By David Stone
Where can you see Batman, The Incredible Hulk, Captain Kirk, and baseball legend Yogi Berra all in one room? New York City’s Big Apple Comic-Con! I attended the show at Pier 94 on October 16-18, 2009 . The convention featured over 150 stars in attendance—an autograph lover’s dream come true—including Burt Ward (Batman), Lee Majors (Six Million Dollar Man), and The Suicide Girls. Over 77,000 comic book, sports and nostalgia fans attended the event. The celebrities were there to greet admirers, reminisce about past works, and most importantly…sign autographs!
The Big Apple Con has been going on since 1996, when it started in a church basement. Over the years the locations and guest rosters have progressed. Just last year the show was purchased by convention giant, Wizard World, and to guarantee its success it booked a large cross-section of celebrities for their first New York show, so there really is something to fit everyone’s taste.
The night before the convention I heard that at least 30,000 people were expected to attend, so to make sure I didn’t miss anything, I left extra early to get a good place in line. After a two-hour wait we were finally allowed into the registration building to get our wristbands. There was a mad rush once the doors opened!
I had hoped to interview some of the celebrities at the show, but unfortunately, the stars either didn’t want to do the interview or were too busy signing autographs. The most disappointing experience I had was from Christopher Knight (Peter Brady). Mr. Knight thought about my request for what seemed to be forever, and then informed me that if he wasn’t making money on this interview then he should be making money selling his photos (which were selling for $20—some of the cheapest at the convention!)
One of the highlights was an appearance by William Shatner (Captain Kirk). Imagine everyone’s disappointment when it was announced that the signing, originally scheduled to last all day, was only going to last for one hour. Naturally, many attendees, myself included, rushed to his spot at Lightspeed Fine Arts’ booth. And just like at sports signings, I couldn’t purchase Mr. Shatner’s autograph directly. I had to get a ticket, sold with the photo of my choice, including $75 for his autograph. There were a variety of photos to choose from, including Star Trek, T.J. Hooker and Boston Legal. Even a shot of him as the Priceline Negotiator! Shatner greeted me warmly, shaking my hand and thanking me for coming to the convention. Despite being rushed with his photo op and Q&A sessions later in the day, he took time with each fan.
Iconic Figures: From Batman to the Incredible Hulk
Another 60s TV icon at Big Apple Con was Batman himself, Adam West. There was a long line going from behind Mr. West’s booth and onto the convention floor itself. Mr. West is another celebrity I heard could be rude and denigrating to fans, but he was exactly the opposite: he joked with us, posed for photos, and of course,signed autographs galore! There were a variety of Batman photos available for $50, though I was a bit disappointed Mr. West didn’t have any Family Guy shots available. He’ll probably always be remembered as Batman anyway. So I got a photo taken with him and went on to my next group of stars.
Another highlight of the convention was Micky Dolenz of The Monkees, signing autographs for $25. For an extra fee you could snag handwritten lyrics signed by Mr. Dolenz or an autographed drumhead. I was the only one waiting for him when he arrived at his table, which was surprising. He invited me to look at photos, including a Monkees cast photo. Mr. Dolenz couldn’t have been nicer, even agreeing to an interview later in the day. Unfortunately, when I returned for the interview his agent didn’t allow it to happen. But I still left his table happy, with a beautifully inscribed 8×10.
Another television icon of yesteryear, Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk), was selling his signed photos for $25. Despite it being slow at his booth, Mr. Ferrigno brushed off my interview request, barely speaking to me while signing the photo. His assistant even asked me to leave! To make up for that unpleasant experience, Ernie Hudson of Ghostbusters fame was more than gracious and kind to each and every fan that came by his table. Mr. Hudson had a large assortment of photos from his many films, selling for $25 each. I asked him what it was like to perform live for President Obama in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone on Broadway when the Obamas were in town. He told me it was the greatest thrill of his professional career and then proceeded to sign a photo inscribed with “Who Ya Gonna Call?” What a nice guy!
Finally, the main three leads from The Dukes of Hazzard, Catherine Bach, Tom Wopat, and John Schneider, were all selling autographs for $25 apiece. I bought a photo from Mr. Schneider, who is also known for his more recent role on Smallville. Mr. Schneider seemed to be overwhelmed (in a positive way) by the legions of fans stopping by his table. But he handled it all with grace, talking to each fan, asking them their names, and even posing for (gasp!) FREE photo ops! Okay, this is what puzzles me: Why is it that celebrities not only charge for photo ops, but they charge more than for an autograph? As a collector I may be biased, but I will always believe that something written is worth more than a photo. A photo just proves you’ve met the star—there isn’t anything tangible from the star’s effort.
Other celebrities appearing at the show included Billy Dee Williams ($40 for a signed photo), Ric Flair ($50), Dwight Gooden ($30), and Nichelle Nichols ($30). All in all, it was a successful event for me—I only wish I could have been able to share the perspectives of the celebrities with Autograph readers. Hopefully next time around!