BOTCON 2009: Thunder’s Tale of Lightning Striking Twice...

By Tony “Thunder” Klepack

Day 1 (Monday)

            This year was my longest BotCon trip yet, starting out on the Monday before the actual convention (aka Memorial Day). Usually Memorial Day in the U.S. and Victoria Day in Canada are the same day but this time Victoria Day was a week earlier for some reason.

            Anyway, I got up about 4:30 AM and gathered up my belongings for the trip. The plane didn’t actually leave until 8 AM but you’re supposed to be there two hours ahead of time to check-in, clear security, clear customs and clear your name. Typically, this means you get there so early, go through the system in ten minutes and have two more hours to sit there and stare at the walls (nicely decorated walls, mind you, but still). The U.S. Customs guy asked if I was a criminal or not and I told him no–I’m pretty sure he was kidding though (apparently Homeland Security has my fingerprints on file, so who knows...)

            The plane we boarded was small and cramped (a CRJ-7, I think). Fortunately, the flight wasn’t full so the guy beside me got to sit across the aisle instead and I got the two seats to myself instead (I love it when that happens!)

            The flight attendant was offering headsets for $3 but rushed by me too quickly for me to get a pair so I had to ask her again when she was offering the drinks and snacks. I’m like, “bitch! Get me some headphones or I’ll lay the smack down on your ass!” and she’s all “yes, sir! Right away!” You gotta be tough with these people...

            This was my first time on Air Canada since they started using these new personal entertainment system gizmos. I had a selection of movies, TV, music, etc. to choose from. I picked Revolutionary Road and watched it. It was a boring movie in places and I kept wondering why the couple didn’t just get a divorce already since they were always fighting. Kate Winslet’s other movie from last year, The Reader, is way better then this (tighter story and more involving. Plus she gets nekkid in it! Sweet!)

            I got to LAX about two and a half hours later... the flight down and baggage check stuff went smoothly (actually, I almost overlooked my bag the first time around–it’s newer and I wasn’t certain it was mine at first until I went over and checked the name tag).

            I haven’t been to LAX or the Los Angeles area since 1998 and BotCon 98 (my first one ever). I’m pleased to say the signage situation has improved since my first venture there–the shuttles, cabs and buses and their stops are much better marked out now, including which bus/shuttle stops where. In short, it’s harder to get confused. But I decided to try my best anyway... my email for the Prime Time shuttle got cut off when I printed it and I was unclear what I was doing. Due to dumb luck, I found an agent out on the pick-up area and he called the van for me.

            The Prime Time driver picked me up as well as another guy at another door and another guy too. This van was for Pasadena specifically (they had others going other places too) but for some reason the one guy needed dropped off at an apartment in downtown LA. Problem: This was Memorial Day and they close down a lot of the downtown for the Memorial Day Marathon. We got downtown as best as possible and let him off a couple of blocks away from his destination while skilfully avoiding the remnants of the Marathon (it had just ended and the place was crowded with people, cars, cops and barricades). I also saw the famous Biltmore Hotel on the way out (they filmed some of Ghostbusters there, among other things). Apparently, the Marathon was won by this guy who was originally from Kenya (in case you care). 

            I had ordered Prime Time to take me to the Pasadena Hilton on the website. It occurred to me as we drove that maybe I should’ve asked if he could amend that to the Super 8 instead–but he had another customer and I had no idea how flexible he could or would be about such things. So I got dropped off at the Hilton (even though my reservation didn’t kick in until Tuesday). I asked if they could get me a cab but one of the valet guys offered to shuttle me over there instead–it was a slow day due to the holiday and he was looking for an excuse to get out anyway, he said. We talked about Transformers along the way and the guy seemed interested in them (or perhaps he was just pretending to be? I dunno).

            The Super 8 was quite a bit east of the convention area–about thirty two blocks by my estimation but the rates were half the cost of the official hotels. If they had been even half as far away, I would’ve roomed there for the Con instead. As it was, it was too far away to be practical...

            The motel was about what I’d expected from the pics and reviews online (i.e. iffy). There was one ice machine (it didn’t work); the bed was as hard as a rock. The TV set wasn’t very good (the remote didn’t work properly. The channel up/down buttons were useless). Plus, no free internet either (disgusting!) In its defence, the place did have a nice view of the mountains in the background and a nice outdoor swimming pool.

            There was a Target two blocks away from the motel so I went over there and looked around. Not much for TFs, but did have G.I.JOE stuff, such as a “Resolute” toy set plus X-30 fighter exclusive, Rattler exclusive and Tiger Force Rattler too. I also found my IBC Cream Soda there and bought a six pack (got some last year in Montana too).

            I went to Subway and bought myself a sub for supper. These ones have more cheeses then the ones in Canada do (shredded cheese and pepper jack). They also seemed to have some toppings the likes of which I’ve never seen at a Subway before.

            Slept a little while then took a dip in the swimming pool. My first time in a pool for a long time (about nineteen years). I was a bit rusty but it was fun all the same. My contacts will stay on under water (always wondered about that). Also, nose was stuffy from allergies so it was a bit harder to breath then normal.

            I walked around the area and explored a bit. I saw a local Denny’s, local 7-11 (bought a crummy Slurpee there. They had the TF straws there for the new movie and little Slurpee cups w/TF characters on them too (I bought neither). There were some other hotels and shops of moderate interest as well.

            Since it was a holiday and I wasn’t sure what was and wasn’t open, I didn’t get too adventurous that first day/night.

Day 2 (Tuesday)

            Got up at 7 AM, had shower. While drying off from the shower, I overheard a TV commercial on the Cartoon Network for something called “BotCon” that weekend at the Pasadena Convention Center.

            I Went a few blocks down to Denny’s and had breakfast. It was Slam-erific! :)

            Walked down past Target looking for a smoke shop but it was closed when I got there (this was about 8:45 AM. No hours listed on the shop either so I had no idea if they opened at 9 or what).

            I checked out Target again and looked at those alluring G.I.JOE planes again but decided to pass on them (I don’t have enough room at home as it is). Bought extra batteries for the camera instead.

            I took some pics of the local area and carried on five long blocks up from the motel to buy a carton of smokes at Captain Tobacco’s. (My friend Art likes this American brand that we have trouble getting up here).

            I got back to the motel and called a cab to take me to Anaheim–and Disneyland! The cab there was preposterously expensive (119.05 or something). The cab back was 125! Ouch! (I’d figured about $50 or so originally. Even the estimate on the phone was about $80).

            The place I’d always assumed was the parking lot to Disneyland was apparently actually the entrance! (It has places for tour buses, etc. to park though).

            After standing in a long line for tickets, I got inside Disneyland and went on Star Tours right off the bat. The ride was fun overall but the video taped bits seemed dated–especially the woman guide as you get into the machine (hairdo from 1986, anyone?)

            I also tried out the Innoventions attraction, which was okay but not revolutionary like they try to make out. Went on Pirates of the Caribbean later on too... not as exciting as I’d hoped either. It was okay and cool in places though.

            I also checked out some of the myriad souvenir shops too but bought nothing. I briefly investigated the California Adventure theme park too but found it not as exciting. Also, by that point I was way too hot and my feet were killing me so my enthusiasm was waning.

            I also discovered that it’s hard to find bathrooms in Disneyland! They must be there but they’re not well marked out for some reason (you’d think they would be, but no).

            After Disneyland, I walked around the main drag of Anaheim and saw our BC98 hotel (the Marriott) from afar as well as the convention center and visited the 7-11 from that trip too (they have normal doors now. They used to have sliding ones–I remember that because it was the only 7-11 I’ve ever been in that did).

            It all seems like they’ve built the area up a bit more now then it was 11 years ago. There’s still more hotels, shops and restaurants somehow... the old favorites are there–Denny’s, McDonald’s, etc. But I don’t recall the two IHOPs from back then, among other things.

            I stopped and had lunch/supper at an IHOP there (the closer one to the park). We don’t have them where I live (BC does, but that’s still a 12 hour drive so no thanks).

            Afterward, I called the cab and waited for an hour for him to navigate there. Took another 45-ish minutes for him to get me back to my hotel (Super 8). I paid $125 this time and he told me if I needed anymore help at all getting around to just call him and let him know–yeah, right.

            Once back, I gathered up my belongings and called a new cab company to take me over to the Hilton downtown. We saw some kind of protest along the way–they were chanting for equal rights. I think it was a gay rights thing as one person I saw had a rainbow flag with them. Later on at the hotel, I saw them on the street below marching along (the hotel was some six or eight blocks further away from the original site).

            I sought out the theater over at the Paseo Colorado and saw Terminator Salvation that night. It was pretty good–much more so then I’d expected. I still think Cameron’s movies are the best but this one was good and easily surpassed T3.

            It was also the first time I’ve ever been in a “Pacific Theater”. Big damn theater (there was about 32 of us watching the 8:05 PM show but the place could’ve easily held about 150). The seats are big and nice, plenty of leg room and fold-up arms with drink holders. Apparently free refills on drinks too!

            For Tuesday and Wednesday especially, my feet were really killing me...these new shoes sucked big time! The insoles were terrible–I eventually went Wednesday and got some band aids and insoles at the Target (there was another one downtown, closer to the new hotel).

Day 3 (Wednesday)

            I got up about 7AM and started getting ready, even though the tour wasn’t until 8:45AM.

            I went to find the Convention Center and went the wrong way, going all the way around the Paseo until I located the rear/side of the Convention Center on the far street. Came back later and waited with the rest of the large tour group.

            I saw a few familiar faces. Brandie Tarvin and Kendrick Lu as well as Simon Barlow and a couple of other people I know by sight. A guy was handing out frisbees to promote his website and I got one (his website is btw).

            We left around 9AM and there were two buses this time. I sat with Simon on the way down. I told him I saw Terminator Salvation and liked it. We also discussed season three of Animated, which I haven’t seen most of yet.

            We got to Universal Studios Hollywood and entered with no problem. Apparently, the park wasn’t quite open yet–it opened at 10 AM and we had to wait for a little prerecorded “Action” message before we could proceed (it’s done like a film starting up. “Cue the lights, cue the camera, etc, etc. Action!”). Cute, I guess...

            My first ride was the studio tour... that was interesting. We saw the street set for Desperate Housewives, the plane wreck from War of the Worlds, cars from The Fast and the Furious as well as the buildings housing many of the shows they tape there–Ghost Whisperer, Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien (which hadn’t technically started yet), etc.

            Some of the tour has props to enhance the experience, like a Mummy tunnel, collapsing bridge, disaster subway set, actor playing Norman Bates, etc. Entertaining...

            The studio’s back lots streets are named after famous people. I saw Steven Spielberg St. and Bob Marley Ave too (and probably others I can’t recall now).

            Next up, was Terminator 2 3-D. A 3-D show where you watch Cyberdyne start to unfurl some new technology, including primitive Terminators. Sarah and John show up then to stop it, as does the T-1000 and T-800. Then, we go into the future and blow up Skynet nice and proper. Not bad for what it was... the exit leads you down into a Terminator-themed souvenir shop (apparently, the shop had one Binaltech Arcee there–one lucky fan on my bus back found it).

            I also went to Shrek 4D, which was conceptually quite similar to the T2 show ( but a bit better. It had slight spray effects, wind gusts and rocking chairs too).

            I went on the Studio Special Effects show (second to last thing in my day) and watched a cheesy “how they do it” show. The presenters were quite comical.

            I stopped at the Jurassic Park themed restaurant and had chinese food for lunch (Panda Express). It was all fine except for the constant looping JP music, which got annoying fast (also, a little bird flew through the place).

            Also, looked at the Universal Studios props/history display, which wasn’t big or terribly interesting (it needed more interactivity, I think).

            I went through a haunted house show, which was okay but too dark to easily see in. I did a good scare at least once though.

            I saw the Waterworld show too... was disappointed. I only got slightly sprayed once (it was so hot out!) The show was a bit lame otherwise, imo (kinda like the movie was–so they did a great job capturing that aspect of it!)

            My last thing of the day was attending the Backdraft exhibit, where you’re in a building that catches fire. It was kinda lame, to be honest (there’s no real sense of danger to it).

            I went to Cinnabon during the day and had a bun too. It was good but I’ve had better before...

            We were there eight long hours and my feet continued to kill me the whole time. They did have well marked out washrooms (unlike Disneyland). The park has several “cooling stations” set up, which are fans that spray water (as mist). This was an excellent idea on someone’s part and I used them regularly. A better set-up overall, in my opinion.

            When we got back, I went to the local Target (go to the Colorado Blvd. and walk down four blocks). Picked up band aids, in-soles and scissors for my feet. I also stopped and had a personal pan pizza at the Pizza Hut Express at Target. They also had a Starbucks there too.

            Later, I stumbled over to the convention center and got my toy package. The organizers had an idea this year to not have people inspect their sets at the table, in order to save time. A great idea, in theory, but it really didn’t work as the wait was just as long as ever.

            As usual, they didn’t do a good enough job separating off the various lines and it was somewhat confusing. Where exactly was the VIP/Dealer line, anyway? Many came, many were confused

Day 4 (Thursday)

            They gave me a final receipt in the middle of the night, which confused me. I realized after looking closely that it was for “916" instead (I was in 918). I took the invoice over to the right room and gave it to the guy.

            I got up at about 6 AM to get ready for the day. Got ready and came down at 7:30 AM, reaching the tour meeting in time for 7:40 AM. Got checked in (i.e. name badge and crossed off a list).

                We didn’t get under way until about 9 AM. Not sure what the hold up was (our tour guide was late? Someone was missing?) We drove by Forest Lawn Mortuary in Hollywood Hills and our tour guide pointed it out along with several other sites along the way. 

            Next, we went to old Hollywood and looked around. Graumann’s Chinese Theater; the Walk of Fame (apparently, everyone who is remotely a celebrity has a star here); went to the Kodak theater (where they hold the Oscars every year), etc.

            After the theaters, I saw the Guinness Records museum (boring!) and then went on to the Wax Museum across the street (I liked the wax museum better–it was just more interesting).

            I hadn’t eaten yet, so I stopped at the McDonald’s there and had a Big Mac and fries. This restaurant had a sign about staying max thirty minutes (basically, eat and then get the hell out of here!) and also a sign detailing the McNugget sauce policy (how anal!) Apparently that location also doesn’t believe in Ketchup–I saw none anywhere. They also had some token film reel decorations and star pics there to fit the theme of the area but nothing of great relevance.

            I stopped at a local souvenir shop and bought two key chains before heading down across the street to check out my first ever Virgin Mega Store, which appears to be in the process of being closed out. If you can’t make it there, where can you? (They really had nothing of interest there I couldn’t get anywhere else though).

            In front of Graumann’s, there was a couple of guys giving out/selling their rap CD to people (no thanks) as well as several people dressed as Hollywood characters–Michael Keaton’s Batman, Heath Ledger’s Joker and a couple of others.

            We all returned to the bus eventually and went on the Farmer’s Market after and had lunch. I went to Johnny Rocket’s and had a burger there (didn’t need it that badly, but...) I looked around the vast network of stores there afterward then retreated to the bus. Eventually, the others returned too. Matthew Griffin mentioned how he and another fan went to the K-Mart next door... I saw it on the way in but didn’t realize it was so close (I was tired) or I would’ve killed some time going there too. Oh well...

            We drove around more and saw Sunset Boulevard and Beverly Hills. The tour guide, John, pointed out various points of interest here and there (including the front of the club where River Phoenix died). We had trouble parking in Beverly Hills (lots of traffic for some reason) and finally settled on a location where we could only remain for about fifteen minutes. We never saw any stars anyway.

            On the way into Beverly Hills, we saw a restaurant staked out by cameras/paparazzi, likely waiting for some star or the other. No idea who, though...

            Also, before we parked, I saw this blonde chick in a funky (patterned) dress, who seemed to stop and almost pose as she walked by the bus (we were at a stop light). It was weird and kind of funny... if I’d been thinking, I would’ve got a picture of her.

            Later on, we stopped at LeBrea Tar Pits and looked around quickly. I bought a key chain from the museum there. Also, the pop machines there are set up to accept credit cards (oddly) although that function wasn’t working when we were there.

            Toured downtown LA, seeing the sights. Wondered at that point when the hell we were ever coming home–I was getting tired of sitting and some of the other fans wanted to get back to the convention center too. This didn’t seem to phase John (or he didn’t hear it. Not sure). We finally did return at 5:50 PM (we were supposed to be back at 5 originally). There was already a line-up outside the convention center.

             I came back to the hotel for about an hour to just rest up after my long day. I knew the hour wouldn’t make all that much difference as far as the lines were concerned anyway.

            I got over to the convention center about 7:10 PM finally and waited in the credit card line until 10:30 to get my toys but finally did. I talked to a couple behind me as well as this woman who was a teacher of some kind (I saw her about four more times that weekend, even though I don’t know her name). Came back too late to be able to get supper anywhere. The cash line moved just as slowly...

            These toys, of course, were the Sweeps 3-pack (recolored Cyb Sideways). Banzaitron (recolored Energon Mirage), Skyquake (recolored Energon Starscream) and Elita One (recolored Thunderblast) as well as Razorclaw (recolored Leobreaker). I also got the blue BotCon shirt and the black TF 25th anniversary one. As well as the 25th Anniversary print Milne did (not as impressive as last year’s ones). I bought a second copy of the TF comic/programme to send along to my friend as well.

            While waiting around, I saw Tony Tuski and Rose Ward in the cash line as well as Tim Finn milling about.

Day 5 (Friday)


            I slept in until about 8AM and finally got up and showered.

            Went over to the Subway on Colorado Blvd. and had one of their breakfast subs (a first for me). I put two packs of hot sauce in with it and liked it overall.

            I went over to the end of the TCC and Comic Q&A panel. No idea what went on there...

            The next panel was “The Music of Transformers Bush/Dicola”. Mostly a question and answer panel... Stan’s got a new album coming out in summer, I believe, while Vince’s next thing should be ready by about the end of the year. Not much of interest otherwise (that I can recall anyway).

            “Cartoon Network Animating Animated” was the next panel... two producers (Derek Wyatt and...???), Marty Isenberg, two artist/designer chicks (one was cute!) and two other guys. I don’t recall much useful information from this panel either....

            “Transformers movie Q&A” panel with Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci. Both seemed like nice guys and answered questions... I hated all the sucking up questions with people telling them how awesome the TF movie and/or ST was. I felt like going up there and telling them I hated both (but resisted). I left about ten minutes early from this panel to go for lunch. Saw Tim Finn sitting there on the way out (I saw Tim a lot during BotCon but never really talked to him).

            Walked over to Target and had a small pizza for lunch. Also picked up some more band-aids for my feet. Snapped some buildings pics on the way back too.

            Came back to my room for a little while then returned to the convention center where the Private Preview thing was under way.

            They had two prototype Unicrons at the Hasbro booth! One in robot mode and the other in planet mode, alongside the Armada Unicron. I never realized there was more then one before... cool!

            There’s apparently a Soundwave reissue coming with Laserbeak, Buzzsaw, Ratbat and Ravage. Neat-o! There’s many, many movie toys–some cool, some not. Also, some grey prototype TFs on display too.

            At some point during the day, I bought TFU Ratchet (got the American one but could’ve bought the Jap one). Also bought Henkei Optimus Prime (saw no domestic ones around). Bought the Encore cassette set too–$35 at TFSource was the best deal I’ll likely find on it.

            Later on, I talked to Rose (in her Baroness costume) and Tony. I talked mostly to Rose this time and she said how she’d liked my novella, etc. and how one of her friends wanted a copy too. I tried several times throughout the weekend to give her a copy but never succeeded.

            I got two Movie toy posters from the Hasbro booth as well as a couple of copies of the free TF comic they were handing out (all IDW had for exclusives was some special movie adaption cover and since I don’t collect those, I skipped it).  

            Went back to the hotel... then over to Subway and had a meatball sub for supper (ate half and saved the other for sat. morning breakfast).

            I came back to the convention center and waited while the line for the TF Film Festival formed. I sat on the side lines until the line drained into the panel room then just marched on in (that’s the right way to navigate a line at BotCon, baby!) The movies were okay. TFs vs. Mr. Potatohead, TFs vs. Barbie (same people, I think), some cheesy “Megatron Goes Green” (no one got it or liked it), TFs. Vs. My Little Pony teaser (pointless) and “Transformers: Generation One” (Dr. Smoov. A serious short with mostly Alternator toys animation, ironically). G1 won by a landslide (ironically, I would’ve preferred a comical short from Dr. Smoov, but no...) Also, some guy did a cheesy BC08 retrospective thing, interviewing himself and with plenty of still pics of the show. Then ended with proposing to his girlfriend at the show in the present–she said yes. (Hoo-ray?! I guess it beats doing something truly romantic...)

            During the evening, we also got a DVD set feature, a Stan Bush video for the new Touch (same thing going around Youtube) and Dicola’s new music thing (interesting). Two Hasbro toy ads as well...

            I left before the MSTF thing at 10 PM. It’s essentially the same thing every year anyway so I didn’t feel like watching another session. I also missed some TF documentary preview thing at 12 AM. I think this is the same documentary they were filming of the convention while we were there (but I’m not certain).


Day 6 (Saturday)


            I got up and went to the dealer room (I dressed first, though). Got several pics of the Hasbro booth. I also decided to grab an MP Grimlock ($165 at TFSource) and later in the day I went back for a Classics 2.0 Smokescreen toy too (I figured what the heck). In retrospect, I wished I’d looked around for a Henkei Red Alert... (not sure if anyone had one or not, but I could’ve added him to the collection easily).

            Talked to the DVD booth lady and asked if the season sets will be out all together or half seasons... she tentatively believes they’re full seasons (which is cool. I hate half season sets when other shows can do whole seasons and not gouge the consumer).

            Went to the IDW comic panel at 10 AM. Not terribly informative... All Hail Megatron Coda will now be AHM #13-#16 instead of a separately numbered spin-off (at least, I think that was the original plan?) They had nothing about what’s coming next in the main universe except that they’re going to “switch things up” a bit to keep things fresh.

            After the panel, I went over to talk to Nick Roche. I was going to ask if he remembered me or not but he did before I could even ask. We chatted about the IDW comics, G.I.JOE, other artists they have and Doctor Who briefly before he had to go (he drew a fanzine cover for me in the nineties and collected some of my fanzines but we fell out of touch with the advent of the internet).

            I skipped the “Activision Transformers in Video Games” panel since I didn’t care much for their video game anyway. Also, how much useful information could they really give us anyway?

            I went for lunch instead at this Mexican restaurant over at the Paseo Colorado called Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill. The food was pretty good and it was a welcome break from subs or pizza.

            Came back in time for the Weird Al and David Kaye Animated panel. It was fun... we got to see Kaye’s teen daughter (cute little thing). She asked the second last question–about how he reacted to all the fame he got at conventions, I believe.

            Hasbro held their panel next for two hours. It was okay but there weren’t too many great revelations. They plan a new cartoon for the Hasbro/Discovery Kids channel (as I’d expected). Perceptor and the Insecticons will be reissued to Toys R Us–as I’d heard from some other fans yesterday, I think. A new movie-style Voyager Bludgeon is on the way... Arcee Animated, Ironhide Animated, etc. Domestic MP Skywarp. Not much revolutionary really. Also, when asked about the unofficial add-ons, Greg Lombardo said Hasbro doesn’t appreciate all these things getting released without their permission and what was once a cool thing is starting to really become a nuisance to them (I wonder if a crackdown is far behind? I think he’s annoyed they’re planning unofficial TF toys).

            I went back to the hotel for a little bit and missed the Collectors Club Roundtable panel. But got back in time for the tail end...

            I saw the Crimson Twins, Cobra Commander and the Baroness exit the Hilton as I arrived. I yelled “Hail Cobra!” as I passed, to which they replied. ;-) Strangely, I never saw them around the show again...

            The next panel was Peter Cullen’s panel. A lot of people wanted him to autograph something, quote something in his Prime voice or just hug him. I quipped that he should’ve charged people for all of those–he could’ve made a fortune! (I was half tempted to get in line and ask him if I could borrow twenty bucks). The panel room wasn’t nearly as crowded as it was that time in BC06 (Lexington) although there were still a fair amount of people there.

            Went to my hotel and rested for a while. Changed shirts and caught up on some things...

            Started off for trip to Paramount and discovered I’d nearly forgotten my ticket! Quickly rushed back to my room and retrieved it. As it turned out, Rik Alvarez (in charge of our bus) barely glanced at our tickets anyway when we got on the bus and no one at Paramount ever looked at them.

            We were supposed to leave at 7:15 PM... the line reached around the corner of the block and then some. After an additional 35-40 minutes of waiting, our buses finally arrived and we got onboard.

            We arrived at Paramount after our driver took us everywhere else along the way–past the Hollywood Amphitheatre, past Universal Studios and past old Hollywood (I’m not kidding!) Not sure if he didn’t know where the hell he was going or was taking the only route he could.

            We razzed Alvarez a bit on the way down. He was telling us how he’s married to a doctor and how she went and fixed their driveway or something (I guess he’s not man enough to know how to do it himself).

            Got to the studios... the lot has a lot of really old classic style buildings there. They appear to be real, full-on buildings (not just mock fronts). There was supposed to be tours of the compound too but until the end of the party, I saw nothing happening on that front (not sure why. Also, it was dark, so why even bother with tours then?)

            We listened to Bush/Dicola play their stuff for a while as we ate dinner. Dinner was smorg style like last year... and like last year, hard to get food as the locusts ahead of us cleaned out a lot of the first wave of food. I ate part of a veggie burger and later some chicken burger–never did get any damn beef though.

            I inquired at one empty table if the seat was taken and the lone woman said they all were. As usual, apparently everyone can take up a table then run off to watch the concert while keeping their place. I asked the woman why she wanted to play me like that then slapped her silly and sat down anyway.

            The blue bracelets went to the theater to watch something to do with the new movie. I sought out Rosemary and she was talking to Stan Bush. I introduced myself to him and shook hands. I told him I liked his new version of The Touch even though some didn’t seem to.

            Also saw Weird Al nearby. Shook his hand and told him I was a big fan. Told him I’d love to see him make another movie someday and he agreed but said something like someone would have to let him... He walked away–I think he was getting ready to leave soon. I called out after him that I had twenty million burning a hole in my pocket but sadly he didn’t bite. Oh well, maybe next time?

            Those of us with yellow bracelets got our turn to go to the theater and see the new movie thing. While there, we had to surrender our cameras/phones, which I did (under duress. I took out as many guards as I could but in the end there was just too many). We went into the theater where Greg Lombardo told us we’d see the trailer in great sound (say what?)–but he was interrupted by the arrival of Michael Bay, who told us we’d really see some scenes from the movie (the he blew up. True story). We saw a scene with Devastator forming and another with Bumblebee fighting off two Decepticons in the desert.

            It was fairly short (five minutes, maybe) and I was first up and out of the theater and got my stuff back... a commentary on what I thought of the film? ;)

            We returned for more concert, some contest announcements (who won the art contests and such) and the night was finally over. It seemed like now the studio tours were happening–they didn’t seem to happen the rest of the night but when we were ready to leave. Lots of good that did us...

            I climbed a bus at random and saw Nick Roche nearby and others. I sat with some guy from northern Ireland (I forget what he said his name was. Let’s call him Tipsy McStagger) who rambled for some time about this and that–politics, Germans, etc. (I think he was a wee tipsy).

            We got off the bus and I noticed some fans from the other buses had posters. I asked some woman at the far bus where they got them and she said you had to get them off your bus–even though no one offered me one or suggested they even had any. She was guarding a box of about six of her own. I assume some people got one or more and others, like me, got zip.


Day 7 (Sunday)


            Got up a little later... still having trouble really getting a good night’s sleep here for some reason (usually by this time in a trip I can sleep okay).

            Waited until I knew the Dealer Room was open then took my extra toys over to ship off. This proved more challenging then expected but I managed okay. When I got there, the line was bad and I stood for about ninety minutes in line before finally getting through–at which point I was told I’d have to come back in about 30 minutes or so because main store was closed and they weren’t sure how much to charge me to ship it to Canada (I have never, ever had this problem before).

            I had missed two panels already on account of this so I walked over to Target and bought myself some pizza for lunch. I ate one there and brought the other back for later (personal pan size).

            I came back and it still took them another 10 minutes of pissing around to finally take my credit card and charge me for my package ($81 priority mail).

            I scanned the dealer room a couple more times but the crowds were terrible (usually by Sunday they’ve died off but there was a lot of walk-ins this year, apparently). I did pick up Stan Bush’s CD though.

            I attended about half of the G1 writers panel. They sounded like a fun bunch–even twenty years later reminiscing fondly about their show.

            Attended the 3 PM drawing for the free trips. Two Asian guys won it... oh well. It’s not like I can say I’ve never won it or anything (I won it in 05, in case you’ve forgotten).  

            Went to see Night at the Museum 2 that evening (enjoyed it) then went to Subway and grabbed a sub for supper. Rose had mentioned something about her, Tony, Austin and others going for supper–but I don’t know if I was invited or not (she never clearly said one way or the other) so I just went with my movie plan instead. I had mentioned to them that I might go over to their hotel (the Sheraton) and give them a copy or two of my book, but then I didn’t know if they’d be there or out or whatever and I was too tired and sore to bother at that point in the evening.


Day 8 (Monday)


            Went to bed late the last night and had trouble sleeping. Got up about a half an hour earlier then needed, assembled my stuff and was ready.

            Went downstairs about an hour early (bored) and waited for my shuttle to arrive. He came about 6:40 AM and I got onboard. We had to wait for another TF fan who was coming from the Hilton as well (no one I knew though).

            Got to the airport, checked in and went through security with no problem. Got a so-so overpriced sandwich at this deli place (I was hungry). Ate most of it... Prior to buying the sandwich, I went to “I Love LA” and bought mom and myself LA t-shirts! Finally! Also got myself a LA keychain too.

            Sat and waited around for a couple of hours until the plane was ready to board.... almost nodded off several times while waiting.

            Watched The Wrestler on the way home. A good movie with an ambiguous ending...

            Got home, cleared customs. Got my car and went home.

(End transmission)



General Miscellaneous Comments: This was my seventh BotCon convention overall but the very first one to take place in the same general area as a previous one (I’m talking about Anaheim, of course. The site of the very first BC I ever attended... Pasadena is some distance away but still in Greater Los Angeles). This is likely to be my final BotCon so the location was fitting...(well, final one for the foreseeable future anyway. Never say never, I guess). It’s just too damned expensive for me to go every year and that rush of excitement really isn’t there anymore for me. I still love going–but I don’t feel like I must go so much or my life will be utterly ruined by missing the experience (if that made any sense). It was great to see the sights of Los Angeles this time around since my first BotCon didn’t really allow me the luxury of time or money to do so. I had determined to spend less money this year and I think I succeeded, even if only just. I bought Classics Smokescreen, Classics Ratchet, Henkei Optimus Prime, Masterpiece Grimlock, the Encore Cassette set #1. I got the convention boxed set, loose set and all of the extra souvenir toys. I also got a copy of Stan Bush’s latest CD. I used less hotel amenities this year–only two days of internet, no room service or in-room movies (the system was down half the time anyway). I do wish I’d rented a car this year since the trip to Anaheim and back was horribly expensive. The bigger this show gets, the more annoying people get added to the mix (just saying). The temperature in California was weird... Pasadena was about the 16C to 20C range (60F to 68F) but Anaheim and Universal City were around 25 C (77F), resulting in my having no idea whether or not I should be wearing a jacket or not half the time. Disneyland was fun but Universal Studios was more fun... I do wish we could’ve toured Paramount too–that would’ve been awesome! That place has so much history–Star Trek was made there, for heaven’s sake! I disliked staying at the Hilton since it was a block and a half away from the convention center–and my feet hurt so much over the course of the week. I also disliked that the video room was scrapped again this year (they could’ve always played BW related stuff if they were worried about offending the Shout DVD company). The Hilton was the worst Hilton I’ve stayed at–it was okay overall, but the ice machine on my floor didn’t work and the TV movie system didn’t work for the bulk of my stay (it kept displaying “system busy” messages all the time. This is a mixed blessing though since it saved me from wasting money on stuff). Like with the Hyatts before it, the TV selection was pretty basic and boring. All in all, it was a good trip and I had a lot of fun, despite the blisters on my feet from my crappy shoes and the fact I had no one to room with. A good way to send off BotCon, methinks...



Hear the Thunder...

Tony “Thunder” Klepack