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Meeting Mr. Conroy

Posted by: Casimir at 9:37 am on Thursday, May 24, 2012

Some time has passed, and I supposed I’ve cooled off. Though I’m still angry at how things played out. It’s time to tell the story.

I rarely go to local toy/comic/sci-fi shows in Dallas. As a general rule, we haven’t had any good shows since the Fantasy Fair went the way of the dodo years ago. Most of our shows are so small as to be embarrassing. The three big shows each year are run by C2 Ventures, Inc., and they are far more interested in taking your money that creating a satisfying event.

The C2 Ventures shows consist of only two things: a dealers’ room of the same ol’ merchants, primarily selling all the Star Wars toys one could find at Wal-Mart the previous year, and B-list celebrities, who will shake your hand and sell you a picture for $25 over what you already paid to get in. For a true collector, the show offers very little of interest.

So when the latest show was being announced, I ignored it as always. Until my pal Richard of Zeus comics tricked me!

Richard told me Kevin Conroy, he of the melodious Bat-voice, would be attending. While I would certainly enjoy meeting the man, I had no interest in standing in line for hours and paying more money for a photo op. I’ve met my share of celebrities, and I’ve found most of them to be normal people who don’t want to be bothered any more than necessary. Richard told me Mr. Conroy would be signing for free. I was still not interested. That just makes the lines longer. Richard pauses, and then says “You could make a figure of him and give it to him as a gift.”

That got my attention.

Kevin Conroy immortalized in toy form

Of course Richard would say this. I’ve immortalized him in plastic twice. (A record tied with my wife.) And this was a genuinely good idea. The specifics were fuzzy, but I said I’d consider it.

So time passes. Every time I visit Zeus, Richard asks me if I’ve started the figure. Eventually, the project gets underway. At first, I am reluctant, because I really dislike attending crowded shows and standing in long lines. But as the figure and package shaped up, I started to get excited.

The day arrives and the family and I head out to the show. I’ve got the packaged custom figure of Mr. Conroy in a gift bag, and a Batman maquette wrapped in bubble wrap that I hope he will sign. The Monkeysaurus is coming along in his awesome homemade Anakin costume. It’s his first show. Despite the enthusiasm, I’m still trepidatious about the crowds and lines.

The Monkeysaurus dressed as Anakin. His first show!

As we arrived at the World’s Ugliest Building, my fears started to materialize. Thousands of people were waiting to get in. Apparently, thousands of Texans want overpriced handshakes and year-old Star Wars toys. I was shocked.

The Irving Convention Center a.k.a. the World's Ugliest Building

This didn’t truly become a problem, though, until it was time to go in. Yes, herding such a crowd through a few doors would create a bottleneck, but that was not the issue. Unlike most shows across the country, C2 Ventures prefers a paid caste system for attendees, whereby if you pay more, you are allowed to enter the SINGLE door before all other mortals. The “general admission” attendees can swelter in the heat. So despite the fact my pass said the show started at 11:00 a.m., it didn’t really start until 11:20, because I was designated a peon.

On those rare occasions I do attend such shows, I avoid the entry crowd by arriving an hour after opening. Under the circumstances, I opted to be there when the doors opened. This plan also included making a beeline for the Conroy line as soon as we entered. Which we did, dutifully. Sadly, as I approached his booth, already crowded, I was told that “GAs” were not allowed to see him until after the first hour. I had no idea I had signed up to be a secondary citizen. We had no choice but to walk away.

After perusing the aisles for a few minutes, I noticed a line forming along the perimeter of the huge room, and it was growing longer every minute. I quickly learned this was the line for GA peons to queue up in for Mr. Conroy. With a sigh I jumped in, and told the family to go enjoy the rest of the show. I’d call when I was closer.

While I wasted time in line, the Monkeysaurus got to meet Harley and Ivy, though he seems less pleased than I would have been.

From my vantage point I could see that those patrons that had paid more for entry were granted immediate access behind the red curtains that supposedly led to Mr. Conroy’s booth. I expected the few hundred GAs to be allowed past the curtains at noon, as I was told. That didn’t happen. In fact it never happened at all.

After standing in this line of nerds for over an hour and a half, an over-zealous, power-hungry staff member announced that the line (remember, the one that never moved?) was capped, and that no one on my side of the cap would be allowed in. That side just happened to include all General Admission ticket holders. So we were effectively snubbed after wasting almost two hours in line. Hell, I could have been home by now.

Sadly, poorly planned and executed actions such as this by C2 Ventures are par for the course, and contribute to Dallas’ poor reputation for shows.

Needless to say, I was furious. But what could I do? At this point I knew I’d never meet the man, or get my maquette signed. But those would have been gravy. My primarily goal was to deliver the rocking custom figure that I put a great deal of time and effort into. How could I do so?

He was more pleased to meet the Teen Titans.

At this point, the rest of the family was on an upper level of the building. (Keeping an almost-five-year-old occupied while daddy waited in a pointless line was one of my concerns.) So I struck out on my own across the building to Mr. Conroy’s booth. When I arrived, he was gone, but a staff member continued to maintain vigilant guard over the exit from his booth. I asked the woman, as politely as possible under the circumstances, if she or some other staff member could see to it that Mr. Conroy received my gift. (Admittedly, not my best plan, but I was under duress.)

She tells me that Mr. Conroy is grabbing a quick lunch, but when he gets back in a few minutes I could give the gift bag to his “person.” Person? Um, okay.

Within moments, his person arrived. Turns out this fella had gotten word of the impending custom figure and was expecting me. He asks if I’d like to give it to Mr. Conroy myself. “Of course,” I say, “but I’m on the wrong side of the cap.”

“He’s just eating lunch back here,” the fella tells me. “C’mon.”

Things were happening very fast now, and none of this was going down as I’d envisioned.

I’m led to a lounge area off the main hall. And there, sitting in a chair eating a roast beef sandwich, is the amazing Kevin Conroy.

And in that instant, I am hit with terrible pangs of guilt, and I’m reminded of why I don’t normally seek out celebrities. The poor man is just trying to grab a bite in the midst of a grueling schedule, and I was interrupting. No matter what I did next, I would come across as just another thoughtless, selfish fanboy.

I have to follow through, of course, because I’m already standing there, but every reflex was telling me to speed this up and get out. “Thank you for coming to Dallas,” I said. “And thank you for all your amazing work. I wanted to make sure you got this.” And I handed him the gift bag. Mr. Conroy graciously reached up with his free hand (the other is occupied with the sandwich) and shook mine.

And then he starts to speak.

In that split instant, my mind says to me “Finally! I’m about to hear the voice of Batman speak directly to me!”

And with a mouth full of roast beef sandwich, Kevin Conroy says “Mwanh Mhew.”

And then I got the hell out.

My one chance to hear this fantastic voice in person, and I get an adult from a “Peanuts” cartoon.

Obviously, I could have stayed longer than ten seconds. I could have waited until he was done eating. But again, I felt very awkward intruding on his lunch. I felt like I was in the wrong.

Sadly, I don’t know what he thought of the figure. Was he flattered? Insulted? Confused? I have no idea. I certainly hope he enjoyed it, and accepted it in the spirit it was given. I may never know.

Ultimately, the whole experience left me in a foul mood. I found my family immediately following the meeting, but I couldn’t enjoy the show. We left soon after.

I’m pleased I was able to meet Mr. Conroy, however briefly, so thanks to those that made that happen. And I have nothing but respect for Mr. Conroy. He certainly did nothing wrong. However, I feel very strongly C2 Ventures mishandled the whole affair. I might not have been so disappointed at the “capping” of the line had I not already been made to feel like dirt by C2 Ventures’ policies and staff.

So Mr. Conroy, please enjoy the custom figure, wherever you are.

Perhaps I should have taken the Delorean, gone back in time, and found a way to stop this farce before it happened.

5/29/12 UPDATE! Good news! I heard from the man himself today! He was kind enough to send a quick message letting me know how much he enjoyed the figure. (“Blown away” were his words.) So despite the wacky day, the figure got to where it needed to be and was appreciated. Whew! I am so pleased!

 

About the Author: Casimir
Not satisfied with the limited options available at retail, award-winning customizer Cason Pilliod has been crafting his own toys since he was a child. His passion for toys merges with his background as a theatrical prop designer, allowing him to find unique customizing solutions, which he shares with the ever-growing customizing community via Inanimate Objects. Cason is also an armchair pop-culture historian, Swing dancer, DJ, daddy, and was once a Muppet wrangler, so he's got a unique spin on life. He also worked for Microsoft once, but let's just keep that a secret.

 

 

12 Comments »

  • vader says:

    Great write-up albeit on a terrible experience. I’m really sorry it turned out the way it did. I hope Mr. Conroy sees the URL on your custom packaging and contacts you personally.

  • toiletbear says:

    I am mostly amused by the Monkeysaurus costume change in mid day. LOVE the boots. Sorry you had a poo experience. I don’t see how he could be less than pleased. Your work is always awesome! What an honor for him.

  • Scott Hall says:

    Great write up sir and man that is a great likeness of Conroy.

  • Dusty says:

    Sorry to hear that Cas. I myself would have felt very uncomfortable meeting a “Celebrity” under those circumstances, (or any others, lol.) But you sir, handled it fine. I am glad you were able to meet him and give him that amazing piece of art atleast. Sorry people who ran the show and the crew/employees were so unfriendly. :)

    D.

  • j1h15233 says:

    Wow man, that is one fantastic job on that figure and the packaging. I’m sure Kevin couldn’t help but be impressed by the work you put into all of that.

  • Casimir Casimir says:

    Thanks, all. My name, email, and website are all on the package. And a business card with my phone was included. I don’t expect any response, and that was never my goal. But since I don’t know his reaction, it would be nice to learn what it was.

  • rg says:

    Just chiming in……it’s the least that he should do….

  • Oddjob22667 says:

    Amen, soul brother! The Fantasy Fairs have never been replaced. I stopped going to Cons after the Mega Marvel Convention around ’94 or ’95. Never again until 2002 when I gave it another go …. I actually liked the C2 show & its smaller size but found it to be WAY overpriced: $50 for Ray Park’s autogprah? Hey pal, you were in 2 1/2 movies (Echs vs. Sever = 1/2) and in the good ones you died before we got to know your character or backstory! $10, cool. $50? On top of admission? Waited 10 years & gave this Con a try. Had almost the exact same expereince as you with my Priority pass. No more cons for me.

  • Zach says:

    What an amazing story. The caste system at cons do suck. I usually don’t do the autograph lines for many of the reasons you stated, but made an exception for Jeff Smith a few years ago. Thankfully, we just happened to be near the start of the line, so it was only about an hour, but when I got there I still felt like a goon. He was a great guy, very gracious, and even did a Smiley Bone sketch for me and my wife.

    I’m sure that Mr. Conroy enjoyed the amazing amount of work and detail that went into that figure-how could he not? And the anecdote that you can tell about the time you ‘heard’ his legendary voice is flawless. I think that his ‘person’ could have waited at least until he finished his sandwich and washed it down to introduce you. Hopefully Mr. Conroy will send you an email or even a voice mail in the future :)

  • j1h15233 says:

    So glad he got in touch with you. That was an inspired piece of work!

  • Rod Keith says:

    Just finally caught up with this story. Glad to hear you got your amazing work to Mr. Conroy, despite the awkward circumstances, and that he managed to show his appreciation. very cool.

    Your experiences with conventions resonate with mine, and why I’m reluctant at this stage in my life to bother with conventions. I’d probably only go if I thought my 6-year-old would have some level of fun, but I’m not sure I could put him through the misery of lines, unless he could be enticed with some free JLU or Lego payoff at the end of it!


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