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Ring*Con 2011

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Oct. 17th, 2011 | 11:47 pm
location: Bonn
mood: nostalgicnostalgic

Friday, October 14

After finding out that the Return To Middle Earth 10th Anniversary convention in Northampton was cancelled, I decided literally at the last minute to attend Ring*Con, despite my initial aversion due to the recent vampire infestation.
When my brother calls me at 11 in the morning to confirm that yes, he is able to look after my cats for the weekend, I hastily pack my small suitcase with some essentials and dash out of the door to the train station.
Once there, I hasten to the international ticket office, hoping to still be able to catch the train at 12:34. However, when I arrive there the queues are so long that I have to take a number to be called. Since I am number 168 and they are currently at 140, I can forget about catching the train of my choice. Instead I get a ticket for the train that departs two hours later, which means it’ll be a close thing if I’ll be in time for the Opening Ceremony.
Having purchased my ticket, I spend my time before departure outside the station, grabbing a sandwich, ringing Indis and Elentari to inform them of my coming, and ringing my hotel from last year to book a room. I sit down at a small cafe with some tea and a book to while away the time.

My train departs on time from Amsterdam, but due to a disturbance on the track and a resulting reroute, I miss my connection in Dusseldorf. Since the trains there go about twice a day, I decide to stay in the international train until it gets into Cologne, from where there are several connections to Bonn. There are a lot of delays going on, but I finally find a train which is going in that direction, and spend an hour or so standing in the entryway surrounded by very fed-up people.

When I get into Bonn it is already past 6, and the Opening Ceremony starts at 6:30, so I decide to take a taxi. This means I hurtle into the Maritim lobby just a few minutes after the Opening Ceremony has started. I run towards the Registration Table to buy my weekend ticket and my meal coupons (only 3 this year, since I’m too late for dinner anyway), and after hastily stuffing them into my pocket and handing my suitcase over to the cloakroom, I race into the Great Hall where the Ceremony has just started.
Mark Ferguson is once again our MC, assisted ably by Lori Dungey who has dressed in a suit identical to Mark’s, earning her the nickname ‘Mini-Mark’. The other LOTR-guests are Sala Baker (Sauron), Sam Comery (Éothain), and Jonathan Harding (Erestor). Other than them, we have guests from Twilight (ugh), Vampire Diaries (meh) and True Blood (meh), as well as Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy off Harry Potter) who has finally managed to make it to Ring*Con after two consecutive years of cancelling at the last minute. Also present are Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia off ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Angel’) and Renee O’Connor and Hudson Leick (Gabrielle and Callisto off ‘Xena’ and ‘Hercules’). I couldn’t care less about the vampire shows, but the other guests are quite exciting. Sadly, there were also cancellations, among whom are some Harry Potter actors and, worst of all, Ted Raimi, whom I had been looking forward to meeting. Hopefully he’ll be there some other year!
Every guest is given the opportunity to say a short word of welcome to the audience, and as expected many of the first-timers have a bad time of it, their jokes and Hollywood mannerisms falling entirely flat on the audience, whereas the returning guests know exactly how to play it and make us laugh. It’s interesting and amusing to see.

After the Ceremony has finished and before the next guest is brought up, I sneak over to the front rows where I find Indis and Elentari. We all hug each other and are happy to be reunited, even if our usual group of 10 or so friends has dwindled to just us three this year. We are determined to make the best of it.

My first Ring*Con panel of this year is Renee O’Connor, who seems not to have aged a day since starring in Xena 10 years ago. Elentari jokes that she must be the Bearer of a Ring of Power or something. Mark stays on stage with her and they reminisce over Xena and Hercules, in which Mark has guest starred many times. They joke about how far Weta has come since they started on those little shows, swishing the tails of the animatronic centaur backsides by hand, and a great deal of time is spent on discussing the evolution of Gabrielle’s hair and outfit during the series.

When the panel wraps up to make way for some vampire show or other, the girls and I trickle out with some of the audience to take a stroll around the venue. The dealer room has already been closed, so we check the programme for tomorrow on one of the interactive screens. Sadly, there are no workshops or readings in English apart from one, which is an author who’s promoting his book ‘Mara And The Fire-Bringer’. I will definitely check that out, if only because it’s about me. The only other Ring*Con regulars who do lectures in English are Rainer Nagel, who is not attending this year, and Marcel Bülles, who has cancelled due to sickness. Meagre fare for my inner intellectual.

The girls and I have a tea in the pool area where it’s quieter and the thumping music from the bar is not grating on my growing headache, and we talk about everything that’s happened in the year we have not seen each other: Di’s baby, Indis’s operation, my New Zealand trip and subsequent acquisition of a boyfriend, the girls’ tough time family-wise, my brother’s upcoming wedding, and so on. I would gladly spend the rest of the night talking with them, headache be damned, but I still have to get to and check in at my hotel, so I take my leave around 11 and take a taxi down to Bad Godesberg.

The night porter at the hotel is very friendly and hands me a key without even asking for my creditcard or passport. I take the lift and open the door to the room... only to see that it’s apparently not been cleaned. There’s a towel on the floor and, even stranger, a plastic carrier bag on the writing desk. It’s only when I see the open suitcase on the floor that I realise this room is actually already occupied. Thank goodness the actual person staying in it is not here right now!
I hastily beat my retreat and run back downstairs to inform the night porter about his mistake. He frowns at the room keys for a moment before realising that my room number should be 215 instead of 315. He hands me my actual key and I open the door to this room far more carefully, but no, this one is actually unoccupied. Just to be on the safe side I put my room door under lock and chain, just in case he makes the same mistake again and a total stranger barges into my room in the middle of the night.

Saturday, October 15

When I get down for breakfast at about 8:30, the whole dining area as far as I can see is filled with Ring*Con attendees (easily distinguished by the entry bracelets they’re wearing), and two very bewildered-looking regular holidaymakers. I enjoy my eggs and bacon with some tea and orange juice before picking up my stuff in the room (and hiding my laptop just in case) and setting out for the train station. I know exactly where to go this time around, so I buy my ticket at the machine and within 10 minutes I get off at the Maritim to start my first full day at Ring*Con 2011.
Yesterday evening I suddenly realised that I had not so much as looked at my purchases at the Registration desk when I paid, and since I was in such a hurry not to miss the Opening Ceremony I did not stop to check them. Of course it was then that I discovered I had never received the meal tickets I paid for. My first visit is therefore once again the Registration desk, where a sympathetic young lady informs me apologetically that I can’t get replacements since it’s against the rules. There goes my 51 euro, dammit. I should have checked!

Jonathan Harding’s panel is already well underway when I arrive, and since he is not allowed to answer any questions regarding The Hobbit, audience questions run out pretty quickly, so he picks up his guitar and plays us some of his new songs instead. I wander out of the room in search of the sisters, and figure I might as well look in on the first ‘Mara And The Fire-Bringer’ lecture while I’m at it. Alas, it appears that the programme was wrong, because the author starts his lecture in German and does not seem inclined to switch to English any time soon, so I leave again and decide to have a browse around the dealer room instead. On a whim I stop off at the Conburo (desk for assistance and complaints) to give my meal tickets another try. I explain my situation to the lady, who goes off to the Registration to see what she can do for me. After a while she comes back and tells me that a one-time exception was made for me, and hands me four new tickets. I feel obliged to hand one back as I only paid for three, and thank her profusely. She tells me sternly to always check next time and makes me sign for it as well. She is an absolute angel, and I’m sorry I don’t remember her name. Thank you, Conburo volunteer lady!

I meet the girls in the dealer room and we take a turn around there before heading to our next panel of interest, which is the panel of Sam Comery, who played Éothain. Sam was 11 years old when he acted in LOTR, has not acted since, and after getting a degree in Business Studies he is now working as a bartender in London. Also, he has crazy hair. Of course the long blond mop he had when he was the Littlest Rohirrim was a wig, but still, I don’t think anyone was expecting him to have an afro. Combine that with the fact that he is now a tall strapping young man of 23, and it is very difficult to find any resemblance to the little boy we saw in The Two Towers. Still, his panel is quite entertaining, especially since Lori sits on stage with him to fill any awkward gaps. He tells us about his memories from LOTR, meeting the stars, scenes he was in that did not make it into the film, and his band in which he plays bass.

When the panel is over we head out for lunch. The food is pretty much exactly the same as it is every year, but it’s quite good stuff so I’m not complaining. Then again, I will eat pretty much everything whereas Indis and Elentari are very limited due to their dietary restrictions, so they don’t have as much choice as I have.

After lunch we hurry back to the Great Hall where Stefan Servos will have a presentation of spoilers of The Hobbit which he will pick apart for our interpretation. The presentation is in German, but thankfully he speaks clearly enough that I am able to understand most of it, and have the rest translated by Elentari next to me. Stefan dwells on each actor in the new films and why they were cast and how their characters were developed. As a running joke throughout the panel he keeps ‘slipping’ slides of Evangeline Lilly in her underwear in between the production photos, since she has to ‘convince’ us of her ‘talent’. By the end most of the men in the audience are pretty much convinced, I think, but I just resent her even more, especially when I learn she will have her own ‘love story’ plotline. Please God no.

It’s autograph session time, which means I have to entertain myself for a few hours while the sisters go to collect the scribbles they’ve paid for. I don’t particularly need any of them, though I debate for a moment whether I should get Tom Felton’s. However, his is the most expensive one, and I already have Matthew Lewis’s, which he can hardly be expected to top. So in the end I decide not to.
Instead I wander around the dealer room at my leisure, purchasing my annual LOTR calendar at the Elbenwald stand (I’m so glad they’re back this year! Ordering the calendar online is much more expensive), and having a friendly chat with René, the owner of the Dutch Tolkien shop. I also discover a stand which sells almost exclusively Supernatural stuff, which makes my fangirl heart beat faster. There’s also a stand with exquisite hand-painted converse trainers, one with Doctor Who toys (yay!) and the by now mandatory shoulder-dragons. I have a cursory look through the costumes as well, which are gorgeous (as they always are in Germany) but way too expensive to excuse me buying one when I already have seven costumes at home.
After my non-shopping spree I venture upstairs, where I visit the Tolkien Society in their room. There is no one there apart from the Society members, which makes me a bit sad. They all seem really happy to see me, even though I can’t read any of their books or leaflets since they are all in German. I have a chat with a few of them and amuse myself for a while with watching the door and seeing all the vampire fans walk in a few steps before realising where they are and running away. It may have been the slightly desperately cheerful greeting they get, or maybe the sight of actual proper books just frightened them. They do read Twilight, after all.
When another Tolkien fan comes in, I take my leave of the Society to check out the Art Show (they have renamed it from Art Contest, hoping that removing the competitive factor will result in more entries next year). The fare is thin on the ground this year, barely enough to fill half the room. Still, there are some beautiful paintings of scenes from LOTR, as well as an amusing display of Middle-Earth road signs, a hand-made replica of Éowyn’s dress belt, and a panorama comic book of LOTR which is more than 10 meters long and circles the walls of the entire room twice. I vote for my favourites and talk with the organiser for a bit before moving back downstairs.

I meet the sisters again at Sala Baker’s panel, and we sit and listen to him talk about his experiences filming LOTR and all the projects he has done since, after he moved to LA to expand on his work as a stunt man and an actor. Since hardly anyone steps up to the microphone to actually ask any questions, Lori takes it upon herself to run around the room hunting for questions, which is quite amusing.
After Sala comes Charisma Carpenter, who gets a lot more questions but unfortunately gives very short answers to them, which makes for many awkward silences. Most of her jokes fall flat as well, and I personally think she would do better if she elaborated on her answers more and relied more on anecdotes. Still, she gets two questions about her upcoming role in Supernatural, which makes me a very happy fangirl indeed. Apparently her role required her to speak a few lines of Romanian, which she was not very good at. She stopped complaining about it, though, when Jensen and Jared told her they sometimes had to recite two entire pages of monologue in Latin. Sadly she doesn’t really go into the story of the episode and who she and James Marsters will be portraying, but I suppose she’s not allowed to.

The Talent Contest is up next, but due to a reschedule the end of it now overlaps the panel of Hudson Leick and Renee O’Connor, which we all agree we have to attend. Also, we have to get dinner beforehand, so we will regretfully miss that. We go to the restaurant and quickly gobble down our food before heading back. The smaller hall where the panel will be held is not yet open, so we stand in the aisle of the Great Hall for a few minutes so we can at least see a few costumes and videos. The costumes we manage to see both have very cringeworthy acts to go with them (me to Indis during one act: “is she speaking English, because I can’t understand a word she’s saying!” Indis: “I think she believes she is speaking English!”), but the two videos we see are highly entertaining, one doing Middle-Earth commercials while the other matches famous political speeches to LOTR footage, which is hilarious.

We return to the smaller hall to attend the panel of Hudson and Renee. I remember how Hudson as Callisto used to terrify me, and to a degree she still does. The manic smile and crazy eyes still come easily to her, and she clearly loved playing an insane serial killer with godlike powers, even if she is now way more into teaching yoga and enlightenment and stuff. Renee is just adorable. The two of them answer questions about Xena from their captive audience of almost exclusively women, play a game with some volunteers, and talk about projects they’re doing at the moment. When the panel finishes they hang around for a while chatting to fans and giving out hugs. Once they have left, more than one fan is in tears. It is very clear that this show and the characters have had a great impact on many girls’ lives, portraying for the first time female heroes and role models that they could relate to. Also it meant the world to a lot of the lesbian community that spans several generations, which is reflected in their audience today.

Indis, Elentari, and I return to the Great Hall to catch the tail end of Tom Felton’s panel. And I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised. In my long history of going to conventions I have rarely seen someone so effortlessly charming at a Q&A panel. Of course it helps that this guy has been trained to answer questions since he was ten years old, and that he learned from the best when it comes to self-promotion, but he seems very genuine and sincere. He has a friendly word for everyone, does not respond negatively to any of the questions he’s asked, deflects strange requests with good humour, and is just plain nice. What a lovely young man.

Tom vacates the stage for the actor who plays Lafayette on True Blood, and we stay a little if only to gape at how different this guy is from the character he plays. Of course I did not expect him to come on stage in drag and with make-up on, but still. Sadly, he’s not as entertaining as his character either, so we leave after a few minutes. We take a stroll around the lobby and the bar, and then another one because Elentari discovers she has lost an earring. Usually we would hang out at the bar on Saturday evening, but since there’s only three of us and Indis’s table-dancing is made impossible this year by her recent hip operation, we decide to give it a miss. The girls go up to their hotel room and I take a taxi back to Bad Godesberg, where I watch some Supernatural in bed on my laptop before going to sleep.

Sunday, October 16

Already the last day of Ring*Con is upon us! I sleep in, have a leisurely breakfast, then pack all my stuff again and check out of the hotel. After another short ride on the U-Bahn I arrive at the Maritim.
I find Indis and Elentari in the Great Hall, watching the online production videos of The Hobbit on the big screen. Thankfully they’re not dubbed in German or anything, but after the videos have been played some Tolkien scholars are brought up on stage to talk about the upcoming movies, and of course they do speak in German, and in long words at that. I don’t follow much of it, but since they’re scholars and Tolkien purists I do get the idea that they don’t approve of the movies much. One of them even says he wishes Guillermo Del Toro was still directing instead of Peter Jackson, which for me is close to blasphemy.

There’s not much going on until tonight if you’re an English-speaking Tolkien fan, so I have brought my laptop so I can show my friends some of my New Zealand pictures, including those taken at Matamata last February. We sit down at the Red Carpet Tours infostand so Susi and Fem can see the pictures as well. It’s so nice to see the landscape as it should be, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

With the most important pictures shown, we leave the Red Carpet volunteers to their business while the girls and I retreat to the hotel brasserie to enjoy the rest of the pictures. Then we have lunch and do some shopping, and I buy presents for the stay-at-homes to hopefully bribe them into coming to Ring*Con next year.

Tom Felton’s panel had to be rescheduled to an earlier time slot since he has to catch a flight home later this afternoon due to filming, so it overlaps Charisma Carpenter’s. The choice is fairly easily made, especially since we couldn’t attend all of Tom’s panel yesterday. And indeed he proves to be just as charming as he was before, talking about his life as a child actor and his feelings on the movies. He also keeps up a running joke of dismissing people dressed as non-Slytherin Hogwarts students. “Is that a Hufflepuff scarf? Next!” “Are you a Gryffindor? Get out!”

Next up is a True Blood panel, and Indis and Elentari tell me they want to stay and watch it because a good friend of theirs is a big fan. I have seen all of three episodes of the show, and on all those occasions I only watched it because there was nothing else on, so I’m not bothered to stay. Instead I go outside to hang out at the Red Carpet stand with Susi and Fem and her adorable baby Elisabeth.

When True Blood vacates the stage for Vampire Diaries, the sisters join me again and we have a last stroll around the convention. Many of the stands in the dealer room are already packing up, so it’s a sad affair all around. We chat with some other fans and while away the minutes until it’s time for the last panel: the much-anticipated Kiwi Panel.
And indeed it does not disappoint. Mark, Lori, Sala, Sam and Jonathan enter the stage to the strain of the New Zealand Anthem (which appears to be the same as the British anthem), and build a kiwi shrine consisting of an inflatable kiwi-bird and some rocks. They then engage in another improv skit of ‘Props’, re-enacting Cinderella once again, starring Lori as Cinderella, Mark in a double role as evil stepsister ‘Cordelia’ and Prince Charming, and Sam as Fairy Godmother. Sala, Jonathan and Sam are also made to play all the props in the story, including but not limited to sheep, sheepdogs, gumboots, doors, and toilets (it goes without saying that poor afro-haired Sam is cast as the toilet brush).
Many hilarious in-jokes later, the Kiwis leave the stage to thunderous applause.

And then it’s that time again: the Closing Ceremony. Mark and Lori start off proceedings with another improv, this time the one-word-at-a-time story, which stars the only Australian Ring*Con attendee, a man named Peter, who misses his flight and has to trade in his shoes for a rubber boat so he can get back to his homeland.
Then there are winners to announce: of the charity raffle, the Art Show, the Video Contest, and the all-new Tattoo Contest. The Elven Choir workshop participants show off what they’ve learned by singing a couple of songs (goosebumps!) and the swordfighting workshop stages a short fight.
Some of the guests have already departed before the Ceremony, including Tom Felton and Jonathan Harding, but everyone else is still here. Mark has decided every guest should do a party trick, so we are treated to an array of acts, including a breakdance from the Twilight werewolf actors, a song about Texas from Renee, a synchronised clapping dance from Sala and the Vampire Diaries actors, and a German drinking song from the Twilight vampire actors.
Then it’s time to say goodbye to everyone, and after long applause and many encores, the Ring*Con 2011 cast files off the stage, leaving us with the Reel Of Nostalgia and an early bout of post-con blues.

Indis, Elentari, and I hang out in the hotel lobby until it is time for me to catch my taxi to the station. We hug long and hard, and they make me promise to return to Ireland soon and bring the boyfriend for inspection. I really hope it won’t be another year until I see them again! Maybe at the Elf Fantasy Fair?

Having just discovered that I have 6 minutes between the arrival of my domestic train to Düsseldorf and the departure of my international train, I get into the first train I see which goes there, in the hopes of getting there earlier. My seatmate happens to be a Ring*Con visitor as well, an older Xena-fan who is full of praise about her first Ring*Con experience, and who intends to come back next year for a repeat performance. We talk about conventions and fandom and family atmosphere and cats until she gets off at Cologne, and I continue the rest of my journey alone, arriving in Düsseldorf just after 9. The connection is pretty much perfect, and I have a quiet, if long, journey back to Amsterdam. Once there it’s another hour by bus to my home, and I finally stagger through the front door at just before 1 in the morning. Too late to catch up on the episodes of Supernatural and Merlin that I missed, but there’s always tomorrow. For now, I am content to collapse into bed and fall asleep while trying to calculate how many sleeps it is until the next Ring*Con.

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from: moffel83
date: Oct. 18th, 2011 10:58 pm (UTC)

As a running joke throughout the panel he keeps ‘slipping’ slides of Evangeline Lilly in her underwear in between the production photos, since she has to ‘convince’ us of her ‘talent’. By the end most of the men in the audience are pretty much convinced, I think, but I just resent her even more, especially when I learn she will have her own ‘love story’ plotline. Please God no.

Thank God for Pete already confirming that she won't be a love interest for Legolas...I think I would have had to really puke then if that had been the case...her casting is wrong on so many levels and makes me angry on even more levels!*sighs*

Sounds like you had fun at RingCon even though there weren't too many Rings guests:(


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