Dallas X-Files EXPO - March 21, 1998
Mustang Hangar, Love Field
Third stop on the cross-country EXPO tour
Following a 200 mile drive up to Dallas (Texas is a painfully large state), I located the exact site of the EXPO by the line of cars snaking past the hangar. I figured parking would be a nightmare but, after paying a reasonable parking fee, I was parked and in the line for ticket-holders within minutes. I don't know if it was worse as the morning wore on but it wasn't a problem a half-hour before event time. The biggest surprise was that they began letting people into the hangar at 11:00 am. I realize that was the scheduled time but I really thought we'd have to wait. The reality was, the entire event progressed smoothly with scheduled events starting on time throughout.
As we began the walk toward the entrance we were warned by security that no food, drink, cameras, or any recording device would be allowed in. Once inside there was no readmittance. If you left, you'd have to pay $25 to get in again. They had the right to search any bag or container you brought in and, if they found any of the items considered contraband, you'd be asked to get rid of it. If this meant taking it to your car, you'd be SOL (sh*t outta luck in case you didn't know). I had brought some snacks and bottled water because I wasn't about to pay high prices or stand in long lines for mere sustenance (I'd save that for things like a picture in Mulder's office or the movie preview). I didn't take these items back to my car because (1) I didn't want to get out of line, (2) I'm a cheapskate, and (3) I wanted to break their rules...I mean, what would Mulder have done?
The downside is, once inside, I was too paranoid to actually eat or drink anything I had brought in. They tried to set a mood at the event with lots of staff and security wandering around in MIB outfits and other tone-setting outfits. Well, they were successful in setting the mood I guess since I was too paranoid to take anything from my backpack. What if I was spotted? What if they searched my bag? What if I got thrown out? Paranoid, you say? Damn straight. I didn't pay my $25 to be thrown out in the first hour. Luckily, they provided water in coolers but other than that it was a fast for many people there, myself included. I tried to imagine it was how Mulder and Krycek felt locked up in that Russian gulag in Tunguska/Terma. More atmosphere, I figured. At the entrance, they were playing the XF theme...continuously. Not that I don't like the theme and think Mark Snow is a genius, but if I had to listen to that all day it would be WORSE than being in a Russian gulag. Luckily, once inside we got to listen to "Songs in the Key of X" when there wasn't action on the main stage.
After making it safely past the main entrance, I wound through the maze of filing cabinets into the main area. I passed a file cabinet with the date and correct alphabetization to contain MY file but for some reason the drawer wouldn't open. Sounds like a conspiracy to keep the truth from me...or maybe it's because it was just supposed to LOOK like a file drawer but really wasn't. Hmmm... With some time before the introduction and start of events on the main stage, I decided to check out the computer area. There appeared to be several things to view. You could check out their intranet set-up with exclusive EXPO areas which looked a lot like the EXPO section at the official site but had areas that were only accessible from the convention itself. I accessed an area that had pictures from the upcoming movie. Interesting but nothing amazing. They also had AOL access on some computers but not being an AOLer I didn't see the specifics. Other people were checking out the XF Interactive/Unrestricted Access programs but I'm not going to be making any purchase so wasn't interested in what boiled down to an advertisement.
As I wandered, I realized that most of the peripherals of the EXPO were advertising of one sort or another. A table for people to join the Official Fan Club, an area where you could get your picture taken with the Intrigue car, and the PX where you could splurge and buy T-shirts, ballcaps, and other EXPO merchandise. I've only been to one small convention before so this may be the norm. Personally, I don't like paying money to attend an event that is mostly a soft-sell to get you to buy more products. I'm not knocking the convention but it's just how I feel. Luckily the main attractions made up for this, in my opinion.
At 11:30 I noticed the crowds weren't that big. Surprisingly, they never got that huge. I had heard that San Francisco, and even LA, were logistical nightmares so was expecting the worst but it wasn't bad. I only waited in line for two things, but neither took more than half an hour. The one thing I didn't do is wait for an autograph. I'm not a collector and I'm thankful for that since those lines were astronomically long. I didn't stay past Mitch Pileggi's turn on stage but from 2:00-4:45, Kim and Nick signed autographs and I'm not sure if they got to everyone. But other than that, most things were accessible with minimal wait times that could be fit in between the main speakers.
I decided to go and grab a seat up close to the main stage for Nick Lea's appearance. I wanted a seat up close so I could hear better. Yeah, that's it hear better. Not that I wanted to get an up-close shot of what a hunk he is...not that. On the screen above the stage they were showing stills from the show. The crowd was very sedate and contained and I was beginning to wonder if I missed the free packet of sedatives they handed out at the door. Maybe they'll perk up when Nick hits the stage. They started the intro and video presentation on-time but the sound was terrible. This would be a problem throughout. I found that if you sat up close, preferably in front of the audience microphones they set up, you could hear the best. I was in row four for Nick Lea and could hear him and the questions but later, with Mitch Pileggi on stage, I was further back (behind the mics) and never heard a single question asked, only the replies. Considering the caliber of questions this might have been a blessing in disguise.
The masters of ceremony were JJ and Angelo. I don't know about JJ, but I recognized Angelo immediately. He introduced himself and actually asked the crowd if they knew who he was and what episodes he'd been in. People seemed to know that he was the guy who was shot in Talitha Cumi but nobody mentioned his appearance in F. Emasculata. If you're still not sure who I'm talking about, he works for 10-13 and has been in both of the above mentioned episodes plus I remember seeing him in the season one or two blooper reel. In F. Emasculata, he was the gas station attendant who went in to check on the guy in the bathroom and ended up infected. They carted him off in a quarantine isolation box while Mulder looked on. Poor Angelo. In Talitha Cumi, he was the guy who was shot and should have died but Smith laid hands on him and he survived. If you remember, Scully also laid hands on him when she lifted his shirt in a very forward manner to check his missing bullet hole. That Scully...what a flirt. JJ and Angelo were the guys who did all the intros, carried microphones around, and basically tried to keep the pace of the convention going. Looked like a thankless job to me but they did a good job.
The introduction amounted to the basic "thanks for coming" and then some really lame and obvious questions to get the crowd involved. These included such wonders as "Who likes the X-Files?", "Did anyone catch that last two-parter?", "Who came here to see Nick Lea?". I think the answer to all of those is "Of course" and/or "DUH!" But they got some response and some wild screams so they decided to reward us with an opening video. The video consisted of clips from the show in various foreign languages. I'll admit it's funny in a way but it's a bit unsettling to sit and laugh at the video. Ha-ha, let's laugh at the funny foreign languages. Whatever. The two that I thought were the funniest (because I recognized the phrases) were Mulder holding up Duane Barry's hospital bracelet with Scully's blood and hair on it and saying "What is this!" in German, and Mulder yelling "Donde esta!" at the Pilot/Bounty Hunter in Endgame.
Once the video was over, we were told they'd show a montage of clips with Nick Lea in them before he came out. They asked the audience which episode starring Nick they liked the best and this young girl's hand shot up so they brought her up onto the stage at which point she couldn't remember a single episode he was in. It was pathetic. She tried a save by saying she couldn't pick because they were all good but when pressed, looked to her friends in the audience for help. Too funny. Following the clips, Nick came out looking fabulous. He looks great on the small screen but four rows away from the stage was a much better view. He was wearing black boots, gray jeans, and a white T-shirt under a long-sleeved green shirt. After looking for and finally locating a chair, Nick gave a small intro then opened the floor to questions. Summary of Nick's Q&A.
Following Nick's appearance, they had a contest called Truth or Fiction which entailed getting 20 people from the audience on stage and asking trivia questions from the show. Each person had a sign that said "Truth" and one that said "Fiction" and would hold it up to answer each question. If you answered incorrectly, you left the stage and the weeding out process continued until there was only one person left. The questions seemed embarrassingly easy to me, i.e. is Dana's middle name Katherine, are pumpkin seeds Mulder's favorite. Challenge me for g*d's sake! So instead of watching the drama unfold, I wandered the merchandise areas. There was the PX that I mentioned which had all EXPO merchandise. They also had a satellite area where you could buy official books, including the guides and fiction, as well as photos and postcards. Another table had glossy photos of the show's stars for purchase, especially if you were going to hit the autograph line. The final section I saw had non-official alien-themed merchandise including T-shirts and little green alien stuffed toys.
I decided to buy the third Official Guide to The X-Files since I'd certainly be buying it eventually. Entitled "I Want To Believe", it covers season four and the first two episodes of season five and a quick look revealed much more detailed episode synopses and behind the scenes info for each episode than the previous two volumes. After making the purchase I took it to a small autograph station where the author, Andy Meisler, was signing the books. I told him I liked the book already because it had small print, indicating lots of information. He put "To Barbara, The truth is in here!" on the inside. If he writes the next one and continues being so thorough in writing up the episodes, he's going to put my "Ketchup on The X-Files" site out of business.
Kim Manners, producer-director of The X-Files, was on-stage next. While I waited I talked to a young boy who said he got all the trivia questions right. He seemed really proud and I told him he should have gotten up there on stage and taken home the prize. I should mention that everyone I talked to at the EXPO was really nice and friendly. The crowd was really diverse in age from small kids, high school and college age, mothers and fathers with babies, to older couples and parents with kids. It's obvious the show appeals to all ages and demographics. Eventually JJ and Angelo hit the stage again and introduced the video clip montage for episodes directed by Kim Manners. Summary of Kim Manners' Q&A.
Following Kim Manners, they had another trivia contest. This one was different in that they had four person teams come up on stage and then members of the audience came up with questions to stump them. If the team missed three they were out but if they answered three correctly they were given a prize. If an audience member stumped the team, they won the prize. I tried to see what they were giving and it looked like ballcaps with the FX logo and XF video tapes. Not too bad for a trivia contest. Instead of listening to this, I decided to make use of this break before Dean Haglund's appearance to stand in line for the picture in Mulder's Office. I'm sure you've heard of this by now and probably seen pictures but it WAS kind of fun. They have this set with a desk in it and the desk and backdrop are painted green (like a blue screen effect). You sit behind the desk and they take a picture and the computer generates and spits out a picture of you which looks like you're sitting there in the FBI basement office behind Mulder's desk. Here's my picture and a close-up version. After scanning it, I was impressed with the detail in the background. Pretty cool.
Before heading back to the main stage area, I went to check out the concession and restroom areas. There was quite a line for concessions so my fast continued. The restrooms were porta potties. Now I'm sure you are all thinking of the obvious X-Files cliché but I swear I actually did think I heard the Flukeman in the porta potty next to me. There I was, minding my own business, trying desperately to spend the least amount of time possible in the lovely blue stall, when the one next to me started banging and swaying. I have no idea what was going on and I don't want to know but visions of Flukeman surfaced immediately. Can you blame me? The last thing I'd like to note before moving on to a more acceptable topic is that despite considering the audience of a show like the X-Files to be a smart, possibly intellectual crowd...some of its members still find it hard to hit the mark when in the bathroom. I'll say no more on the subject.
As I wandered back to the main stage, I noticed the autograph lines were moving; slowly but they are moving. I also notice that Nick is giving out hugs! Almost would be worth the agony of spending a few hours in that line. Instead, I find a seat for Dean Haglund's appearance and make sure it's on the side where I can also keep my eye on Kim and Nick at the autograph booth. Just a bonus of my chosen seat. Before Dean comes out they show Lone Gunmen clips on the screen. But before that, a quick observation. I saw a woman walking around in a green, silk pantsuit with a huge, blonde hairdo and a green, feather boa around her neck. Her EXPO pass said "TALENT". I have no idea what else to say about that but thought it was noteworthy. I should mention that the following pictures were taken with the digital, disk cameras that some of the event staff had at the EXPO. When you get there, you go to a photo-op area and they take a picture of you standing in front of a backdrop that says "EXPO - Dallas, March 21-22". They then give you the disk and you can put up to 40 pictures on it during your time at the EXPO. You just have to find someone with a camera who will accomodate you. I found one really nice guy who took the pictures below. They're taken from quite a distance with the zoom mode so they're not super clear but you get the idea.
When the clips finished, Dean ran out onto the stage with a clip-on microphone and tons of energy. At this point the sound system waved a little white flag and simply gave up. It was awful. Dean was up there talking and only the first few rows probably had any idea what he was saying. They did get it sorted out but this sound thing was just a bad deal all around. Dean didn't come out and talk about himself or being on the show and he didn't answer audience questions. What he does do is a lot of improv. He's a stand-up comic so that's his thing and he's good at it. He had a segment where he acted out a scenario he created with ideas from the audience while an audience member provided sound effects to his actions. Another segment is X-Files related and he's "in character" for this one, meaning he goes and gets his Garth glasses and puts them on first. Another bit is where he puts on this lab coat and pretends he's a scientist. The lab coat has holes in the back so someone can stand behind him, put their arms through the armholes, and provide the arm motions as he talks. A woman from the audience came on stage to perform this service and it was hilarious. She waved and gestured and, with all the more womanly flourishes in her gestures, it was a laugh riot. He's really funny and worth seeing.
After Dean, I really wanted to go and see the movie short about the making of "Fight the Future" (still think this is a dumb title) but I was worried about being caught in a line and missing Mitch Pileggi's appearance. I ended up going after I saw Mitch but it was definitely worth seeing. It's about eight minutes long and is a "making of the movie" clip. You get to see brief clips of Duchovny, Anderson, Carter, Spotnitz, Bowman, and others commenting on the movie and their roles in its production. I don't want to give away anything for people who are going to see this at the remaining EXPO dates but the limited footage allowed was great. I had been feeling lukewarm about the whole thing but after seeing the clip I'm a bit psyched for the June release. I think it'll have great visuals and parts will be really fun for the fans. The other thing I walked through was the area where they had the props displayed. It was sort of interesting to see some of these things up close, especially the magazines, newspapers, and any other printed material used on the show. But the most amazing thing was an item of Scully's clothing. It's the red, sort of plaid jacket that she wears in Jersey Devil. Once you take a look at this, you'll get an idea of how petite Gillian Anderson is. I was mesmerized staring at this item of clothing, I kid you not.
The last appearance of the day was Mitch Pileggi but he was definitely worth the wait. One of his video clips was the "pucker up and kiss my ass" scene and this brought on a huge cheer. When he came out he looked very un-Skinner-like. He was wearing cowboy boots, blue jeans, a gray T-shirt, a black jacket, and a blue ball cap. He is an incredibly personable guy and also has a great sense of humor. He needed that since lots of the questions were tedious and repetitive and would have tried anyone's patience. He was polite and funny and it was great to see him smile and laugh so much. His first words were "God Bless Texas!". Mitch was born in Portland, Oregon and lived all over the world as a child and teenager but eventually lived in Texas as an adult and did theater there. He must have a soft spot for the state since he said he was glad to be back in Texas and able to get some barbecue. Summary of Mitch Pileggi's Q&A.
When Mitch was done speaking, they dragged him off immediately for the autograph area. It was 5:00 at this point and he probably had at least two hours of signing in front of him. The venue was open until 8:00 p.m., but I had at least a three hour drive ahead of me and, after seeing the movie clip, I decided to call it a day. Overall, I'd say it was a good deal. I was figuring on huge crowds and long lines and they never surfaced (except the autograph line...don't forget that hell on earth). I really enjoyed the speakers and only wished they could screen the people asking questions to get some really interesting ones. I know this isn't possible and wouldn't be fair, but I can dream. I asked a couple of questions during Kim Manners' appearance but didn't want to compete with the fans of Nick and Mitch since the lines were longer. There was a lot of repetition and some of the questions were truly lame but at least the requests for hugs and kisses were turned down. I thank Nick and Mitch for that. Although they'll never see this I'd still like to say thanks to everyone who put on the EXPO. There were things that could have been better but I would have to say my feeling coming out was a positive one. Thanks also to Nick Lea, Kim Manners, Dean Haglund, Mitch Pileggi, and Andy Meisler. These appearances were what made my 400 mile round trip worthwhile and I'm grateful.
March 22, 1998
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