Star Struck

Sci-Fi Conventions Give Actors Eternal Life

Dave Scott, who founded the Slanted Fedora (www.sfedora.com/newpage1.htm) convention 16 years ago, credits Gene Roddenberry and the original Star Trek series for bringing to the screen themes and ideals that have endured for 30 years, resulting in an unprecedented era for sci-fi. The cast of the recently ended Deep Space Nine need not fret; they'll live on forever with fans like these. Scott promotes fan-friendly programs; he recently wrapped up a 14-city tour featuring the "Fabulous Four" of the original series: James Doohan (Scotty), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura), Walter Koenig (Chekhov), and George Takei (Sulu).

Takei says he's "proud of the association with Star Trek," and adds, "I'll never be able to disassociate myself. I'm prepared for my tombstone to read, ‘Here lies Hikaru Sulu, a/k/a George Takei."' Of his best-known role, as the Enterprise's helmsman, he says, "Though [the fame is] overwhelming initially, you get used to it."

Takei's first taste of his future came in 1970, shortly after the series was canceled, when he attended a small get-together at the Hilton Los Angeles—just two dozen people renting a meeting room, sharing coffee and pastries, and chatting about Trek. "It was a pleasant afternoon. I thought that was it and that the show would fade away. Little did I know."

Now, Takei says, "Entrepreneurial convention promoters keep the phenomenon going at warp speed." And Takei has been there for most of the ride. He is a three-decade veteran, and along the way he's observed that cons function as a "family reunion, a sharing of our lives as we move on through the calendars. Conventions are opportunities for us to say thank you to the people who have contributed to this longevity." (No doubt his icon status gives him a certain cachet when he has a cause to champion. As a child Takei and his family spent four years in World War II internment camps. He later lobbied tirelessly for the redress movement. Fluent in Japanese, Takei also serves on the U.S.–Japan Friendship Committee.)

Playing a warrior, Lieutenant Sheba, on Battlestar Galactica in 1978, Anne Lockhart was probably the first woman on a regular television series to be in combat every week. "I loved working on it. I was surprised and disappointed when it was canceled, after only one year," Lockhart says. She compares its successor, Galactica 1980, to "the season of Dallas that Pam [Barnes Ewing] dreamed." Luckily, the 20th reunion of the original series was a smash on the con circuit, and soon Lockhart was a regular on the circuit.

Though the conventions may tempt celebs to live off their glory days, after appearances their lives return to normal—carpools and PTA meetings, film shoots, or semiretirement (or, in Lockhart's case, success as a rodeo queen). They will be far, far away from unknown galaxies and outer space shoot-outs, but always bound to devoted fans who never, ever forget a face.

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