests department and find out where they could get some lunch afterwards, since it was near lunchtime and the Madhouse executive had told me they hadn't eaten yet. The Guests department person told me that there was food available in the Green Room, so after Kappei Yamaguchi was finished with the press, and they had exchanged business cards with him, I let him and his people know they could go to the Green Room for lunch. The staff translator knew how to get there and said he didn't need any escort.
I thanked Kappei Yamaguchi for his time and for being so understanding about the room change. He smiled and said it was no problem. I also exchanged business cards with the Madhouse executive, who told me that he will be visiting Philadelphia later this year. I told him to be sure to visit Independence Hall and get a tour of the historic sites. He surprised me by asking me if I did this sort of work year round, which I understand is a common question asked of staff. I guess that means we're doing a good job!
For the rest of the weekend, I would tell the story of my near disaster to anyone who would listen, although I realize it would have been a more interesting story if things really had fallen apart. Thanks to The Pottermaniac the head of Exhibitions, though, it had a happy ending. For the rest of the weekend, I called him, "My knight in shining armor!"
On the way back to the Press Relations room, I came across a cosplayer dressed as Robin from the Batman comics. He agreed to pose for a picture. He was the only Robin I'd seen, although he told me he'd met a female Robin earlier.
When I returned to the Press Relations room, I was surprised to see how relaxed all the other staffers were. They were taking care of typical press relations tasks, such as answering press questions, making signs with key information, and joking around with the members of the press. Apparently, they'd had a game of poker while I was out, when things got really slow. Everyone was in good spirits, and Quack and The Golfer were people-watching in the Dealers' Room from their birds-eye vantage point. It was nice to be somewhere more relaxed after such a crazy afternoon.
I got to chat a little with The Rock Chick, who was interested to hear about the party I was going to that evening. She said that I should call her if I got really smashed, using my finger and thumb as a phone. I joked that, just like the sexy librarians in the movies, I remove my glasses, shake out my hair and just go wild.
At one point, we had a very important guest in our room for a little while. An important Japanese businessman had run into The News Producer in the hallway, looking for information about when the Kano Sisters would be appearing that night. So he'd invited him into Press Relations and given him a schedule to consult while The News Producer called around to confirm the information. I happened to know they would be at the Pony Canyon panel, because The Gryphon was helping to facilitate it, but we double-checked, just to be certain.
I took a quick break with The Gryphon to grab some lunch in Con Ops. While I was there, our Con Chair, Hellbuny, stopped through. He was looking a little more stressed out than the last time I'd seen him.
As luck would have it, I also got to talk to The Cosplayer, who was taking a break from her work with Guest Relations. She was seated next to another staffer, who's a big JAM Project fan and was gushing about how much he'd enjoyed the concert. I told him I'd seen part of it, too, and we agreed the acoustic songs were really good.
When I got back to Press Relations, it wasn't long before The Paralegal stopped in. She had just visited the other staffers who are friends of hers on staff. She could tell I was a little distracted, since I was already thinking about making my way to the party. At my request, she helped me improvise some wrapping paper for the present I'd bought The Artist the previous day in Artists' Alley. I'd placed the necklace, bracelet and earring in a jewelry box that came with a brand-new necklace I got to wear to the party.
We had Day-Glo paper in Press Relations, used to make signs, and we wrapped the jewelry box in bright pink paper, then finished with a stylized bow in bright blue, which The Paralegal did by looping two strips of paper together and then taping them down. As I mentioned previously, The Artist was celebrating her 30th birthday with a party to which a number of friends were invited, including my sister and her husband. I'd promised to at least stop by, and when I'd told The Pottermaniac about it before the convention, she said I could leave whenever I wanted, since Press Relations was typically done by that time anyway.
I had promised The Gryphon that I would watch Pony Canyon's panel, where they would be announcing a new series, The Abunai Sisters, based on the real-life glamor and fashion icons, the Kano sisters. The Gryphon had been working with the Pony Canyon executive to ensure that the panel would go smoothly, including securing special signs showing the character designs.
So I left a little earlier than I might have, taking The Paralegal with me. We sat in the back, and before long, the room filled with fans and press. The Pony Canyon executive got on-stage to tell us the Kano sisters would be there shortly, and she showed a brief video clip that showed some concept art for the show, as well as glamor shots of the two sisters. She told us it was a rare opportunity to meet the Kano sisters at something other than a red-carpet event. In addition, she whipped up excitement in the room, asking the crowd to show their "East Coast spirit" by cheering.
She introduced them and they were escorted in, wearing glittery outfits as if they were attending a Hollywood press conference. I honestly think they're the most glamorous guests we've ever had at Otakon.
The Pony Canyon executive asked them questions about the upcoming series, such as "Are you excited about this new series?" Then she opened the floor for questions from the audience. The first question came from a fan in the front row who started by telling them they were gorgeous and then asked them what they thought about the fact that their new series would make them role models for young girls all over the world.
The older sister, who did most of the talking for them, tilted her head to the side and said in English, "Fabulous!" This got such a great response that she didn't bother to elaborate. Then a female fan, noting that they'd written a book for women, asked them for their advice to women. The sisters responded that you should try to have a happy life.
After a few more questions, the Pony Canyon executive invited the audience to come forward for pictures. I came forward with the others and got a few pictures. You can tell that the older sister, wearing white, looks like a young Sophia Loren.
We left then, not realizing that they would take a group shot with everyone present who wanted to participate. I borrowed this from their official site, which you should visit. I wasn't sure, though, how long they'd keep the picture up.
Afterwards, members of staff got their own opportunities for photographs, including The Gryphon. He's at the right of this picture, while the travel agent who handles arrangements for Otakon guests is at the left.
The Paralegal and I chatted some more while she walked me to the corner near my hotel. It was a rare pleasure to see her at Otakon this year.
Back in the room, I changed into the dress I'd bought for the occasion, a sleeveless dress with a fitted top and A-line skirt, with a black and white floral print, along with a green belt. I paired that with a red beaded necklace and my champagne-colored ballet flats.
I followed the directions I had previously printed out from Mapquest, and I had no trouble finding the place, which is in one of the suburbs near Baltimore. As I arrived, The Artist's husband was out front, so I waved at him and asked where to park. You're supposed to only park in visitor's parking, and since he wasn't sure where the closest spot would be, he hopped in and helped me find one.
When we entered, a number of people were already there, including my sister and her husband. She was looking fab in a new dress she'd bought, a fuschia tunic with leggings. I gave them hugs, and also hugged The Artist, wishing her a happy birthday. Their place was a nice, new townhouse decorated in an understated eclectic style, with world art decorating the walls. The book shelf housed books on art, poetry, and spiritualism, which is just what I'd expect them to have.
They were going for a nostalgic feel, hearkening back to our days at Penn State, so they were throwing a beer and pizza party, with stacks of pizza boxes and a keg of Yuengling on the patio. This was supplemented by other food offerings, including a veggie tray, a bowl of chocolate goodness, some nuts, crackers and cheese. My favorite, though, was the container of personalized candy bars, which a friend of hers had created by wrapping small Hershey's bars with labels she made.
Before long, The Drummer arrived with his wife. We exchanged hugs and got caught up. I hadn't seen them in person since a year ago during Otakon. Not long after them, The Poet arrived with his girlfriend. All of these people are people I love to hang out with but rarely get to see, so I was really glad to be there. The Drummer, The Artist and I go back to my undergraduate days at Penn State, while I met The Poet when we were both in the MFA program for poetry.
We had a lot of fun teasing The Artist about turning older. This was ironic because most of the guests were either turning 30 shortly, had recently turned 30, or had celebrated 30 several years earlier. We joked around about the fact that the pizza hadn't been demolished as of midnight, which meant we were all old: no longer starving students who would fall on pizza boxes and gobble them up.
I made the rounds of the party, talking to different people. I spent some time talking to a former Wild Violet contributor. He had gone to high school with The Artist, and we shared notes on being geeky and awkward in high school. We agreed the best thing to do is face the challenge and talk to people, overcoming your insecurities. Using those techniques, we've both come into our own since those days.
I also caught up with The Drummer, who told me that he and his wife were finally taking a honeymoon: a week-long vacation at a honeymoon destination in Mexico. As I write this, they're basking in the sun. They got married in Las Vegas last summer.
The Artist (at right) catches up with The Drummer's wife.
Of course, I got a little silly with my sister, as well as talking writing for a while with The Artist's husband, who's been writing experimental short fiction. I also spoke with a couple people I didn't know, about such topics as Otakon, Philadelphia restaurants and politics, and my wedding planning book.
We sang to The Artist, and she blew out the candles, only some of which were trick candles. The cake, by the way, was delicious, with some sort of raspberry filling, I believe.
At one point, a bunch of us moved downstairs. The idea had initially been to get something of a dance party started, and The Artist's husband had set up his computer to play some selections from iTunes. At first, he was playing an experimental film which was all about color and movement. Then, he switched over to the Olympics. That's when we got really silly.
A swimming race was on, and we were cheering for someone named Larson Jenson just because we liked his name. I'm not even sure he was American. Then they showed some female Olympic swimmers, one of whom had really broad, muscular shoulders. One of the guests I didn't know said that she was so "cockdiesel." I wasn't sure that I heard him right, so I asked him to repeat it, and he did. Again, he said she was "cockdiesel."
I relayed that term to both The Poet and The Drummer, who adopted it as their word of the night. "That shit is cockdiesel!" The Poet would say, out of nowhere.
We got our dance groove on for a little while, although there were only a few people dancing. At about 10:30, The Poet made everyone move inside from the patio, because she didn't want to bother the neighbors with the noise.
The conversation at that point took a more daring turn, as The Drummer's wife asked us all what offensive things we'd do for a million dollars. There were no takers for several of them, but the conversation got very animated.
At about 11:30, I said my good-byes and headed back, since I'd promised Batman that I'd come by for his traditional Saturday night get-together in his room. After changing into more casual clothes, I called The Gryphon, and he told me to meet him at the Guest Suite and we'd walk there together. We got a little turned around because of construction but eventually found the Harbor Court, where Batman was staying. It was a very nice, large room, the biggest I think he's ever had for one of these get-togethers.
Ironically, fewer people attended, or else they'd already left. An old friend of his was there with his girlfriend, and then it was me, The Court Wizard, The Dormouse, The Gryphon and Batman. We all shared war stories of what we'd been experiencing at the convention and talked about pop culture and other topics. I spoke with The Court Wizard for a while, a rare treat, since I usually see him in large groups of people, and I don't always get to speak to him one-on-one.
We headed back when we began to get tired, knowing we still had one more day of convention madness.
Saturday is the day when the weirdness happens.