Sunday morning at Otakon was the only day that I was running on something of a sleep deficit, which made some parts of the day seem a little surreal.
After eating breakfast, I ran into the head of Press Relations, The Pottermaniac, along with The News Producer, as we were all leaving the hotel where the Staff Suite is located.
I told her I would come to work after I stopped at the Otakon merchandise table in order to pick up this year's baby doll shirt and see if there was anything else I wanted. She gave me some money and told me to get her this year's T-shirt.
Me on Sunday morning
When I got there, though, the merchandising staff weren't there yet. Some Dealers' Room staffers were nearby, having a morning meeting. One of them saw that I was looking at the merchandise and came over to see if he could help.
I told him I wanted to purchase a few things, and he took my list, plus my money, and promised to bring me the items, plus change, to the Press Relations room once the Merchandising staff arrived. Sure enough, he was as good as his word, and I was very thankful that he took the extra time to do something nice to me, when it wasn't even his job.
Upstairs, we had to do a reconfiguration of the room to accommodate a press conference with JAM Project. While The Pottermaniac had tried, she had not been able to secure any other room for this press conference, so she'd arranged to have it in the Press Relations room. She'd contacted the Logistics department to take care of reconfiguring the room. This involved folding up the round tables we had been using, placing a long table with drapery at the front of the room for the band, and lining up chairs for the press. We also requested tables with drapery that could sit in the hallway, from which we could handle any press relations concerns during the press conference.
When I arrived, the other Press Relations staffers were in the middle of cleaning up the room, which had a very lived-in look by that point. We put things away in boxes, got rid of trash, and made the room presentable.
I volunteered to set up our operations in the hallway, hooking up The Pottermaniac's laptop and bringing out all our important materials, including those needed for last-minute press registrations. After all, sometimes the mainstream press, in particular, is only interested in covering one or two things, and they'll typically come only on the day of that event.
Finally, we were ready. We soon discovered, though, that since our table was the first thing many people saw when they came in the front door from the street, they thought we were registration. Someone made a sign while I was out running errands.
Soon, the press began arriving, and we seated them, as well as fielding other questions as they came up. Soon, it was standing-room only in there. The band arrived, with a number of people in tow, and we had to sacrifice a couple chairs from our table in the hallway.
As the press conference got underway, and we hung out in the hallway outside chatting, I think it was Quack who asked, "Is it strange that JAM Project is on the other side of the door, and we're sitting out here cracking jokes instead of trying to get inside?"
I remarked, "That's why we're in Press Relations. If you get all excited and overwhelmed every time you meet a big-name guest, you're not very effective in your job."
After the close of the press conference, The Pottermaniac had scheduled a similar event to follow, although I forget who the guest was. This, however, was inconvenient for one of the members of the press, a reporter named Tyler who had previously arranged over e-mail to meet voice actor Derek Stephen Prince in the Press Relations room for an interview. He came up to us and let us know about the situation. After a quick discussion, we decided to put him in the room we have reserved for press interviews. It's divided into three little cubicles through the use of curtains, with tables and chairs in each one. Up to three interviews can be going on simultaneously in there, and it wasn't currently in use, since it was too small for the press conferences we were having.
I volunteered to walk Tyler up to the room and make sure it was ready, while The Pottermaniac agreed to walk Derek Stephen Prince up as soon as he arrived. When we got to the room, everything was in order except for a large stain on the table near the door where the Press Relations staffer would typically sit. I put a program book on top of it to hide it.
As we were waiting for The Pottermaniac and Derek Stephen Prince to show up, Tyler turned on his phone and discovered the voice actor had just left him a message saying he was in Registration, where I guess he thought they were supposed to meet. Unfortunately, Tyler was unable to return the call from that message, since the number was unlisted and didn't get picked up by his phone. So I called The Pottermaniac and told her of his location. She was walking around the Pratt Street Lobby and couldn't find him.
Meanwhile, Derek Stephen Prince had called the reporter again, saying again that he was in the registration lobby. So there was a really bizarre moment where I had one phone against one ear, the other phone against the other, and I was relaying messages between the two of them to help them find each other.
Then there was the marvelous moment where I heard them both say, "OK, I'm walking around the Starbucks right now." And then they both said, "Oh, hi!"
I sat at the table by the door while the interview took place. Knowing that Derek Stephen Prince had to get to a panel shortly, the reporter policed himself, ending his interview about two minutes before I was going to stop it. Derek Stephen Prince, who likes to be called Steve, seemed to know exactly where he was going and started to dash away. But I had promised The Pottermaniac to escort him, and I caught up with him, telling him I'd help him find his panel. I told him we were actually making good time, but he still walked at a brisk pace. I asked him how his experience had been, and he said he was enjoying himself.
Soon enough, we were in the panel room. I looked toward the front of the room for a staffer who might be in charge and noticed only one. So I walked up and said hello and told her that I had Derek Stephen Prince with me for the next panel. Turns out that she was there to escort Peter Fernandez to his next location! She pointed me towards the staffer who was in charge, and while the two voice actors chatted briefly, I introduced myself to the staffer and then introduced Steve to her, leaving him in her care.
Even on a full night's sleep, that experience might have seemed a little strange, but sleep-deprived as I was, it felt almost dreamlike.
When I returned, things were fairly slow in the Press Relations room. Quack and The Golfer had found a new form of entertainment. They had discovered that if you turned a staff badge around, it was the same orientation as a guest badge, so Quack turned his badge around, put on some sunglasses, and spoke only Vietnamese. The Golfer would "translate" for him, and The Rock Chick served as the third member of the entourage. They went down to the Dealers' Room to see if they could trick anyone into thinking he was a Japanese guest.
The ruse didn't work, either because the regular members weren't paying attention, or because he wasn't also flanked with people who looked like managers and studio heads. Of course, there's always the possibility that somebody thought he might be a guest but decided to leave him alone to enjoy his tour of the Dealers' Room.
During this down time, we had a little fun of our own. A staffer came up to me and The News Producer, having accumulated almost all the special hang tags created for the convention. After we gave him a green Press tag, The News Producer asked him if he had an Industry tag yet. He said no, so The News Producer sent him to the Dealers' Room to find The Gryphon, where he could ask for an Industry tag. Of course, there are no such tags. When we asked The Gryphon about it the next day, he told us that some staffer with a bunch of hang tags did come up to him looking for the Industry tag.
Now, the plan had been that The Gryphon and I would meet some friends of his from PAGE (Philadelphia Area Gaming Enthusiasts) to have a late lunch when they were done helping with LARP at about 2:30 or 3. Of course, I got hungry before that, because I am used to eating earlier. So when The Rock Chick went to the staff rooms to pick up food, I told her to sign for me, bring me one of my sandwich halves and give the other one to whoever wanted it. She gave it to The Pottermaniac, who had been running herself ragged. We were all trying to look after her, so she got three sandwich halves instead of two, and even sat down long enough to eat them.
When the time finally came for our real lunch break, The Gryphon came to find me. He told me that, actually, the meeting was off because his friends had forgotten they were supposed to meet us and had not only already eaten but had headed home! He wanted to see if I wanted to go to the staff room and get something to eat, but I told him I couldn't because somebody had already signed my name for me. I suggested we go someplace close and get something light.
So we walked across the street to DSX (Downtown Sports Exchange), a sports bar right across from Camden Yards. They had a sign out front offering a discount for anyone with Otakon badges. We sat on the patio, ordered large salads, and did some people watching.
The last big event of the day was a round-robin press conference with three of our guest bands, The Underneath, Marbell and DaizyStripper. The press conference would take place in Otakafe, and The Pottermaniac sent me up to prepare the room. When I got there, I knew it was more than a one-person job: there were little slips of paper and food trash all over the room, with chairs every which way, making it nearly impossible to walk through. I called her and told her to send someone to help because, "This room is a disaster." The round-robin press conference was supposed to be in another 15 minutes, and I didn't want the bands to walk into a trashed room.
I worked as fast as I could, straightening up and setting up enough chairs behind one of the tables to serve as an interview space for one of the bands. I was working on the second such area when a staff translator came in and introduced himself. I apprised him of the situation, and he told me not to worry and helped me to whip two more spaces into shape. By the time The Pottermaniac arrived with a Gofer and a couple Spec Ops staffers in tow, she said, "This doesn't look so bad." I told her she should have seen it a few minutes ago, and I credited the staff translator for helping me to whip it into shape.
The Pottermaniac was going to walk the gofer back to Gofer Ops when the first band arrived, so I volunteered to take her back instead. The gofer was wearing a little red kimono and had to take small steps, so I had to slow my pace to meet hers. As we were walking through the back hallways, I ran into a staffer accompanying two band members. I greeted them and told him they were the band who would be attending our press conference. He explained that they'd gotten separated from their group and asked a staff member where to find the room, so he'd been assigned to escort them. We switched off, with him taking the gofer back to Gofer Ops and me escorting the band members the rest of the way. Considering that we had to convey everything through gestures, they understood and followed me, walking fast to make the scheduled time.
Although we had one false turn, we made it to the press conference in plenty of time, and I introduced them to The Pottermaniac. The staff translator immediately came up and greeted them, and all was well.
Aside from some initial confusion while we were getting press seated, the round-robin interview went well. It's a good idea to remember for the future, because it made the best use of the musicians' time.
After the interviews were started, our primary responsibility was to monitor the time and then to ask the interviewers to switch when their time was up. The only other snag was when a BCC staffer, who had been told to clear the BCC, came in and announced loudly, "You folks have to get out of here. The building is closed." The News Producer and I took him into the hallway and explained that we were using the room for a press conference with some important guests. He made a couple calls on his radio and then, satisfied, went on his way.
The interviews completed, the bands socialized for a little while in the room. We spoke in the hallway with Ben Walker of WILM/Associated Press, who invited us to unwind with him at the M&S Grill after we were done at the convention center. We'd already packed up all of our materials before the press conference, but there were a couple other things The Pottermaniac and The News Producer had to do, such as turning in their radio equipment.
By the time we headed over to the M&S Grill, I figured we'd have time for a round or two of drinks, plus some appetizers, and then we could still all make it to the Dead Dog dinner, which is the traditional staff celebration to close off the convention.
Of course, we ended up talking a little longer talking to Ben Walker and his assistants, Lindsay and Justin. I'd met Ben and Justin last year, and they are very easygoing with a great sense of humor. While they know and love anime as fans, they are always consummate professionals, and they are always willing and able to take any press availability we offer. We swapped stories from the convention, and The Pottermaniac solicited their feedback on how Press Relations functioned and how we can improve.
We probably still could have made it to the Dead Dog dinner, albeit a bit late, but then The Pottermaniac got a call from Evan at the Anime News Network, wanting to have a similar meeting. By this point, we figured we would be missing dinner, so we asked them if they wanted to get together for something to eat, and they were up for that. Unfortunately, the first couple places we tried were either really busy or closed, so The News Producer suggested the grill at the Hyatt, which was a little pricier but at least could seat us right away.
I kept fielding calls during the dinner from people who wanted to know when I'd get to Dead Dog, and I told them I'd be there shortly. I even got a call about an emergency that would have pulled us away, but it was a false alarm. Our conversation with the ANN guys was going well, as they compared us favorably to other big anime conventions and gave us useful feedback, and in addition to dinner, we ordered dessert. For some reason, it took the kitchen 20 minutes to serve us ice cream! Finally, they brought it, and it was very good, I must admit.
The News Producer (left) with two guys from Anime News Network
By the time we finally made our way over to the Dead Dog, people were already leaving. I guess that a lot of them didn't stay much beyond dinner, and most of my old friends had already left. I was very disappointed but tried not to let it get to me. I took a tour around with The Gryphon and saw that the party had devolved into a number of small groups of people talking or playing board games and video games in various rooms.
So when The Gryphon and I were invited to join the sendoff celebration at the Guest Suite, I agreed. I insisted on stopping in our hotel room first and changing out of the clothes I'd been wearing all day.
The Guest Suite was filled with both convention guests and members of Guest Relations staff, so I did get to talk to some of the people I'd missed at Dead Dog. We swapped stories with other staffers, and we left when The Gryphon started to get tired. Dead Dog tired, that is.
The best laid plans are really funny to laugh about afterwards.