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From Presstelegram.comFloating through the bowels of the Queen Mary.
By Felix Sanchez - Staff writer
Saturday 13 September 2003, by isa
David Carradine. Stacy Keach. George Lazenby. Robert Culp. Tanya Roberts. Lana Wood. Maud Adams. No, it wasn’t the Ghost of the Legends tour that operators of the famed Long Beach icon cheesed together to get wide-eyed tourists believing spirits haunt the Queen Mary.
This was a fan convention called SpyFest, designed to bring together enthusiasts of the genre, and of James Bond, with actors and actresses with some ties to movies or television shows from the same area.
During the two-day event, Julie Caitlin Brown - who was a series regular as Na’Toth on the Star Trek series spinoff, "Babylon 5’ - stood scanning the sparse turnout for the show, a trickle of fans lining up to talk to character actor Charles Napier at a table next to hers.
A blues and jazz singer, Brown has also appeared in more than 60 commercials plying her acting trade, has been in several television and big screen movies and had parts in dozens of TV series.
But in the last six months, Brown has started a new venture. She wants to bring a little more sizzle to the big business of fan conventions. At the very least, Brown wants to begin to make fans, and the actors and actresses who sign on to appear at the events, feel like the events are more than just ways to ply money away from admirers for an 8 by 10 photograph.
Fan conventions are big business, most notably shows that feature science fiction, fantasy or "Star Trek’ or "Star Wars’ themes. Nostalgia and memorabilia also sells, witness last week’s TV Land Network convention in the San Fernando Valley that drew big crowds to see and hear stars from beloved shows like "The Jeffersons,’ "I Dream of Jeannie,’ "Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,’ "A Family Affair,’ "The Dick Van Dyke Show’ and "Bewitched.’
Brown has signed on to manage some of the younger stars of contemporary hit shows and movies, like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ "The Lord of the Rings,’ "StarGate,’ "Star Trek,’ "Babylon 5,’ "Farscape’ and the "Nightmare on Elm Street’ series and is working these actors into a growing number of specialty fan conventions.
What Brown wants to do with her new business, Connected, Inc., based in Santa Monica and part of her overall music-publishing company, Illumina Productions, is take the decade-long experience she has attending dozens of fan conventions and use that to ensure that her stable of younger actors and actresses, and their fans, get their money’s worth.
"You could go to an event, multiple events, actually, every weekend of the year,’ Brown said.
But the shows can widely vary.
There are one-day events run by a hardcore group of fantasy or science fiction fans who aren’t interested in making money. Some shows are directly tied to new movies, books or computer games and are vehicles to market and publicize. Others are run by professional management firms that start shows with video screenings, panel discussions and that’s fan friendly but without celebrities initially. Once the shows, run annually, begin to make money then actors are invited to appear.
Bigger non-profit shows are also becoming popular, like Aggie Con run by a volunteer student group at Texas A&M University, where students learn the business of putting together a real show, with celebrities, and to focus on related trades like screenwriting.
Megashows like Comic-Con International in San Diego, which attracted Halle Berry and Angelina Jolie several weeks ago as celebrity panelists, or Dragon-Con 2003, billed as the largest sci-fi and fantasy show in that world that enters its 17th year in Atlanta next weekend, are the premier events, drawing tens of thousands of fans.
SpyFest in Long Beach was designed on a smaller scale for fans of the James Bond movies - five former Bond girls made appearances, including Adams, who was in the famed "OctoPussy’ - but it also had a surprising mix of younger actors and actresses, including pre-teen performers.
It was a nod that the celebrity world moves on, but Brown thinks shows need to be more focused and give potential attenders an exact idea of what to expect.
"So many people were coming to me for advice and information. What you need is a show that’s very fan friendly. That’s considerate and gives fans what they want. "After having done this as a performer I have a very good idea of what it takes to be comfortable as an entertainer at these events,’ Brown said. "And I have an understanding of what the fans are looking for. I’ll be working as a liasion between the shows and talent.’
"The biggest problems are shows that have too many actors, too many fans, bad organization, and no business sense,’ she said.
Roberts, who was a Bond girl in "A View to a Kill,’ and most recently was a regular on "That 70s Show,’ said fan conventions let her get feedback from viewers, and gives her a chance to post them about upcoming career choices.
"I only do a very few of these a year but the ones I do I really love,’ Roberts said as she walked the corridors of the Queen Mary during SpyFest.
Brown said there’s a misnomer that actors and actresses don’t want to interact with fans, or that they look down on fan conventions.
"They understand that all the fans want to do is appreciate you. I mean, how hard is it to sit there and have someone say ’You changed my life,’’ Brown said. "But if the layout can’t handle crowds and physically there’s this wall of fans that doesn’t allow them to get a moment with the star, the shows’s in trouble.
"They go away thinking you just wanted their money at the door. And the actors feel really bad they couldn’t get with anybody,’ she said. "All fans and actors at these shows want is to be respected and appreciated. Fans are incredibly respectful.’
"Every actor that has given something of their talent is a value at an event.’
And actors don’t mind sharing the spotlight at a show with celebrities whose more active days are long ago.
"The reason a lot of fans perceive some of these actors are, quote, unquote, has beens, is that once you get over 40 years old, there aren’t as many parts,’ Brown said.
Ken Foree, who was the lead in the horric classic, "Dawn of the Dead,’ is okay with not having been able to find many leading parts since the George A. Romero movie, although he was a fixture as a guest star on a number of 1980s and 1990s television shows.
"I just like to hang out at these things,’ Foree said. Nearby, actress Dianna Camacho, who is an up and coming celebrity, says she was invited to SpyFest by its organizers to lend a youthful, and feminine appeal for fans.
"I didn’t really know what to expect,’ Camacho said as she sat virtually unnoticed and watched some fans line up to talk to former Bond girl, Adams, and Gloria Hendry, who was the first black Bond girl, in "Live and Let Die.’
Show organizers who don’t have the right mix of actors are the problem, Brown said. Brown has been on the roster at non-Star Trek shows and no one lines up, but when she’s at a show specifically for Star Trek fans, the lines can be endless.
And no star can be too big, especially if there’s a project to publicize.
"Angelina Jolie and Halle Berry at the San Diego event were incredibly pleased to make that connection to their fan base. There were five or six actors who have done nothing lately, and they had tables in San Diego. I sincerely doubt (Jolie and Berry) gave it a second thought.’
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