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FanBoy Expo, 2017

This page is a quick review of the awesome 2017 FanBoy Expo in Knoxville, Tennessee. The celebrities from Aliens in attendance were (in alphabetical order): Michael Biehn (Hicks), Alec Gillis (ADI), Jenette Goldstein (Vasquez), Carrie Henn (Newt), Lance Henriksen (Bishop), Daniel Kash (Spunkmeyer), Ricco Ross (Frost), Cynthia Scott (Dietrich), and Tom Woodruff Jr (ADI). Honestly, I'm not sure how to even review this event, at least not withotu resorting to words like "rapturous" and "over-whelming". I guess I'll just list some of my impressions and memories from the Expo:

  • Michael Biehn: Mr. Biehn wasn't feeling well on Saturday, but yet he and his equally-talented wife both stopped to talk to me on their way out of the Expo so that he could sign the M-41A and talk with me. We discussed the future of the Aliens franchise, the impact of the film on culture, and his fondness for his fellow cast and crew. He was extremely friendly (as were ALL of them) and eager to talk, despite being ill. He is, to put it simply, just a very above-average human being, and it was an honor to meet him. (And that goes for everyone else that I met that day from the Aliens film!)
  • Jenette Goldstein: Ms. Goldstein is at least as bad-ass as her character in Aliens - the mighty Vasquez. She's also extremely friendly, kind, and insightful. My friend Wade and I were blessed to get to talk to her at length about the film, families, the Expo itself, travel, and so many other topics too. (At that point, my brain was in overdrive, just thinking over and over again "OMG - I'm talking to Vasquez!") The next day when I returned to her booth to get her autograph for Wade, as I walked up she remembered me instantly and the first thing she asked was "Where's your friend?" Ms. Goldstein TRULY and DEEPLY cares about her fans, and literally radiates kindness.
  • Carrie Henn: Ms. Henn was talking with Ms. Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, Michael's wife, when I arrived at Ms. Henn's booth. They had a lot to discuss, as Michael had taken ill, and Carrie was extremely concerned for him, from what little I was able to hear. They both then apologized to me even though there was no need - it was an honor to meet BOTH of them, and I didn't want to intrude on their conversation. Ms. Henn and I talked about education (she, like me, is an educator), and a bit about the filming of Aliens. Like all the celebrities that I was given the honor of meeting that day, she was extremely friendly, witty, and kind.
  • Lance Henrikson: Another meeting that I was blessed to have, Mr. Henrikson and I discussed the current state of our society in light of the truly abominable event recently in Las Vegas with 58 lives lost. (I don't count the shooter, because that bastard was a real-life monster, not a human) Our conversation about the event started when he jokingly asked if my M-41A prop-rifle was "loaded" as he signed it. I told him I don't like things that shoot and he concurred, and that started our chat on Vegas, etc. He was visibly VERY aggrieved by the shooting, and I was so impressed with the depth of his feeling and his compassion. How somebody as caring and as feeling as him could play one of the most memorable androids in movie-history, I'll never know.
  • Daniel Kash: the man is as hilarious as he is wise and humble. We chatted about his career, his new starring role in the upcoming BET series "In Contempt" (WATCH IT!!!), and his memories of ad-libbing on the set of Aliens, especially in the squad's breakfast scene. He shared some insights on how to balance spontaneity with studiousness when acting, and shared some of his experiences with his time as a Shakespearean stage actor. He has starred in a LOT of other shows and movies as well, some I wasn't even aware that he was in, but now I'm spending my remaining vacation watching as soon as I post this update. :)
  • Ricco Ross: PURE CLASS. During the cast-and-crew panel session, somebody asked Mr. Ross about the line "Arcurian poontang" from the Aliens movie that was spoken by his great character, PFC Frost. Mr. Ross' eloquent reply was "There are children present in the audience, so I won't answer that" (slightly paraphrased, as best as I can remember). Later, when I had the privilege of talking to him personally, we talked about the great Al Matthews, music (Al Matthews - Sgt. Apone - was also a disco singer in the 70's, and I like disco: don't judge me). As with all these amazing stars, he was extremely friendly, downright playful even, and just an incomprable honor to have met.
  • Cynthia Scott: Oh so kind and charming! We talked for quite a while about the movie (of course) and music as well, and her STELLAR artistic career. She also noticed that I'd managed to forget my umbrella (I was talking to Corporal Dietrich; how could I remember anything else while talking to her!?) and was very kind and funny about that. Please check out her artwork - not only is she very talented in acting, but she's also an artistic prodigy as well!
  • Tom Woodruff, Jr.: As a person who does CGI as a hobby, it may come as a surprise that I utterly LOATHE and DESPISE CGI in films, when it's done for something that could be done with practical effects instead. Mr. Woodruff is one of the reasons why Aliens to this day looks like it was made NEXT year - its effects are PERFECT, in every frame, and what's more, it looks MUCH more realistic than these CGI-fests that we're bombarded with nowadays. Mr. Woodruff, who along with Mr. Alec Gillis, is one of the legends of special-effects, and it was a surprise to hear his views on CGI. I enjoyed and was enlightened by his approach of using CGI when it's necessary, especially as a way to augment practical effects of the kind he is renown for. Still, however, I think most sci-fi films today (especially futuristic ones that are set in fictional sci-fi settings such as distant planets, etc) end up looking like 90 minutes of Photoshop filters, lens-flares, and motion-blurs. Give me a stunt-person in a rubber monster suit and a matte-painted background ANY day!

My ONLY complaint with the entire Expo is that they need to rename it, and drop the gender-specific. I honestly think MORE than 50% of the attendees were not males, and women and minorities are already treated so grossly unfairly and so horrendously under-represented, mis-represented, stereotyped, and objectified that a new name for the venue would be a welcome and positive step toward expanding the appeal and inclusiveness of the genre and industry.