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3rd-5th/9/04 Ok guys, here i am at last!!
Just had to get myself sorted before starting on this – put the films into be developed [next Wednesday, due to odd film speed on two!] and get digital ones downloaded onto computer, cleaned up and ready to put on hpphoto… order in some groceries, grab some milk for cuppa tea, put watch in to get strap rejoined [silly link fell out in Char’s room and i couldn’t find it anywhere, turns out it has to have a new one made]… change $20 back into £10 [actually a few pence over!] and that sorta stuff – order new prescription and get it filled, got that done today…
Caught up on some sleep and rested my damned back, sore knees, ankles etc!! feel a little fuzzy but i am almost, almost! back to normal… and the £s down in my pay is the change over in payments to a 4 weekly system for everybody, could not have come at a worse time… of course…

So i’ll start at the beginning BUT BE WARNED THIS IS GOING TO BE LONG, AS I HAVE LOTS TO SAY and you can skip down to the actual Con if you only want that bit or if you get BORED! Ok? i’ll mark it for you – scroll down till you get to the ***HERE*** bit!

Monday 23rd August – started journey at just before 05.45, catching the 06.07 to London, changing at Kings Cross – over to Paddington Station to pickup the Heathrow Express out to, oddly enough, Heathrow… Terminal 1 and a hike to the lifts… told Jamesrocks/Susie roughly what time i’d be in and got through on the mobile to let her know i was running a bit late by this time but when i stepped out of the lift, the first person i saw was Herself! What timing!! We both rushed off to the loos and then made our more leisurely way to the check-in desk – it pays to travel with a disabled person, you get preferential check-in and a disabled lounge at Heathrow where you can wait in comfort and nobody falling over your legs. And a ride out to the gate [this time on a golf cart that moved at a speed not usually seen indoors – great fun!!! i kept checking to make sure Susie was still on the back, when ever we hit a bump!]
You can usually get a more suitable seat too. i say usually because this time it backfired on my lovely travelling companion, who had a drop down shelf and a baby-chair [with horribly spoilt child in it!!] ALMOST IN HER LAP for almost 10 HOURS… some bloody Jordanian woman with absolutely no consideration AT ALL, actually had the temerity to complain to Susie that she hadn’t got the aisle seat [mine] that she had asked for!!! i would have had the frickin’ baby in my frickin’ lap all the frickin’ way…. Don’t get me wrong i love children, a little salt, a little lemon – couldn’t eat a whole one though….
i had a word with a stewardess later and said we could have been warned we were going to be saddled with this baby – oh they won’t tell you, she said – i was not pleased and said so, she took one look at my face and wisely shut up. Damn it, we paid good money for these seats and have our rights too – i would have asked to be moved if there had been any spare seats but there were none. Why do people who travel with children think they have rights over everyone else? Stay at home until you can control them and not annoy other people – like dropping their shoes in passengers dinner trays and throwing hard little books at other passengers [such fun!!] and hitting sore and sensitive knees…. Giving them something to do, so they don’t scream with boredom in no time flat… that sort of thing!
When she thought the baby or she were ready she dropped the shutters, without a bye-your-leave to either of us – middle of the sodding afternoon!! Made Susie feel quite claustrophobic and me that night had fallen just a bit early…
we chased the sun as usual even though we were 2 hours late leaving London and arrived about 10 hours later at San Francisco Airport – 16.30 roughly local time; wondering if the ride we had booked with Bayporter would still be available – but they are used to that sort of thing and when i eventually managed to get to a phone that worked, they arrive within 10 minutes – very good service and i would recommend them.
The ride to San Francisco proper was painless and swift and we lost no time getting ourselves cleaned up and out to have a quick look at the area. South of Market Street is very seedy and i would not walk Susie down there AT ALL. i kept my eyes open where we were but had no bad experiences at all during our stay. The blocks are short and in very little time we were watching a cable car go down to the turnaround area… we picked a super little Italian restaurant called Puccini & Pinetti, in Ellis Street just round the corner from our Hotel, to go have dinner – in spite of our internal timeclocks telling us it was around 04.00 in the blessed am! And i had been up about 24 hours…. This lovely little restaurant was warm and welcoming and we were made to feel well looked after – i was starving by then and we shared a delicious plate of fried calamari, thinly sliced vegetables and onions in a tempura batter that could not have been lighter, before progressing to a homemade-meatballs and spaghetti dish for me and snapper for Susie – both extremely nice. We were pleased with the price too, with soft drinks and coffee, around $54.
We explored a tiny bit more but i was flagging and begged to go sleep – Jamesrocks, as i have noted before, only seems to sleep once a year, hanging upside down in the wardrobe…
We did manage some sleep but were up around 06.00 – the street noise bothered Susie a bit but i slept like the ah, dead.
24th August – Breakfast of pancakes & bacon at Lori’s Diner – great fun!! Afterwards we had a long wait for a cable car due to the hordes of Japanese tourists, to whom every second is a photo opportunity – but eventually even they had gone and we bought our 3-day ticket $15 and what a bargain – took us right down to Fisherman’s Wharf in next to no time and that was really the business! Great fun – loved riding the cable cars.
We were pretty early for most of the shops at the Wharf [the most don’t seem to open till about 10.00] and walked slowly down to Pier 39 – with a couple of little stops for ‘tourist opportunities’ and had to be dragged out of Ghiradelli’s little shop down there, before i blew my allowance all on chocolate [i am sitting munching on a Cherry Chocolate Ball now, delicious!], and went to find the sealions.
i spent sometime photographing them before we went in search a drink and a sit-down, could have watched them for hours… i think i did… Great coffee in USA and lots of good food… not always great service [mostly youngsters] but on the whole pretty good… and i do adore Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, ‘specially Cherries Garcia… [disappointed not to find my favourite Coffee ice cream] but did have some nice Haagen Das at the Marriott.
We had thick fog for a large part of the morning and it only really cleared up by early afternoon over the city but not the Harbour – no Golden Gate for us that morning or the next day……… we went to find the start of the Powell-Mason Cable Car line and found the street – and a café not long after for lunch, deciding to go up Coit Tower as we were now so close. If we can get a taxi, i said, walking outside and there was a taxi, literally! So up we go… $3.95 to go up the Tower, not cheap but worth it for the views, even if you do have to climb the last dozen or so steps! Took pics and just looked, fascinating… quite windy up there but cut down by the thick Plexiglas…
Decided to descend, was there a bus? Lo and behold, one appeared – it was that sort of day!!

This took us down to Fisherman’s Wharf again and we got one of those pedalling tricycles to the start of the Powell/Mason cable line. Our pedaller was brilliant fun and took us a scenic run for the same money $4 each, also brilliant – we enjoyed the muscular legs and ass of our man too and he got a very good tip!! We took the cable car down to Mason Street and the Negro guy at the turnaround embarrassed the hell out of me when i couldn’t get a seat, by moving a couple so i could sit on the outside and not have people walk on my foot – i said, i would have been happy to have waited for the next one, honest! But he walked round telling them all in a rumbling basso, they’d better move or i’d beat them to death with my stick…!!! i just put my hand over my face and wished the ground would swallow me! Susie [and the other passengers, luckily!] thought it was the biggest joke that year!

We just went and jumped on the BART over to the Oakland to meet up with Char and Vicki, who had met her at the Marriott and made sure she was ok and settled in. Hugs & kisses all round and introduced them to Susie. We decided to get ‘take-outs’ and as we had booked with the King Wah for the Early Dinner on Thursday, ordered from them to give them a tryout – pretty good too. Vicki and i had the biggest laugh brassing it out coming in through Reception – specially as Vic had a box of beer and a 2-gallon bottle of mineral water, so we did the you-walk-on-the-inside-of-me going up to the door and now-walk-on-the-side-away-from-the-desk going in!! I had put the food in a very large carrier bag that just said San Francisco on it and even if they could smell it, they couldn’t see it and simply smiled and turned a pretty blind nose at it!
We had a ball eating it and looking at what was left, decided to order less due to US meal sizes at the Early do! What did we have for dessert? A phone call from Spicy and Shopgirl!!
They came up and visited with us and that was fun. Spicy brought up the International Mobsters Book and we spent some time having a look at that – great fun and i’m sure James will love it.

Char had made some beautiful jewellery and i was able to show everyone mine – superb 3-strand lapis necklace [with some matching earrings] AND a stunning amber piece on a silk cord.. blew me away… I wore the lapis to the Banquet and got quite a few comments for it. Char is so generous and had made necklaces for Vicki [super garnets] and Susie [amethysts] – lovely work. They loved them of course! What a day… Vic had a tour jacked up for the following day and Spicy and Nicole had to go rest, so made sure Char had everything she needed and Susie & i went back to our Hotel in the City and crashed.

Next day – Wednesday 25th – we wound up having breakfast near Columbus Street, long story! But it took us a while to work out where the bus stops were! We got the #30 down to Fishermen’s Wharf end of the seafront and actually walked out onto the Municipal Pier, still trying to see the Golden Gate – no luck again – brilliant skies everywhere but fog sitting over the Bridge!! Unreal… so we walked up to Ghiradelli’s Old Factory and had a nice mooch around the shops and Susie bought some lovely wood pieces as present from owner of the shop – while he asked my advice about meeting a new lady in his life!!! Lovejames’ advice to the lovelorn, huh? i’m not sure who was the most amused, Susie or me… but he seemed pretty pleased with my assessment of the situation and my advice, for what it was worth – Susie got quite a nice discount on her shopping! Nothing to do with my advice of course!!
We went and had hot fudge sundaes at the Ghiradelli’s shop – delicious – and who should come in and do the same but FrenchDaria and her brother?!!! We knew they were there of course but not just where. We had a quick socialise and left them in peace.
We visited Barnes & Noble for Susie to fulfil a couple of requests and i succumbed to a signed copy of Sue Grafton’s latest ‘R for Ricochet’ in the Alphabet series; I’m so weak… but it was marked 30% off – which i found out later the little prick of a salesman had forgotten to take off… bit cross over that one… we did a little more shopping when we got back to Union Square but mostly of the window kind – wound up having something to eat at the top of Macy’s Cheesecake Factory around 15.00 hrs – Susie went to get a manicure and having walked my ass off by then, i returned to the Hotel – we both had a bit of down-time but revived enough to go out to look for somewhere with live music about 2130. Wound up having a bite of dinner in a live-jazz place not too far away – which whiled away a couple of hours – musicians had a little more enthusiasm than talent but it was pleasant enough.

Thursday 26th - We both had a pretty good sleep and got our bags all packed to go over to Oakland before we went out, as i was pretty sure i would not have the energy later [i was right!] and had our final independent breakfast at Sears; those enchanting little 18 Swedish pancakes, with bacon!! And several gallons of coffee…..
Then i finally got to visit Chinatown. Always wanted to go and now i was there.. terrific fun and we poked around in the little shops with great enthusiasm – we stopped for a small dim sum lunch [Early Dinner that night!] and pushed onwards again. i realised we had almost walked the length and cut up to Sutter Street and caught the 30 bus again to Hyde for the cable car up to Lombard Street – and as we got off there, we realised the Golden Gate had taken this time to emerge like some reluctant debutant from the surrounding fret and flaunt itself in the sunlight!!
Susie cut across to the seaward side and got a couple of nice pics and then did a Sherpa down Lombard for the pictures and back-up again! what a woman! Naturally, I watched her carefully…
We hopped on the cable and rode it down to Macy’s – ran up for some Cheesecake and i said i will shout us a taxi back to the Hotel, if i can find one – yes, you guessed it, one sitting at the curb…. The goddess loves Susie, i think…
So we arrived in style and dashed up to get our bags, have a quick clean up, check out and grab another taxi over to the Marriott. All worked like clockwork, apart from the traffic but we got there in decent time.

***HERE*** We arrive at the Con!! Well, the Early dinner anyway!
I had barely got my taxi door open, when KatieMarie appeared at my elbow, hopping up and down with excitement, saying “You’re the first person I’ve seen that I KNOW – I’m so EXCITED!!”
I laughed and said ‘let me get out, sweetie!’ and disentangled myself from the cab. As i did so, i noted the people-carrier unloading in front of us – the unmistakable figure of Julie Caitlin Brown and entourage – Craig and various ladies and dancing attendance, the infamous Infernando… or Ratknickers as i so affectionately call him…. I caught up with JCB briefly a little time later in the lobby and gave her a hug and a kiss – interrupting her interview! Oops, fangirl moment there! She laughed and i hope i made her look good for the interview… didn’t get to spend the time with her i had hoped but i think she knows how much we appreciate her efforts.

We registered and KatieMarie had to wait for her roomies, so see you tomorrow and we went up and dumped our bags. i’d like to take a moment here and tell you just what a super travelling companion and roomie i had in Susie, our own Jamesrocks – i have to tell you Jamesrocks rocks! As she pointed out to me when we got back, we never had a cross word the whole time and i really appreciated it, i can tell you.
We met up with Char and Vic again, went and pre-registered [which consisted of getting our badges but no new schedules yet, tomorrow! – and that was IT, no printed programme, no photo tickets, get them tomorrow too, hellova disorganised, VERY BAD] and met various of the Mobsters and in the Lobby too… and off to the King Wah - we were missing Spicy, Nicole and Sami but they eventually caught up with us, wrong directions. We had a couple of noisy, happy large tables of ladies enjoying their asses off and even the two cops who came in for dinner sat and smiled at our antics!! Lots of photos taken and those on my digital are ready for linking – as soon as i’ve done this. Rest of the photos [not sure if there are more of this night on those, maybe] will be ready next week, as stated – sorry about that.
We bumped into Camden Toy in the lobby of the Marriott and he is such a funny and charming man – and so talented – he charmed us all with funny stories and I missed seeing Alexis and Aly sneaking into the Hotel! Camden graciously let us take pictures and could not have been nicer.
We had a good night but i was fading fast due to having pulled a muscle in my back and nipping a nerve or two – great way to start a Con… i was unable to do much pushing that night of Char’s ‘Chariot’ as we called it! But a successful night!

Friday 27th - Which is more than i can say for the Friday Breakfast!! Char unfortunately was unable to attend and was horrified to hear nothing had been booked for us AT ALL – and the waiters kept trying to charge us a ‘large group’ surcharge – even on a table of less than 8!! Bloody cheek! Needless to say it did not get paid… ours kept saying but that table and that table are part of your group… go away, you annoying little man….. they danced attendance on us for the rest of the weekend i have to tell you and walked around me very carefully….
Susie, Daria, Vic and myself had our breakfast and i went back upstairs afterwards and unpacked and then went down to see Char and finally meet up with our Irish, at last… super girl…
We repaired downstairs for the photo-op registrations at 13.00 hrs – i have to say what a fucking mess… Javier who we’d met the previous night, was trying to cope with an ever increasing line of people ON HIS OWN, as the person supposed to be there was still up in the air, literally…. Poor boy, his hands were flying over the computer keys… i walked down to see where the other Platinums were – most of them Standing in Line like all the other attendees!! So i hoofed it back up to Javier and told him – he said tell them to come straight up here to me, so i went down the line again and quite frankly if they wanted to keep standing there, that was their choice. i said tell all the others you see, please, as i did myself. Nobody from Vulkon even trying to help out with this now enormous line, except one super sweetie attendee… - let alone making sure disabled and special needs Guests were being looked after!!
i went looking for a Vulkon promoter and found MiniMotes [thank you Sami], smiled at him and greeted him, shaking his hand and then telling him, oh by the way? about the mess upstairs… he ran off with his mobile in his claw, I mean hand….
Javier did eventually get some help and i took a quick shuffle down the line and said Javier had asked if the Friday James photos could come through first, everyone else was welcome to wait but that had to be first – it was about 15.00 by this time and time was running out…
Then i went and had several large drinks with Vic, Susie and every combination you could think of, with KatieMarie popping in and out and lots of people coming over to say hello.
Then it was nearly 16.30 and my heart started to speed up… we were pressured into having our extra Platinum picture on the same day [by Vulkon] – which i was not happy about but was still under the impression at that stage this instruction was coming from JC’s Angels, not so… All parts of the Con under JCA and JCB went smoothly and with good pre-planning [AND IT SHOWED, thank you, Julie & Craig and all your wonderful staff] – the rest was an absolute bloody nightmare. More on that later.
At the time, all I was thinking about was seeing the Man in a few minutes time – eight months of planning, saving, financial hardship and getting organised, compressed into a few minutes….
and what few minutes they were… Char got in very quickly and i followed a few minutes later. i watch a couple be photographed and i walk forward on legs turned to jelly, beaming like a lighthouse – ‘hello again – that’s cool’ says our hero, looking at my tattoos [like he’s never seen me before but I don’t care] and he catches my hand and we have our first photo together, then i say ‘next one, baby’, turning my Platinum badge round for him to see – ‘can we do something different?’ – ‘sure’, he says, ‘what?’ – i move sidways and put both my arms around him from the back ‘is that ok?’ and he leans back, relaxing into my arms [be still, my beating heart!!] and I get the sexy ‘attitude’ look – bloody hell, what happened to my knees… ‘See you later’ he says and i pick up my stuff and leave, heart pounding like a drum.
I go catch up with the girls, my hands shaking like a teenager… what happened to the cool, confident woman who went in? she metamorphed into a FANGIRL! Oh dear….
Spicy is last up and she had taken me aside earlier and said ‘bring Char back in about 10 minutes’ – so we go join the rest but I hang about and let them leave and we stay and I say lets wait for Spicy, she can’t be long now… and she isn’t – I have a quick word with Soulmate as to why we are lurking and she’s cool with that… then she gets the door open and we go back inside and Spicy gives the book to Char and tells James what it is, while she holds it and he is glancing through it and going ‘WOW’ and he hugs Spicy and Char, and I tell him we are all in it worldwide and Char is first being Alaska – and Craig says we have to have a shot of this and they line up – as soon as Char is on her feet, I move the Chariot away and Craig says, what about you, so I hop back in there… and it’s done.
We come out in a state of collapse and I take Char back upstairs to rest, it has been a long tiring afternoon and she needs to rest. We order from Room Service and chill out until time to get ready for the Cocktail Party – and I shoot up and get myself ready, laughing with Susie then back to Char.
By the time we get there, there’s not a seat to be had at any of the tables set up – unless you want to go haul one or two out of the rows on the other side of the room… or sit there of course…. i have to admit i was pissed about that and i didn’t bother hiding it either… i did eventually find us somewhere i could sit and have the wheelchair next to me but i was NOT pleased.
We had small eats on hand, no thank you, and there was a small and rather limited free bar and I remembered reading somewhere, someone said order two drinks at a time, it takes forever and they were right and i did, real glad too. i’d still be standing there now… ONE bartender – well that’s ONE way of keeping the price down, guys…. And having thirsty guests…. I have some words with Kelly and his fiancée, Jonathan Woodward and Danny Strong, all nice people, as we are waiting at the bar…
Vicki had poured her voluptuous self into the most amazing dress and was quite the stunner, the rest of us didn’t look too shabby either, that had taken the trouble to dress up….

Vicki was unhappy with the Con so far and took the opportunity to say so to Fernando – who had the GALL to say – ‘NOBODY ELSE IS UNHAPPY! NOBODY ELSE HAS COMPLAINED’!!! which incensed her so much, she marched him over to me and said your Platinums are unhappy! Ask Jill. Well, hadn’t intended to do a song and dance on the first evening but there was no way I was letting Vicki down – so I started to tell him what was wrong so far – JCB appeared like magic with a notepad and her own agenda, which she jumped over me with, rattled off what she wanted to say and do, then said, ‘I want to hear this’. I glanced at Char and she at me and I started again. She jumped in again saying ‘try to be constructive’ [whispering in my ear, Fernando’s unfortunate circumstances – so not my problem] – and I also mentioned his staff being rude to Guests downstairs, he had no smart response to that – I had barely made a dent in what I could have said, before he was interrupting with those phrases ‘just let me answer that’ and so on, smiling patronisingly like a shark… he says, he will try and put things right before the end of the Con [how can he if he doesn’t know what they are?] and with JCB running interference for him again, I gave up and said – ok, a letter/list for you of Constructive Criticism, will you even read it? OF COURSE, he will….. mmmm…. Maybe for three seconds to identify which one it is and to take the same amount of time to crumple it up and bin it…….. if his record so far is anything to go by..

The main excuse was this was their first BIG Con [in more ways than one, baby] and they were on a ‘learning curve’ – what after SEVENTEEN YEARS?!!! How much fucking practice do they need? And as for anybodies’ personal circumstances, don’t bring them to the Cons!! I don’t care if you are worrying about the blind and injured pets you have at home, honey……

Maybe the fact it has taken three years for Fernando & Co to recognise JCB is a friend shows what sort of people they are and how they need to get their collective asses off the ground and get their act together? You may want to be friends, my dear, and do business with them but I do not – nor do I intend going to one of their little jaunts again – EVER. Now that should please you, Fernando. You’re going to get your ass kicked in public but it’s only my opinion, right?! you work it out….. Every time our eyes met after that, I got a wink like we were buddies or that patented crocodile smile… ‘eeeewwww!’ and as for Mr MiniMotes, now there’s a man who truly makes my flesh crawl…. You are so right, Spicy, he would have lost the hand he laid on me in any autograph queue and I never saw him smile but the once, sort of…
But if James goes to one of their stunts again, and I’m thinking he really shouldn’t, it will sadly be without me. If I get back over there again in my lifetime, it will be to one of the other Cons. Or I will simply resign myself to being one of the British Fans, Broken Hearted Division ! [hereinafter called BRAVBRITS] – ok, back to the Cocktail Party – this is turning into War & Peace… and I am on page 6 already!

JCB obviously got the impression I was not a happy bunny [well, she was right] but thought I was not going to be able to mingle with the Guests and brought Danny Strong over to talk to me, poor boy – I did say we had spoken already and he looked a bit bewildered as to what was going on and disappeared – leaving Julie to ask who I would like to meet and she would bring them on over… I thought quickly and turned my mind back to the Harvest [Sorry, didn’t mean to swear!] – who had I really missed out on meeting? George Hertzberg… Please? Yes, no problem and in very short order, he was presented to us… [to my amazement and Char’s absolute glee…] in the meantime I just looked volumes at Char, gently shaking my head and she smiled that smile…
George was a damn good choice – what a charming, friendly and delightful man he is – he chatted happily about his wife and what a good time they had when they had taken the opportunity to go to England for the Con, and gone onto Europe for their honeymoon – and how he remembered the Volunteer Stewards who ran the Con and how they had shifted the tables on the last night from one end of the hall to the other, and I laughed saying, yes, we never spilled a pencil! Char got to ask him questions and it was a very nice visit.
We spoke to him again in the autograph/bonus guest lines and he is a star… they all are.
I saw Tony Head not too far away and nipped away from the table long enough to whisper in his ear, during a break in the traffic, that there was a lady in a Chariot that would love to meet him, when he had a chance to stroll our way or whenever and he looked along my line of sight, seeing Char and smiled at me.
It didn’t take him too long, to go get a beer and wander over and introduce himself. Char’s face lit up and they had a fairly animated conversation and I deliberately made him giggle to her delight. He graciously let me take a couple of shots, all casual – we let him know we had ‘real’ photos with him the next day, so he relaxed.. I notice Ratknickers is lurking in the background of one of them… what a surprise – it was like being stalked by a vulture…. People started to gather around him and we lost him in the crush but not before I met his eyes and said thank you.

That basically was that and we let the girls know we had cheesecake – Hey there, Kim! Cheesecake carrier extraordinaire!! – and we retired back to Char’s room with various Mobsters to have a bite – very nice too, thank you Susie!
Char was starting to flag and they all sweetly trooped away and par-tayed! in their own room. But we weren’t finished yet as the next wave of Mobsters arrived and had their cheesecake! As soon as they had eaten, I shooed them out too and most went on to the Common Rotation concert, including Susie & Vic – they reported later how good it had been.

Saturday 28th – damned early Breakfast 0700, didn’t think we were gonna make it but we sorta did! Vicki had complained to the Manager of Marriotts the day before about the Friday fiasco and they had set out two long tables for us [but not where they said they would be!] – not a lot of people turned up but we were pushed for time.
We had photo-ops with ASH first up – what a darling he is! We had a laugh and I got a super cuddle and photo with him, and so did Char. Thank heavens for the Platinum ticket getting me through faster, as my back was killing me…
Char had Nick Brendon photos so we compromised on helpful instructions from Soulmate and came back at 0930 for him and then we simply sat back down again and waited for Alexis – who was warm and welcoming and stole the show really by being such a charmer… everyone got that lovely smile… he seemed genuinely pleased when anyone said thank you for coming – I’m running out of words to say how great he was – me!

** James time again for our second photos and this time i got a proper welcome, ‘hello again, darlin’’ and pulled into that huge warm, snuggly, arm-round-the-neck, cheek-to-cheek that he does before i could get more than ‘hey, James’ out – i was going to ask for a profile shot, face to face but what the hell…. He is so unafraid of snuggling with us, who in their right minds would say ‘no’? - alright, Daria, i know what you are thinking but even you succumbed this time!!

The Autograph sessions for that day were James, Stephanie Romanov, Nick and Alexis for us and the Golds and ASH and Clair Kramer the next day. Again, thank heavens for the Platinum ticket enabling me to get through fast and not having to go into agonies standing waiting – i did notice many of the others queuing like everybody else, and I said again, what are you waiting for? Some actually wriggled and said they didn’t like to push in, amazing… they had paid for the privilege but wouldn’t use it, silly moos…. Fortunately I have no such repressions – i’m ok walking but i do not stand well.
There should have been disabled people first, again nothing done – VERY BAD!!

i had a bag full of stuff with me and was informed in the queue for James that i had to get my extra autograph [that i bought for a MTS/Mobster who couldn’t come] at the same time! i would have been quite happy queuing up again [especially as there were no huge queues on Sunday] but no, i had to rush and get Sonia’s stuff out [with hers and Mandy’s presents too] – hurriedly pulling it all out, telling him who they were from… James just sat there smiling like an angel – saw the print i got from Erin of him singing and said ‘wow, that’s great’ – I let him look at that while I got out the rest – then when he had signed Sonia’s pic, I looked for Erin’s print, to see it stacked against the bloody wall!!! ‘oh no’ I said, ‘not that one’ and James made a moue face at me and said, ‘can’t I keep it? You going to make me give it back?’ in that wheedling tone he does to such effect! but i said, ‘yeah! it’s mine!’ He laughed and signed it for me, handing it back reluctantly, laughing at me again, gorgeous little sod… i so wanted to give it to him but resisted as i was pretty certain he was due to get one - [Erin did take him one, so he didn’t miss out]. i said see you later and he said ‘oh, at the thing?’ and i nodded yes – smiles all round and i left.

We did various stuff like buy photos – poor dealers forbidden by Vulkon to sell Guests’ photos so they had a monopoly! And they could only sell old stuff or non-Buffy/Angel items – they were not happy with that but it did explain why there were only 6 dealers in that cavernous room, when it should have been packed.
The poor Bonus Guests lined up along the back wall, like they were waiting to be shot! We went looking for them on Friday and were horrified at the conditions – nothing at the doors to say they were there [until SUNDAY!] – but we tried to make them feel they were appreciated.

I kidded Adam Busch about being safe from molestation at the back of the tables and he jumped up and rushed round for a huge hug, to be ‘molested’!! I had such a laugh at that… Char bought cds and pictures and I said hi to Ingrid – hey sweetie, nice to see you there - tried to cheer Tom Lenk up by buying an autographed picture and telling him how much I enjoyed his Andrew in Angel… I know he’s shy, Eurydice and I was being nice to him, wasn’t i? he so obviously does not enjoy these Cons, he must need the money…
Lovely to see George again and he came round for photos and hugs with the girls, Susie & Vicki being with us too. His wife unfortunately couldn’t make it but we sent good wishes.
Jonathan Woodward was new to me and it was a real pleasure to meet him – he loved my Chinese tattoos so much, I promised to bring some down for him and I did. He and Char spent quite a bit of time talking and he is such a curious person he wanted to know why she was in the Chariot and she told him, and he held her hand the whole of the time she was there. A real sweetheart and a gentleman, in the true sense of the word.
And last but by no means least, Jimmy Leary, one of my favourites – a funny man and a compassionate human being. Had quite a chat with him, while he signed my picture and on Sunday when he signed one for a friend of mine, who is going through the roughest year in Anybody’s Life!
We did go see the guys and girls again over the whole weekend and I think they were glad of the interactions.
We repaired to the lounge for lunch [bloody slow service!]; Vicki, Susie, Char, Daria, Irish/Kat, then Spicy & Shopgirl/Nicole joined us too – Thank you, Nicole for the lovely bracelets you made for us, such a sweet thing to do… And Embers, for the terrific little bags you made for us, all personalised and just marvellous – and the lovely lady who’s name I don’t know, who gave us those super little USA flag pins at breakfast that morning – thank you so much.

Char was exhausted and slept for most of the afternoon and I said get Irish to bring you down for the Q&As – back killing me still – and went off to do other stuff and then the Q&As.
What was totally horrifying was finding that there were now THREE aisles in the seating plan when we arrived and because of having a chevron seating plan, complete with a totally weird t-shaped stage – the sides of the front rows had a bloody hard time seeing anyone’s faces!!! I swapped seats with Susie on Sunday, she had the worst Platinum seat I have ever seen, but that day she spent a lot of time not seeing much of faces and it upset her very much, poor love…

Caught second half of the ASH/NB one – funny as usual, ASH is such a giggler… Then Alexis Denisof was up and it was a super session, informative, funny and very good – he got a well deserved ovation on completion – with the Vulkon staff trying to get him off! So funny.. the usual guy was simply ignored and he just about danced with frustration, then ran off to grab Minimotes, and Alexis ignored him too.. too funny for words!

Then it was time for James and he bounced out with his usual flair! There are transcripts of the Q&A out already and I can’t really add anything to that – he looked damn good, tanned, eyes clear and sparkling and relaxed for much of the time… he was obviously unhappy with the Vulkon management but co-operating like the professional he is. He also obviously loved being with his fans again, even though he was re-defining the lines of what he was going to allow and this time there was a strict no-kissing policy in force, to the embarrassment of several fans who asked for one and were told, ‘sorry, I don’t do that any more’ - *sigh* and i dearly would have loved one… oh well…. they are his lips… and yes, I am still a slave to the bottom one….

As soon as the Q&As were finished, i looked for Char but could not see her – to be told she was sleeping. Dashed up and actually woke her to make sure she was ok and give her the option of going to the Banquet – she was still so dopey and decided to stay where she was – she said later if she had come down for James’ Q&A, she might have made it…

We were running pretty late by this stage and I flew into our room to find Susie very upset and spent the next 15 minutes soothing her and trying to get ready at the same time – poor love – promised to swap seats so she could see the next day, no problems to me – I had taken lots of pics by then and would just have to hope they were ok… But there was no way Susie was not going to have my seat and she eventually agreed, cheered up and got ready. I’m very glad she did as she had a new dress which looked absolutely superb!!
We dashed downstairs – well we tried but got the phantom lift again, that went up and down to fairy land before we got out… I had several run-ins with those damned lifts, one afternoon got on from 7th to go to 9th and wound up going Down to 1st, then up to 21st Floor!!! missing 9th altogether! Very weird….

The Banquet was interesting for several reasons… Susie was put on Nick Brendon’s table and I got Jimmy Leary – nothing against him he had been one of my choices – just not the first but given the totally fuck-up in Ticket numbers and ID numbers [I’ll explain later] – I guess I should have been glad I didn’t wind up in Outer Mongolia!! I was very cross later when I found out there had been Golds at my First Choice table and I could not get on it?!!!!!!! Vulkon, by this time, were so dead……
Jimmy was late but told us he and George had done this presentation thing and not sure if they were going to have time to eat, so had already eaten when he got there.. they had to buy their own drinks and he wanted to buy us all one but we wouldn’t let him. [ASH told me later Infernando bought him A beer, one, at the Banquet]. Jimmy was fun and I spent some time ragging his ass off, which made us all laugh and he seemed to enjoy himself – didn’t he, April? I know we did!
I’ve heard and read that most people enjoyed the dinner but personally, thought it wasn’t terrifically good – before you jump down my throat, I actually work for an Hotel here in England and know what they can do and what gets selected, etc – and for the price we paid, it should have been a lot better…. Just MHO… One dessert? One cup of coffee? Come on!!

We had been trying to find out where the VIP Meet was going to be held and I kept asking… ASH got up and did his song set and I loved it – had to dash out before the end and grab my stuff to take to the VIP thingy and missed Sweet Transvestite but he sang it again next day, so I was ok… by the time I came down, people were leaving and I saw some of the Platinums waiting – saw Aria, who told me where it was being held – and we went to join the rest – And Waited and Waited… eventually we all went on up to the 21st Floor, where Chief Rat was waiting and I said jokingly, you’ll want to see my invitation then?! And he said quite seriously, yes, I need to know you are allowed in here…. For a second I thought he was joking but he actually wasn’t and we all had to show him our Platinum badges?!!!!
Here at least there was a free bar and small ‘eats’ laid out for us… I did have some bits to eat as I was unable to eat most of the Banquet food due to an inability to eat peppers/capsicums – it is so popular now to pad out meals with them… I’m hoping it’s a phase that will eventually die out, as I have a tussle with our kitchen on an almost daily basis for something to eat…

We were instructed to sit 3 or 4 to a table so James could come visit and spend time with us – which was fine but actually meant that we got to spend 15 minutes in his actual presence before we had a group pow-wow before he left, with multiple questions being asked and answered.
By the time he got to us, second to last table – James called us together as he was running out of time and we got a little less one-to-one time [am I whining here? Just a bit…] but we started by talking about singing and his voice. We were all telling him his voice was fine and not to listen to anyone else – he was saying thank you but he said it was better this way – Charlie writes songs for Charlie [that Charlie can’t sing I said and he said, yeah and that he wasn’t best suited to sing what Charlie wanted] – James said Charlie was getting more melodic and closer to what James was writing but it wasn’t enough. So now was a good time to get out. We asked if he would do an acoustic CD and he is considering it at the moment – he promised he will keep on the doing the Dresden Files as long as they keep asking him to do it – [Hey Joy & June!! You reading this?] for as many books as there are – goody!! Elianne said she was a singer and i joked i had been once [with a rueful grin, which he returned! But I told him I’d been a roadie briefly and he said ‘Right on!’]. He talked briefly about the MP3 man who was doing the funding for Macbeth – and not one word then about not having the money, guys. He had said earlier in the year, he didn’t want to take it all [the $50 million] as he wanted to put in some money himself, for control I think but I’m guessing. So as far as we knew that night, it was all still go – we even spent sometime before he left in the group thing, talking about it – I asked him if he had anyone in mind yet and he said no, much too early yet…
We commented on his being able to give us such wonderful photos at the Cons and how did he do it – he said, actually by not doing anything but think stuff, he said all actors should have Novocain injected into their faces and just act with their eyes…
Not sure how we got onto talking about dreams and stuff, but James talked about some of his horrible nightmares [one he described was pretty awful] – we kidded him gently saying he needed a woman in his life, so he could have a good cuddle when he needed one and he laughed and agreed.. but not a permanent one!! He says he is very Spike like that, he is a loner and doesn't have time right now.

He started signing stuff and pics for us as Fernando started to hover, going away fortunately when we looked at him. Eliane wrote him a song and gave him a CD with her singing it and her husband had played guitar on it, by which he was very impressed and said he would listen to it in the car [which he did and mentioned it the next day at the Q&A, saying it nearly made him cry!]
He signed CD covers for KatieMarie and pics for Daria and the rest and me too, saying quietly, ‘I’ve forgotten your name, darlin’ – like he knew it! the pet – and signed most of them, 'nice talking to you' – who cares….. it was nice.
Fernando was back now and we were ushered to the other end to stand and talk in a group and we took the opportunity to take pictures and ask stuff, take more pics etc and James never faltered and answered tirelessly, the darling… He started giving a hug and then had to hug us all!! Didn’t seem to mind much – I nearly missed out but Susie said, Jill too!! And he came forward saying, ‘darlin’, did I nearly miss you?’ and I got THE tightest, closest hug – gorgeous! And I said very quietly, take care, pet – and he pulled back and looked at me, still holding my elbows, saying ‘I’ll see you tomorrow, right?’ and I said yes. One last girl to hug and he was off to the limmo and i soo wanted to go cuddle him to sleep…
**found out later just how many times GreySunrise had lined up for hugs and made us loose out on time with James - i may do her some damage if i see her at Halloween.. that will be pretty bloody 'natural' for me - darlin!** [goddess, how nauseating her post was! she obviously had no idea she was hanging herself...]

[I heard later that he had actually disappeared for several hours at one stage and nobody knew where he was but what time that was I’m not totally sure but apparently TPTB were furious and vocal about it! i know where he was PART of the time...]

Well, that was our Close Encounter of the 3rd Kind… He is alive and well amongst us!! What a truly gorgeous person he is and ‘beautiful’ is not a word I usually apply to a man, but he is…. Isn’t it hard to gush and wipe the drool off your lip at the same time? must work on that…

The ladies went off to investigate the Velvet Chain concert [hardly anyone there apparently – what a surprise] and i retired to our room to write up my journal and was still at it when Susie returned about 0200, bubbling with the news that Charlie DeMars had been down in the bar...
With his guitar case open, some dollars in it and a ‘friend’ selling his CDs, ‘Soccer Hooligans’ was one? and Susie bought it, giving what she thought was fair and the friend said that’s too much but no change, so she was given two – guess who has the other? As i have never heard them… [and now that i have had a chance to listen, i am totally underwhelmed...]

James was told Charlie had been there, at the next Autograph session and apparently laughed out loud, thinking it was quite funny [he didn't say anything]. I’m still not sure why Charlie would do that.. some friends of his were staying at the hotel we are told but whether or not this playing guitar in the bar was meant to bolster Charlie’s apparently massive ego or an attempt to embarrass James, I’m not sure… either way I find it a bit pathetic really, he’s such a boy…. Mind you, I am one of those despised middle aged women who only went to GOTR concerts for James…. ses Charlie…

Sunday 29th – another lovely day, sunny and fine. I had nipped out quickly to the Farmers Market across the road from the Hotel the previous afternoon to see what they sold – mostly fruit & veg but I only had time to glance at half of it…. This morning we had our last photo op with James and i had asked that Char and Vicki were in it with me and JCB/Craig agreed and James had no objection – hell , he’d had shots with SIX others by this time… So we get in reasonable time and we line up – ‘hi, darlins’ from his Gorgeousness and we have the shot – it is actually my favourite one of the weekend… and I have emailed it to Char, Vic and to James [along with a couple from the VIP Meet, as he said he got to see so few of what is actually taken, so I said I send some and he’d said thanks, he’d like that] – I got a nice little confirming response from HimberEnts acknowledging them and saying they would be passed to James.

So with a certain amount of feeling that was almost the end, I exited… and we went for a quick bite in the restaurant [not very hungry and just had some soup], joined by Daria – nice break and we split up for the afternoon, until the last autographs and Kat & Susie took Char through, while Vic and I brought up the rear. I got ASH to sign and he was nice and knew me, I took the photo I had taken with him to be signed – did not see one new of him at the Vulkon table, all Giles or old ones… very poor.
It was very good to get all our photos back by the end of the Con but I have to say the colour shifts were not very good and there is a lot of yellow shading where there should be white – I was surprised Craig did not use a tripod either – my photographer friend was not impressed either, actually a lot less than we were…. For the price we were paying, they should have been a lot better and I have to agree with her – sorry, guys… that’s our opinion.

Char went and rested until ASH’s Q&A and I took her down and put her in the central aisle for maximum viewing – she could not have sat in her seat as it was in the middle of a row and as you will know by now, the chairs were all bolted together… true to my word, i sat in Susie’s seat and it was pretty bad for the price; the ones on the end were dire… Soulmate was actually sitting on the floor not far from my feet and welcome to it.. one of the staff actually come over and said you are not supposed to sit there and she said shortly, I have the last seat in the row. The girl shut up and left.

ASH sang for us at the end of his Q&A as already reported and he was magic.

James said he had been asked not to sing and he was ok with it, as he needed practice – Char got her question in – James saying she was not his publicist!! to our great amusement - and when he decided he didn’t want to go anywhere in time without decent plumbing or medical facilities – I shot him the question - how about a day with Shakespeare? And he said yes, that would be cool but only if he could see him onstage directing one of his plays – then he could say no, I could have done that better!! and we all laughed… time passed too quickly [we didn't even get a full hour - just over half a one] and he was given the 'time up' from the Vultures and it was all gone…. Blowing kisses, leaving us to catch a plane, I think he said.

There were events after that, Costume judging and the infamous Dead Dog party – Susie stuck her head round the door and had a drink with Elaine and her husband and a quick dance but she said it was as dead as the Dog… Clare in jeans but Camden Toy in jamies and a magnificent silk dressing gown, trust him! Not going to even try and visualise what Infernando was in… can we say, eeewww!

We all met up in Char’s room and Spicy was leaving very early the next day and so was Vicky..
But we were not leaving until Monday mid afternoon for the Airport, so we sat and had a few drinks and I forbade Vic to cry, she almost made it.. she went off to visit Jenna and the Omaha scubies and then some more USA exploring before she goes back to Aussie on the 17th.. have a wonderful trip, my dear Sunday…..
And we eventually went to bed ourselves. We had decided on sleeping late before our trips.
That’s it for the Con, guys – except for the RANT further down!!!

Monday 30th – we didn’t get up till about 0930 and arranged to collect Char and go down for lunch later. We did all our packing and took the bags down to Char’s room, checking out as we did so. I say we, but Susie manipulated the bags mostly – damn back…
We went down and sat in the Restaurant and had a good lunch – my steak was not medium rare but medium, tasty enough though so I ate it – the Maitre was nice and comped my ice cream…
Char was staying till Wednesday and waved us off from her room when we called our Bayporter man. Hugs & kisses and we were gone.
We had a good ride out and check-in was ok but slow to send me a wheelchair. Same woman I had coming in! she took us to the gate and took off. Susie went for a quick gander and brought me coffee back – I miss good coffee… and I wrote up my journal and then read my book and time passed. We had reasonable seats, I watched Angelina Jolie’s new movie and slept a little, Susie was distressed by the heat and it made her unwell but she recovered by the time we landed and meeting her beloved husband, Alan…
The man with my chair was there and we all went down to the Heathrow Express and they said bye and went home. My bloke put me on the train and I went to Paddington and did the trip in reverse – taxi to Kings Cross and train to Leeds and Harrogate – odd little codicil to the trip – an American lady helped with my bags on the train to Harrogate and we talked a little when we got off – she asked where I’d started and it turned out she was United cabin crew and we had flown out from San Francisco at exactly the same time and landed in Heathrow together and now got off the train, together!! I started laughing and said you are not coming to my Hotel? No, she had friends. Odd, huh?

Now comes the Rant – think i’ve probably done okay so far? Haven’t even started, mate…
***It was only the fact that we had parted with serious money, for James, that we went through with what was an extremely stressful and negative experience from the very beginning – from booking those damned Platinum tickets!!!
I won’t go into a huge amount of detail over that little experience, except to say that quite a few Platinum tickets appear to have been sold before the deadline – we had special dispensation to buy three together due to credit cards/Paypal and the fact we were coming such a damned long way to be there – but we didn’t actually get to sit together, oh no! there was an almighty screw up over that and someone counted us as ONE ticket, with ID # ‘10’ – so there were 9 sold before us and ours were sold at the crack of dawn, so to speak – but because of the screw up – my ID # was 216 and Susie’s # 217!! This necessitated taking two back off EBAY to give to us [because they were so kind…. They could have refused to honour them, they say, and give the money back of course and out of the goodness of their hearts, they did not – yeah, right – they would have had to explain the circumstances, in public and look really stupid and greedy and show how to lie successfully] – if anybody thinks this is libel or whatever, let me say immediately that I have a copy of each and every email I sent to and received from Vulkon on file and CAN PROVE WHAT I SAY – want me to, Vulkon ? Say the word***

and that was just the start of it – the Platinum ticket started to change not long after we bought them – most not their fault directly but the way it was handled and the lack of desire to compensate us was atrocious – the Backstage Pass caused some security minded person to wet their knickers and it was withdrawn.

Let us first state what the actual ticket comprised of to start with ok? If anyone is actually interested, apart from other Platinum holders – but it will give you a clear picture, I hope of just what this lot are made of. Once they have your money, you are virtually meat, opinionless and voiceless.

So 1x Platinum Ticket consisted of
A Backstage Pass to GOTR Concert, and interaction with the Band
Ticket for the GOTR Concert
VIP Meeting with James Marsters, after the Concert
Ticket to Friday Concert
Cocktail Party Ticket
Banquet Ticket
Autographs with all major Guests
Assigned Seat in Main Hall for whole weekend
Usual entry to dances, panels etc
Preferential Entry to all events

We then lost the Backstage Pass, and it became
Ticket for the GOTR Concert
VIP Meeting with James
Ticket to Friday Concert
Cocktail Party Ticket
Banquet Ticket – now with guaranteed seating with a Guest
Free Photograph with James Marsters [good either day, Saturday or Sunday]
Autographs with all major Guests
Assigned Seat in Main Hall for whole weekend
Usual entry to dances, panels etc
Preferential Entry to all events

I’m not sure now they would have worked that in the original but i thought that guaranteed seating with a Guest was a given for the Banquet anyway BUT apparently not… Then we lost the GOTR Concert and after NOT offering any kind of compensation AT ALL to the Platinums but a choice of upgrades/money or combinations to every other kind of ticket – we objected, and with very poor grace, we were eventually given an extra autograph from James – we were never asked what we would like or offered any kind of choice, at any time.
So the final selection looks like this:
Ticket for the Velvet Chain Concert
VIP Meeting with James Marsters [with a time of 90 minutes] which translated into about 15 minutes per small group, with extra autograph [would he not have signed stuff for us anyway?]
Ticket to Friday Common Rotation Concert
Cocktail Party Ticket
Banquet Ticket – guaranteed seating with a Guest
Free Photograph with James Marsters [given for Friday, I would have preferred Sunday]
Autographs with all major Guests
Assigned Seat in Main Hall for whole weekend
Usual entry to dances, panels etc
Preferential Entry to all events

Fine if you still wanted to go to the Concerts, at ridiculous times… Most did not even know who Velvet Chain were, let alone want to go to a concert by them. And that was the other thing, the times kept changing – the one we were most concerned about was the VIP Meeting – which was put BACK 30 minutes from the original estimate and we were never told how long this Meeting would be, until the actual Convention. We had to ask repeatedly for information and at no time were we treated like VIP Guests. If you asked more than one question, one may be answered eventually and the rest would be ignored. When we protested over the seat allocations [we were split up with one almost dead centre, the #10 and the other two #216 & 217, the LAST TWO at the end of the damned row] – the attitude was like or lump it [you should have protested when the first seat allocations were issued – fine but we never did get first seat allocations sent to us as the seating then changed] – and a thinly veiled threat ‘you can always get a Refund, we have a Waiting List’ – a patronising, pseudo-jokey post from Fernando on the Vulkon Forum about the Concerts, ‘we think this is good, tough if you don’t’ and if other Platinums hadn’t joined my protest, we would have been offered absolutely nothing if we did not want to go.

I think I have ranted enough on this now [although there really could be more] but frankly, I’m tired.
I will never go to another event organised by Vulkon [sorry, Julie – an event organised by you/Himber Entertainments/JMLive? – yes] and I would advise anyone who asks or even mentions Vulkon to avoid them at all costs. They treat their Guests like pieces of meat and their delegates like slaughterhouse cattle. And try to treat us with a little respect, guys – not patronising condescension. You treat us badly, we won’t come back and we WILL tell our friends and internet buddies. I was warned about you before I went but I decided to give you the benefit of the doubt – now there is none.

To clean up the Vulkon Act? the Answer is very simple – LOTS of pre-planning and make sure you have Plan B for unforeseen problems and enough time for events – print the photo-op tickets BEFORE the Con, with the Banquet & Cocktail Party Tickets/wristbands if you prefer – put together with a printed schedule and lay-out of the Con, in one Package. Banquet seating can be random from the start (or on a raffle basis) and that is acceptable [without Platinum tickets] - That’s it.

Was the Convention worth it? Yes, just. We did eventually get good Guests and the meeting of friends at the Con could not have been bettered and that made it worth it but not for the money.
I will never buy a Platinum Ticket again, without major guarantees.

That is finally it, luvs - make of it what you will - in the end, it is my opinion, isn't it?

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
shopgirl2004
Sep. 5th, 2004 10:15 pm (UTC)
Jill,
That was a wonderful report! I agree with all of your Vulkon gripes! By the way, I must talk to Susie about sleeping upside down in the closet. She must have some amazing toes... LOL!
I'm sorry I didn't get to see you before leaving. It was fun seeing everyone despite minimotes and ratnickers.
*hugs*
-Nicole
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )