BotCon 2001

The moment I saw her, I knew I had to have her. Her taunt body, those delicious curves, her supple movements. She was so close to me I could practically touch her. And when she spoke to me, I knew I could hold back no longer...

     

Fredís Botcon Adventure: Durham, NC., Part One

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...oh wait, wrong adventure. It was a dark and stormy night...dang, still not right. Whereís the city?! Yes, thatís more like it...

Whereís the city? I asked myself as I flew over North Carolina. To the patrons living in this state, it was normal, but to me, I was stumped. I saw nothing but trees. What few roads there were seemed scattered randomly, as though a plate of spaghetti were tossed down on a map and proclaimed roadways. Where I come from, the land is all properly divided into squares, roadways segmented properly along with the farmland. Good design and engineering, to my logical mind. So you can imagine my surprise when we flew over what I was now looking at. I wondered if the plane somehow got lost and was in fact heading to a dense tropical rainforest.

But no, it was North Carolina. Or so the pilot said when we landed, and he wished us to have a nice day. Nice day, he says. My day was already going much better, now that I was on the ground again. As you know, I hate flying; yet, for a botcon, I am willing to risk life and limb (see last yearís report).

Joebot and company met us at the airport, with a nice, air-conditioned minivan. Being from a colder climate, the hot humid weather did not agree with me. Needless to say, I stayed in the hotel the entire time. But that was fine by me; the food, although expensive, was quite palatible. Which was a lucky thing; there was NOTHING outside of the hotel. No people even; it was as though we were in a ghost-town.

The inside of the hotel was lively. Hordes of transfans streaming in the doors, over-running everything. Impromptu parties, mini-dealerships on all the floors. The place was rockiní! Long lines EVERYWHERE! Throngs of people blocking the hallways. And this was just getting into the hotel. The rest of the floors were the same way. Things quieted down at night, but just barely; there was word of many a party being broken up by hotel staff.


This was the year I got to get out of the dealerís room and enjoy the rest of Botcon. The enteries into the art contest were great! (And as always, a hearty thank you for those who voted for me. Night at the Autobop and Battle for the Spark took 2nd and 3rd place!) My personal favorites were the Sharkticon display, the Bad Comedy Starscream, and the Prime/Megs/Arcee costumes. Look how much bigger Prime is than me!


     

I enjoyed the voice-actorís panel immensely. Hearing Grimlockís voice in person was a rare treat. The line to get their autographs was incredibly long. It went out the door and down the entire length of the hotel hallway. Their poor writing hands! I was lucky enough to get into the front of the line for Furman and Davidís autograph. Furman wrote much of the great comic series, while Davids made the G1 TV series come to life.


     

And yes, the toys. But first, a blurb about the comic. They finally killed Daniel and Wheelie. No joke! Itís in the comic! But the way they did it...I have a feeling that they will no longer be voted for the top kill spot in the next Trannies.

The Botcon toys. Arcee. You heard me right. We finally have an Arcee toy! Oh yea, a white X-9 Ravage called Tigatron, too. But who cares! We got Arcee! The pre-registerants pack included a voicechip for her to talk. I donít believe the chip was included with the extra ones for purchase. But who cares? It was Arcee.

I picked up many a toy I was looking for, as well as a few parts. There will also be a number of variants added to the site in the next few weeks, so for all of you interested hounds, stay tuned!

While we were having a soda at the bar, Vince Dicola sat down at the piano and played us a tune. Just figured Iíd mention it.

Ran into a lot of people, some old, some new. It is always nice to put a name to a face. I fully expect those faces to send me scanned photos of us! Yes, there will be photos this year. I threw out my 35mm and took my poloriod instead. Now, as soon as the airline finds my lost luggage, Iíll scan them in for this report.

All in all, it was a very exhausting Botcon. By the third day, I had my fill. I was grateful things were wrapping up. Tired, in pain, and homesick. But only for a day. As I type this, I am already gearing up for Botcon 2002. Will I be a dealer again? Probably. Will Mark put out another Transmanual? We hope so. :-)

What, Iím wrapping up the report so soon? Yes. Others will write about it. They can tell you the rest. As for me, now...I rest. Iíll add more of this report to the site. I figure many people will tell me I forgot to mention this, that, and the next thing. I will agree with them, and add it. :-)

Fredís Botcon Adventure: Durham, NC., Part Two

Yes, I got around to adding it! A word or two about some of the goodies, and fellow transfans, starting with a day by day report. This has all the details that you crave, that were missing from part one (the overview)...

Thursday:

Ah, back on the ground. Carry-on bag in my left hand, my kitbashes on wheels in my right hand. An army dufflebag full of goodness. The flight to NC was uneventful. But I HATE flying. Ever since the 98 convention, when the plane blew an engine and nosedived, I always said I would never fly again. But the Botcon van probably wouldn't have made the 18-hour drive. So I left it at the airport, and flew again. I guess I can argue that it got me partway to the convention this year (see last year's report on the condition of the Botcon van). I was buying TFs before I even got on the plane; there was a second-hand toy store on the way to the airport, so I picked up an Iron Giant, a Magnaboss, and an Ultra Jetstorm. They all stood guard over the van while it sat for a week in the airport parking lot. But anyways, onward to the destination...Joebot was kind enough to pick us up from the NC airport in a nice air-conditioned vehicle. Thank God, because let me tell you, NC is HOT! At least, to someone who likes his summers to be 50 degrees, it's hot...got to the hotel, checked in, settled into the room (nice rooms, by the way, the town might be dead, but the hotel was top-notch), and settled in for a meal, and of course a discussion about (what else) Transformers. Joebot, Sara, Rose, Mark, Particle Man (most of you will remember him as the fellow with the bad suit) and two others (I'm sorry, I can't remember your names to save myself) had a pre-parts party get together. A number of pieces from my infamous Needs List were filled in on Thursday night, most notably Magnus fists. Bryan, Joe and I also found a few more variations on Roadbuster accs, and Micromaster guns, which will be posted to the vari-site soon. Mark sold me a spot-on accurate knockoff of a Transmetal Cheetor (he picked up a lot of his knock-offs in Peru!) as well as the two Battle Unicorns I needed (yes, a variant there, too) while the lot of us ogled Rose's FortMax parts. This was the night Joe presented me with the infamous photo-proto Prime trailer that is now in the secret vault at TF Militia headquarters. You will read about the trailer in the next issue of Vari-quest, I promise.

Friday:

Got up early so we could stand in line for the pre-registration. The lady from the hotel told us we had to move against the wall, as we were a fire hazard in the middle of the hallway. So we moved against the wall. 15 minutes later she made us move from the wall, because she decided we were a fire hazard there! Eek! So we sat at the bar and had a drink. And who should come along and play the piano for us while we waited but Vince Dicola! I guess it was worth it.

So I got my registration packet around 1pm. I was Mark Kimmel's helper this year (the Transmanual fellow) but for all the help I gave him, I may as well not have been there at all the first day. I wandered away from the table on Saturday and was not seen again until Sunday, when I finally put in some effort. Next year, it will be my turn to buy the table for him, and his turn to wander, presumably. Anyways, I got into the art room and set up my foolishness. I had a few dioramas, and a number of kitbash figures along the lines of Toiletbot (hey, I like beating a concept to death). Again, thank you to those who voted me in for 2nd and 3rd place for Night at the Autobop (the Autobots drinking) and Battle for the Spark (Prime and Megatron playing pool). Who-hoo! I'm glad you enjoyed them. I also put in a number of other figures, which can all be seen (and laughed at) on my customs page. Odietron ho!

I had initially signed up for the dinner, but Suspy went in my place. I decided I'd had enough of the dinners. I guess it's just not worth 70 bucks to me. I can wait a day for the exclusives. I sat down with Wilson (Joe's dealer-helper, and an all-around good fellow in his own right) for a steak dinner at the resturant. Pricey, but delicious. Other than Mcdonald's, there were no places to eat at outside the hotel, so I ate at the Marriot most of the time. Joebot said that Wilson and I were kindred tf spirits, in a sense; we both like esoteric TF info. And he's right! Wilson is a font of information... Prior to dinner, I took a walk around the dealer's room. Bought some Blast Punch Primals from BigBadToyStore. Ironic; he lives in WI, about an hour from me. So he brought the toys from our state, sold them to me in North Carolina, at which point I payed to ship them back home. Those toys were well-traveled. It's not usually my thing to buy things on day one, but I'm glad I did in this case; he sold out of them that day. I'm told there were none left when Saturday rolled around.

In addition to saying hi to Lewis, I also said hello to Derrick (YellowMonster) and picked up a few TM guns that I needed. Also said howdy to Sharon (tut) and her fiancee, and got my TM gun from them (completing a deal from last Botcon when I sent them the wrong gun). I still can't find the bleeping Star Wars glass that I wanted to give him, but he did say he liked the R2D2 cake pan that I sent. :-) Hey, who says a Transfan can't have other interests?

Saturday:

This was the big day. Things were running late, so the dealer room opened, not at 8, but at 9:15am. You can imagine how rabid the fans were who waited in line for 3 hours prior to the convention. As for me, I took the time to visit with Mark K a bit, then stopped by Dave's booth. He was hanging on to a Road Ceaser for me, so I gladly settled up that deal before the doors opened. I also took the time to pick up my pre-registrant toys from the Hartmans while I waited. And then...all hell broke loose.

The doors opened.

There were so many dealers this year, that they had to split them into two rooms. I was in the main room when the stampede hit. I was ready to dive under a table and hide when the crown rolled in. I think the only thing that saved me is that I was behind the barriers for the pre-reg toys. The dealer room was pure chaos in those first few moments. People had their programs from the day before, and planned on what tables to hit ahead of time, so when the doors opened they practically ran to the dealer they wanted first. Tables lined 20 people deep. The walkways were so crowded you could barely move, or breathe. As a larger fellow, I can usually bump my way through a crowd, but there was no moving these people. I got to Mark K's table, and saw that Rich was there helping him (and that the table was crowded) so I took off back to my room to drop off some stuff. I grabbed a few boxes from the packing people while I was heading up (they were on my walk to the room, which proved valuable; I had 5 boxes to mail at the end of the day).

I spent a portion of the day going to dealer tables that had a large number of Jumpstarters. At the end of the day, I mailed home two boxes of them. I still hadn't come close to wiping them out this year. There were actually dealers that went home with them. I tried, guys. Maybe next year. I spent some time at the booth of the guy that had the Unicron prototype for sale. Bidding started at 10k. It went for 12k. For the record, no, I didn't buy it. I did get a Gmax from Brian's toys. I got it for 700 plus a trade on the Botcon toys (a lot of dealers were offering 150 credit for the 100 worth of toys). Ironically, another business in WI. So again, I had purchased a toy that was shipped from WI to NC, only to mail it back to WI. Lewis got a Blue Baccus from them, and picked up the Black Shadow from the Japanese dealers. He waited hours to get that from them, and had to play rock-paper-scissors for three rounds to win the purchase. Each year, the Japanese dealers seem to offer less and less of the classic stuff. Which is just as well. I actually was going to get Gmax last year from the jap dealers, but just when I got the price down to 700 (everybody starts at 1200 for the damn thing) I was distracted by something the Euro dealers had, so they sold it to Rugby's. That was ok by me, too. I was glad to give my business to a Dairyland Transfan.

The line for autographs was about 500 people long, for most of the day, so I didn't stand in line for actor autographs. I had hoped there would have been an extra day of autographs, or that perhaps they would sign seperate for the dealers (like last year) but alas, it was not to be. I also took the time to see an episode of Beast Wars playing in the video room. I understand the reason for such a small set up this year, but I was still disappointed. I was hoping for a set up like last year...three video rooms, 24-hours of continuous playing of all the shows (foreign and US)...that was wonderful. Nothing like waking up at 3 in the morning to watch an episode of transformers, eh? :-)

Sunday:

Having gotten minimal sleep the last few days, I was tired and cranky when I rolled out of bed at 5:30am. I had a quick breakfast, then headed to the dealer room. I made an effort to earn my keep at Mark K's table this time by unpacking everything he had and making him fit it out on the table somehow. I got a red Snarl, a Polar Claw, and a few Jumpstarters from him at a good price. I was definately tired out; I didn't even stop to talk to people very long when I made my trips around. I felt bad waving some people off, but those 'in the know' understand how it is when you just don't have the energy to communicate with your own species.

I picked up a few more parts I needed on this trip. One fellow had a jet wing I needed; (name witheld) a balding fellow with glasses in the main room, south wall. I told him to hold the Skywarp for me, that I would be back with my list and a spare wing in 8 minutes (Since I only needed a part off of it, I thought I would offer money and a comparable part in trade to keep the unit compleet). When I got there, it was gone. I asked him where it was. "Oh, I sold that." I asked him why, as I said to hold it. "Oh, you wanted it?" Yes, I told you I did. You said you'd hold it. "Oh, well I looked for you, and couldn't find you, so I sold it." What a jackass. And a liar. He's a regular at the convention. Needless to say, I'm not dealing with him again. That brought me down a bit.

Joebot was worn out as well; you could see it in his eyes. On the up-side, his wife wasn't. She must have gotten a good night's sleep. Last year, it was the other way around; she was tired, and Joe was up and running. This wasn't Joe's year; he said a number of items just walked off his table. It saddens me to think of how many Transfans will steal off an honest man's table. Things like that ruin the convention for everyone. Bryan and Sarah were doing well. It was another year of the auction at the table. It didn't seem to have the excitement, the energy of last year. Then again, it might have been me. Like I said, I was burnt out. They moved a lot of product. And Sarah found me another variant! Who-hoo! I am now in-debt to her, as well as Joebot. For once, I'm not in-debt to Particle Man. I went to sit in the autograph line for Furman and Davids; after an hour, they told us they moved it from the autograph room to the dealer room. Nice. I waited in line for nothing. At least I was in the front of the line for them this time around. Got my comics autographed. Also picked up an extra Arcee toy...one that doesn't talk, so I can actually play with it without the thing talking all of the time. Yes, the voicechip is in the box, not on the toy. And almost any damn light will set it off. So I locked that one in a dark room, wrapped in a bag, sealed in a crate. That ought to stop it, short of opening the box and crushing the thing with a hammer...

I took time to listen in on the Botcon organizer's panel. For some odd reason, they singled out Frank (a fellow transfan from my state) on the Q and A session. Not sure why. So he asked them why they had the convention here in Durham, as the place (location) sucked. People chuckled at that; after all, they probably thought the same thing; like I said before, the town was dead. Nothing. No people, no resturants. The panel told Frank he was being disrespectful, and said it was because of cost vs quality of the facilities that they chose this. Then they said something to the effect that this place was great, which solicited applause from the audience. I dunno what to think. On the one hand, I agree that it was a nice hotel. On the other hand, I agree with Frank, and feel that others did too about the location. Maybe I wouldn't have used the word 'sucked'. I'm usually too-politically correct. But then again, he was speaking his mind. And THEY solicited his comment; if they wouldn't have, he wouldn't have said anything. So in the end I feel this issue rests firmly in the laps of the Botcon organizers. They asked, they got an answer. If they didn't like it, then...well, tough.

During all my wanderings, I managed to pick up a few more parts, and a clear Hot Rod. And a knock-off Skullcruncher from Rose. This thing is spot-on accurate, except for the colors; purple and blue. The HM fig is yellow. I also pick up a half-size original BW dino megs from Mark. Exactly the same as the original; just the size of a basic. Another find from his Peru trip. Too-cool! Something of great interest were the folks who designed and modeled the 9ft tall Prime and Megatron costumes. I dunno if anyone actually bid on them (4500 starting) but they were nice costumes. I had to get my pic with those, and with the lady modeling the Arcee costume. Too-cute! We Transfans are a dedicated lot of fans...

I get the last of my packages mailed out. 5 big boxes, to the tune of 100 bucks. Yeesh. Ah well, better than nothing. At least it was on-site. They provided boxes, packing material, and the lady running the booth was very helpful and friendly. I took down my art projects a few hours before, and mailed them home as well, thinking that way, I wouldn't have to deal with checking a bag on the plane. But of course, I picked up a few other things, so I ended up with a checked bag anyways. :-) Which they lost on me, but that's a later story. I made a final round to all the booths, looking over every toy they had, checking both for parts I needed, and for other variations I might not have noticed yet. This pretty much wiped out the day, right through closing. I spent time near the euro booth an hour after the final closing of the dealer rooms, waiting to see if they would discount a Pyro (or was it Clench?) that I was eyeing up. Finally, being too-fatigued to continue, I trudged back to the room, bag of goodies in my hand, and fell to sleep shortly after.

Monday:

Woke up bright and early at 6. Had to get to the airport early for the flight back home. Joebot woke up early to say goodbye. I'm glad he did; I was too-tired to say goodbye properly to anyone the day before. Completely my bad. I suspect the others thought me anti-social this year. I DO feel bad; I didn't even make the usual dinner-get-together we have every year. Next year I will be back on-track. Between lack of sleep and my back problems, I wasn't very into things. It was almost a relief for me to have Botcon end. Once I get my operation, I'll be back into the swing of things. I still wish I could have said goodbye properly to them. They are, after all, good friends; and now I won't see them for another year. That, truly, was my one regret for this year's convention. I KNOW they understand; but it doesn't excuse it, in my mind. So I have about 360 days before I can make it up to them. :-) Besides, I still owe Sarah and Joebot some goodies... :-)

The flight home was uneventful. I was happy to be back in my home state, where the land is all divided up properly into squares. I got to the baggage claim area, and then...had to go to the desk to complain. They lost my bag. Instead of taking it off the plane, they kept in on the plane, and sent it to Texas. (They delivered it to my house the next day.) I got the Botcon van out of hawk at the parking garage, and drove home. Picked up a stack of mail. Fed the cat. And sat on the couch and marveled at the conclusion of yet another great Botcon. I'm already planning next year. Another convention, another trip for the van, another Toiletbot kitbash. Yep, things are shaping up. Only 360 more days until Botcon 2002. Better get ready for it, wherever it may be.