There is part of me that misses being a film fan in the ’80s and early ’90s, not just for nostalgic reasons, although before the world was at our fingertips movie magic seemed like just that. But from the point of view of being a collector it really was halcyon days to be a geek and towards the end of my time at secondary school I had discovered the film fairs held monthly at the Dominion Hotel in Manchester. I would save my pocket money and measly paper round wage and come back with a bag full for twenty or thirty quid, having now found out about the existence of press kits, front of house sets, quads and more! Thanks to Star Wars and Indiana Jones I had found a hero, and his name was Harrison Ford, over time the dealers knew this and every month they would present me with their findings from his filmography and I'd try and haggle as much as I could from the money I had. I suppose like anyone else I grew up a bit and by 1997 I had discovered other things like beer and girls so the last titles I picked up things from was the Star Wars Special Editions, Devil's Own and Air Force One... I guess you could say I stopped at the right time, because shortly after this the stunning press kits containing glossy 10x8s and the front of house sets stopped being produced, the internet killed the magic, and along with it slowly killed the market, intimacy, and fun of being a collector.
Old habits die hard. I forget the reason why it all kicked off again, but I suspect it could have been the release of the much maligned Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal that reawakened that nostalgia. Here's a film that I had been waiting 19 years to see, it wasn't perfect, but those opening 20 minutes were worth that wait and I was practically on my feet cheering Indy on as he swung through Area 51. That old obsession of mine returned before the release, I wanted everything including the hat, and I got it! In my younger days for some reason I collected strictly the British promotional material, but dipping into all this stuff again I realised that I had been missing out on the beauty of the U.S One Sheet Poster. Jump down, turn around I was back at my old hobby, with the addition of a new one: autographs! So when STARBURST asked me to attend London Film Comic Con and write a report it seemed like a no brainer.
I visited my first Showmasters event last year in Milton Keynes (I just had to meet Gillian Anderson) and was very impressed so I was looking forward to LFCC immensely. I travelled down with my social networking wench Dave from my show Anything That Rocks on Fab Radio International. Due to a gig on the Friday, we had to miss preview day and drove down in the early hours. There then followed a catalogue of disasters relating to our hotel, we got two hours sleep then moved hotels and spent an hour trying to find a cheap car park (fat chance in the big smoke). Once this was resolved we finally headed to the con. Upon arrival we were told that we didn't have a press pass, but to be fair to Showmasters they were oversubscribed and our request was quite late in the game. As luck would have it a close friend of mine was able to get us in the building so we could get to work. A conversation with a security lady, later in the day, informed us that 10500 people had moved through the building that day and this was confirmed by the size of the queue, apparently some attendees were there for 4 hours to just get in the place, because they know it is worth the wait.
You really have to hand it to Showmasters - the quality of guests they get is truly mind-blowing, here's just a few: Stan Lee, Carrie Fisher, Michael Biehn, John Hurt, Anthony Head, George A Romero, Edward James Olmos, Helen Slater, Michael Madsen, David Wenham, Lena Headey, Lawrence Gilliard Jnr, Jenna Coleman, Ian McDiarmid, Summer Glau, Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Paul Freeman, Paul McGann, Billy Dee WIlliams, Colin Baker, Dave Prowse, Kenny Baker, Jeremy Bulloch and that's just scratching the surface!
The first piece of advice I would give to any con newbie is planning, especially if you are only there for the day: go in armed with the times of talks and photo shoots. As soon as you arrive take a number for the guests you want to sign, particularly for the bigger ones, as they WILL be busy and you may leave empty handed. For example on Sunday Dave took a number for Stan Lee and it was over 1000, the queue was up to 25 at the time. It's easy to get distracted by the many shiny things and the incredible cosplays on show, that's kind of what happened to us on Saturday as well as the guests being mad busy. I did however get to meet a man I have wanted to meet since the ’80s, Mr Paul Freeman. My Dad met him in 1987 doing walk on work in a TV series called Yesterday’s Dreams, and had come home to tell me the now famous story of Indy shooting the Arab swordsman. It was a true pleasure to finally meet Paul, he was very friendly and took time to record a couple of sound bites for Fab. I caught up with the lovely Femi Taylor (Oola from Return of the Jedi) who I had met at The Printworks event recently, and she showed me some pictures, on her iPad, from her recent visit to Skywalker Ranch. We capped the day off by meeting the legendary producer of A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back Gary Kurtz.
Sunday was cooler and calmer, but there was still a lot to do and see, and my first stop was Gaff himself Edward James Olmos. What really makes the great fan experiences are when the star you meet goes that extra mile for you, it’s not just about a scribble on a piece of paper, it’s about capturing a memorable moment too. Edward certainly didn't disappoint, I had taken along my origami Unicorn and I put it on the table in front of him, his reaction was "love that, man", gave me a knowing look and signed a Gaff 10x8 "To Paddy. It's too bad she won't live, but then again who does? Edward James Olmos." Later in the day for the photo shoot he held the unicorn up, what a guy! Speaking of going the extra mile, Dave had a great experience with a certain Jason Mewes who, upon hearing the autograph he was buying was for a charity auction, also gave him a Too Fat For 40 DVD already signed by Kevin Smith and himself to add to the auction. Snoochie Boochies!
There were a few scoops on the day too. I can confirm that Robert Downey Jnr will be playing a Gibson ES335 at some point in Avengers: Age of Ultron (I played on it too); Stan Lee will have a cameo in Age Of Ultron; Paul McGann signed on to the 50th Doctor Who without seeing a script and thinks Charles Dance would be great as The Master; Dina Meyer said she would be open to a Starship Troopers musical; Cory Dee Williams admitted to stealing his Dad's Revenge of the Jedi ashtray and Gary Kurtz hinted that we would be seeing the Star Wars trilogy on the big screen again.
I saved the best till last, for a Star Wars nut like me there was one lady I really had to meet, Carrie Fisher, the Princess herself. I went armed with a picture of her in the gold bikini knowing I would have to ask her to write something naughty, and she did; "Love to Paddy. My one true love and sex partner, Carrie Fisher"... needless to say after laughing like a girl and spouting "I love you", fan boy experiences do not get any better than that, what a great sport Carrie is!
There are still some remnants of the old days that haven't been swept away. Wondering around the stalls I ran into a dealer, who used to do the Manchester film fairs back in the day. John even remembered my name, then offered to store my coat just like he did back then... “Maybe the magic isn't dead just yet,” I thought as we started to haggle.
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