Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

FLASHBACKS: Patrick Stewart, conventionally speaking (1993)

You’d have liked Mike Pearl. Beginning this entry of Flashbacks this way requires me to point out that Mike’s been gone 11 years this August; and I feel I should admit that I handled his loss…with difficulty. (1997 was a difficult, up-and-down summer for me.)

I liked Mike Pearl. We had a friendship, from high school to college, where both of us kept thinking I’m friends with him! That’s so cool! We were simultaneously mentors to and protégés of each other; we inspired each other. He wrote for the Entertainment section of our high school paper when I was the editor; I wrote for This Space For Rent, Mike’s Star Trek: The Next Generation fanzine.

Around Labor Day ’93, before returning to Oregon for my sophomore year of college, I attended a Creation Con in the Washington, D.C. area and saw special con guest Patrick Stewart. I wrote about Stewart’s speech; Mike ran it in the Sept./Oct. ’93 issue of TSFR, which he titled “Stew-Fest ’93!” He titled the piece and edited it in ways that made it slightly his; in other words, what follows is not my final draft of the write-up, but something with both of our handprints on it.

Now I shall show you (minus the spelling errors, mine and his: Mike’s spelling mistakes became a running joke; he’d call them “speeling errrors”) what my writing was like in 1993:

Height, hair loss and pajamas with Patrick Stewart: A convention attendee’s report

by Christopher Walsh

Patrick Stewart is taller than you’d expect. While this has partly to do with the fact that the man has a presence, at the Creation Convention held recently in D.C., it had a lot to do with Stewart being up on stage. Viewers are used to seeing him next to TNG’s resident Rock of Gibraltar, Jonathan Frakes, which distorts reality.

Stewart opened his one-and-a-half hour chat by explaining his “unusually informal” attire: jeans, sneakers, a loose and rumpled white shirt and a ballcap that read STEWART. The cap was from a California surt shop and was given to him by a fan, “since, after all, I am quite a big name in surfing.

“What I like about this cap,” he said, “is when you’re directing, you get to lean into the camera to check the angle and so you get to…” and he turned the cap brim-backwards. The audience hooted with enjoyment.

Stewart allows one personal question at each of his convention appearances. At this con, a fan asked, “For the benefit of me and my girlfriends, what do you wear to bed?”

Stewart, with a thoughtful expression, answered “Well, the last time I wore anything to bed…” and the rest was drowned out with laughter, cheers and whistles. (For those readers with inquisitive minds, he wore a flannel half-robe to bed on a winter night when it was actually cold in L.A.)

Stewart seemed genuinely surprised and touched every time a fan called him a great romantivc leading man, especially when a fan yelled out “You’ll always be our romantic hero, Patrick” when he was discussing the image of the Romantic Hero.

When a fan brought up the fact that many people who find Patrick Stewart irresistible feel similarly about Sean Connery, Stewart recounted the story of Connery’s visit to the set of TNG. Back during the first season, Frakes and Stewart were filming the bar scene from “10011001,” when they were interrupted by a tall man in a Navy Admiral’s uniform – Sean Connery, in a costume from The Presidio, also shooting on the Paramount lot – walked across the stage and right between the two actors.

“Jonathan was the quickest to recognize him,” Stewart admitted, “and he had enough presence of mind to say ‘Enjoy your tour, sir.’” Stewart went on to add that Connery walked directly and purposefully towards a corner of the set…and then had to turn around and go back because there was no exit on the side to which he’d walked.

“So, technically, I have been on film with Sean,” Stewart said.

Stewart told stories about his early life. He grew up in the north of England, in regions thick with dialect. He credits the power of his voice partly to the fact that “Yorkshiremen tend to have naturally rich, strong baritones,” and partly to the fact that had to undergo extensive voice training simply to be able to speak in a non-dialect English.

Stewart also related one of the traumatic events of his early life: he was almost completely and utterly bald by the age of 20. He admitted that he actually had taken school grant money of his and had used it to try every potential “baldness cure” he could pay for.

A man stood up and said how he had also lost his hair at a young age. Stewart empathetically asked, with a tortured chuckle, “It happened to you, too? Wasn’t it awful?”

After the discussion of hair loss, a fan whom Stewart had called on asked him to identify a photo which she had bought at the convention. It showed Stewart with long, curly, dark hair. Stewart recognized it as a photo of him as Oberon from a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, from the late ’70s.

For a fitting finale, Patrick Stewart recited, from memory, a Shakespearean speech that he had been reminded of when a fan asked about the photo. He spoke of watching Cupid’s arrow strike a white flower, which then grew “purple with love’s wound.”

The audience looked like they had fallen in love.
Tags: flashbacks, star trek

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