An ORC Report

by Avondster

Friday, January 14: A Merry Meeting

Today is my ‘big day’ as my companions call it, and I think I must have taken more than an hour to make myself presentable, hesitating what clothes to wear for my photo op, once again rehearsing what I want to say, looking up the chapter I want him to sign, since there’s not enough blank space in my favourite chapter, which I originally wanted him to sign.

We drive to the hotel, dump our stuff in the room as quickly as we can, and hurry back downstairs. And the convention begins.
Well not really, because we first need to have lunch. So one of the first things we see of the convention venue is the shabby restaurant, where we have some plastic food with our company as well as an additional brave and lovely Ringer who came all by herself (sorry love, I forgot your name!).

Then it is panel time! As Varda said to me once: at conventions you have two kinds of events: the Stuff, and the Stuffing. Well, our first panel most certainly contains Stuffing, seeing as how you need to use freeze-frame to find most of them in the film. But Jorn, Jarl, Sandro and Peter are very nice anyway. They chat a bit about being extras in the film, Peter (the only one of the four with actual lines) does the Shagrat voice and shows us the film that he made in which Peter Jackson played a small part, which was kind of funny at places.
They leave, and Bruce comes up. Even though he isn’t really that important in the film, our own Gamling is loved by many, and especially the die-hard convention-goers (like me). Plus he is very entertaining and funny. He also earns even more of my respect as he passionately talks about the project READ that he’s been working on, which is a project to encourage young people in the less fortunate layers of society to learn to read. It brings tears to my eyes when he shows a little film that was made about it, and calls some people of the project as well as some of the kids on stage, and lets the founder of the project have her say.

But then it is time for the moment I’ve been waiting for… or not.
The MC shows up on stage to tell us that Dom is stuck in traffic or something. So we wait for like ten minutes before he finally arrives. And OMG, he is really real!
You know how some people really disappoint you when you see them in real life? Well, he certainly did not! I can tell you that Dom Monaghan looks just as cute and sexy as he does on film and pictures. And he’s just as funny and witty.
I spend most of the Q & A staring at him, apparently with a silly smile plastered on my face according to True (who took pictures for which I shall probably hate her for the rest of my life). Unfortunately the questions asked are mostly not very intelligent (like what kind of underwear does he wear), and none of them is actually about his role as Merry. There are many questions about Lost and his role as Charlie, which is of course now more of a ‘hot topic’ (in more ways than one, hehe) in the US. He says some really nice things about his LOTR collegues, Billy in particular, and even though he rounds it up with a joke (“and what can I say… we’re gonna get married”) you can really tell how much he loves them.

Too soon the Q & A is over (though the questions aren’t getting any more intelligent with time), but never fear, because next on the schedule is the Ringers panel, in which Dom incidentally is also included, him being the film’s narrator. So True and I make for the bathroom, but just as we are in line, the power blows, and the theatre is utterly dark. So much for the Ringers panel.
Varda and I decide this is a good time for us to discuss our Costume Competition plans, while there is nothing else going on, and we take a nice long walk through the venue and the (thankfully still lighted) dealer room.
Back in the auditorium, the power is back, and we are treated to a nice long preview of Ringers, of which I remember nothing save Dom’s beautiful voice and some horrific music-video by Leonard Nimoy. The panel is unfortunately not so much about Ringers as it is a continuation of Dom’s Q & A (“Dom, what kind of super powers would you like to have?”).

After some more ‘hunting’ in the dealer room it is time for the photo ops. Thankfully I have Varda with me, so I am not alone, standing in line fidgeting with my bags, and have someone to patiently nod and make affirmative noises whenever I ask for the seventh time if my hair still looks okay and there’s nothing stuck in my teeth.
Then I’m there, and he’s there, and I have no idea what I’m doing anymore or where the heck the line is. Finally when the photographer turns in annoyance and shouts ‘next!’ for the third time, I step forward and am shoved towards the chair, where I am met with a smile and a wink.
“We’ve met before, right?” asks Dom.
I compose myself enough to stammer a shy “no” as I sit down.
“Oh. Then you really look like someone I know, because I remember seeing your face before.”
I just blink stupidly, and to all those dear ladies who told me afterwards what I should have said to him (“yes, we have met, Dominic my darling, in the dream which foretold you that we are meant to be united in love forever”): if you were in my position you’d know that you can’t possibly think of any witty remark when you have those disconcerting eyes on you!
Anyway the photographer shouts at us to look in the camera, which we do, and now I am smiling like an idiot on the photo while Dom looks like a deer caught in the headlights.
I get up, smile shyly, and thank him, and he says “no, thank you!” and I stumble away to pick up my bag and wait for Varda, thinking of all the things I should have done (‘Why didn’t I shake his hand like a well brought up young lady?’ ‘Why didn’t I stop smiling like a besotted teenager?’ ‘Why didn’t I do anything remotely intelligent what so ever?’), my cheeks burning bright red. And here I thought I was such a composed person for my age.

Then the autographs. Those for Dom had to be bought separately, so there aren’t as many people up for those as there are for Elijah, Sean and Billy, but still quite a lot. Seeing as how my ticket number is 06 (having been one of the first to buy an autograph ticket when Dom was announced as a guest), my turn is up quite fast.
Unfortunately it’s very rushed, they are already behind on schedule so the handlers are being very impatient and Dom appears a bit stressed. I already know there would be no personalisations, which made me infinitely sad because he plays my favourite character and all, but you know, that’s the way things are on such a huge convention. I end up having more of a conversation with the handler when he looks at my book and goes: “hey look, it’s a Lord of the Rings book in German!” and I correct him and say it’s Dutch, actually, which prompts Dom to start speaking to him in a language he apparently assumes to be Dutch, but which doesn’t make any sense at all to me.
He gives back my book, and I thank him so much, and he smiles. Not just a small smile, but one of those twinkly-eye ones that get us all swoony at the Fellowship Board, and I know it’s fangirly of me to say, but I couldn’t help but think: ‘I have seen him smile like this on pictures, and it has been seen by thousands of people, but this one was meant for me alone’.
Okay, just this once: squeeee!

The others have gone for takeaway dinner (once again I say, ‘do not come between the Easterling and her prey’), so Varda and I don our cloaks and go out to get us some food in the nearby shopping street. Funny enough this seems to be a popular place for the young and trendy of Pasadena to go out, and since it’s a friday night we have to endure much staring, pointing and giggling by altogether too scarcely dressed and skinny teenagers.
Finally we do find a place which isn’t inhabited by hip anorexics and have an expensive and not very memorable supper.

Then it’s back to the hotel rooms, dress up quickly, and down to the dessert party thing, where we are to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the publication of LOTR. There are many performances by fans, including the infamous ‘Singing Gandalf’ with his guitar, a lovely lady playing the harp, and a girl dressed as an Orc singing a hilarous parody of the song ‘My guy’ (“Nothing you could do could make me untrue to my Eye”), with a Frodo and Sam in Goblin Armour as a rather reluctant background company. In the meantime we enjoy coffee and tea and various desserts, and have great fun with the Fountain of Chocolate and some realtime Fellowship-mallows, and we drink to the Professor’s health even though he’s dead.
Suddenly there are Billy and Dom up on stage, together for the only time on stage, hugging, and dang it but why was I so stunned that I didn’t take any pictures? They announce our next piece of entertainment, which is according to them “the best band on the planet”, World Without Sundays, whose performance I might have enjoyed more if the soundsystem wasn’t so terrible and I would have been able to actually make out the words and the melody.
Many fans stick around, hoping for a repeat of last year’s Oscar Party where Dom and Billy joined the band on stage, but the guys are gone and do not return, so at 12:30 when karaoke starts Laer and I go back to our hotel room exhausted.


Saturday, January 15: Three Is Company

I wake up way too early for my taste, but it’s for a good cause since we have the Fanclub Breakfast Moot waiting for us! Lith and Prim greet us with big smiles and really, how can your morning start any better than that? I see many faces with familiar names which I am bound to mix up later on, but it was so great to finally meet Bregalad, who is awesome, and Strange Elf, with whom I have spent way too short a time, and Amane, and Frodes, and Lost, and all those others…
I have a bigger breakfast than I’ve ever had before in my life (what those Americans eat so early in the morning is nigh unbelievable, considering I usually only have toast), and once again we have great fun with the action figures.

I prepare to go looking for Varda, but Prim graciously offers to escort me to their hotel room, where I am most likely to find her, and indeed there she dwells. We decide to get into our costumes now, as we are not likely to have time to put them on later today, and it takes some time after all. I help Varda get into hers first, and then we go to my room and she helps me transform into an Elf (this process mostly involving me cursing my hair in all languages possible for not wanting to do what I want it to).
Then Beren and Lúthien are ready to face their audience in all their costumed glory, and we go down to join the convention.

Varda gets in line for her photo op with Elijah (an opportunity I was, sadly, too late to purchase), and I hang around the merchandise tables, waiting for her to come back, then who comes walking up to me but Elijah himself! Surrounded by three bodyguards who nudge everyone out of his way, he walks toward the photo area, smiling and waving as he goes. I try to step aside to let him pass, but in my dress I am not as fast as I want to, so I am right in his way, and to my astonishment the bodyguard doesn’t push me away (apparently I don’t look too menacing), and Elijah brushes past me, smiles at me as he goes by, says “hi, excuse me” and continues to his destination, stepping on my train in the process.
So I didn’t get a photo op, but I did get a smile from him and he stepped on my dress (ooh, that’ll be something to tell my grandchildren!)! Go me! What an adventure, huh?

I go back to the main auditorium to attend Billy’s Q & A, and I must say of all the Hobbits he gets the most intelligent questions – though, sadly, he cannot escape the one about what kind of underwear he wears, nor the multiple requests to sing, or the girl who asks him to come to her high school play. Argh! He keeps walking back and forth on the stage, causing the staff to ask him to please stand still in the middle of the stage for pictures, which he turns into a running joke throughout the session.

Then it’s time for Elijah and Sean, and they don’t get any good questions at all. Many many people ask them to sing happy birthday to whatever distant relative they’ve brought, though there is one fan who then suggest we all sing happy birthday to Elijah too (his birthday is still two weeks away, but who cares), and when we all comply he actually blushes. Then there is of course the inevitable underwear-question, and someone asks them for the most embarassing moment in their life, to which Elijah gives so honest an answer that even the most rabid fangirls have horrified expressions on their faces halfway through, and Sean is all: “TMI, man, TMI!”, and Elijah concludes his story with a sheepish: “I’m really too honest for my own good”.
The real treasure of this session though, isn’t the questions they’re asked, but just seeing these two friends interact on stage, and just being lovely and wonderful guys. When they announce that their time is up a child in the audience starts to cry, and Elijah immediately holds out his arms and says “oh no, crying child, can’t have that, come here,” and the mother brings the little girl to him and he holds her and rocks her, and I suspect many an adult in the audience of wishing they had thought about bursting into tears first.

When I come out of the auditorium Varda comes up to me and tells me that if we don’t come to the costuming room now, we’ll be disqualified. A very rude lady directs us to the judges’ table, where we stand in line with a colourful array of Middle-Earth creatures, waiting to be judged by Daniel Falconer, Tim Kirk, Colleen Doran, Cliff Broadway (?) and some costume experts. They appear fairly impressed by us, and we stand in another line to be directed on stage, Varda going away for a few moments for her photo op with Sean.
Then: showtime. One by one the candidates take the stage, modelling their costumes, and of course our names aren’t on the list for some reason so I have to step up to the microphone and tell the audience our names, hopelessly messing up the English in my nervousness.
We step offstage, confident that we have done the best we could, and then it’s time to announce the winners. There are more categories than we even could imagine, but not one of them includes us, sadly. Oh well.

As soon as the contest is done I hurry back to my hotel room to get out of my beautiful but unfortunately not very comfortable costume, change into something else, grab my book, and hurry back downstairs for the autograph session.
Only three hours have been planned to have almost 2000 people get their autographs from Elijah, Sean, and Billy, which of course isn’t nearly enough. They start at 5 pm, and when I get in line it is past 8 already, and I am number 660 or something. It does, however, give me plenty of time to chat with my neighbour and study the people. And you do get some very weird ones at conventions like these! Most fans are just like us, friendly people who are passionate about something, but there are a few that are just scary. I see many women wearing T-shirts that say ‘Slash Is Hot!’, as well as young girls with shirts saying ‘You’re A Hobbit, I’m Single’, and a middle-aged lady carrying a porcelain doll dressed as Frodo around all weekend as if it were a baby.

While we stand in line waiting for our autographs, a little girl skips up to Sean and hugs him fiercely, and he hugs her back and kisses her. Then she moves to Elijah, tugs on his sleeve, and he hugs and kisses her as well, and to our astonishment the handlers let her. Only when Sean shouts across the table: “Billy, say goodbye to Ali!” we realise that this is none other than his daughter Alexandra, aka Elanor! She is quite a bit bigger now than she was in the movie…

Finally it’s my turn, and Billy is first for me. I have already met him at RingCon and his autograph is already in my book, so I let him sign my bag instead. He looks exhausted (he was out with Dom quite late last night I heard, and his photo op was this morning at 11), but still manages to greet me and smile as brightly at me as if I were the first one. Isn’t Billy Boyd a fantastic and gorgeous man?
Then there’s Elijah. Also friendly to everyone, and those eyes! I honestly didn’t think they would actually look this big and this blue in reality, and I stare into them for a long moment until he has to repeat his question about which page to sign. He also asks what language it is and I tell him it’s Dutch, and he says that’s so cool. Um, yeah. And then I thank him and he smiles and says: “you are most welcome”, and I can’t help but smile back.
Then just as I stand in front of Sean, Christine comes back with Alexandra, who pulls on Sean’s arm because she has to show him something. So Sean gets up and follows her, and the handler rolls his eyes at me and says “kids, huh?” as if I look old enough to have them.
Alexandra, meanwhile, smilingly shows Sean the rest of the queue, which cannot be seen from where he’s sitting, but which still goes on and on up to the door on the other side of the football-field sized hall. Sean’s face as he sees this is very comical, and without taking his eyes off the endless line of people he calls: “Elijah! You better come see this.”
“What?” says Elijah, in the middle of signing.
“No, come over here, stretch your legs for a moment, you really need to see this.”
Elijah groans, gets up from his chair, and joins Sean and Alexandra. The look on his face is even more comical than Sean’s: his eyes widen impossibly and his jaw drops, before he turns and walks back to his table like a zombie. Sean calls out to Billy, who climbs over Elijah, ignoring his dramatic plea of: “no, Billy, don’t do it!”, looks at the queue, then walks back to his chair in resignation. Later this evening we shall learn that he had a dinner appointment with Dom at 8. It is now 8.30.

I go back to the hotel room for a moment to drop off my stuff and tell the girls that there’s no way the party that was planned at 9 will actually start at 9.
The poor guys end up signing autographs until about 9:45, and we only see Billy again when he is called to present the One Ring Award for Best Performance By A LOTR Actor In A Television Show to Dom, who isn’t there. Then the Award for Best LOTR-related Book goes to Sean, who isn’t there, and the Best Performance By A LOTR Actor In A Movie goes to Elijah, who isn’t there, and so on and so forth.
Food is extremely scarce tonight, and most of us haven’t had time for dinner due to the autograph sessions that ran late, so we end up hunting down the poor waiters and waitresses carrying the trays of tiny cocktail foods, and by the time poor Emerald Rose takes the stage many hungry Ringers have left to have some actual non-moving food somewhere else.
We stay for a bit since the band is excellent, but we are tired so leave after a while also.


Sunday, January 16: The End Of All Things

Simp and Cal will come later this morning, so True, Laer and I decide to take a bit of a walk to a restaurant down the road and have breakfast there. And on this day, after only 24 hours I break my record once again with the biggest breakfast ever, but it is infinitely better than the one I had yesterday: a mass of waffle, strawberry and whipped cream. The good ol’ US of A may have found a way to lure me in for a permanent stay after all. Mmm… a city which holds both Dom Monaghan AND strawberry-with-whipped-cream goodness, how can it get any better? *images come to mind*
Wait, on second thought, let’s not go there shall we?

Aanyway, back to subject. So, after the breakfast we return to our room way too early and lay idle for a couple of hours, reading the paper and (in my case) obsessedly caressing freshly signed objects. Then it is once again convention time!
It’s the only day we start early, and we have to stand in line in the burning sun since they open at 11 and not a second earlier, so nyeah. I am just about to strangle the whinging child standing in front of us, or her father. Thankfully, the doors open just in time.
To my immeasureable joy True and Laer show me a booth that actually sells Merry & Pippin T-shirts! Real ones, without the other Hobbits on it and no action shots! They are really cool actually! Yay! I buy one at once. For the die-hard Merry (& Pippin) fan these kind of things are hard to come by, so you must grab what you can get.
I also buy a gorgeous Tim Kirk painting which will never ever fit into any of my suitcases or on the wall in my house but who cares right, because he signs it AND draws a special picture for you in the margin!

We start the panels off with Royd Tolkien, great-grandson of a relatively well-known British writer, a good-looking bloke but like he says himself: “I didn’t DO anything!” The organisers seem to agree, as they decide on the last minute to throw Jorn, Jarl, Sandro and Peter on stage with him, since an hour to himself may be a bit much for a guy who was in the film for a grand total of four seconds.
After the Pretty Boys and Peter Panel, Daniel Falconer takes the stage. He is such a lovely man! Very down-to-earth, charming, full of funny stories and he really has something to say. I could easily have listened to him for another two hours as he talks about Treebeard.
But his time is soon up, and the makers of the DVD are up next. I personally hadn’t expected much of this panel, but it is, actually, quite enjoyable. I never had a second thought about the people who put our treasured DVD’s together, but they also have stories to tell, like how they cut out pictures of Viggo and put them on a stick to wave in front of screens to see what colour background would suit him best, then having Billy walk in to see the various assembled Viggo’s-on-a-sticks, only to ask why there wasn’t a single Billy-on-a-stick.

And then… John Rhys-Davies. What can I possibly say about this magnificent man that hasn’t already been said? He really and truly is ‘a fan of the fans’, constantly singing our praise, saying that it is us that made the movie, and how intelligent we are, and all that. I know that the fans are valued by most of the guys, but I can also imagine that they find us a bit odd, sometimes intimidating even. JRD doesn’t have that at all.
What stands out to me in this session is how many children ask questions of him. I can certainly see how Gimli is a favourite of children, but this huge man is quite a different matter, I should think, than the funny Dwarf in the film. But even if they are intimidated by him in the beginning, he has them giggling and wrapped around his finger by the end of it, doing the Gimli voice and joking with them.
Also, strangely, the underwear-question remains unasked in this Q & A…

Autographs are next, and the line moves slowly, since JRD takes his time for every fan. Simp, however, asks True, Cal and me along, since she is handicapped and therefore she and her party can go first. We follow her, and indeed get our stuff signed as some of the first.
JRD tries to read the first line of the chapter I ask him to sign, but only manages to decipher ‘Khazad-Dûm’, then says something in his Gimli voice which I don’t quite catch, sadly.
Then it’s more waiting, and the others go out for some lunch. I stay and hang about for a bit, chatting to whoever I recognise, and wandering around the dealer room a last time with True to take a look at the new Pippin statue by the Sideshow Stand, shamelessly begging for new (proper!) Merry, Frodo and Sam statues, and dropping by the small theatre for a bit to catch the beginning of ROTK and see the Saruman scene on the big screen.

We return exactly in time to catch the end of the auction, which is running overtime as could be expected, then watch Charles Ross do his One Man Lord Of The Rings Show.
Trust me, you have never seen anything like that before! There is this tall skinny fellow in a black suit, acting out the entire Trilogy, in one hour, on his own, including theme music, sound effect and all the actors’ different voices, accents and characteristics. Not without a huge amount of humour of course, like the side-splitting Pippin-Denethor sequence. And the Battle of the Pelennor Fields acted out by one man is something you have to see before you can believe it’s true.

Then, just like that, the convention is suddenly over. A few people are still standing in line to get their stuff signed by JRD, but most of them are slowly moving out of the theatre, and already the cleaners start their work. I go out to try and see if they put any stuff that has ORC 2005 on it on sale (being the genuine Dutchwoman that I am), but none now remains, it’s all been cleaned up already. To quote Laerindae: “it really is the End of all Things!”
A Fellowship of ten Fanclub Members decides to close the weekend off good and proper with a nice dinner, and so True, Laer, Simp, Prim, Bregalad, Indis, Elentari, Varda, Amane and myself (Cal unfortunately had to leave earlier) take the walk down the road to Shakers, the restaurant where we had that gorgeous breakfast this morning. We have a very enjoyable meal together, sit and talk for ages after, and toast many many times to all the things we are grateful for.

Then it is time for goodbyes, and with pain in our hearts we hug our friends and take our leave, climbing into Simp’s car and driving back to her house, where we each dive right into our bed/sofa/air mattress.
Sniff. ORC is over!