Tim Russ at SWECON, Stockholm, Sweden, August 20-22, 2004
This convention was absolutely awesome! Small, intimate, totally sweet people, and Tim actually got a chance to interact with everybody and he enjoyed it - so did we.
I had flown over to Stockholm on Thursday night, and because of a delayed flight arrived at the hotel only after midnight. Nevertheless I was determined to go through with my sightseeing plans the next morning. The convention started only at around 5 p.m., so I had lots of time. When I got out of the hotel's breakfast room I ran into Jedda who was just going in and we said "hi".
After some hours of serious sightseeing, and even more tired than I had been in the morning, I made my way to the site of the convention - a small conference facility in the vicinity. Even though the webpage had mentioned that registration would begin at 5 p.m. and the dealers' room would be open by then, but nothing much would happen before 7 p.m., to my surprise Tim was there already as well, signing autographs and posing for pictures with the fans. So after picking up my pre-ordered convention ticket at the registration desk I got into line for Tim's autograph - fortunately I had my latest pic with him in the same envelope with the pictures of Maddy and Jedda that I had taken in Vegas and wanted to give to Tim and Jedda, so I had all I needed with me. While I was waiting in line for his autograph, Jedda came by and we chatted a bit, I told her I had the pictures from Vegas, and she said she was sitting outside with her parents, I should come out and show her the pics once I had got Tim's autograph, which I promised to do.
When Tim saw me, he greeted me and signed my pic and we talked a bit about how tired we both were - he because of the jetlag and me because I had reached the hotel so late at night thanks to the delayed flight. I also mentioned that I had the Vegas pics and would give them to Jedda, since he obviously was too busy right now. Apparently he told the con personnel sitting with him that he wanted to talk to Jedda, since on my way out I ran into her and she asked me: "Do you know what Tim wants? He just asked for me, does he need something?" Well, I couldn't answer that question, so she said she'd check with him and I should wait for her. Two minutes later she came back laughing, saying: "It was you! He wanted to tell me that you are here!" Now we both smiled and went outside and I showed her the Vegas pictures. Her parents joined us and we sat there and talked for quite a while. Jedda really liked the pictures I had taken in Vegas.
Later on a TV team came by to interview Tim, and they brought him out in the court for the interview. We couldn't hear what he said, but observed how the young lady from the TV station talked to him, gave him the Vulcan salute and asked him to do it as well for the camera. The next program point was the opening ceremony - a very good introduction movie was shown, which was part life filming of the hotel area and part computer animation. Then the guests were introduced (other than Tim there were some SF-writers that I was not particularly interested in). Tim said he wanted a copy of this movie, since he had really enjoyed it and he greeted the audience and promised to be around over the next two days. After that they showed "Trekkies 2", but I had seen that in Vegas and I was tired, so I decided to head home to the hotel and get some sleep,
On Saturday morning, the convention started at 11 a.m. - with the so-called "coffee clatch" event with Tim. As I found out, contrary to the information I had previously received I would have needed an extra ticket for that. But nobody had told me so, even though when picking up my ticket I had specifically asked if that ticket entitled me to participate in all events of the convention. But since they had noticed that Tim and his family know me, they decided to let me in nevertheless (have I mentioned that the promoters are totally sweet people?)
The coffee clatch was a very intimate event, only a handful of people were there. Tim was asked about the makeup, and surprised the fans when he said that attaching his Vulcan ears had only taken about twenty minutes, maybe half an hour. It's the more involved alien makeup that takes hours to apply, like e.g. Neelix's mask - since this is put on in pieces, so that the mask can move and facial expression is possible. The humans like Harry and Tom took only minutes, the ladies, though, a bit longer - they have hair that needs to be done!
When asked about his music, and the theme of his own two songs "Brave New World" and "We", he talked at length about modern technology and how things are getting impersonal and how this may be hard for the younger generation, that doesn't even know any better anymore. He still remembers how things used to be, but younger people don't. It is terrible that when you want to call a company you only get their automated phone answering system, that sounds like a person, but is totally inefficient in most cases. It mimics normal speech, saying things like: "Let me repeat if I got this right. You said this and that" and how it almost always gets it completely wrong. You must use certain tricks to finally get connected to a real person, and in most cases, when you finally reach a person, he is somewhere in India but not in the States. Tim said the song "We" was inspired by his experiences with a company that had an answering system like that.
He also said that inefficient, illogical things greatly annoy him. If he buys some high-tech equipment, say, something that records a CD, then he wants it to do first and foremost that. This function should be the first thing described in the manual, and it should be so obvious that one would not even need to read the manual in order to perform that function. If he buys a thing with which one can record CDs, chances are rather high that he would mostly want to use it to record CDs, not to do his laundry. Once he has managed to record CDs with it, he might explore the laundry option later, three weeks or so down the road, and if this function was explained, say, on page 54 of the manual, that would be fine with him. But if he finds these options up front in the manual and it takes him three days to even find the explanation of how to record the CD, then it is inefficient. Somebody then mentioned DVDs and their menus that don't allow you to start immediately with watching the movie, and Tim agreed, saying that this was also a problem with the VHS tapes - whenever he buys or rents a tape he has to wade through half an hour of previews and other stuff before he can watch the movie. If this stuff came after the movie, he wouldn't mind. Additional information etc. can't hurt. But that stuff is not the reason why he buys or rents the tape - the movie is the reason. Maybe some people are not even interested in the additional stuff, but he can't imagine anybody not being interested in the movie. The movie should therefore be the first thing on the tape. From that he got to the new Tivoo-system (sp?), that allows you to watch your recordings time-delayed while you still tape the program. This system is all the rage in the States now, but it takes weeks to get it properly installed and it is highly complicated to handle. He prefers the old-fashioned VCR - that thing at least works!
He also was asked whether he lives in L.A., and he said, yes, one has to live either there or in New York, if one wants to work in entertainment in the US. New York is more important for modeling, theater etc., while L.A. is more important for TV and movies. But nowadays many TV shows produce their episodes in Canada, since that is much cheaper. Of course a negative side-effect for actors is, that these shows now tend to hire Canadian actors over American ones, since in that case they don't have to pay for the relocation and other benefits, like e.g. insurance. They might use an American actor as the lead, but the supporting cast would mostly be Canadians. He is therefore concentrating more on his own projects and directing, and he does his music on the side, he currently has two bands, one blues band and one pop/rock band, but the blues band is working more at the moment. He mentioned an upcoming gig with one of the bands, I think he said end of this week in Vegas, at "Caesar's". He also said it was a pity he couldn't have brought one of his bands, but Maria (me!) could certainly tell them what it is like when he plays with a band.
Somebody also asked what he thinks about conventions, and he said he liked them for various reasons: He can travel to places he would probably not get a chance to visit otherwise, he sometimes gets a chance to meet his colleagues again, he gets paid for a few hours of work... I reminded him that it is also a chance for him to interact with his audience and he agreed that this was also a major point, since normally as an actor on TV you have no chance to find out what the audience thinks about your performance, but with the Trek fandom, you meet the fans fairly regularly.
He was asked about his family as well and mentioned his daughter Maddy, to whom he dedicated his CD "Kushangaza", as somebody pointed out. He also commented on the coffee, which is stronger and better than in the US pretty much everywhere else he goes. I think he could have sat there and chatted with us for hours, had they not told us we had to free the room for the next event - a showing of "Roddenberry on Patrol". Tim left to check out the guitar they had organized for his concert in the evening, and I stayed on for "Roddenberry on Patrol". I have the DVD at home, but it's different watching it on a large screen and together with a bunch of others!
When I came back from watching the movie, Tim was signing again. I got a black and white pic from "Flashback" that I didn't have yet (I'll have George Takei sign it at a later event), and got a ticket for the photo session with Tim. The Con personnel told me and another girl, that the photo session would take place soon, in maybe 15 minutes or so. So we decided to stick around and wait for that rather than do something else. We observed Tim while he was signing more autographs and watched how several fans introduced him to their babies. Jedda came by as well and she was very impressed with the clothes I was wearing and we talked a bit about fashion and where I had bought them.
Since the weather was fine, the pictures were taken outside. Tim was very relaxed, he greeted everybody and shook their hands and it was generally a very nice atmosphere.
After that I went to see "East of Hope Street" - apparently I had to travel all the way to Sweden in order to finally get a chance to see it! What shall I say, I was overwhelmed. I had read a lot about the movie and knew a lot about it, but I was not prepared for what I saw. It was even better than I had imagined it. This is a highly emotional film. The protagonist, Alicia, really goes through hell, but she does not let fate get her down. She manages to overcome all the problems, growing stronger along her way. In the end she changes her life for the better, and makes a living for herself and her little son - and she also gets custody of her little brother, she achieves financial security and can reunite her family. The girl who plays her, Jade Herrera, is absolutely fabulous and by watching her you really can identify with Alicia.
Later that evening there was a banquet, a dinner event with Tim, Jedda and her parents. Apparently there had been some trouble in putting together the seating chart, some people felt very strongly they should be sitting closer to Tim and his group than they actually were. Tim was delayed, he was doing a sound check for the concert that would be following the banquet, so I went to Jedda, explained the situation to her and asked her if she thought Tim could go from table to table and talk a bit to everybody. She said he would most certainly do that, he normally does (which is true, but since he was late and hadn't even eaten yet, I was not sure he would have the time - but he wanted to make the time, he was so pleased with how well he and his group were received in Sweden, he really wanted to give something back to the fans). When he finally arrived, he ate quickly and then started to mingle. When I checked half an hour later with the people that had felt placed too far away from him, they were beaming and told me how they had talked to him and taken pictures. I caught him later and told him how very much I had enjoyed "East of Hope Street" and how much I liked the young actress, and Tim agreed, saying she should be working way more than she currently is, she was great and single-handedly carried the whole movie. He also mentioned that he only brought the movie to the convention because they had asked him to do so, and by coincidence he had just got the DVD for approval - it would be out on DVD probably in September! Now imagine my surprise! Had I not brought up the movie, who knows whether or not he would have mentioned such an important detail!
The last program point of the day was the concert. Tim played the guitar and sang to the pre-recorded tracks and the audience was totally overwhelmed. The applause was incredibly enthusiastic and Tim kept singing one song after the other - despite the use of dry ice on stage which enveloped him in a nasty, foggy smoke and was a terrible hindrance to those like me that wanted to take pictures. After the third song or so Tim jokingly remarked: "My starship is on fire" and we all laughed. I was sitting in the front row, nowhere near the center of the smoke, but I am convinced that I would have started coughing after the second song at the very latest, had I had to sing in this fog, but Tim just went on and on. I counted a total of eleven songs, from all four of his CDs, and he got standing ovations. The audience couldn't get enough, it was a huge success for him. When we left the theater, I heard several people asking when and where they could buy his CDs.
On Sunday I was back at the convention site at around 11 a.m. I picked up my picture with Tim from the day before and lined up again to have this one signed as well. I talked to Tim briefly about the concert, how he normally doesn't sing as many songs and what a huge success it had been, and I mentioned to him that I had already e-mailed his sister Angela to tell her about it, since I figured he was not the most likely person to tell her: "I was great at the concert".
Then I chatted with several people I had met the day before, observed how a couple others had their pictures taken with Tim and waited for Tim's talk. The talk was rather unusual. Normally you have an actor on stage, he addresses the audience briefly and then takes questions. But in this case they had arranged it more like an interview at a talk show. Tim and Thomas from the Con-team were sitting on stage, and Thomas asked Tim lots of questions, at the same time giving the audience an idea of Tim's family and career background. They touched e.g. upon the fact that Tim had grown up on Air Force bases and how difficult it was to deal with this life of constant change (either you have to move with your parents to their next assignment or your friends have to leave), they mentioned some of Tim's earlier work and even showed some film clips, like his short scene from "Spaceballs". Among the jobs mentioned were "Crossroads", "Fresh Prince of Bel Air", "Dreamgirls", "Romeo and Juliet" (from what Tim mentioned this must have been a rather wild production, with cars and motorbikes and the audience and the actors moving from one place to another during the play), "Journey to the Center of the Earth", "Seaquest", "Roots - The Gift" and many more. Of course Voyager and Tim's other guest appearances on the various Trek shows were also mentioned, and - after the fantastic concert the night before - Tim's music also came up. Tim also told us about the pranks he had played on the Voyager set and he read his Voyager parody-script about Captain Lameway and her crew and sang the two parody songs to the tunes of "Gilligan's Island" and "Love Boat". Then he took questions. I asked him to tell us more about his recent projects, since he had told me the day before that "East of Hope Street" was about to be released on DVD, and a sequel to "Bugsters!" was in the works, he had been directing a lot... Well, I tried my best to make him spill the beans, but he basically just confirmed what I had just said without giving out any more details. I talked to Jedda and to Tim about this afterwards, that he really should promote himself a bit more. But Tim just said: "Everything is always on my web page, once something becomes available, they will find out on my web page how they can order it." Fine, Tim. But you didn't even tell them where to find your web page!! (In case anybody here does not know: it's at http://www.timrusswebpage.net. Keep checking it out, hopefully you will soon learn more about these projects there).
Then it was time for the Closing Ceremony. Tim came on stage one more time, and once again he thanked everybody for inviting him to this wonderful event, and he repeated again how much he had enjoyed the convention, that he would certainly be interested in coming again and most definitely would mention to his Trek colleagues how well he had been treated and received by the Swedish people. He got flowers and pictures, the animation we had already seen at the Opening Ceremony was shown again plus another fan-made film clip, and then it was over! I caught Tim, Jedda and her parents on their way out and said good-bye. It had been good seeing them again, and we all agreed that it had been a great weekend. They had to fly home on Monday morning, but I had two more days to explore Stockholm!