Saturday started much earlier than I wanted it to. Especially since my body had woken me up at 4am for some strange reason and didn’t let me get back to sleep for almost an hour. I actually can’t tell you what time I got up on Saturday morning, as my eyes were too bleary and my mind too fuzzy to properly read or comprehend what the time display on the hotel clock was trying to tell me. All I really can tell you was that it was early, and I was woken up by Maggie gently shaking me awake. I pulled the earplug out of one of my ears (both Maggie and Heather are known to snore, so it was a precautionary measure) and heard her announcing in a sing-song voice “Meeeeeg, Meeeeg, wake up. It’s parade day!”
It made me giggle, but apparently the pillow smothered my response, because Maggie didn’t realize I was awake until I finally stuck my feet out from under the blanket and tried to pull myself out of the bliss that is the guest bed at the Westin.
Luckily, I had laid out the clothes I was going to wear the night before. I say “luckily” because, even though they were all in a neat little pile, I couldn’t seem to understand how to pick them up, or where to go with them right away. I have no idea why I was so out of it, but it took forever to figure out what to do with said clothing. I trundled off to the bathroom and put on the tank top and “hobbit pants” that I would be wearing underneath my Kowl costume that day.
I’ll explain what, exactly, the hobbit pants are at a later time. It doesn’t really have anything to do with Dragon*Con, other than being the pants I wore on this particular day.
As soon as Heather and I were finished with our preparations, Maggie distributed the white parade ribbons, which we affixed to the bottom of our badges. Apparently, the ribbons had previously been hot pink, but so many people complained that they clashed horribly with their costumes that the Dragon*Con powers that be changed to the neutral white ribbon.
We all grabbed the costume bits and assorted gear that we would need throughout the day and headed out. My bag was going to be remarkably light that day. I had packed a small, old camera bag (about 8″x5″x2″) with the essentials – hotel key, safety pins, pocket schedule, gum, wallet, and something else important that I currently forget – and had put my money for the day, cell phone, chapstick and debit card in a small badge holder that I hung around my neck. The camera bag was very close to the color of Kowl’s body, which meant it would blend in during the photo sessions throughout the day. The badge holder with my money and other essentials was hidden nicely by the furry bib of the costume.
When we walked downstairs and out through the Westin lobby, I noticed more than a few strange looks. I expected them, though. Afterall, Heather was wearing her Orko robe already and Maggie had had to don her entire Castaspella costume before we left the hotel room. I, on the other hand, simply looked like someone about to head out for a day outside. I was carrying all of the components for my Kowl costume, wanting to wait as long as possible before I had to put everything on. I wasn’t sure how warm a onesie made entirely of felt would be, and I wanted to spend as long as possible being cool before I had to put everything on.
The three of us hopped in the car and headed downtown, chowing down on oatmeal bars for breakfast while we drove. We needed to be at the hotel by 9:20am (I think) to meet up with the other people in our group, and at the staging area for the parade at 9:30am. By the time Maggie got finished standing in the HUGE line at the parking lot and paid for our spot, it was already 9:30.
And, lest you think Heather and I were just lounging about while Maggie waited in line, I should probably mention that we were getting ready. Heather just had to assemble her head (there’s a specific way her Orko head goes together) and put on her gloves. I, on the other hand, had to put on EVERYTHING. First, I put on Kowl’s body, followed by the slightly ridiculous (but oh-so-comfy) feet. At first I went ahead and zipped the whole thing up, but then I realized I could wander around with the top part safely tied around my waist and remain a few degrees cooler while we were outside. I went ahead and tucked the small camera bag inside my costume, so it wouldn’t be visible during the parade. Kowl’s body is roomy enough to hide it inside.
Then came the re-assembly of the ears. I had made the earflaps of Kowl’s head detachable, for easier storage and transportation in the car. Unfortunately, I had snipped off too much of the wire that the ears rest on when I was finishing the head and the ears are no longer able to stand completely at attention. In order to keep them from falling off or flopping over into my face, I needed to tie them together a bit with some fishing line.
It never really worked the way I wanted it to, but it would hold the ears on for the duration of the parade and that’s really what I was worried about. Especially since the weather included a steady breeze that could very easily cause problems for a costume with huge, sail-like ears attached to the giant head.
Finally, Maggie returned to the car with the parking slip and the three of us finalized our gear storage for the day. I put the extra fishing line, a pair of scissors and a small pack of needles in Heather’s bag (she was carrying a much larger one), along with a box containing two instant cool packs. More on those later.
We hurried off to the Marquis, where we were supposed to meet up with Teela, He-Man, She-Ra and another Orko. When we got there, the only one we found was Helen, who was dressed as Teela. According to her, the other Orko had had a rough night and wouldn’t be joining us that day. We waited a few minutes for Scott and Brittany (He-Man and She-Ra). We were all running a little behind, and Helen made a call to Scott to see where they were. When she didn’t get a response right away she joked “He might not have his cell phone on him…there’s not a whole lot of room in that loincloth.”
Helen finally managed to get through to the other two and we made arrangements to meet them at the base of the elevators in the Hyatt, where they were staying. We trooped over there, saying a little thank-you for the newly constructed bridge that connected the Hyatt to the Marquis, and awaited the arrival of the rest of our group. While we stood around, a few folks came up to us to ask for pictures. The crowd doubled when Scott and Brittany joined us, and I remember Scott telling most of them “We’d love to, but we’re already late for the parade.”
It was a good thing he knew where we all needed to go, as none of us had a good clue. All I knew was that we had a nice little walk ahead of us before we’d get to the parade staging area. We wandered back through the hotels and down to the street level, and then we all just booked it up several blocks. Scott was way out in front of the rest of us – mostly because he didn’t have to worry much about walking in heels (like Brittany and Maggie did), or carrying a giant head (like Heather and I).
Honestly, the walk to the staging area wasn’t all that bad for me. It was a little warm in the felt suit, but there was also a nice, steady breeze blowing for most of the walk. Felt is actually rather breathable when you’re outside.
We got to the staging area just in time. Scott spoke to the folks in charge of lining everyone up and we got a nice spot at the end of the “animation” group. One of the lovely surprises when we actually got to the line-up was the discovery of a fellow con-goer who was dressed as the Sorceress, from the He-Man cartoon.
Holy. Freaking. Crap.
The costume was AMAZING! Even people who had no clue what we were all supposed to be from were stopping to admire and take pictures. Maggie spoke to the Sorceress (I’d love to use an actual name here but, sadly, I was a bit negligent in discharging my blogger duties this day and failed to write it down. I blame my inability to wield a pen while wearing three-finger gloves). The Sorceress asked if Maggie had made her entire costume, and admitted that her own was mainly hot glued together.
Now, I know that there are some people out there who might sneer at a costume that is not entirely sewn together, whether by hand or machine. To those folks, I would say PFFFFT! (Yes, that’s me trying to blow a text-form raspberry) You didn’t see this thing close up. I couldn’t tell it was all glued together, and I’m willing to bet others couldn’t either. Plus, I’ve seen many costumes that people describe as “entirely hand-sewn” that look like they’ve been purchased from a store at Halloween and run over by a tank. If the end effect is as brilliant as the Sorceress’ costume, I don’t care if you pieced it together with gum and scotch tape.
Okay. Mini-tangent’s done. Back to the parade.
There was a sizeable group of Browncoats represented in the parade. And when I say “Browncoats” I don’t just mean people dressed like the main characters from Firefly. I mean, there was a whole unit of folks with Browncoat resistance uniforms. It made me happy.
I think the Mad Max group might have been a little smaller this year than it was last year, but they did make an interesting change from their presentation last year. Last year, there were dummies wrapped in shrouds tied to stakes on the front of the main vehicle. This year, the vehicle was back – with the addition of real people tied to the stakes, in lieu of dummies.
I was impressed. And a little creeped out. I was also left wondering how comfortable it was for the two men who were tied to the stakes. Granted, their feet aren’t going to hurt from walking the entire parade route. But, honestly, I couldn’t help but wonder how exactly they were affixed to their respective stakes. I mean, was there some kind of webbing harness, to support their entire body? Were they just tied on with a line or two around their chest and waist?
The reason I wonder is mainly due to costumer health concerns. The stakes they were tied to weren’t standing up at a 90° angle, so there’s going to be a certain amount of pressure put on the restraints used on each person, and what might be safe and comfortable at the beginning of a parade route – when everyone’s just standing around – might be excruciating after being bounced and jostled down a 1/2 mile of uneven Atlanta street.
As for me, most of the parade route was a breeze. Quite literally. The same breeze that had kept me cool on the walk to the staging grounds made the majority of the walk rather comfortable. There were a few places here and there, when we would step out into full sun, where I had to lift my head a little and gulp in some fresh air but, on the whole, I was doing pretty good. We happened to be in line right in front of a group of tribal drummers, who kept up a steady beat over the 1/2 mile and I ended up dancing along the entire time.
At one point, Maggie caused a bit of concern. I don’t think we’d been walking for all that long when it happened. One minute, she was standing beside me. The next, I saw this streak of red hair flying past one of my Kowl eyes and she was gone! It turns out she had been paying a little too much attention to the back of Scott’s furry underpants and not enough on where she was actually walking. Her heel caught on part of a manhole cover and she went DOWN! There was some gasping from the crowd and I was worried that she’d hurt herself badly enough that she wouldn’t be able to walk in the rest of the parade. However, she picked herself back up off the ground, dusted herself off, and resumed marching down the street.
By the way, if anyone has a picture of her eating it in the middle of an Atlanta street, she’s very interested in seeing it. She really wants a picture of her falling and I’m sure someone out there caught it on camera.
Oh, and before anyone raises a stink about me calling her out on watching Scott’s ass instead of paying attention to where she was going…she told me I could.
I have to say, I really enjoyed walking in the Dragon*Con parade. There were a lot of folks my age who got terribly excited when they saw that there was a Masters of the Universe group. People kept calling out “By the power of Greyskull!” There was even a little boy along the way dressed as He-Man.
Heather had a lot of people calling out “Orko!” The Sorceress was also posing for a lot of pictures, as well. Apart from He-Man and She-Ra themselves, I think Orko and the Sorceress were probably the two most photographed.
Very few people along the parade route actually knew who I was supposed
to be, but I didn’t really care. Kids were mainly waving at me because I looked like a giant walking stuffed animal. Which, to be fair, I kind of was. I remember one kid, who was about eight, calling out to me “I don’t know who you are, owl-thingy, but you’re AWESOME!”
At long last we reached the end of the parade route. By that point, my legs were definitely starting to feel the after-effects of dancing for a half mile straight. The Dragon*Con powers-that-be had arranged for all of us parade participants to be greeted at the end of the route with volunteers handing out free bottles of water. I gladly accepted mine, somehow managed to figure out how to open it, and downed the entire thing in record time. Maggie found me a few moments later and let me know that she had snagged a second bottle for me, for which I was extremely grateful.
I told her later “I don’t care if it had been swamp water…I would’ve gulped the whole thing and proclaimed it the sweetest thing ever.”
Now, you might be saying “But Meg…you said the felt suit was actually pretty cool for the entire route,” to which I shall reply, “Yes, the felt suit breathes pretty well…not so the giant head made out of upholstery foam.”
Of course, this wasn’t the first time I’ve worn a giant, well-insulated head. My experience with my PPP Harry head meant that I was a little more prepared this time around, and knew that the first step to avoiding having a meltdown (or passing out from being overheated) is to remain hydrated. Also? Take regular “breathing breaks.”
I made sure I did both of these when we got back to the Marquis. Our group headed upstairs to the atrium level, where most of the pictures tend to be taken, and set up camp over against one wall. At one point we were joined by a girl dressed as Prince Adam. I didn’t notice her at first – giant foam head, and all that – but Maggie had seen her standing at the edge of the circle. She came to get her picture with us and Maggie told her she should stay.
“But I’m not in your group,” she replied.
“That doesn’t matter. You’re staying for pictures.”
She stayed. When Maggie tells you to stand for pictures, you stand for pictures.
The photo session was a lot of fun – partly because I got to kneel and sit on the floor for a while, instead of standing around like everyone else. Also, I was really getting a kick out of the reactions of the little kids who were coming by. Most of them had never seen a He-Man or She-Ra cartoon before and so didn’t know who exactly we were supposed to be. But there were at least four kids who took one look at me and wound up coming over to take a picture with all of us. Again, it’s that whole “Wow, a giant walking toy” reaction. Apparently I looked cuddly and non-threatening. I’m actually a little surprised by that – I mean, Kowl’s kind of strang-looking. I’ve got a giant purple beak. And great big floppy ears. I don’t really look like an owl. Well, not completely.
The best moment came from a family with two young boys. The oldest was probably about four and the youngest was maybe three years old. I had waved at them both and the oldest waited his turn to come take pictures with me. He stepped up shyly and stood right next to me, looking like he wanted to pet my head.
Now, occasionally, one has to watch out for the antics of children when one is dressed in a full-body-and-head costume. Kids sometimes like to punch. However, by this point in time I’ve had enough experience to be able to tell those kids who are going to cause problems from the ones who are just excited and a little shy about getting their picture taken with what looks like a giant toy. I knew this one boy wasn’t going to cause problems. I could also tell that he was a bit shy about coming forward and standing with us. I asked if he wanted to hold my hand for the picture. He smiled, nodded, and we all posed.
Now, his younger brother was sitting in a stroller, all strapped in for safety. His mom had been taking a couple of pictures of us. While she was doing that, the youngest boy kept waving at me. Naturally, I waved back. I chuckled to myself when I saw that he was trying to unbuckle the stroller strap so he could come over. His little hands couldn’t seem to get the buckle to work, so he started shoving it down, trying to get it over his legs.
Before he could get out of the stroller, his mom finished taking her pictures and started to wander off with him. I knew he wanted to come over to us, but I didn’t want to lift my head and call out to his mom to stop. Why, you ask? Because when I lift the Kowl head it looks like Kowl is eating me. That kind of image can traumatize a little child. Having had my own childhood trauma with a giant plush Shamu character (Yes, SeaWorld used to have someone dress up as Shamu for pictures) I had no intention of scaring small children.
Luckily, his mom noticed that her son was trying to get out of his stroller and realized he wanted to come over to see us. I saw him waiting patiently at the edge of our group and, when he got the okay, he walked up to us and sat right on my lap for his picture.
It was a moment made of win.
I’m going to be scouring the internet, looking for that picture in particular. I know it’s going to be adorable.
Eventually, the crowd around us started to lessen. Scott, Brittany and Helen all needed to head off for costume changes (they were going to be taking part in the Superhero photoshoot scheduled for later that day) and Heather, Maggie and I all needed to grab something to eat that was more substantial than an oatmeal bar. Before we went too far, though, we ran into a guy in a Skeletor costume. We had actually known about him before – he was supposed to be in our group in the parade but hadn’t woken up in time – and had seen him briefly in the bottom of the Marquis, out of costume. Although He-Man, She-Ra and Teela had already left we got him to mug for some pictures.
It really wasn’t all that hard. He had a number of very specific poses that he wanted to do. And I’ll say right now that he was probably the most in character of anyone I saw that day. The dude even had the Skeletor voice down! It was great!
After we parted ways with Skeletor, we decided to check out the sit-down restaurant over in the Hyatt. We beat the lunch crowd over there and got a seat immediately. I don’t know how, but all three of us wound up picking the same thing for lunch…the tastiest hamburger I’ve ever eaten.
To be honest, it probably wasn’t the best hamburger ever. However, my body was in “FEED ME!” mode and that lovely lump of protein shoved in between two halves of a bun was the most delicious thing I could have stuffed in my mouth.
One of my high points from the year before had been the Star Wars Costume Contest, and Maggie and I both wanted to catch it again this year. Luckily, it was again being held in the Regency ballroom in the Hyatt, so we didn’t have far to walk. The line wasn’t nearly as long as it was last year, but it was outside. We didn’t really want to wander back out into the Atlanta air, so we decided to wait a bit out in the Hyatt lobby. Eventually the ballroom opened up and the rather short line was let in. As soon as everyone else filed into the room, our group wandered over and went inside. The crowd for the costume contest was much smaller than it had been the previous year, which kind of surprised me. I suppose it’s just another example of how there can be too many things to do at a con like Dragon*Con. I imagine there were people in other panels who had also wanted to attend the costume contest but couldn’t be in two places at once.
The emcee for the contest this year was a local Atlanta radio personality. I didn’t catch his name…again, hard to write in my Kowl gloves. He was, however, a pretty good addition to the show. He chatted and joked with the contestants. He poked a little bit of fun here and there, but he was also clearly a fan of Star Wars.
The best moment of the costume contest came via a young boy dressed as a kilted Stormtrooper. He had obviously marched in the parade earlier that day. He came out carrying a set of bagpipes and wearing a tam instead of a Stormtrooper helmet. The emcee chatted with him and when he asked if the thing the kid was holding was a weapon the kid responded “Yes, this is a weapon of mass destruction, cleverly disguised as a set of bagpipes.”
It was as though the whole thing had been scripted, but I know it wasn’t. The kid was just good at shooting from the hip, comedy-wise. The emcee laughed and said “You’ve just won the smart ass award,” and asked if the kid could actually play the bagpipes. He stepped forward, set up the pipes, and proceeded to play the main theme to Star Wars.
Folks, the entire audience gave him a standing ovation. It was brilliant. In that moment, the kid cemented winning Best in Show (technically, that happened later, but it was his appearance on stage at that point that did it).
There were a number of awesome costumes in the contest: an absolutely beautiful Queen Amidala (the woman gave her name as Penny “The girl no one likes to sit behind in panels,” due to the enormous headdress), two different takes on Darth Bane, and a Sock Monkey Leia.
After the costume contest, we headed off to go a-wandering. Maggie and I
wanted to introduce Heather to the wonder that is the Walk of Fame, so we trundled off in the direction of the Hilton. This meant, of course, taking a little shortcut back through the Marquis. While we traversed the atrium level of the Marquis, heading towards the escalators, I was approached by a woman dressed like Sateen from Moulin Rouge.
I was rather impressed by her ability to run full tilt across a tile floor while wearing stilletto heels.
She ran up to me and asked “Where are you going?!”
“Uh…I’m going that way. We’re heading to the Walk of Fame.”
“Are you going to be wearing this costume all day?”
“Yeah. I’ve only got the one costume for today.”
“Okay. Are you going to be in this hotel later tonight?”
“Um. Yeah. We’re going to go to Mr. Star Wars around 7pm tonight, here in the Marquis, and then I think we’re going to be sticking around for the Alderaan party, but we might just wander around.” (Keep in mind that, for most of this exchange Heather and Maggie were unaware that I had stopped walking behind them)
“Okay,” Sateen said. “I’m going to be dressed as Catra tonight, and I’ve got friends who are going to be dressed as She-Ra, Sweet Bee, Castaspella, and we’ve got an extra costume which we may or may not use. We’d love to take some pictures with you.”
I grinned at the woman – at this point in the convention it was still rather
odd to have someone recognize what exactly I was supposed to be. Maggie and Heather wandered up about the time I was agreeing to keep an eye out for the woman’s group, and I pointed out that we had another Castaspella, as well as Orko from He-Man. They were invited to join in for pictures later that evening as well, and we parted ways.
We didn’t spend all that long in the Walk of Fame on Saturday. The trip over there that day was mainly to show Heather what went on and how things were set up. And to do a little light star-gazing, I’ll admit. There weren’t actually too many actors in the room at the time we were wandering about, but we did get to see a few people. Lee Arenberg was sitting at his table, as was his Pirates of the Caribbean co-star Martin Klebba. I spotted Luke Perry (yes, that Luke Perry) standing up over at his table, chatting with fans. I don’t know why, but I honestly expected him to look a lot older than he did. Perhaps because I remember watching him when I was a young whippersnapper myself (in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, not on 90210). He looks incredibly young in person, though. At least from where I was standing. Like a freakin’ Dorian Gray in the flesh.
Maggie disappeared at one point, only to reappear at my side a few minutes later, flustered and a bit pink in the face. It seems that, while she had been wandering around looking at the people behind the tables, Paul McGillion and Jason Momoa had walked past her, one on either side of her. When she told me about it, I turned to see them standing about 20 feet away from us, surrounded by a gaggle of teenage girls. Maggie admitted that she will probably always be starstruck around Paul McGillion, simply because he was the first big name she ever met.
I tried to stay more towards the center of the room while we wandered around the Walk of Fame, mainly because I was carting around a giant foam head with ears that poke off to either side. I had a couple of people wander up to me to ask about the costume. Most just wanted to know how hot it was in the costume.
By that point in the day I was, I’ll have to admit, getting a bit warm. The three of us retired to a hallway just around the corner from the Walk of Fame. We pulled up a bit of carpet (not literally, people) and took a well-earned rest.
I hauled off my Kowl head, pulled off the furry bib, and unzipped the felt suit, tying the sleeves around my waist. Heather pulled the box of instant cool-packs out of her messenger bag and handed me one. A quick squeeze and shake and I was in cool-pack heaven. At first I simply held the pack to my face. Eventually, though, I leaned back against the wall and just set the cool-pack on top of my head.
At one point, a group of guys wandered by. One of them looked over and down at me – sprawled against a wall in a random, bedraggled state of undress (well, kind of undress…I mean, I was wearing a tank top and the lower part of my Kowl costume) with a giant ice pack on my head and probably looking rather tired and hot. He paused and leaned towards me, asking “Are you alright?” in a very concerned tone. I smiled – or rather, I hope I smiled – and assured him that I was fine, just taking a breather from being in a warm costume. He nodded and moved on. I checked out his butt as he walked off, which I suppose was proof enough that I was, indeed, okay.
Maggie and Heather stepped outside for a few minutes while I cooled off. There were a lot of superheroes assembling on the steps outside of that section of the hotel, and they wanted to get pictures. I honestly can’t remember if it was the Marvel photoshoot, or the Guinness World Record attempt at getting the most superheroes together. At any rate, there were a LOT of people in spandex out on the steps, contending with a healthy Atlanta breeze.
While the two of them were off taking pictures, I was enjoying watching random Star Wars characters saunter past my spot. The Star Wars meet-up had just finished up and, unbeknownst to us, it had been taking place over in the Hilton. I saw a lot more Slave Bikini Leias than I think I ever really want to see (I don’t necessarily have anything against people who wear this costume. I just think it’s overdone and people should perhaps look at creating a more original costume), as well as a guy who looked JUST LIKE HAN SOLO! If I hadn’t been sprawled out against the wall I might have chased him down.
At this point, Heather and Maggie came back inside and we all agreed that
we needed to grab some caffeine. Maggie and I knew, from previous experience, that there was a coffee shop in some far-flung corner of the Hilton but we couldn’t remember exactly where. We decided to wander down another floor and see if it was down there.
Thus began my favorite moment of Saturday.
The three of us took a nearby escalator to the next floor down, only to find ourselves in the middle of a huge open-air room where tons of table-top RPGs were taking place. Now, if our entire group had been made up of just Heather and I, in our fully-clothed and covered costumes, we might have received a few strange looks and then gaming would have resumed.
Maggie, however, was not wearing the same type of costume.
Oh, people…I know I’m a writer, and I’m supposed to be able to express a myriad of emotions and events in clear, descriptive prose that enables you, the reader, to know exactly what it was like to be involved in a particular event. Usually, this is the case. In this particular moment, however, words fail me. I am at a loss for what to write to convey to you exactly HOW awkward it was for the three of us to wander through this room of gamers.
The looks. The jaws dropping. Maggie’s hurried pace as she desperately tried to find the escalator that would carry us up and out of this hall of ogling. The flashes of cameras as gamers – who probably hadn’t seen a girl in a corset wander into their midst before that point in the con – hurried to capture the moment in megapixels.
I remember one guy scurrying forward, trying to take a picture of Maggie as she dashed to the escalator. A fellow gamer (with a particularly loud voice) said “Ask her to stop, don’t just run after her! Aw, she’s going upstairs, now you’ll have to chase her down!”
A part of me felt it was only fair, seeing as how we tend to ogle scantily clad or spandex-encased men at these conventions. I will admit to laughing hysterically inside my foam-and-felt Kowl head the entire time we were downstairs.
Eventually, we made it back to “our” section of the convention. After our brief trek into the land of RPGs it seemed more imperative than ever to get Maggie some caffeine. We found our way to the section of the Hilton where the coffee shop was. As we wandered around the corner in the downstairs lobby I spotted a girl in a wonderfully fabulous Bumblebee costume (original series design, not the new one from the movie). I asked if I could take a picture with her (her voice when she responded was the only way I could tell she was female) and we mugged for a few shots. I remember one guy wandering by with a camera going “Alright! The 80s!”
I feel it’s important to mention that I came across more folks in the Hilton who knew what I was dressed as than I had encountered in either of the other hotels up to that point. This was primarily, I believe, due to the age of the folks I was coming across in the Hilton. I saw more who were roughly my same age, whereas the majority of the folks we saw in the Marquis or the Hyatt were either much younger or much older. Of course, this is all just a theory.
I became a creeper over at the coffee shop.
Okay, yes. I probably became a creeper a far longer time ago. Fair enough. In this case, though, I was very much aware of it. I happened to look over to my left as I stood in the line at the coffee shop and noticed a table of folks dressed in Star Trek uniforms. Sitting on the far side of the table was the spitting image of Scotty himself, James Doohan.
I did a second-take, and then a third one. The whole time I was thinking “Scotty? That looks like Scotty. Can’t be. James Doohan is dead. Not only dead but dead for a while. And his ashes shot into space. Did he have a brother?” At some point I realized I was staring and probably creeping the whole table out. I’m not sure I helped my case any when I gushed “You look JUST LIKE James Doohan, sir. Spitting image of Scotty!” He smiled, nodded, and the entire table got up to leave a short while later. I’m sure I had nothing to do with it.
After we finished unnerving fellow con-goers and tossed our empty coffee cups we trekked back over to the Marquis, as we were just a little late for Mr. Star Wars.
I’m not going to go into much detail about this year’s Mr. Star Wars competition, other than to say that they had some really good contestants this year. When we got there, they had a number of guys up on stage, all trying to one-up each other in a Wookie mating call bit. Some were eh. Some were groan-inducing but mildly funny. And some were so hilarious that my sides hurt and I was worried I was going to pee myself. The best one was done by a contestant simply known as “The Blue Bullet.”
The Blue Bullet was a fairly tall, thin man, dressed in a blue spandex suit, wearing what looked like an aluminum foil diaper. I learned later that the foil was a part of a costume — but I’m not going to tell you which one until the end of the post. Mwahahaha!
Once again, the Pants Game figured prominently in the contest. We heard a
couple of repeats from last year, which is to be expected, considering there are some incredibly memorable lines from Star Wars and they’re bound to be used over and over for the pants game.
In the end, the Blue Bullet was proclaimed Mr. Star Wars 2010. And there was much rejoicing throughout the land.
After the panel let out, Heather, Maggie and I took to wandering the levels of the Marquis yet again. It being Saturday, things were much more crowded than they’d been the previous night. There were hundreds – more like thousands – of geeks wandering around in their finest costumes.
Somehow, in the midst of all the costumed con-goers, Maggie spotted the group of She-Ra characters halfway across the lobby level of the Marquis. She was in the middle of taking pictures, so she sent me off to make sure they didn’t wander off before we could join them. I scurried through the crowd and came up behind Catra. I tapped her on the shoulder and told her the rest of my group was on the way.
At that point, the rest of the women in her group turned around and saw me
and, as one, went “AW! You’re so cute!” They all remarked how I was the first Kowl they’d ever seen at a convention. Part of me remains surprised by that. I mean, I know he’s a random character but surely I can’t be the only person out there who went “You know what? I want to dress as a giant koala-owl.” The other part of me goes “HELLS YEAH! I’m the only one!”
Our big group eventually moved over to the side of the lobby, trying to find a better place to pose for pictures, as we were starting to block traffic in the middle of one of the walkways. Since the group was bigger now, I once again took a place down in front of the rest. I went ahead and slipped off my Kowl feet and kneeled on top of them, so I looked like I was the proper height.
In between photos, the other con-goers and I “talked shop.” Costumes, that is. They asked about the head, and I flipped it over to show them the inside. Like other folks I had encountered throughout the day, they asked about how warm it was. Again, I explained that the suit wasn’t too bad, but that the head made things a bit warm at times.
I asked about the construction of their costumes. They all had a pretty uniform look as far as the corset part of the costume went, and I asked what they had used. It turns out they had taken undergarments from David’s Bridal – specifically, the Smooth Seamless Long line Bra – and dyed them the correct colors. Well, Sweet Bee said she had to do a fabric overlay for hers, as she couldn’t get the color to take. I later learned, from Maggie, that the woman dressed as Sweet Bee had made all of the costumes for the girls in the group.
There was a particularly neat aspect of Sweet Bee’s costume that I loved. I don’t know how many of you had or played with the dolls when you were younger, but the Sweet Bee doll had reversible wings. Sweet Bee (I’m going to just refer to them by their character’s names, as I don’t have the real names in front of me at the moment) had taken magnets and sewn them into a section of fabric that ran down her back, and sewn additional ones into the wings. You should’ve seen the look on the face of a fellow con-goer later that evening when she saw that the wings actually came off like the toy. It was great.
One of the cool things about hanging out with fellow costumers is that they obviously know what it’s like to be in a warm costume. Things were a bit warm up on the lobby level, and I was not as bouncy as I could have been. The girls made the decision to head down another level and find a place that might be even cooler. Maggie told me later “Well, we were all pretty warm, even though we weren’t wearing all that much, so we figured you had to be even worse.”
We ended up grabbing the corner where the Dragon*Con store had originally been operating. It was closed down for the night, so we had a lovely expanse of counterspace where we could stash our bags and water bottles and whatnot. We were joined by two gentlemen who were friends with Catra’s group, as well as Sweet Bee’s mother (actually, she had been with us upstairs). They were nice and made sure everyone was well hydrated and everything.
I decided to go ahead and break out my second cool-pack. I went ahead and tucked it up in my head for a little while as we took some pictures, but you don’t want it sitting on your head for too long. Otherwise you start to get a headache from the cold. I ended up stepping to the side for a moment to grab a breather. It didn’t take too long to cool back down and, before I knew it, I was back in front of the group for more photos.
I have to say, we picked a great spot for pictures! We were situated at the bottom of one of the staircases leading to the next level up, and there was a steady stream of foot traffic passing in front of us for most of the night. It was doubly nice – in addition to bringing an influx of people who were taking pictures, we also got to see a lot of costumes without having to expend much effort.
There was a particularly wonderful moment when Catra spotted another
young woman wearing a cat costume, walking up the steps like an actual cat. She ran over to the staircase and batted at the glass, the way a cat will do. The two of them goofed for a few moments – people snapping pictures the whole time – before going back to their respective places.
A pair of furries wandered past at one point and one of them stared at Catra and I. He pointed at Catra and said “I want to play with the kitty.” Then he pointed at me and said “And I don’t know what that is, but I think I want to eat it.”
Unfortunately, there were a few run-ins with some inebriated con-goers throughout the night. In one case, a couple of frat boys ran into the midst of our group and posed, and one of them said “Now we’ve got proof!” before they ran off. I have no idea what that whole thing was about. Then, of course, there were the two drunk yahoos who were hanging around us for a good 45 minutes. They asked us to film a short video clip with them – which involved us doing fake laughter – and then they proceeded to stand just off behind us, near all our gear. At one point Heather wandered back to our group (she had left us earlier in the evening, as she wanted to take pictures of all the other costumes and didn’t really feel she belonged in a She-Ra group) and ended up having to talk to the guys. I don’t remember what finally made them leave, though I suspect it was simply that their supply of beer had run out.
As with the folks in the Hilton earlier, the crowd in the Marquis in the evening were a bit older and, therefore, a number of people knew who I was. It was great to hear people exclaim “Oh my gosh! You even have Kowl!”
Perhaps the best photo opportunity in the evening came when a guy dressed as the man from the Old Spice commercial sauntered by. Wearing nothing but a towel. And carrying a thing of Old Spice. We HAD to get a picture with him, and I’m quite happy about the way it turned out. I do believe it’s my favorite picture from the entire con.
Shortly afterwards, another guy wandered by and asked to take our picture. He stayed to chat a bit after he got a few shots, and asked about my Kowl head. He wanted to know where I had purchased it. When I explained I had made it myself and turned the head over so he could see inside he looked at me and shook his head. “You’re in the wrong business, I think.” He insisted I look into costumes and props for a living.
Eventually, our group decided to pick up and move over to another section of the floor. We had been approached earlier by a woman whose husband had a professional set-up around the corner. He takes pictures at the con and then puts the work up for free for people who attended. We wanted to see about getting some shots taken but, alas, by the time we got over there they were packing up.
It turned out okay, though, as it gave us an opportunity to mingle with some other costumed con-goers. A pair of incredibly creepy zombies wandered up behind us, completely creeping out the other Castaspella.
While we were standing about I was approached by two women. The first stepped up and shyly asked if she could take a picture with me. I said “Of course!” and re-donned my head for the photo. We posed, and then she swapped places with her friend, who also wanted a photo. After we finished, they thanked me and stepped away, but the woman who had first approached me kept staring at me. After a moment, she came back over to me and said “You were my favorite character ever. I’ve been coming here for several years and I’ve never seen someone dressed as Kowl. You’re my favorite! You’re great!”
I chuckled and thanked her. It kind of made me feel like a star. Even though
I’m not really the character – indeed, I have no connection whatsoever to the original show other than having watched it as a child and being dressed as one of the characters – it felt great to provide someone with the opportunity to “meet” a treasured childhood memory.
The next great photo opportunity came via a guy dressed as Leatherface. I’m not sure if he’s the one who originally asked for the picture, or if someone else had seen him in our vicinity and set it up (I was back inside my head again and couldn’t always tell who was saying what). At any rate, the picture involved Leatherface attacking me, me cowering in fear, and all the girls behind me giving worried and scared faces. I’ve been trying to find a copy of the picture but, so far, I’ve been unsuccessful. If anyone out there is able to track it down, please let me know.
It turns out Leatherface was there with a woman dressed as Little Red Riding Hood (who was holding the decapitated head of the Wolf). Her make-up was pretty cool. While we were milling about, Red asked me about the Kowl head. She was mainly interested in how I kept from passing out while wearing the head. As we chatted, I learned that her friend had actually been the one dressed as the Sock Puppet Leia earlier in the day. I was all excited, as I’d seen her walking about, and was sorry to hear that the woman was back up in their shared hotel room, relaxing on the bed and trying to recover from being in the costume head all day.
Red asked if I had any advice for those wearing costume heads and I told her my number one rules and suggestions:
- If the head is big enough to allow for one, put a battery operated fan inside. It will make you MUCH happier.
- Try to make the head as well-ventilated and easy to see out of as possible – I really liked how the plastic canvas eyes on Kowl didn’t really obstruct my vision and let in a little bit of fresh air.
- Make sure you drink LOTS of water throughout the day. Not just a sip here and there. STAY HYDRATED!
- Remembering to eat is just as important. Thank goodness I had packed a few granola bars in my small bag!
- If you know that your vision or mobility in the costume is going to be
restricted, make sure you have a friend who can act as a handler. And make sure that person is actually okay with hanging around and helping you throughout the day. You need someone who is going to be attentive enough to know when you need a break – and sometimes they’ll realize it before you, yourself, know it. I was lucky enough to have both Maggie and Heather looking out for me throughout the day – as well as the women in Catra’s group.
- If you start to feel woozy or tired or whatnot – take a serious break from your costume! It doesn’t matter if you really wanted to go to that panel, or if that con-goer really wants a picture of you doing a flying roundhouse kick at their head. Your first responsibility is to your health.
- When constructing your head, try to use the most lightweight materials you can. Yes, you want the head to stand up to wear and use, but you don’t want to be walking around with a 20 lb head resting on your shoulders.
- Test the whole costume several times at home before you bring it to con. Wearing it for five minutes at a time in your well air-conditioned house is going to be very different from wearing it for 12+ hours around a convention. (On a side note, I believe I wore Kowl for about 16 hours this go-around)
These, of course, are just a few of the basic things you need to keep in mind when wearing a big costume head. I’m sure I’ll wind up posting more as I remember them. For now, though…
We’ve come to the NGB Costume Awards for Saturday!
Ballsiest Woman: A three-way tie between a woman we simply called “Pastie Butterfly,” a young woman dressed as Josephine Baker, and a cadre of women we referred to as “The Painted Ladies.” Apparently, pasties and full body paint were a big thing this year. Which makes me wonder…were the painted ladies ever able to sit down, or did they have to stand the entire time, for fear they’d rub off on the furniture?
Ballsiest Man: He-Man
Best Oh-Holy-Crap! Moment: Seeing the Sorceress the first time.
Most Common Genre/Character: Ghostbusters and Thor
Best Random Find: SuperGrover!
Most Creative Star Wars creation: Jedi Clampett and Bubba Fett
Best Lookalike: Scotty
Best Horror: Pennywise and victim, from It. And before you call me on having “Creepiest” AND “Best Horror,” I’ll point out that the thing that gets a costume chosen as “Creepiest” is that it makes me squeal and want to run the other way. Clowns – even murderous ones from Stephen King stories – don’t really scare me. Pennywise and friend simply had the best representation from a specific horror movie.
Okay folks. That’s it for Saturday! Huzzah! It’s finally up!
Oh…except for another little tidbit…Heather wound up appearing in a short video shot by Chad Vader. She’s at the very end. Awesome!