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Tim Russ at Grand Slam, Pasadena,
March 28 & 29, 2003

The "Grand Slam" is an annual event organized by Creation Entertainment and it is well-known for the variety of actors they bring on stage over one weekend. Of course, this also means that everybody is only on stage for a short period, approximately half an hour.

Since Friday morning started slow I stopped by at the left corner of the stage, where the Neil Norman orchestra had their stand and said "hi!". Bill Burchell was obviously surprised to see me, but he immediately recovered and said smiling: "I know why you are here - Tim will be here later today!" Seems like he is beginning to know me... Then he asked if I had heard that Tim's latest album, "Brave New World" was out. I told him I already had it, since I had bought it in Italy 3 weeks ago, to which he replied something like: "Of course! Tim did a convention in Italy recently, I should have known you would have been there!" Indeed, Bill, you should have! I asked him to sign my copy of the CD, since he co-produced it and played the keyboard on it, and he did.

Friday was Voyager-day. After Robert Beltran made his appearance around lunch time (he is the only one of the Voyager actors that attended the convention, whose autograph was not included in the weekend-pass), four more Voyager actors were scheduled for the late afternoon. Tim was first. He started out with a song from that new CD, namely "Who's Been Talkin'?" Then he greeted the audience and told them what he had been up to lately. He mentioned his recent directing jobs, the new CD, his voice-work for the upcoming "Elite Force II"-computer game and a new audio-book he was about to record, the third one in the "Genesis Wave"-series. I cried out: "the fourth!" He obviously heard me, since he asked: "Is it the fourth already?" And I replied: "Yes!" Volume 3 was released about a year ago and he signed it for me in Vegas last summer, so I do know!

He also mentioned having been in Italy recently, which apparently he had enjoyed, except for the cars - he thought there were so many cars that there was not enough parking space for them and people parked them everywhere, on the sidewalk, at the corners, in second line - everywhere. I have been to Italy myself, and he does have a point here, they really park their cars in odd places and ways, but I think that's as much due to the Italian way of life than to a scarcity of parking space.

He then took questions from the audience. The first one was about "Barge of the Dead". The fan had heard that the story had originally been pitched for Tuvok. Why was it turned into a B'Elanna-story? Tim said that in his opinion the episode worked well the way it was produced. Yes, it had originally been a Tuvok-story, but apparently the producers thought they would get more mileage out of it by doing it with B'Elanna. Also, it was a background-type of story, and there had already been some stories about Tuvok's background, and maybe the writers felt it was B'Elanna's turn to get more exploration of her background.

Another question was about Tuvix - had there been plans for Tim to play the part? Once again he said yes, there had been such plans, but that the writers ultimately decided not to have him or Ethan Phillips play the character but somebody new. In his opinion that was the right decision since he (and Ethan Phillips as well) would probably have favored his own character and made Tuvix more like Tuvok than like Neelix, while a third actor, who had no bias one way or the other, could portray the combined character better, and in his opinion Tom Wright had done a great job.

He also got a question about how he felt when he got the script for "Flashback", the 30th Anniversary of Star Trek-episode on Voyager, and he said how much he liked that particular episode and what a blast it was doing this, with all the background on Tuvok and a chance to connect his character to the TOS-cast.

He also said that in his opinion Tuvok grew in many ways over the series, he went through some really important experiences, like e.g. in "Meld", "Gravity" or "Riddles" and that he thought it would make sense that the character would learn from those experiences and grow as a person and that he therefore tried to incorporate those in his later performances to show how these had affected Tuvok.

Since he gave such detailed replies to the questions there was time only for 4 or 5 of them till he was informed that he only had a few more minutes. He finished answering the last question and announced he would sing one more song, then went over to the Neil Norman band, picked up his guitar again and performed "Can't Do it Like That". I also must say that most questions he got were about how did he feel that he could not do this or do that on Voyager. And although there seems to be a general feeling among the audience that he got short-changed on the show (and I couldn't agree more!), he was not bitter in any way and his answers were enjoyable, insightful and professional.

Next on stage was Bob Picardo, whose talk I missed completely, since Tim was doing a photo session at the same time. Jedda and Angela were with him and I gave Jedda the pictures of Maddy I had taken in Italy and the three of us looked at the pictures and talked a bit while Tim posed with some fans. When it was my turn for the picture he actually asked me what I was doing here, spending money on a picture when I could have it free! Isn't that sweet of him? When he was finished with the fans Jedda sat down next to him to show him the Maddy-pictures and Angela and I took pictures of the two of them. They both liked the Maddy-pictures a lot and since Jedda suggested to give a few to their respective mothers and Tim apparently wanted to keep them, he told her she should scan them in first. Then he had an even better idea. He turned to me and asked: "You do have them on your website, don't you?" And when I said yes, he said: "Good, then I can download them from there." He actually said that!

I was back in the auditorium for Ethan Phillips' talk, who was next. Tim and his two ladies remained backstage, though, since when Ethan Phillips mentioned his colleagues from Voyager, especially "a certain Vulcan, who we called the gas giant", Tim came out and pretended to fight with Ethan Phillips, to make him pay for this insult! It does show that these guys are really good friends, even outside the show!

Ethan Phillips then introduced Jennifer Lien, and he obviously made her relax a bit, when they greeted each other in character, and she really surprised me on stage. She still does not talk much, but she talked. I don't think I've ever heard her say as much as this time and I am very happy for her.

The four then signed autographs for the weekend ticket holders. Angela needed a few extra autographs from Bob and Ethan and had already asked them so many favors that she didn't want to bother them again, so she asked me if I could get her stuff signed as well - she would move me to the front of the line in return. Of course I did that - first, I didn't have to wait as long (they did autographs row by row and I was in row H), second, Bob and Ethan were really impressed with how many pictures I wanted signed by them. They are both real sweethearts as well! It was great to see the four sitting side by side and doing autographs together. The line moved very slowly, though, since the three guys had opened up a little market place, selling their various CDs (Bob Picardo has a new one out as well, called "Extreme Bob", which also features Tim with one song and Ethan Phillips playing the sax in another one), the Hologram's Handbook and Neelix's Cookbook. So I was very grateful that I hadn't had to wait till they called my row.

Tim had a really nice b&w pic on his table that I had not seen before and he gave it to me in exchange for the Maddy-pictures. Then I bought more copies of "Brave New World" for my friends and said good-bye to Tim and his ladies.

Tim and Jennifer were finished after autographs, Bob and Ethan still had the evening theater performance, where they did a hilarious play, called "House Call", which is set 2 years after the end of Voyager and deals with the Doctor going over to Neelix's home in the Delta Quadrant to cure Neelix's little son Alex from a rare disease. They were wonderful, very funny, and they even sang! I knew Bob Picardo can sing, but Ethan Phillips was not too shabby either, and they did a piece from "Man of La Mancha", which is one of my favorite musicals.

Later this day I talked to the lady sitting next to me in the auditorium and she said she had been so impressed with Tim, she had never seen him before, but found him very good and entertaining on stage. She only regretted that she couldn't get his CDs, since he did not sell them during autographs. Well - I did buy a few, so he had them there. But of course, I was early in the line thanks to Angela, and she had to wait a long time, so I suspect Tim once again ran out of his CDs during autographs. He never seems to bring enough!

Saturday's guests were Armin Shimerman and most of the TOS-cast. Armin was first. When I came into the auditorium maybe 10 minutes before his talk supposedly would begin, the organizers announced an "unscheduled surprise event" - Tim would be doing a few more songs together with the Neil Norman Orchestra! Can you imagine my surprise? Nobody had said anything to me the day before, not Tim, not Jedda or Angela, and not Bill either. It was just good luck that I was there in time - had I come in 5 minutes later I would have missed most of his performance. He did the last two songs from the "Tim Russ"-CD, "The Great Divide" and "Love The One You're With", and then he left the stage to Armin.

When I caught Bill again on Sunday to say good-bye he asked me if I had seen Tim the day before and I said yes, but how surprised I had been and that nobody had given me a warning he would be doing that. Bill said this had not been planned. Tim had for some reason left his guitar with them on Friday night and he came in on the Saturday to pick it up and then he decided, oh well, since I am here anyway, why don't we do a song or two, and that's what they did. And Bill also said Tim had talked to him about the convention in Vegas this summer and that they might be doing a band gig there again this year. I so hope they will, because I am toying with the idea of going there!

As you can imagine, the convention was great fun and I enjoyed myself a lot. The guests on Saturday and Sunday were fantastic as well, and the only gripes I have with the organizers are:

  • the auditorium was way too dark to take decent pictures and
  • it would not have hurt to give everybody at least 40-45 minutes on stage

Other than that the weekend was perfect!

Here you can see how "successful" I was with pictures this time around. At least one can recognize the actors!

Robert Beltran

Bob Picardo

Ethan Phillips

Jennifer Lien

"Gas Giant's Revenge" - I know it's blurred, but it gives you an idea how hilarious those guys are on stage. It looks like Tim is neck-pinching Ethan!

My new autographed picture of Tim