Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Winkie Con 50 Report

In the past years, I've typically recorded an audio report with Sam about the Winkie Convention. Well, this year I didn't get a chance to do that. Not only was Sam not there, but I was quite busy!

Once again, I took a Greyhound bus out to Winkies, this time going to San Diego, which was a shorter trip than going to Salinas, even with a delay and having to be re-routed through Los Angeles. I checked in at my hotel late Thursday afternoon and walked around the convention grounds. While we didn't quite have the large open space provided by the Asilomar courtyard around Fred Farr Forum, it hardly proved an issue.

This was the first Winkie Con at the Town and Country resort in San Diego. The past several years, Winkies was held at Asilomar, just outside Monterey. The reason for moving was multifold: to keep Winkies going, it needs to keep growing, and sadly, conditions at Asilomar were unfriendly. Chairman David Maxine cited the cost of a family being very prohibitive for many. No slight to Asilomar, who had to increase prices to keep going in the current economic climate.

Also, for certain programming, a shorter trip for guests (of which there are several potential guests in southern California) would be easier. David and Eric Shanower also pointed to the fact that staging The Tik-Tok Man of Oz at Asilomar would be very difficult (and not cost-effective) as compared to doing it closer to home where more local performers could be found and rehearsed.

Basically, it was clear that to take Winkies in necessary new directions, it needed to move. Winkies has moved before, and now we've seen it move again to a temporary home in San Diego.

One casualty to moving was that communal meals provided in the cost would no longer be a thing. Two optional communal meals were available: a cook-out style meal on Friday, and the Grand Banquet on Saturday. Several restaurants and cafes were available onsite, however, and there was also the option of popping over to the food court at the Fashion Valley Mall (a couple blocks north of the resort). Several flyers in my room suggested ordering pizza to your room, an option that could be explored in the future. The food was enjoyable, though for people who don't frequent these resorts, the prices seemed a little steep. (Laura Gjovaag reports $4 for a bowl of instant oatmeal and receiving the wrong flavor. My only issue was ordering a fountain drink and being served Mountain Dew before I could specify lemonade. Having worked in foodservice myself, I know it doesn't cost much to demand what you actually want.) Some longtime Winkies were upset about this change, but I won't dwell on that. Let's just say that if you want to socialize with new people, it pays to show up early.

I met only a handful of old friends while wandering around Thursday: Miriam Goldman, Freddy Fogarty, Cindy Ragni, Caroline Spector, Eric and Laura Gjovaag and Tim Tucker. I had wanted to help get things set up, but it seems I arrived too late or wasn't able to find any spot that needed help.

The Convention began Friday morning, which was a change from past conventions. Typically, we started Friday afternoon with registration and socializing and then going off to dinner and having a handful of presentations in Fred Farr Forum. We still had our evening presentations, but now we had multi-track programming during the morning and day, and the Dealer's room, swap shop (which depleted its long-held stock and announced that it wouldn't return), and research table were open all day.

Many one-hour panels and presentations were held during the day. It was impossible for one person to see them all. As a self-titled "OmniOzologist" (someone who appreciates all aspects of Oz), I had to choose carefully. I went to the Creating Oz Comics panel, featuring the folks from Illusive Arts, hinting at the return of the Dorothy comic series, and then went to Show and Tell, forgoing a panel on William Stout and meeting longtime online friend Aaron Pacentine. I met William later, because I was also hanging out in the Dealer's Room selling copies of my The Way of a Lion alongside Paul Dana and Karyl Carlson (with their books The Magic Umbrella of Oz and Queen Ann in Oz, which I'll be reviewing soon), and he was at the next table.

I sadly missed both showings of Aljean Harmetz's Making of the Wizard of Oz documentary, forgoing it for the "Fifty Years of the Winkie Convention" panel and being on a panel during the second time. In fact, I wasn't able to attend any MGM-specific panels, which I was sorry about being a closet MGM movie fan. ... Well, guess I'm no longer one... I also attended John Bell's panel about the masculinity of Speedy (which also covered Peter Brown for contrast).

During dinner, titled Professor Marvel's Hot Dog and Hamburger Cook Out, we got to chat with fellow fans, and I discussed story ideas with John Bell and Shawn Maldonado, while Kurt Raymond's Wicked Witch entertained by storming around making comments. (I was called four-eyes and later complimented on my haircut.)

The evening presentation opened with talk show host Batton Lash interviewing the Wicked Witch, and she seemed to get fed up with him quite quickly. She later took questions from the audience, including admitting why she wanted the Ruby Slippers. ("Girrrl, I am ALL about the sequins!" and explaining that the sequins on the Ruby Slippers are actually magical.) I got a question in: "There's a rumor that you have a brother who's a Jester. Would you like to comment on this?" The Witch revealed that she did have a brother, and neither she or her sister liked him, so they turned him into a cat. Not a Jester. Sorry, Legends of Oz, but Lady Green has spoken.

Afterward, Aljean Harmetz proved delightful as she talked about how she came to write The Making of the Wizard of Oz, and then Atticus Gannaway discussed Baum's connections to San Diego. Afterward was a simple after party with a cash bar, where yours truly had his first wine. I chatted with a few friends, such as Ed Cao and Kurt.

Saturday morning saw me going for breakfast in my costume as Mr. Tinker, based on the final illustration from Outsiders from Oz. If you didn't hear it elsewhere, yes, that is Mr. Tinker appearing at the end of the book. He'll lead the follow up A Signal From Oz. After spotting a Ruggedo in the contest (as well as another Mr. Tinker and a Mr. Smith from another continuity), my Mr. Tinker reminded the Nome King that he hadn't paid off the Giant with the Hammer, and that there would be balance due. ("And that," I joked, "is why the Nome King changed his name.")

Also in attendance were Jon and Bjo Trimble as Aunt Em and Uncle Henry (and they were very sweet), as well as a young Captain Fyter, a split witch (half Glinda, half Wicked Witch), the Wicked Witch of the East (two striped legs and Ruby Slippers under a house), Queen Ann and Salye Soforth (Karyl and Marilyn Carlson), Private Files and Ozga (Eric and Laura Gjovaag), an MGM-style Dorothy, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lioness, a Winkie Guard, an Umbrella Islander, and Erma and her Ladies of Light, depicted by the older ladies of the International Wizard of Oz Club.

Next up were the Winkie quizzes (against other programming), and Shawn Maldonado won my standard quiz and a CD of the Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return soundtrack and the honor of preparing the quiz next year. Eric Gjovaag mentioned I'll have to move on to the Master Quiz next year. I better prepare... A curious part of my quiz asked for the four Baum Oz books featuring the Nome Kingdom and saying there was a bonus fifth. Shawn's answer was the one I had in mind: Tik-Tok and the Nome King, which had been published as a picture book before being collected in Little Wizard Stories of Oz. Aaron Almanza answered The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, which, I had to admit, counted as Claus does visit the Gnome Kingdom.

The quizzes ended with enough time to check out the Auction Preview, where I met up with longtime online friend Dexter Fabi. After stopping by the Dealer's room for a hot minute, I ran over to the LGBT Side of Oz panel, where my friend Rei Shaw, Dee Michel, Josh Trujillo, and Joe Phillips (dressed as the Cowardly Lion) discussed LGBT positive interpretations of the Oz stories and characters.

Afterward, I met up with Craig Noble to discuss our panel about our work on the Baum Bugle. Then, I listened a panel about Oscar Diggs, the Wizard of Oz himself, and how he's been depicted. I got to comment on how he was depicted in The Wiz play and film.

Then, noting that I needed to pull my weight at the table, I went to the Dealer's Room for the next couple hours while Paul and Karyl went to their panels, while I got to talk to other Dealers. Afterward, Craig and I went to our panel, which went well. I got to talk a little about what I do, give Craig someone to bounce off of, and even muster a little humor. (Craig: "Everyone is a volunteer, assembling The Baum Bugle for free." Me: "Wait, what?") Then, back to the dealer's room until the banquet, and afterward, The Tik-Tok Man of Oz! (Click that link for my review.)

The after party included some ragtime music, and while we saw some lovely dancers (or in some cases, lovely people trying to dance), I didn't get in any dancing until the music almost ended. Then we stuck around and chatted until we dwindled to just a few people. And then, I was about to leave for bed, when they asked how much I'd had to drink. When I replied that I hadn't had a drink, they told me to have a sip of rum and Coke, which I did. These people are the best.

Sunday found me getting ready to go, turning in my room key, and sitting with Karyl and Marilyn during breakfast. At 10, I was on the "Baum's Boys" panel, discussing that Baum's boys are actually strangely deep characters, while our moderator was a little skeptical. John Bell and Paul got the big answers, but I said a little as well, including some good points.

I unfortunately missed the last MGM panel as I went back to the dealer's room to sell more books. I understand it was a lot of fun with the Wicked Witch making one more appearance. I did go to the Queen Ann in Oz panel, listening to the authors and illustrators discuss the creation of a very good Oz pastiche.

Then we went into the final events, hearing some of the cast and crew of The Tik-Tok Man of Oz discuss the creation of the show, then a discussion of plans for the next two Winkie Conventions, including early plans for the 2016 Convention, currently planned to occur in... Portland, Oregon! The good folks of the Oogaboo Rendevous want to take over and move us to the Pacific Northwest for at least one year with Eric Gjovaag chairing. My bud Freddy Fogarty will be chairing the 2015 Convention, set for July 31-August 2, 2015 back at the Town and Country, celebrating Return to Oz, The Scarecrow of Oz, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, and the stage version of The Wiz! Freddy is looking for ideas AND volunteers! He hopes to have many guests.

Then we had closing services, which had feedback about the new convention format. Some longtime Winkies expressed their displeasure, creating a no-win situation. David suggested some new plans that might make getting meals easier, and creating an exclusive space for the Winkies to get them, hopefully increasing chances of mingling. New attendees who attended other conventions positively compared the atmosphere and programming with other conventions.

Personally, while I have come to appreciate the multi-track programming, I did feel that at times too many panels were going on at the same time. None of the panels I attended (which were few, so some may have been) were jam-packed. My fear is that next year with so many celebrations, people will have to really be selective of what they want to go to. Not that it would definitely happen, but would you want to be stuck choosing between listening to Andre DeShields or Jean Marsh? Or even Gregory Maguire? (Not that any are confirmed to be coming, but anything is possible... Only one of those people was a suggested guest.) I'm considering not selling anything next year to free myself up a little. (But the extra cash I earned did help a LOT.)

Basically, while we saw major changes this year, the format we had at Asilomar was still around, just a little altered. At Asilomar, Saturday consisted of the costume contest, show and tell, and the auction and the evening program, all of which were easily available to attend! Sunday just had a few presentations, which were still available as well, they just ended later.

We got a supersized convention this year, and we had a supersized attendance to match, with up to 400 attendees. I look forward to how the convention grows next year.

After Winkies, I helped pack up the main room we used for regular programming and later, hung out until just after midnight with several regular attendees, witnessing Eric and David get to relax after such a busy convention with some pizza, beer and leftover soda from the Ozpitality room that I barely got to frequent.

Then it was off to bed, breakfast, and then I took a ride to the end of the trolley line where no one ever goes, getting to the Greyhound station about 10:50 AM as my bus back to LA was pulling in. Aside from some small but ineffectual delays and no on board WiFi for most of the trip, my bus ride home went smoothly, ending early this morning when I met up with my parents for breakfast.

Overall, I had a great time!


John said...

It really does sound like a ton of fun. Maybe next year for me!

(And given the choice, of course you'd see Jean Marsh. She's Sara Kingdom, and Sara Kingdom is awesome.)

Eric said...

No, no, you don't have to take the Masters quiz next year. But if you win the Standard quiz next year, then you WILL b promoted to Master, and will only be eligible to take that one. But that could mean that you're giving one quiz and taking another in 2016!

Sam A M said...

While I call myself an Oz Purist, I'm not sure I can call myself a "OmniOzologist" . . . there are some versions of Oz I want almost NOTHING to do with or have any connection to and acknowledgement of.

JP said...

The artwork on display on the table in the picture of Joe as the Lion looks incredible. Who is the artists and is there somewhere online yo see those better?

Jared said...

That is Joe's artwork. As to where to find it, I wish I knew!