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'Star Trek Bridge Party' Report - Part 2

By Dr. Joseph D. Di Lella
Posted at September 24, 2002 - 9:47 AM GMT

From September 6-8 in Las Vegas, more than 450 fans had the chance to party with over thirty Trek and Sci-Fi celebrities at Slanted Fedora Entertainment's 'Star Trek Bridge Party.' Trek Nation reporter Dr. Joseph D. Di Lella was there to join in the fun.

With the emotional hangover from Saturday's full slate of festivities fresh in the air, the final day of the Slanted Fedora Convention seemed rather tame by comparison. Except for a few comedic bits and several insightful ruminations from a handful of Voyager and DS9 actors in the early afternoon, many of the fans wished they could turn back the clock and relive the past two days. "I can't believe I missed Jerry Doyle's (Babylon 5) 'Uncensored' show," said Dave, one of the dedicated volunteers who drove all the way from Los Angeles to help out. "Well I missed Marina Sirtis on Friday night," replied a loyal Trekker, captain of her own local Star Trek fan club. Still, the final afternoon was upon the audience and the final few actors were about to speak from the Alexis Hotel's main ballroom in Las Vegas.

"I received a residual check just last week from a Father Dowling Mysteries show I appeared in about ten years ago," said Ethan Phillips (Neelix). "I opened it up and the amount was one cent, which after taxes comes to zero." The audience snickered. Today Mr. Phillips was on his game, joking about real life situations rather than replaying old Johnny Carson routines. "I am thinking about calling their accounting department and telling them I've lost the check. Can you imagine their response when I ask them to re-issue it?" Ethan recalled a bar in Hollywood called Residuals where the back wall is littered with checks for under five dollars. "Many of my friends and I have asked SAG to donate any residual checks under five dollars to charity, but they've never taken us up on the idea. They could place the amount in a pension plan, but don't count on that happening anytime soon," said Phillips.

Will there be more cookbooks from Voyager's ex-chef? "No, there are no plans in the works," he replied. "I did go to Simon and Schuster and pitched an idea about Neelix after he leaves Voyager, but they pitched me right out of their office." The audience chuckled again at Phillip's black humor, but not in a gut-busting manner. Though Ethan Phillips has recently stared as a Ferengi in the Enterprise episode 'Acquisition,' the crowd knows unemployment looms above the heads of all of their favorite ex-Trek actors.

After Mr. Phillips left the small audience laughing, Garrett Wang (Harry Kim) ran up to the stage and immediately performed Voyager crew voice imitations of Tuvok, Janeway and the holo-doctor. Unlike the humorless Harry Kim, Mr. Wang has a sense of whimsy to him, though he too is unemployed these days. "As an Asian, there really aren't many parts for us on television. I've been asked to do some kung fu roles in Jackie Chan type movies, but I don't want to do those roles. I want something humorous or evil for my next acting job," Garrett said.

Amongst Garret's favorite Voyager's episodes are 'Timeless,' which he said was the best-written episode from the seven year run. Mr. Wang said 'Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy' was the most fun to act in and called 'Caretaker' the best pilot of the five Star Trek series. Garrett saluted the first half of Voyager's finale, but was disappointed in its second hour. "It was like yeah, I love Janeway going back to change the timeline for the better and face the Borg Queen. Then boom, we're back and there's no resolution." He believes Voyager will have a movie soon - if Patrick Stewart gives up on the series. "Don't you all want to see what happens to Voyager after the crew returns to Earth?" The audience applauded. Mr. Wang finished his talk with a very funny demonstration on the different ways his ex-Voyager crewmates punch buttons on their computer consoles.

Aron Eisenberg (Nog) was the last of the regular Trek panelists for Sunday. At first, he teased a handful of the remaining audience members who started to sneak off for the dealers' and autograph room when he took stage. Later he mentioned his new role of an ardent Chicago Cubs baseball fan in a play Armin Shimerman's wife, Kitty Swink, has written and directed called 'Bleacher Bums.' "J.G. Hertzler told me I'd be perfect for the part, so I switched with him [who took the role of radio announcer] after I butchered the names of a few Cubs players." The play is scheduled to run as part of a dinner theater production during the next Slanted Fedora Trek Convention in Las Vegas next February.

More like a passionate fan rather than just a working actor, Aron cited 'In the Pale Moonlight' as his favorite DS9 adventure. He liked "the darkness of Sisko" in the episode. Turning to his favorite roles, Mr. Eisenberg noted 'Valiant' because it showed Nog wasn't the "perfect cadet" by following the orders of a young inexperienced captain. 'Little Green Men' was "well crafted;" 'The Visitor' a chance to show "a mature Nog" commanding his own ship. Aron also enjoyed playing off of Avery Brooks' strong energy in the episode, 'Heart of Stone.' In one of the final scenes where Nog pleads Sisko for a letter of recommendation, Avery grabbed Aron by the shoulders - a piece of action not called for in the script. "I could have shouted to the director, 'hey, that isn't in the scene,' and acted like a prima donna, but I didn't. With Avery, he's always there with the actor, emotionally, so you've got to keep on your toes."

Aron's favorite episode is 'It's Only a Paper Moon' because he must cope with the tough emotional chore of recuperating from the loss of his right leg as well as his fear of his own mortality. "The scene where Nog cries to Vic (DS9's lounge singer hologram) and tells him how scared he was in battle - that one was shot eight times," he said. "The director, Anson Williams, kept asking me just to do it 'just one more time.' But each time those were real tears, and I just couldn't call them up so easily. By the eighth time I nearly shouted 'No' and walked off the set, but I didn't. I made it through. Afterwards I had to finish crying off camera -- that's how tough [and in character] it was for me to do the scene." When asked off stage, Mr. Eisenberg admitted that disabled Vietnam veterans have approached him about the episode and responded positively, telling him what a wonderful and true to life job he did dealing with the grief and pain of losing a limb to the ravages of war.

The final speaker, Fintan McKeown (Michael Sullivan in 'Fair Haven' and 'Spirit Folk') was asked if he was in on any of the practical jokes the Voyager cast were famous for. He said that there where times when the crew "tested his resolve" by trying to draw him into several pranks, but that he would have none of that. "As an actor, you must be attuned to the director and what is happening in front of you." McKeown did note that it was his first scene in 'Fair Haven' that made him the most uncomfortable. "This scene is where I must tell Katie I love her and will wait for her, no matter how long it takes. And there she is, giving me the once over, gazing at me from head to toe. It was difficult to react passionately, to kiss someone you've only known for less than five minutes." Fintan remarked that the director yelled 'cut' after the first take and walked over to him. He shook Fintan's hand and said, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

How did he find out he was wanted to be a part of Star Trek lore? Fintan was home alone in Ireland on a rainy, cold night when the call came in from his agent. "Would you like to do a Star Trek episode? Well, I couldn't believe it. I thought she was having a bit of fun at my expense," he said. Even though Star Trek is wildly popular in America, or as Alexander Siddig (Julian Bashir) said earlier in the convention, "[Trek] is in the ground, in the soul of your country [America]," Fintan was well aware of its popularity in his home country of Ireland. "It was really up to me to turn down," he remarked. "If I had, Timothy Dalton [of James Bond fame] was next in line for the part, I believe." Though he is unemployed at the moment, he is hoping to land a role in a western mini-series coming soon to the TNN channel in the USA.

For this reporter, the best part of the convention was spying - though not in a serious manner - on the actors after hours. On Saturday night, many of the DS9 and Voyager convention participants (Siddig, Robinson, Biggs, de Lancie and Picardo) laughed and talked while drinking at the hotel's bar. That same evening, Garrett Wang and his friends, Nicole deBoer (Ezri Dax) and her husband left the hotel together and headed for the Hard Rock Cafe casino. On that Sunday afternoon, Robert Picardo set a dinner date with Ethan Phillips for later in the evening. So it appears that our favorite Star Trek actors like each other perhaps as much as fans enjoy the characters they portray in their respective fictional television series. And isn't it nice to know that fantasy blends into reality just as easily?

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Dr. Joseph D. Di Lella is a new contributor to the Trek Nation.

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