July, 2006: Con season winds down. But it never gets old.
The Thrill of the Hunt
One of my favorite things to do at conventions is to stalk the wily yet playful creature known as the Klingon impersonator. This week, I have decided to share my secrets with you, the fans.
Now many of you are probably wondering where the term “Klingon Hunting” comes from. A quick check of the American Heritage Dictionary reveals “hunt” to be defined as the “pursuit of game for food or sport” and a “Klingon” as “mutonic freak from, like, Idaho who sticks a big lump of clay on his forehead and hangs out with groups of like-minded individuals at conventions.”
I was first exposed to one of these magnificent beasts in an elevator in San Diego in 1989. Much to my surprise, I was joined in my ascent by a vacationer and a seven-foot tall Klingon, who proceeded to scowl at us both (probably for being enemy humans in his turbolift) and then stood against the wall trying to look surly. It was my guess that his matter transmitter had temporarily failed. I decided not to call hotel security and inform them the Klingon High Command had called a secret invasion meeting in their top floor suite because I was in a hurry to get drunk in the 40th floor bar.
After thirty or so floors the vacationer stepped out, breathing a huge sigh of relief. We proceeded upwards. I stared at the Klingon with a bemused look: I remember wondering if my morning omelet had been laced with PCP. He stared back at me and fingered his plastic toy Battleth… b’aclethh… whatever–the-hell-it’s-called.
Suddenly, there was a jolt. Unbeknownst to man or alien whacko, the elevators leading up to the top floor of the Hyatt Hotel had been breaking down all week. Especially, as it turned out, the one we were in.
My first time in San Diego: stuck in an elevator with a Klingon!
The conversation went something like this:
Me: Well, this is too bad. What floor are you going to, mate?
Klingon: Scr’blth’ grr! (Translation: I am a bank manager).
Me: Say again?
Klingon: Brtutth Ka-Chinnng! (Translation: I am uncomfortable in situations that require me to interact with another person. Please play-act with me and pretend that you are my mortal enemy because God forbid I climb out of character in a fucking ELEVATOR where no one can see me.)
Needless to say, I was confused… and yet exhilarated. There might be more of these people. I decided then and there that I was going to hunt down every last one of them if it took me until Doomsday.
Now despite what you might think, Klingon hunting is a benign and even honorable sport. It is most often the favored pastime of bored comic book professionals but can be enjoyed by anyone with a camera. Points are scored in much the same fashion as one scores points when slaughtering a deer with a twelve-bore shotgun: for example, if you were to drop a stag with nine points on his antlers, that would be a “nine-pointer.” A similar rule can be applied to Klingons: if you were to catch nine of them in the same photo, that would be considered a “nine-pointer” also.
Extra points can be scored for the general freak-factor of the person in the photo--they don't have to be a Klingon, in fact: they can be, say, some guy covered in plastic tubing who is convinced he is a Borg. Frankly, those are usually the best pictures. The worse the costume, the more points the photo is worth. Spanish Star Trek fans are particularly adept at throwing on a T-Shirt and jeans, covering their face in brown paint and walking around looking annoyed (and yet strangely unconvincing).
Catching them out of character or in embarrassing situations can double or triple your points total. Such embarrassing situations include:
- The Food Court
There is nothing more amusing than watching a bunch of Imperial Storm troopers standing around with their helmets off, munching on a sandwich. So much for that whole “clone” thing… let alone the fact that Dark Lord Vader probably did not approve the use of Imperial funds for Ham and Cheese on Rye.
- Waiting in Line
This is a huge favorite of mine. I have about fifty pictures of Klingons and Star Troopers patiently waiting to pick up their Thursday admission badge from the ticket counter. If I was a Klingon I would bash my way to the front of the line, steal the ticket counter employee’s badge and throw Romulan Ale in his face.
The greatest picture I ever took was of poor old Spider-Man riding the escalator down from the floor above. For those excruciating thirty seconds, he had to admit to the world that no, he could not swing around wherever he chose. He was in fact a person inside a Spider-Man costume. Poor bastard… I almost felt sorry for him. Had I been able to keep my camera from shaking as a result of laughter I would have more than that one, pathetic snapshot.
- Public Toilets
This was not my idea but it is bloody brilliant nonetheless. David Mack once suggested to me that it would be neat if I could get a picture of a Klingon sitting on the toilet with his big old Klingon trousers around his ankles. That would have been the ultimate Klingon picture. For three hours I wandered around looking under stalls at Megacon but I never did find that elusive “hundred-pointer.”
- The Hyatt Bar
I once discovered that the various fans involved in the San Diego Costume Contest had a habit of going to the Hyatt Bar just before the beginning of the Masquerade because they were terrified of standing in front of an audience. Thus, they would sit at the bar and get tanked up so that they had the courage to go onstage. Can you imagine Darth Vader having a beer with the Joker? You don't have to--this is a picture of what it looks like!
Once you have captured a roll of film, your photos can be sent to the Committee for Outsmarting and Capturing Klingons--of which I am a founder member. Points scored for each snapshot are decided by an arbitrator (me again). But this is neither a cruel nor inhumane practice—once you are finished tracking these impressive creatures they may be released back into their natural environment, which is blocking the entrances at conventions.
(Hunting Klingons for real—while certainly an interesting option for those of you who delight in the music of Ted Nugent and the 3PM “Let’s blow away a deer with an AK47” slaughter spot on Sundays on ESPN 2--is far riskier legally.)
San Diego and Wizardworld Chicago used to be the best place to track down this increasingly elusive quarry. Alas, over-hunting, the emergence of video games and the increasing popularity of Star Wars have resulted in a minor culling of the Klingon population. Dragon-Con in Atlanta is really a very unfair place to hunt for freaks because it is like shooting a fish in a barrel: all you have to do is point your camera in any direction and click.
I have found that Klingon Impersonators are attracted to very pretty girls. Bridget Silvestri thinks Klingon Hunting is a hoot, and has helped me capture many an unwary alien traveler to this planet by running up to them and asking if they’d be willing to pose with her. Check out this photo of Bridget with one of my many trophy Klingons: this is the absolute first time he has ever stood within twenty yards of a girl who was not made of inflatable plastic. His expression is priceless because he truly believes he is the hottest lifeform within three hundred parsecs.
This guy was possibly a French gendarme. He might have confused himself with Baron von Munchausen. Or possibly his mother suffered from Munchausen-by-proxy because the chances are great that he was dropped on his head from a great height when young.
So there you have it, gang. I think I can speak for everyone here when I say you are invited--nay, encouraged--to share your own links to pictures of Klingons you have captured over the years. I have a million of these, although the actual Klingon ones are filed away because Nigh Perfect is truly, honestly afraid of the buggers.
Final Random Thought
I hope, like me, you have an appreciation for genius. If so, do yourself a favor and check out the unique vocal styling of the most amazing and alarming scat singer who ever lived: my favorite musician of all time, Shooby Taylor.
Shooby billed himself as the Human Horn. He passed away a few years ago. I am not lying or trying to be funny when I say I literally shed a few tears at his passing. He inadvertently brought so much joy to so many people. If I do end up making films, I will want one of them to be about this remarkable person.
Please go to www.shooby.com and download all of his songs. The best tracks in my opinion are Stout Hearted Men, Tico Tico and the one he does with Johnny Cash (although Johnny Cash has no idea he is doing a duet with Shooby).
In life, Shooby was quite disappointed that his approach to scat singing was never accepted. I say we lift up a pint to Shooby Taylor this weekend. In fact, drink heavily and drink heartily because you will really, really need to be hammered when you listen to his greatest hits.