Ed Fornter (AMA chair and former long time Katsucon staff/volunteer) approached me at Katsucon a few months ago and said he heard Rob Lantz would be stepping down as emcee, and would I pweeease take his place? I said, "Sure." There was a little confusion whether he was actually stepping down or not, and I was led to believe he was not even in town, but later I found out he was just a little burned out by the same shtick year after year and wanted a break. I can relate; I have left previously fun and good jobs because of that. He was even in the audience when I did my joke about him, which was, "What happened to Rob, and boy, did he let himself go! One haircut and he turned into a fat Swede..."
I have to be honest, I had never done the official emcee for a cosplay masquerade before. I mean, I had stepped in as a helper, worked backstage with someone doing cosplay, hosted Opening Ceremonies at Katsucon, was a technical cosplay judge once, did cosplay halftime at Katsucon with "Whose Katsu is it Anyway?" and done costume calls, masquerades, and costume balls at MANY sci-fi cons (FanTek cons the longest running), but this was my first "in front of thousands" Cosplay I had ever done. I considered this my first "official anime con cosplay emcee" job. I felt I could do this with no sweat.
I consider myself both blessed and puzzled why I never get stage fright. I have even tried to "jinx it" by thinking about it a lot before going on stage. But the bottom line is I simply don't care that the audience is looking at me. Any attempt to think they are all looking at me, or I might mess up, or "what if my pants fall down?" doesn't even stick to my ego in any appreciable way. I am more concerned about making things go smoothly than all those people staring at me. When I try and think about it, I think, "Of course they are staring at me, I am in front of them and moving around!" The only butterflies I get is making sure I do a good job, don't miss cues, and make sure I am both polite and entertaining to the audeince and backstage alike. I also care about the audience and stage/tech crew a lot. I like letting people have fun. I think people thought I was nervous about being in front of those people, and any "naw, I'm okay" brushoffs were met with a hint of pity, like I was trying to convince myself I was going to be okay while I was really shitting my drawers.
On Thursday, however, it looked like I might not be able to make it at all. I had a lot of bad luck happen to me. Most of it minor stuff, but it was just so much at once, it was difficult to take it all in. There was work stuff, house stuff, a lot of stuff breaking on me.
Like my coffee maker, which was a Delonghi we got used off of eBay about 4 years ago. It had started leaking about a year ago, and so when I ran it, I'd always have a towel next to it where the coffee would leak out. I'd lose about 1-2 cups per 10 cups of brewing to the countertop, but last week, the glass carafe broke, and the replacement was like $40 online for that model. Hell with that, I'll get a new one for $30 at Wal-Mart. When I carried it down the stairs to toss it, some glass insulator slid out and shattered on the steps all over my bare feet. My foot was only a little cut, but when I say shattered, I mean the glass hit the edge of a step in such a way, it exploded into thousands shards no bigger than my fingernail, and mostly thin needle-width pins of glass ricocheted in all directions. And it was on the stairs, shot into the foyer, into the rec room below... I had to sweep everywhere to make sure none of those shards made it into someone's foot. In the process, I slit my thumb like a paper cut, which then got infected at AMA (but was cured, thanks to Beth and Morgan at medical). Two of my SETI machines died in a power surge, a tomato plant fell over (fixed), the clothes washer hose spring a leak (fixed), and so on and so on... lots of little stuff. But I digress.
The big worry was takayla's spine. She's got Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), and when it compresses on her spine, her feet curl up and get this horrible itching sensation. And we're not talking about a simple tickle, we're talking about the kind of sharp, jabbing itch that feels like it comes from inside the bones, and NOTHING will scratch it away. It's when her nerves get compressed, and then her back tenses, and her hips hurt, and she's just miserable and crying for the itching to stop. She can't sleep, and currently, attacks last about 2-3 days. These started late Tuesday, but thankfully for her, they stopped late Thursday night, with only one more minor bout Friday night. She would not have been able to drive, and thus she couldn't go, I'd have lost my ride, and that would have sucked for both of us.
We got there late Friday after dealing with terrible traffic. It was the first weekend after school let out, it was beach weather for the south, and it was a Friday before father's day. It took us nearly 5 hours of a normal 3-hour journey. We also got started late, and got trapped in traffic jams that forced us to an HOV lane, which was not only was slower, but we weren't allowed to be there, since it was HOV 3 and there were only 2 of us.
By the time we got to AMA, checked into our hotel, and got settled, it was nearly 9. I walked to the con, got badges, said my hellos to the various folks I knew, and joeanon introduced me to Tiki, who was in charge of cosplay. I have been told I met Tiki before, and I have no memory of it, which is probably my fault because I am really crappy with memory (part of the reason I do these reviews, to be honest). But in any case, she was awesome and completely in control, which made me feel at ease. I mean, I could have winged everything, but Tiki and her assistant Tiffany did all the hard work and let me concentrate on being myself and telling my terrible jokes.
The next day, I got there around noon, and sat through rehearsal. There were a few minor diva issues, but nothing too obnoxious. Tiffany was an excellent stage manager, and I watched her deftly work around certain people, and somehow cushion the verbal blows some cosplayers had over sound cues. Then I got some time off until about 5, when I got dressed in a smart black and red ensemble I threw together, and headed off to Cosplay.
People liked what I had on. I wore all black, except for my Converse Red and Black Zebra stripe Chucks and a dark red tie. I wish my tie was actually red and not maroon, but it was all I had. I wanted a red kerchief, too, but I didn't have time to get to a crafts store.
Tiki was waiting in the green room at 5:15, which we only had until 6:30 because the DDR tournament was moving in there. The Cosplay was supposed to start at 6:00, but as these things go, they didn't start until 6:15 or so. Tiki introduced me to the judges, who were very nice, and gave me some last minute announcements I had to make.
The lights dimmed, smoke was pushed out, and...
Okay, the only minor complaint I had was the smoke machine. When I got backstage and waited, I noticed the haze. I was where the guys doing the funny bumpers were controlling the big TV screens. "Is that a smoke machine?" I asked. "Yeah, I don't know where they came from, but LOOK!"
The thing about these machines that I had forgotten was they don't produce smoke, per se. They produce a very, very, very fine powder that acts like a smoke and I am sure is far safer. If they used a fog machine, the CO2 would have poured off the stage and killed everyone in the audience after a while. But being a very very very fine powder... and me being an asthmatic... we had some issues. Nothing worth a medical visit, but I had three things going against me: my asthma, the fact I had to run up and down 10 stairs for each entry, and the fact the smoke machine often blew in my face when I was going down the stairs. Within minutes, my tongue, nose, and thrat were very dry and I kept smelling talcum powder. Luckily, I had my inhaler, since right away when I saw what was coming. In addition, I must have chugged 4-5 bottles of water back there. Thankfully, a few stage hands and Doug and Alex (with Katsucon) helped me get some of that water. Next time, I am bringing a huge bottle, but Tiki told me next time the smoke machine was out of there, since it was bothering everyone.
Rob Lantz left some big shoes to fill. Already, the cosplay team was so used to him, Tiffany said teased and mocked him onstage, and would I be okay with that?
Damn straight, sister. Bring it ON!
Sadly, if they did this, I was completely oblivious. No one tossed a single thing at me (as Tiffany diplomatically brought up would likely happen). There was an in-joke about the lack of a hotel podium, which was also an in-joke with the FanTek Costume Calls way back when. When Adrienne took over as emcee at FanTek, she often took some hapless young handsome man from the audience and with a smarmy dominatrix humor, would order him around to hold onto her notes and only address him as "podium." I later found out Rob was famous for his Jack Sparrow impersonation, which the audience loved. I... have no imitations. I did a fake "Brothers and sisters of anime, can I hear a Ramen???" Evangelist joke, but I didn't keep the character out of fear I was IN the south and who knows if Redneck Otaku Bubba would be waiting for me outside.
I had already preped a few bits I jotted during the rehearsal. I think they mostly went over well. Since the Taiko drum team has two small kids on the staff, we were told to keep it PG rated or lower, unless the ineuendo would be WAAAAAAAY over their heads. I think I did okay with a joke about gay fan fic which had previously been alluded to in a skit ("I don't come on stage and make fun of YOUR fan fic! I am famous on the Internet, you know. I wrote, 'Totoro: My Big Bear Lover!') or after one skit I said I felt funny in a "bad touch" way, and needed a grownup to "explain it all away for me."
At one point, I was approached by a guy backstage who said he had some security announcements. I looked at him with one raised eyebrow, but he showed me his badge to assure me he wasn't some clown with a Luddite menifesto I was to read onstage. It seems that some clown was mass-making counterfeit badges, and that security was doing a badge check as people LEFT cosplay, and to let people know this was mandatory. The badges were done on glossy paper covered over an older plastic badge. From a distance, they looked real. In fact, if it wasn't for some dumbass who put hers through the wash and showed up with it soggy, it may never have been found out. Hah! Moron...
When the Masquerade ended, the Taiko drum band set up while Hall Costume awards were presented. Some of those costumes were jaw-dropping awesome. Seriously. The Ironman suit, especially, for those who saw that one. Then the Taiko drum band started. which seemed a little smaller than I expected: 3 people. In fact, it was only one creepy older guy with a ponytail and two kids. But they were incredible. Those of you mental patients who left after masquerade deserve never to hear such awesomeness. After that, the judges had made their decisions, and we gave out awards. With us was Yunmao Ayakawa.
More on Yunmao... I met her in the dealer's room Saturday, and boy, is she one tiny person. Even with those platform heels, she was barely 5 feet tall. So who was she? I was told Yunmao Ayakawa is an "international professional Cosplayer" (how does one get that gig?), model, actress, artist, and journalist with Otaku Magazine. But her biggest claim to fame was she was from the Akihabara region of Tokyo with worldwide fame as the spokeswoman and authority on cosplay and the vastly growing Maid Idol industry (as Tenbu describes her). Yeah. Now, everyone said she was having a really great time, but she had this look on her face like she was a Stranger in a Strange Land. She did not speak a word of English. Like a professional, she had a very "on stage" face, but below the surface, she seemed a little panicked. Those close to her said this was not the case. But she was on stage with me and the judges, helping present the awards, and twiring her leek like Orihime Inoue from "Bleach." On Sunday, she seemed to unwind with a deejay of sorts in the vendors room, and so maybe I read her wrong.
Okay, off topic: can we get with the program and decide on what to call the big room with people who sell stuff? Every con calls it differently: Hucksters, Dealers, Vendors, or Merchants Room. Some cons call it one thing in the program book, another on the banner outside the door, and maybe even another on the web site. I get so confused!
Back on topic. Exhausted, after the Cosplay ended, I crashed a little in medical to speak with some friends, Beth and Morgan, who have two adorable kids. After that, I went back to my hotel and back to bed.
Sunday, I hung out at the Katsucon table with takayla, Luke, and kaiotte. Then we started back home and crashed. Not more than 24 hours later, so did the metro train I take every day. I missed that exactly train by 5 minutes, folks.