Tim Russ (trust me), Robert Beltran, Roxann Dawson, Robert Picardo, Robert Duncan McNeill, Aron Eisenberg, and Ethan Phillips at the 2001 Galaxy Ball, a fundraiser to benefit the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles, Doctors Without Borders, the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Wordbridge, and other charities.
On Saturday, November 10, 2001, actor Robert Beltran hosted the fourth annual Galaxy Ball a day-long fundraiser at the Sheraton Universal Hotel in Studio City, California. Part convention, part gala, the event benefited multiple charities selected by the actors who participated. Beltran’s charity, the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles was probably the most visible during the course of the event.The Convention:
The morning started off with four actors from Star Trek: The Next Generation: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton, and Jonathan Frakes. The big news from their talk was that Wil Wheaton will make an appearance in the upcoming TNG film, “Nemesis.” Also, Stewart mentioned that he was having dinner with William Shatner that night to discuss doing a sit-down conversation a la the one Shatner did with Leonard Nimory recently. Clearly the most comfortable and experienced convention speakers, these four did a virtual stand-up comedy routine for the majority of the segment before turning the floor over for questions.
Wil Wheaton is really charming and funny, and I was impressed by his thoughtful answers to questions. He made several jokes at his own expense (“Which one of the four of us doesn’t belong here?”) and plugged his self-created, self-maintained website,www.wilwheaton.net. I was also amused by the woman who pointed out to Patrick Stewart that he was driving his car behind her that morning and had rudely honked his horn at her when she and her sister were slow in making a turn.
It’s pretty clear (and understandable) that Brent Spiner is angry at the amount of detailed informaiton available about “Nemesis” on the internet. He asked one fan why anyone would want to have the ending of a movie spoiled in advance. When she answered that it was probably like a child who couldn’t resist peeking at their Christmas presents, he pointed out how disappointing Christmas actually is when you know what you’re getting…
Next up were Rene Aubergenois and Aron Eisenberg from Star Trek: Deep Space 9. I barely watched this show, but found both of these men funny, charming, and kind. Especially Rene, who, when asked a question by a fan with Down Syndrome, answered in a thoughtful, respectful, and easily-understood way. [Unlike some of the other actors who seemed to think these questions either amusing or silly.] Classy guy.
Finally, Robert Beltran (who had MC’d the entire event) announced that Tim Russ and Robbie McNeill wouldn’t be able to make the convention talk part of the event, but brought up to the stage Robert Picardo and Roxann Dawson. Unlike the TNG actors, who came prepared with stories to tell, the Voyager actors opened the floor for questions right away. The “news” from their conversation: Bob Picardo will be doing a guest spot on the sitcom “Frasier,” playing the head of a security agency where Fraiser’s father Martin goes to work. Roxann will be directing an episode of the Lifetime series “Any Day Now,” though she didn’t have more details to share.
Roxann talked about the experience of directing Enterprise’s recent episode, “The Andorian Incident.” She was very complimentary about the visual style and thematic direction the producers are trying to take, and talked about her concerns about the articulating antennae on the blue aliens. They had to be careful that the wiggling appliances looked natural and didn’t distract from the scene. She seemed very pleased with the way it came out. (As she should be; it was one of the better episodes so far!)
This was my first time seeing Robert Beltran at any great length, and I was really impressed by how funny and charming he was. He made a lot of jokes about being “The Most Hated Man in Star Trek,” and about the TrekBBS (which is full of chronic Beltran Bashers). He also kidded about how he and Garrett Wang will be working together again soon…he said he’d be doing Garrett’s web site (BahDUMbum!) and about how he ruined Trek for all Native American actors. (“They’ll never hire another one after all the trouble I gave them.”) He was also charitable when asked question after question about Kate Mulgrew and J/C. I was impressed; he held his tongue and was very kind. [But he did make a joke–I assume it was a joke–about how “Future’s End” was shot while he and Kate were “very, very, very close. Closer than anyone else in the cast knew…” Whether he was tweeking or confirming the ongoing “Beltrans and Mulgrew had an affair” rumors is anyone’s guess. And who cares; it was funny nonetheless.]
There were other funny moments: Roxann and Bob explaining that Beltran’s answering machine message has him pretending to forget his name (poking fun at his own tendency to forget his lines onVoyager), Roxann saying “I don’t DO anyone,” when Robert tried to get her to do an impression of Kate. They ended their segment by auctioning off the script to the Voyager episode “11:59.” In an attempt to raise the amount of the bids, Beltran and Roxann read a scene from the script, with Beltran doing Kate’s role. The biggest incentive to raise the bidding came, however, when Roxann pointed out that the call sheets in the package had the home phone numbers of several Trek insiders…
Afterward, I was standing in the lobby talking to Deb Stone, the sweetheart who runs Robert Duncan McNeill’s soon-to-be-defunct fan club, RanDoM Flight. I wanted to compliment her on the revamp of Robbie’s web site, which [was] classy and a huge improvement over the old version. She was sweet and hopes Robbie lets her keep the site going even after the club is officially closed. (Please check it out and let Deb know how much you like it. And, more importantly, let Robbie know what a good job she’s doing if you see him at public appearances…) ANYWAY, they were setting up for the autograph line, so I excused myself and turned around to leave, and almost walked into…Robbie McNeill, who had shown up in time for autographs. I literally almost smacked right into him since he was apparently coming up behind me as I turned to leave. After I wiped the stupid expression off my face, I politely excused myself and kept going…
The Gala Dinner & Auction:
The dinner event was held that same evening. I won’t go into detail about the interesting variety of clothing styles the fans chose that night, but I will say two things: 1) Men, you should NEVER wear a tie with a polo shirt, and 2) going to a semi-formal event with Star Trek fans gives a whole new meaning to “infinite diversity in infinite combinations…” We were very happy to be seated at a table with very nice J/C fans, all of whom seemed to come from Earth. (And all of whom graciously welcomed this lone P/Ter and her J/Cer sister to their ranks.)
Midway through dinner, Neil Norman and his Cosmic Orchestra (the official house band of the “Star Trek: Voyager” cast) played a set of mostly sci-fi themes. Then the real entertainment started. Ethan Phillips, who has been taking saxophone lessons for nine months, sat in with the band. Sort of. He literally pulled out his music stand and played “When the Saints Go Marching In” as he read the notes off sheet music. He wasn’t horrible and it was very cute.
Tim Russ was up next, and, as most people know, Tim is a real musician. Singer, songwriter, guitar player, two CD’s recorded. He’s the real deal, and his original songs are just beautiful. Ethan sat in on sax for the first song, then Tim did another few numbers just with the band. (Note: when we saw him in Las Vegas, Tim’s brother sang backup for him, and their talent runs in the family.) If you have a chance to see him play or to buy his CD, do it. One other note: Tim has shaved his head and grown a goatee, and looks WONDERFUL. And nothing like Tuvok. (Sadly, my pictures of him didn’t turn out…)
Robbie McNeill was next. First the perfunctory hair color report: it was shaggy and blond and looked great. (Robbie, Robert, and Garrett have all let their hair grow and they all look wonderful without the Starfleet military haircuts.) He performed three dance tunes, and was frustrated by the fact that Beltran wouldn’t let anyone dance! (For good reason, though; this part was supposed to be a concert, and dancers blocked the view of the people at the tables near the dance floor.) With McNeill’s encouragement, the crowd danced anyway, which is good because a middle aged guy singing “That’s the Way, Uh-Huh, Uh-Huh, I Like It” and “Play that Funky Music White Boy” while no one dances would have been a little strange… Later in the evening, he came back and sang Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” Beautifully, too. He’s not as polished a singer as Roxann or Tim, but he’s got a lovely tenor voice.
Roxann was next. With her tongue firmly in her cheek, she shared the “untold story” of what happened when Voyager returned from the Delta Quadrant. Apparently, says Roxann, Tom dumped B’Elanna with the baby and went off to have more adventures without her. So she dedicated her song, the disco hit “I Will Survive,” to Tom Paris. And she rocked! What a fabulous voice she has! (I know, I know: Broadway, “A Chorus Line,” but I was still very pleasantly surprised.)
Bob Picardo did two songs from his “Basic Bob” parody CD, including “Brother, Can You Spare A Con” and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” with updated lyrics about “Enterprise.” He joked that his mother said that no one could ever embarrass you publicly if you beat them to the punch… He said he wasn’t feeling well and had a sore throat, but you wouldn’t have known it from his performance.
Even though his performances were intersperced with the other actors’, I saved Robert Beltran for last because it was his event, and because I was so impressed by him. In addition to doing a great job hosting the entire day, Beltran added a level of depth to this event that was surprising considering the upbeat and often silly nature of the performances. My favorite moment of the entire night was when he sang Paul Simon’s “An American Tune,” which he said had taken on a special significance for him after the events of September 11. Not until he was singing it did I realize how appropriate and moving the lyrics really are. Of course, he also sang some Roy Orbison and some Elvis, and was funny as well as profound. But this is a man who takes an awful lot of abuse from Trek fans, and I was glad to find out that he isn’t the shallow jerk he’s often made out to be.
After each of the actors had his or her shot to solo, Tim Russ’s band played another set and ended by calling everyone up on stage. They sang “Love the One You’re With” to end the evening’s entertainment before starting the live auction.
After the last song, Beltran called Aron Eisenberg onto the stage to help out with the charity auction. Aron auctioned off the script to the TNG episode “The Measure of a Man.” Robbie helped out with the bidding, apparently concerned that Aron made a less than effective auctioneer. The script went for over $600 in the end, though. Robbie then auctioned off a Voyager script (though I can’t recall what episode) teasing Tim Russ for having mistakenly signed it twice. Afterward, Roxann auctioned off a tour of the “Angel” set, and the woman is incredibly effective at getting fans to cough up their money. (I think the tour ended up going for about $4200.) The last item up for bid was a tour of the “Enterprise” set, which–since it was for two instead of four people–only went for about $3500 (despite the fact that Roxann, who jumped in and took over from Bob Picardo and Ethan Phillips, promised the winner that they could sleep with Scott Bakula…)
The finale of the night was a performance by Robert’s brother, Louis Cruz Beltran and his wonderful band. We left just after the dancing started, but they were really great. A nice way to end the night.
Before we left, we heard that Garrett Wang had made an appearance in the lobby just as the entertainment was ending. Garrett looks like he hasn’t cut his hair since “Endgame,” and currenly sports a kind of David Cassidy-esque shag. It looks great, though.
A fan’s notes:
This was a great event. Unlike Creation and Slanted Fedora cons where you can feel like cattle, this was a classy, intimate and very nice affair. While I’m doubtful about whether the actors will be interested in doing this kind of event again (now that the show is off the air), I hope they do. And I’d recommend it to anyone who has had a bad convention experience. Not only does all the money go to charity, it’s a way to see your favorite Trek actors without spending a fortune, putting up with an insulting convention shark, or feeling like a lemming. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
P.S. – Apologies for the few and fuzzy pictures. 200 ASA film (and I KNOW better!) But the links above take you to sites with much better photos.