My Time at the Rhode Island Comic Con
by Rob Watts
Myself, Jason Harris, Stacey Longo, Scott Goudsward and Kristi Petersen Schoonover began the task of painstakingly arranging our table in a manner of which patrons would … oh, who am I kidding? We threw it all together and if something fell on the floor, then it probably didn’t belong there in the first place. Our booth did look pretty diversely kick-ass! In addition to our own books, we had action figures, DVD’s, movie adaptation novels and of course, comic books. We were prepared for anyone and anything that came our way that weekend. Or were we?
Well, nothing could have prepared me for the 9am stroll through “Celebrity” alley just prior to the show’s opening. Stacey and I took it upon ourselves to stalk a couple of former stars while attempting to flee from a couple of others. “Oh boy, time has not been generous to that one” was uttered more than a few times. But there were a couple of highlights during that brisk wander. For instance, did you know that Mitzi Kapture (of TV’s Silk Stalkings) is married to Seinfeld’s The Soup Nazi? Well, she is and they are both wonderfully kind people. Also wonderfully kind, yet extremely happy, was Gil Gerard of the classic 1970s sci-fi series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. He was very gentlemanly as he reached out to shake both our hands but was quick to point out that he was selling Buck Rogers coffee mugs, baseball caps, lunch boxes, toilet paper and anything else you could put the name Buck Rogers on. As big of a turn off as this might have been, I still couldn’t believe “Buck Rogers” was in front of me, talking to me and trying to sell me a bunch of worthless crap. I couldn’t wait to see what other surprises were in store.
The doors opened to everyone at 10am and within 15 minutes, the aisles were flooded with convention goers. The booth blocking rule had a moratorium placed on it for the weekend due to the fact that people were streaming past us left and right all day long. We were perfectly happy behind the table all day, in our “safe haven.” People watching was a perfect ten as every super hero, comic book, anime, movie or TV character you could ever imagine was represented. To my delight, a different Captain America walked by me on an average of every 22 minutes. Star Wars characters were high in attendance and Jason Harris and I spent much of the two days debating on which guys at the con wore the best Bane character get-up. Of course, I can’t forget to mention the best dressed guys at the convention. Kristi’s all-time favorite tribute band, KISS Forever!
Venders were plentiful, and although their tables became repetitive after a while, they did have some amazing items for sale which could make even the least sentimental person nostalgic. I for one was tempted to plunk down fifty dollars for a near-mint Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle, but don’t judge me. The toy venders, however, had some competition at the NEHW booth. Scott unloaded a fair amount of his action figure collection throughout the event’s two-day run.
Some cool cars were on display in the lobby such as the Ghostbusters Mobile, the Adam West era Batmobile and two Delorians from the Back to the Future films. Speaking of Back to the Future, I got to meet and chat with actress Claudia Wells who played Michael J Fox’s girlfriend in the first film. She’s still very lovely and very cool. Speaking of cool, we got to chat it up with former pro wrestler Hacksaw Jim Duggan. He had some interesting stories about his glory days in the ring, including the “Montreal Screw job” and his relationship with Vince McMahon. Bottom line, he was very likeable.
Word at the convention was they had sold around 5000 tickets in advance. 12,000 people attended the convention just Saturday alone. This was RICC’s first year and it went off with a bang. Although it was a long two days for us in Providence, I think it’s safe to say we all had a great time. Kristi finally got to meet Dirk Benedict, I met my now-current co-writer on an upcoming project, Scott finally sold his giant King Kong action figure, Stacey got to hang out with Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Jason learned never to order a 30 dollar Filet Mignon from McCormick & Schmick’s when he’s starving. That’s a different story for a different day.
by Stacey Longo
I am a well-educated, fairly dignified woman. I read Faulkner and Hemingway and have studied the morphological and chemical variations of the common dandelion. And, as anyone who has ever been to a convention with me can tell you, I totally geek out when it comes to meeting former wrestlers.
For me, wrestling is a fond childhood memory, dating back to the time when my father would take my sister and me to the Glastonbury High School gym to watch Bob Backlund wrestle Ray “The Crippler” Stevens. There’s a special love there, one that nobody likes to talk about, but is recognizable in other wrestling fans when they let slip that yes, they have always wondered how George “The Animal” Steele got his tongue so green. (The answer: spearmint Chiclets, which I learned after meeting him at the Southcoast Toy and Comic Show.)
At Rhode Island ComicCon, I had the pleasure of meeting Jake “The Snake” Roberts and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. For those of you who don’t know who these men are, you’ve probably already given up on this article anyway, so I don’t feel I need to explain.
Wrestling superstar Jake “The Snake” Roberts stated in casual conversation that he’s feeling great, is drug free, and recently lost 40 lbs. He’s an advocate of DDP Yoga (www.ddpyoga.com) and highly recommends the workout and meal portions that the program teaches. He was animated and enthusiastic when talking, and it was wonderful to see Roberts looking and feeling well.
The wrestling panel that was scheduled for Sunday afternoon turned in to a Q & A session with WWE Hall of Famer “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. (Originally, the panel was to include Roberts and wrestler Big Van Vader, but Roberts had to leave early to catch a flight, and Vader was a no-show.) Duggan has been wrestling for 33 years, and his love of the business was evident in his enthusiasm and the beaming smile he wore while talking about his career. He was friendly and articulate, occasionally breaking out into his Hacksaw persona to emphasize a point. Duggan patiently answered questions about his former employers (both the WWE, which Duggan states “is run like a corporation, which it should be, because it is one” and the WCW, which he recalled as “the inmates running the asylum.”) He spoke about former coworkers Andre the Giant (“he was a lonely man”) and Hulk Hogan (“he’s a real good guy”) with fondness. As with any employee at a company, he didn’t always get along with the people he worked with, but was a gentleman when former opponents he didn’t care for came up. “We aren’t close,” he would explain if someone asked him about a specific wrestler he didn’t get along with, and would deftly move on to the next question.
Duggan’s achievements in the ring include winning the first (then-WWF) Royal Rumble in 1988 and WCW Television Champion and United States Heavyweight Champion. He named his 2011 WWE Hall of Fame induction as one of his proudest achievements. When asked about the 1997 “Montreal Screw Job” (in which WWE Champion Bret Hart was asked to drop the belt to Shawn Michaels prior to Hart’s exit to WCW, which Hart refused to do; WWE owner Vince McMahon called for the bell early even though Hart hadn’t submitted, ending the match) Duggan surprised the audience. “I actually think Bret was wrong,” he admitted. “If the boss tells you to drop the belt, you drop the belt.” Hart hadn’t wanted to lose in Canada, his home country. “I don’t want to lose in America,” Duggan laughed. “But you do it because the boss tells you to.” Duggan and Hart have spoken about the incident and remain friends. Duggan is also close to “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Hogan.
Duggan ended the hour-long session by allowing fans to get their picture taken with him, a big-hearted gesture considering other celebrities were getting $10 to $20 on the convention floor for photos. Meeting both Roberts and Duggan was a thrill for this particular wrestling nerd, and the highlight of my weekend.
Side note: I was able to meet Big Van Vader briefly at this event as well. We aren’t close.