by Ron Vitale
Dragon*Con 2002: Snoring Girl, Ass Man, and Boobs on a Platter
by Ron Vitale
It’s 6:35 a.m. on Sunday, September 1, 2002, and I’m waiting for my flight home at the Atlanta airport. Dragon*Con, one of America’s largest fantasy/sci-fi conventions, is still going strong as I write this. The convention started on Friday, August 30th in Atlanta, Georgia, and runs through Monday, September 2nd. This year was my first time at this mother of all conventions (attendance is around 20,000 people). But what is Dragon*Con? To sum up in as few words as possible: A place where you can shed your inhibitions and live your fantasy for days at a time.
I don’t care if you’re into traditional fantasy/sci-fi (Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings), Goth attitude, comic books, or gaming, Dragon*Con has it all. A word to the wise: If you go, leave your judgmental self at home. Otherwise, you’ll miss some great experiences and lots of fun.
My original goal was pretty straightforward: Go to the Con to play some Magic, attend some writing sessions, and hit the dealer tables with all the goodies. A quick rant about organization: My wife and I arrived on Friday and tried to register for both Friday & Saturday, but that was not possible. We couldn’t purchase badges for both days. To make matters worse, we couldn’t buy Saturday’s badge in advance. This meant that we had to wait in the crush of a line on Saturday morning and missed the Dragon*Con parade. I had really wanted to see the 501st Stormtrooper brigade, along with elves, fairies, Wolverine, and Spider-mans (there were at least four at the Con) walking the downtown streets of Atlanta. But instead, we were stuck in line, waiting to get badges when the computers suddenly went down. All-in-all registration only took an hour, but I would have rather bypassed waiting in line for a second time on Saturday.
Another problem we encountered: Changing of session times and speakers. I was most frustrated with the Magic tournaments. I had packed light so I had no cards with me, but thought that I’d have no problems playing sealed deck or booster draft. I walked into the gaming room and saw people playing HeroClix, Warhammer, Magic, Vampire: The Masquerade, Star Wars, and some games I had never heard of (Looney Labs had a life-size Ice House display right out on the floor to one of the session rooms).
I’ll admit this: I walked through the gaming rooms (which were huge--imagine enough tables, end-to-end, set up for about a thousand people to play games) and only saw, at most, five games of Magic going on at the same time. Not to be turned away by the small turnout, I signed up for a sealed deck session (1-5 p.m. on Saturday). I came back at 1 p.m. all ready to play and was told that the group organizers had made a mistake—the session wasn’t going to start until 2 p.m. I had to drop out because I had other commitments later that day. Thankfully, the staff returned my $25.00 without a problem. Knowing how sealed decks go, I knew that they never start on time and the three people in front of me didn’t have DCI numbers, so I knew that the newbie factor would be high. I just didn’t have 4-5 hours to spare so late in the day. But as I learned at Dragon*Con, the unexpected events usually turn out to be more exciting. I used my “spidey sense” and met up with my wife as soon as I dropped from the Magic tournament. Finding her was no easy task. Imagine trying to locate one person when thousands of people are spread out through two hotels. When I did find her, she was just going to lunch with Ruth Thompson—a fantasy artist who did some Magic card artwork back during the Ice Age and Alliance expansions (she did the artwork for Order of the White Shield and Justice).
So I tagged along and had a great time talking to Ruth Thompson. She told my wife and I how closely knit the dealers/merchants were and how she loved coming to Dragon*Con. I had watched her at her booth as she and her husband talked with fans. Ruth took the time to autograph copies of her work, chat with her fans, and be down to earth the whole time. I’m glad I had a chance to meet her and hear her talk about her experiences at Dragon*Con over the years.
Dragon*Con is a mix of the best and worst of people. Some of the more humorous and embarrassing moments took place at a writing seminar I attended on Friday night. I arrived at the room and couldn’t believe how packed it was for a writing seminar. I moved to the back of the room and sat to the right and one row forward from ass man. The session had started so I sat quickly down and started to engross myself in the writing seminar. I concentrated, gathered myself together, and prepared to learn as much as I could about getting published. And then it hit me. A familiar smell (to anyone who has ever attended a big Magic tournament or sci-f/fantasy convention) wafted over me. I cringed, looking desperately for another seat, but couldn’t find one. The smell of ass washed over me in all its fecund glory. So a choice presented itself to me: Up and leave or suffer. Sometimes the desire to write helps me to overcome all obstacles. I breathed through my mouth and hunkered down. (I’ve always wondered if ass smelling people at Magic tournaments use their smell to give them an advantage. Has anyone ever studied the ass smell in the metagame?) I listened to James A. Moore, author of Fireworks, answer a writing question I had when the women in the seat directly in front of me started snoring.
Let me describe the moment. There were three writers at the front table and a good seventy-five people crammed into the seats. I had just asked James Moore a question and he had started to reply. People were turned around looking at me since I had just finished my question, ass man’s stench continued to permeate my clothes, and the woman in front of me started snoring like she was sawing logs. All I needed was for a flatulent person near me to start letting them rip--then the moment would’ve been complete! How I made it through that seminar, I don’t know, but I did learn a lot about writing (and more about the lack of personal hygiene than I needed to know).
On both Friday and Saturday, I roamed through the dealer and vendor rooms like a kid in a candy shop. Imagine an entire hall filled with hundreds of people who want to sell you games or teach you how to play new games. The HeroClix booth area was mobbed. People were gobbling up merchandise left and right. I didn’t see any of the major CCG companies there, but I did find two Magic dealers in the one large dealer hall. The one dealer was selling your normal packs of cards but he also had an unopened Alpha starter deck ($650) and sealed packs of the Magic Euro lands. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the red packs of Euro lands, but told me that they were selling for around $40. I also found people selling tons of dice, comics, bootleg DVDs (can you say Star Wars and Indian Jones trilogies!), Playboys and Perfect 10 magazines (I did stop to check the beautiful woman signing autographs), new & old games, books, and unlicensed props: swords from the Lord of the Rings and lightsabers (e-mail Jim Ralston at Custom Sabers: DroDann@cs.com for more information) that lit up were very popular.
When I wasn’t going through all the goodies in the dealer rooms, there were plenty of stars to meet (I heard several of Sci-fi channel’s Farscape crew talk) or bump into. I passed by Kenny Baker (R2D2) outside and held a door for Margaret Weis (author of the Dragonlance books). There were a ton of people to meet and I had only time to hear a handful of people talk. Being a big Star Wars fan, hearing David Prowse (Darth Vader) and Timothy Zahn (author of the Star Wars Heir to the Empire books) talk, was great fun.
But if I could sum up my favorite activity at Dragon*Con into two words, it would be: People watching.
I saw some amazing things. When you walked through the hotel, it’s a bit strange, at first, to see Stormtroopers (with their rifles) walking around. I saw someone dressed as Darth Vader, Imperial Guards, at least twenty Stormtroopers, and multiple Boba Fetts.
The coolest thing was to see the bubble-like, see through elevators in the hotel, rising to the upper levels with Stormtroopers inside. I felt as though I had been dropped into a movie or the biggest masquerade party I had ever attended. But let me get something straight: These costumes weren’t lame. Most of the Stormtrooper ones were handmaid by the 501st. I saw tons of people in costumes—great costumes! Who were these dressed super heroes and villains? Just normal people, like you and I, looking to have some fun. Costumed convention goers posed for pictures like movie stars. But then this gave you cool opportunities like a bunch of elves with swords and bows pretending to fight Cobra members from G.I. Joe.
Or seeing cool comic book characters give each other a head butt or pose for a photo shoot was just pure fun!
Yet if I had thought that I’d seen all the costumes on Friday, how wrong I was! My wife and I were eating dinner in the Hyatt hotel and a mob of people stood around, waiting to take pictures. At one point, Dr. Doom, Rhinoceros, the Scarlet Witch, Doctor Octopus, Black Cat, and Spider-Man came up the escalators to the enjoyment of comic book fans. Batman and Catwoman quickly followed. Some of the more amazing costumes were: Three guys dressed up in the full armor gear of the soldiers in the Final Fortune: The Spirits Within movie, Blade, and the Star Wars folks.
Other costumes such as Chiana from Farscape, Homer Simpson, Spy vs. Spy, Super hero girl, Pan and his S&M women, split girl, Goldmember girl, or “Light Man” were also creative and fun.
I’ve written about ass man and snoring girl, but chose to leave the best for last. When I say that there were lots of women at the show, I don’t mean virtual women. Several women decided to go for the “boobs on a platter” look (my wife, for the record, coined this term). Imagine a big woman wearing a tight corset with her boobs pushed up and seemingly defying gravity. Some of these women, I’d rather not have seen their boobies hanging out, but then there were women such as Mileena of Mortal Kombat fame
(thank you for wearing a thong and letting me see your butt cheeks) or tape woman (she simply wore silver tape as a top) and white tape angel woman (she only had two white “Xs” of tape over her nipples—the rest of her boobs were there for all to see).
Other women played with the sexual theme. A memorable Tank Girl wore a shirt with two huge missiles for boobs.
Having been to New Orleans and walked down Burbon Street during Spring Break, I just couldn’t believe all the women and all the costumes. People definitely were out to have fun. Goth chicks pranced by in their thongs and see through skirts, followed by someone dressed (and acting) like Beetlejuice. With a four day attendance around 20,000, I think you get the idea. Bands played (Emerald Rose and Tri Destiny), people carried in bags of alcohol (I saw one dude, dressed like a Ranger, drinking an entire bottle of Bacardi Rum), and the freaks kept coming out that night! It was as though everyone had checked their inhibitions at the door. Attendees were out to have a serious party and enjoy themselves. I still can’t believe how fast the two days went. Now I understand why people don’t sleep at Dragon*Con. Having to be up at 5 a.m. this morning, I didn’t get a chance to attend the 2:30 a.m. Goth dance party, but I can imagine, from seeing all the costumes, what it was like.
Although Dragon*Con had its ups and downs for me, I did have a blast. I attended GenCon several years ago and didn’t have much fun. I found the gaming crowd to be really boring. Dragon*Con was filled with people who just wanted to be someone else for four days—without anyone questioning or making fun of them. At GenCon, I felt that people just wanted to play games for four days straight—there weren’t as cool costumes or activities. I thoroughly enjoyed myself at Dragon*Con and would return again. Thank you Atlanta for all the fun!
Quick Sidenote: Some of the conversations I overheard stuck in my head. These two stand out:
- “Don’t you get it? She’s not a swinger!” One girl yelling at another guy.
- “I wonder how many strippers they’ve got in the room?” Three older guys talking among themselves as we headed down an escalator.
I may not have had a chance to play any Magic, but I learned a lot about writing, Con goers, and uninhibited women! What’s the moral of this story? Always bring your Magic cards to a Con, but keep your mind open to learn other games and enjoy yourself outside of the gaming. And one last thing: Always bring your camcorder or digital camera. You never know who or what you’re going to see!