Wild Wild West Con, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

How does one sum up Wild Wild West Con? I’m sure others have done a much better job than I. For example, There is an article from the University of Arizona Wildcat newspaper that is nice. (but I think their site is overwhelmed, I can’t load it at the time of this blogging.)

This is not a 100% nice blog about the convention, but I am trying to be as honest as I can without causing drama. This is my experience. Others may have had better or worse experiences. I do not claim to judge. I would get into more details, but this is a summary, therefore… the highlights (and lowlights) are as follows:
My perspective is different than average; I was one of the Directors. I ran the art show for this first-year convention. I think I had the best job of all the Directors. I got to look at beautiful artworks, sit and hang out with my friends, and meet fun and interesting people all day, every day of the convention. The pre-con work was a nightmare. Communication problems, disagreements, lack of time (I picked up the position in mid-November after nothing had been done (or was relayed to me) prior to that), did I mention communication problems? Yeah, there were a lot of those. People were getting upset, frustrated, even me. I like to think I have a lot of patience, but even I was contemplating walking away from the whole thing.
Three things kept me on board. 1) I said I would do it. There wasn’t enough time to replace me. Therefore, I would follow through come hell or high water. 2) Ryan McMann’s brainchild was an amazing convention idea. It needed to be done in Arizona and March 2011 was the perfect time to do it. I believed in the idea. 3) My friends, artists, fellow directors, volunteers, and attendees needed me to keep going. And so I waded through the static and I believe I came through.

I don’t think I have attended/worked at a convention that had so many extreme highs and lows. Even with all the headaches of getting together an art show at the last minute, not having regular communication, and a handful of drama, I was excited about the convention. The closer it got, the more excited I became. The more positive my attitude was, and the easier it was to allow the other stuff to just roll off.

I took Wednesday through Sunday off and my Offspring and I loaded up the car Wednesday mid-day and headed to Tucson. Due to another miscommunication, we didn’t plan on being at Old Tucson until 5pm, so we met a friend for an afternoon snack at Delectables. Around 5:20ish we got to Old Tucson Studios to find that none of the convention folks were there. Not to be undone, we decided to have tea. We headed over to one of my favorite spots in Tucson, Seven Cups Tea House. Good company, edamame and tea make everything a little better.

Dead or Alive by Jeff Bates

Thursday went off without many hitches. We got stuff set up. Special thanks to Clif Holland, who showed up to help set up but wasn’t attending the convention. His help was instrumental in getting things done. We hung art and were available to help the attending artists get their stuff set up. I discovered my camera was broken and I could only use my cell phone for photos. Most turned out crappy and I didn’t keep them. Sorry. The initial intent was to get photos of all the layouts of the art that had been shipped to me, but I wasn’t able to even get that.

In hindsight, I should have asked someone to get some pictures for me.

Friday morning was the last of the touch ups, hanging art, etc and then the show began! I spent most of the day in the art show area at High Chaparral and we discovered that very few people had any idea the art show even existed as it, and the vendor area, had not been noted in the program book, nor were there any signs. One of our attending artists made up signs and went around putting them up. My friends from Mantecoza arrived a little late. Aaron Ginn-Forsberg (lead actor) apparently had ridden his motorcycle to the convention and showed up in the doorway of the High Chaparral building complete back-lit by the mid-day sun. All I saw was his tall form standing in the open doorway, jeans and a leather jacket, with a helmet tucked under one arm. My inner teenage rebel let out a cheer. It was a fittingly movie-esque entrance. I think he’d appreciate that.

I was able to break away and go see the ONE SHOW I had wanted to see. Steam Powered Giraffe is a “musical pantomime troupe” out of California with a fantastic sound and concept. You just have to see/hear them to understand. So here you go:

My Offspring spent much of the rest of the weekend hanging out with them. It’s nice to see her inspired with music again. Turns out, Christopher Bennett (one of the group’s members) is also an artist. I really like his stuff.

We were staying Friday and Saturday night at Hotel Tucson City Center (believe me, the photos on the website are much nicer than the real thing) where the other portion of the convention was being held. Friday S called the hotel to confirm that one of our other roommates could get the key to the room early before we left site. She was told that was fine. About 4pm the girls (our roommates) call and tell us they won’t let them in the room without a credit card in hand. Apparently the credit card number S gave them to reserve the room was good enough to charge her if she didn’t show, but not good enough to charge for the room and give them the key. This information had not been divulged when S called initially. PLUS, when she spoke to Tony (the desk attendant) and asked for a manager, he refused.

Saturday, when I ran off to get food at Jake’s at Old Tucson, I got side-tracked and wound up sitting front row to see the charity fashion show in which my beautiful girl was modeling.

Photo by Dianne Star

I was informed by the VP of the convention, Robert Levin, I should sit, relax, and stay through it all. I did as I was ordered. It was a really nice setup and a great break.

After, I grabbed food and ran back up to art show for the duration of the day.

Saturday night was eventful. Didn’t go to the Abney Park concert, but instead went to sushi with friends. I’m glad I did. I’m not a huge fan of Abney Park (do I lose my Steam Punk street-cred for saying that?), first off, and I was tired and cranky and feeling ill (I had eaten at Jake’s at Old Tucson for lunch and wound up glutened even though they told me I should be safe. It was likely cross-contamination… definitely too many orders that day to manage easily.) Sushi was amazing and I came back to the hotel and soaked in the Jacuzzi tub for quite a while before getting dressed and decided to step out into the world again. It was late-ish (after 11) and my friend S and I headed out to deliver an item that was left at the art show that day to another hotel guest. As we were leaving the hotel room, I got a phone call from a volunteer who said her badge had been stolen at the Abney Park Concert and she couldn’t get into the masked ball at the hotel without it. S ran off to take care of that and I chatted with a lovely lady who gave me all sorts of great advice on how to make the convention better next year.

We were just about to finish up delivering the lost item when our roommates called and notified us that “It’s raining in our hotel room.” Apparently some kind of waste-water hazard (one person said toilet overflow, another said Jacuzzi tub overflow) had leaked through the roof and started pouring into the foyer of our suite.


The girls had put towels down which were now turning brown from the water. We had the “romantic Presidential suite”, appropriately numbered room 404 (for fail). We rushed back to the room and began packing while S and the VP of the convention dueled with the front desk attendant. I was in the room and overheard the maintenance guys tell our roommates “we can put towels down for now.” I chased them out of the room telling them that it’s a health code violation to keep guests in a room with wastewater leakage and that they can come back when we’ve been moved to another room. I was pretty ticked off. It sounded like they weren’t planning on moving us.

The first room they gave us (for five people) had a single King sized bed. We eventually wound up in a studio with two queen beds. But I’ll save that story for another time.

Image posted by League of S.T.E.A.M.

Once our roommates were settled, S and I were still too wired to sleep. We decided to head back out, grab something to drink, and see if League of S.T.E.A.M. was still holding court around the hot tub. Thankfully they were, and they made all the hectic chaos of the rest of the day wash away with some stories, some song (the same song… over and over… WE’VE GOT CACTUS!… you had to be there), and shared libations. The night/morning ended on a very high note and all was well…
Until we climbed into our shared queen bed, only to find the box springs were broken. I snoozed on the edge of the bed (dangling off) in an attempt to NOT roll over on the sleeping S who needed much more sleep than I did.

I think, in total, I wound up with about 2 hours of sleep Saturday night.

I got up at 7 and went to take a shower. All was well until the neighboring room decided it was shower time as well. As soon as they turned on the hot water, I lost all mine.

That is when I decided never EVER again to stay at Hotel Tucson City Center. I loathe the hotel enough that I have stepped down from my position of running the Masquerade at TusCon this fall in order to avoid having to stay there. At least the hotel gave us a good story for later right? No shit, there I was…

Sunday was a half-day of art showy goodness. I took a break around 2pm to go see the folks from Mantecoza, only to discover they had already left. I did, however, find my Offspring sketching Steam Powered Giraffe as they performed on the street.

Around 3 tried to close the art show to the public. I sent all my volunteer helpers to the closing ceremonies so they could receive their raffle prizes, etc. The attending artists began packing their items up. I asked people to leave three times before they got the hint. I guess I need to be meaner the first time. We packed everything up and I waited for my Offspring and others to get done with the ceremonies so I could lock up. In the meantime, Tucson artist Bridget Wilde stuck around and kept me company for a few hours. After that, I had a nice quiet time in High Chaparral, all by myself.

I know that before the convention, I would have said I would never take a Director position again, after the convention, I think I probably would. However, I am doing Hospitality for DarkCon in January of 2012 and Programming Operations for World Costume Con 30 in May 2012. Taking any other director position this year would be insanity.

I will be attending next year either as an attendee, a volunteer, or entertainment. The latter you will have to wait and see. I have wicked plans.

Wicked, I tell you.


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