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Kuudere

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #60 on: May 20, 2015, 03:23:07 PM »

If this is getting too off-topic (sorry, Tony), feel free to move my posts to their own thread.

I hope these insights give our attendees an idea of how hard it is to pull off a convention, especially where guests are concerned. It's not as simple as shooting an email or throwing money in the face of the people you want to get.

I think there are people who really do think it's that simple. I didn't even realize the whole nature of building relationships with contacts until I read about it from a staffer some years ago on these forums - I was under the impression, "of course the guests would want to come see their American fans, how hard could it be to convince them?" Obviously, now I understand that there are many more factors involved than simply inviting.

I am very interested, though, what the possible upsides and downsides would be of partnering with companies to bring guests would be. Would Fanime lose some autonomy by having to cater to the wants/needs of these companies in return for their bringing guests?


Communication is definitely something that we can improve upon, and as always, we are open to suggestions on how to remedy the situation realistically without compromising the trust we've built with our contacts. Discretion is such a huge part of the whole acquisition process that we often forget that staying absolutely silent can be detrimental when fans feel neglected, ignored or belittled.

That's why I apologize, lol. If more than one person feels upset about something I'm involved in, then it really is because I've failed at properly addressing a situation, and I need to fix it.

Honestly, you're in a difficult spot. GR really can't disclose much without risking their relationships. One of the minor things I think that could be improved is more presence in answering questions (which is time-consuming, I know), and giving us the reason why you can't answer certain questions. "Why aren't the guests' names released yet?" can be answered with something like, "I'm sorry, we have several guests that we're currently working with to finalize everything. Because we need to respect their privacy while making arrangements, we can't disclose their names yet. We will let everyone know who the guests are as soon as possible." To me, that's a perfectly reasonable answer that I'd be happy with. Just telling people you have guests that will be announced later doesn't explain why you can't announce them yet, so it's important to give a reason.

Tony answered one of the biggest questions this year just fine, concerning why a guest announced themselves first. A simple, "While we can't officially confirm until all procedures are completed, we know that sometimes guests are excited and announce their appearance before everything is settled. We will officially announce guests as soon as we can." Attendees get their answers, and you're not really saying anything that puts the guest or Fanime in a bad light. This problem, however, was responded to with silence, which caused rumors to develop about how staff were being secretive. Even I was thinking that the news might have been delayed for the advantage of the convention (to get people who weren't coming until MF announced their guest to pay a higher badge price, since the announcement happened after the price increase took place). Tony cleared up that assumption.


----------------------

Now for a little "no-one-asked-my-opinion-but-here-it-is-anyway" to staff as a whole:

I'm sure this isn't possible to do to the extent that Tony has done here (while maintaining the privacy of the guests and remaining in their good graces), but I think little "behind-the-scenes" stories after the con is over can do a lot to show people how it's like to plan and prepare this kind of event. A lot of people will appreciate being treated like they're important enough to hear these facts - and some will probably use it as fuel to criticize, there's no avoiding that. I think Tony does a good job in admitting when/where mistakes were made and acknowledging the chance to grow from them. That's good leadership. Anyone who expects a flawlessly-run event of this size is delusional, but I think we all want the flaws to be acknowledged and hear how staff plans to improve on them for next year. That level of communication is essential for trust between staff and attendees.

For long-term improvements on communication, while the forums are great, I don't think they're ideal. Questions that have already been asked and answered need to be easier to find, so staff isn't stuck answering the same questions over and over, which tires them out and takes away from time that could be spent either working or answering different questions. And I think that this communication really shouldn't fall on one individual, but needs to be a team effort. For example, I saw poor Melody (I think that's her name) being bombarded by people from artist alley because she was one of the few staffers giving out little bits of information on the delay. It shouldn't fall only on her to communicate for a department that large (and if there's any example of where there needed to be more transparency this year, artist alley was definitely it). I know Eric's been pretty diligent over the years in getting people answers for all different departments, but there might need to be a team of Erics somewhere down the road to keep communication with staff a possibility. A team responsible for maintaining a relationship with the attendees and keeping them informed/answered with whatever information they can. This would be considered a "customer service team" in the business world - but I think it could be applied to the convention world as well.

These ideas might not be realistic now, but maybe in the future they could be possible. I hope that my suggestions are helpful in some way.
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cutiebunny

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #61 on: May 20, 2015, 03:38:01 PM »

I have been browsing the forums for a while now and to be honest, it really, really hurts to see people saying that the reason our guest lineup is disappointing is because the staff are lazy, among other false assertions.

I suppose you feel the same way I do when I approach conventions who want sponsors and offer the funds to bring over an animator or manga artist only to be ignored and then read something like "We only have a limited budget" when staff complains how they can only do so much.  Or, better yet, to be told that you're being "rude" for asking to offer your own personal funds towards something like this.  Do I think that, with what a con like Fanime spends securing guests, that my donation will make much of a difference?  Not really.  But I know that it would easily cover airfare and hotel for a guest, which would give a convention more funds to dedicate elsewhere.

Most of us, myself included, understand the difficulty in getting guests.  We know it's no quick phone call and they're a confirmed guest.  Nor do most people expect that Fanime is going to bring in Naoko Takeuchi or someone equally, if not more so, well known.  With the exception of MusicFest, Fanime has always been a place for up and coming or people past their prime.  I don't think anyone really expects otherwise, especially not us 'whales'.  We'd actually prefer you drag in someone like Kenichi Sonoda in lieu of a corporately sponsored guest.  I know a lot of people that would be happy with him.  However, I do think it's fair to compare you to SakuraCon as you're both roughly the same size and feature Japanese guests when I wonder why, ever since 2012, guest announcements don't begin until April, at the earliest, while SakuraCon starts four months prior to con.

If the key obstacle between getting more Japanese guests is money, I'd be happy to put my money where my mouth is and donate.  While I love the food in North Carolina to death, I'd rather use my travel expenses towards providing a higher quality experience for everyone if that extra couple grand would make the difference between having a guest and not having one.
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Tony

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #62 on: May 20, 2015, 08:49:41 PM »

TIL cutiebunny is kind of a badass.
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Tony

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #63 on: May 20, 2015, 08:56:45 PM »

This entry will be a little different - I’m jumping through two years, since they’re so uninteresting.

But don’t worry, I’m not done! There’s more coming tomorrow and Friday - two of my favorite stories.

--

“Are you ready to be a father?” It wasn’t the first time I’d been asked that question.

I knew that having a baby would be a big change, but I thought I had some preparation. I was used to pulling all-nighters. I had trained physically in a variety of ways, and had conditioned myself to handle various forms of starvation. I had been through crunch-time at a startup, and I had held positions at most every level of FanimeCon. Taking care of a baby should be hard, but doable.

Yeah. Naivete.

It suffices to say that having our daughter changed Marie and I a bit. Physically, we’ve gotten stronger - but we ache. Mentally, we’re wiser - but a little slower. Our priorities, though - those changed the most, and that was the hardest part of becoming parents. We were used to being independent, individual people, but the baby reconfigured our priorities and reinforced those priorities unyieldingly.

Before Ely, our daughter, came along, Fanime was around priority #4, behind Marie, myself, and my career. The priorities would change as demanded, though; the month of May would often see Fanime jump to the top, to the detriment of work, or Marie, or my health.

After Ely came along, you might think that she took the number one spot, but I’m going to digress a bit. The romanticism of parenthood says that you always put your child first. I’ll offer you a different idea: put your spouse and yourself ahead of the kid. The reason is simple: children reinforce priorities unyieldingly, and they are unparalleled at occupying your time. Babies can easily take up 12 focused hours of your day. That means they can starve your other priorities of attention - perhaps costing you your spouse and your health. But this applies to my style of parenting and living, and my baby, so caveat emptor.

After Ely came along, she took up spot #3 behind Marie and my health. After that came career (for room and board) family (because you’ll want and need them) and friends (because you’ll want and need them, too). That leaves Fanime at #7. Like I mentioned, though, high-priority things will starve low-priority things from getting any attention, and that’s exactly what happened. That would matter in a year.

--

Going into FanimeCon 2014, Chris and Jinni’s only task of us was to tend to Yamaga. There wasn’t much to do, there. Remember, he’s been a guest longer than we’ve been staff.

We only did two things: we spent about an hour and a half in Daiso looking for teacups, and then we spent about two hours setting up an A/V system. It turned out that Yamaga brought his own cups and brought no videos to show, though, so it was a wash.

Though it was great to try to help out, and it was fun to bring Ely along, it was clear we just weren’t able to contribute like we had - like what Fanime needs.

--

Marie and I spent the summer thinking of what we wanted to do. We have a lot of friends still staffing, and we wanted to see the convention be a success - especially now that our friend Will was back as chair.

Marie had thought about going into HR. We really enjoyed feeding, talking to, and de-stressing the staff. Marie thought maybe she could help in that way, and with HR in general. There would be little work, pre- or at-con, so it would be a nice and effective way to contribute.

I’m a programmer, so I thought - looking for a nice and effective way to contribute - I would join IT. I’d have maybe an hour a day I could spend coding. I could apply my experience to make technology that would make staff’s work easier and attendee’s experience more enjoyable.

I’ll spare you another day of stories, because there’s really not much to say about 2015. I putzed around for about six months, did some work on one application from March until May, and that was about it. Marie didn’t end up doing anything.

--

I decided that I just didn’t want to go to con at all. I saw that I couldn’t contribute effectively, and to do so would require rearranging priorities in a way I couldn’t choose to do. Going to con, though, could resurface the passion I have for the event and everyone involved with it. I didn’t want to be tempted to volunteer again - not with a young girl to raise, a career to tend to, a wife to love.

With the end in sight, you start thinking about the past. That's why I started posting these stories.

Marie was saddened by my conclusion, though. Actually, a lot of people were. When I started posting these stories, people came out of the woodwork asking what had happened and why I was cutting loose. The more I explained it to Marie and them, the more they suggested that I should come anyway - that I would regret not saying goodbye, at least.

So that’s what I’m planning to do; I’ll be around Friday and Saturday to say hi to my friends and bye to the convention as I know it.

Hopefully my feelings toward the con will change, and I won’t feel compelled to help, nor upset about how things could have been.

Maybe the con will be something I can visit instead as an attendee - something to enjoy with my family.

Maybe some day my daughter, searching for a community of her own, will come across Fanime.

Maybe, then, it will be time for this old veteran to introduce her to a world that will change her life.

Just like me.
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GokuMew2

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #64 on: May 21, 2015, 02:23:58 AM »

2013 was one of my most memorable years so I'm looking forward to the story on that!


I am very interested, though, what the possible upsides and downsides would be of partnering with companies to bring guests would be. Would Fanime lose some autonomy by having to cater to the wants/needs of these companies in return for their bringing guests?

I, personally, have been pushing for sponsorships almost since I began staffing for the con. The con has its reasons (which I largely disagree with) and unfortunately I don't think I can really say more than that.

However, I do think it's fair to compare you to SakuraCon as you're both roughly the same size and feature Japanese guests when I wonder why, ever since 2012, guest announcements don't begin until April, at the earliest, while SakuraCon starts four months prior to con.

If the key obstacle between getting more Japanese guests is money, I'd be happy to put my money where my mouth is and donate.  While I love the food in North Carolina to death, I'd rather use my travel expenses towards providing a higher quality experience for everyone if that extra couple grand would make the difference between having a guest and not having one.

I can't really speak for SakuraCon since I do not have the details of their inner workings, but I believe they often work with companies like Aniplex. As I've mentioned, licensors, and especially Japanese powerhouses like Aniplex, have a lot of leverage when booking guests. They can get things done, and early. Unfortunately FanimeCon is not organized in a manner where I can't go the same route, so I'm stuck playing the waiting game. Think of it this way: SakuraCon goes through the VIP back door; FanimeCon goes through the front door used for the general public.

Regarding budgets, I can only tell you that I am given a certain number of slots and a figure. I basically then go find people who will fit those criteria. Though I have a hand in selecting the people who fit the criteria, I don't really get any say on what those criteria are. I am like you; I don't go to cons for the American guests. I want to see the Japanese guests so I know how you feel, I really do. But at the end of the day, I only can work with the resources I'm given, which is reflected in the number of Japanese guests we have. I don't have much power beyond that.

I don't think FanimeCon will ever accept donations from attendees to get guests, unfortunately, but I do appreciate the gesture.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2015, 10:06:32 AM by GokuMew2 »
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Tony

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #65 on: May 21, 2015, 02:53:36 PM »

It’s Day Zero for FanimeCon 2015, so I thought I’d share my favorite Day Zero story. It has less to do with Fanime and more to do with the weird situation I was in at that time, but nonetheless, I hope you find it entertaining. Read it in the reg line - if there is one.

One more story tomorrow.

--

Brown v. City of Oakland et al had been going on for about three weeks when, finally, we were given closing statements.

I was a juror on the case, also working crazy hours at a startup and trying to manage the Guest Relations division at FanimeCon. Thankfully Marie was taking over the big stuff in GR. I was burned out from the startup and squeezing in job interviews during lunches and short days. It sucked.

It was the Wednesday before con - lovingly called “Day -1” - when the lawyers for the case wrapped up. The jury went into deliberations and I was hoping beyond hope that it would decide the case that day. I saw quickly that this wouldn’t happen. The jury generally came to a consensus that the situation was very messy - why else would it go to court! - but that it was not clear by a preponderance of the evidence that the plaintiff’s claims were true. So, we agreed to rule in favor of the defendant. But there were questions about how to deliver that verdict, and so we stopped for the day. I was a bit panicked. Tomorrow was Day 0.

That night I dropped off Marie and some luggage at the Hilton. She needed to be there, running GR operations, because there was a good chance I would not be. We had to make a large detour around the Cesar Chavez park because Obama was staying in the Fairmont. This is going to be weird, I thought.

--

I came to court the next day dressed quite formally. I had guests of honor to meet that day and needed to dress the part. As we entered deliberations the next day I imagined our Japanese guests, flying in a plane over the Pacific, leading to my impending doom.

We entered deliberations, picking up where we had left off. We thought the City of Oakland was not guilty. Now what?

The verdict process is actually quite straightforward. The judge explains the laws. As a juror, you only need to fill out a questionnaire, which the judge provides. You decide whether you agree or disagree that certain laws were broken, and that yields the verdict. This process wasn’t quite understood by a few members of the jury; after we agreed that the City of Oakland was not at fault, someone asked how much we were going to penalize them. I’m pretty sure you can’t penalize an innocent party - even if it is the City of Oakland.

I was getting nervous, so started to speak up. I wrote a note to the judge, asking about a shortcut on the questionnaire; he did not allow it. So, we walked through each question, slowly coming to a consensus.

The foreman - the juror somewhat responsible for the jury - wasn’t terribly comfortable with how things were going. She sked if I would take over. “Well, I’m already dressed the part!” I said, and started guiding the rest of the process. After a short time, we filled out our surveys and let the judge know we were ready. We climbed back into the jury box and I stood to address the court and deliver the verdict. Not guilty!

“Sir, you did not sign the verdict…” said the judge. He glared and I turned red. He handed the sheet to the bailiff, the bailiff handed it to me, I quickly signed it, and then gave it back. That was awkward. But the judge banged the gavel and it was done. They offered to host the jury should anyone want to comment about the decision, but I was halfway out the door and sprinting towards BART at that point.

--

On BART I went over the day’s plan in my head. I was free, but I still had to get ready for con. Everything was packed and staged - clothes in suitcase, equipment stacked by the door - but I had to get it all in the car and drive south to San Jose. It would be easy!

--

I walked into my apartment and stepped into cat vomit. Cat vomit was everywhere. We have two cats and one of them was clearly sick. I eventually found him curled up in a corner and thought he was dead. Thankfully, he looked up warily at me, still quite alive, but in bad shape. Getting to con isn’t going to be so easy, I thought to myself.

I called the vet and let them know an emergency was coming their way. Stepping around cat vomit, I packed the cat into a carrier and then into the car. We drove a few miles to the pet hospital. I was told there that he had eaten a hair tie and it had gotten lodged in his butt. That blocked up his digestive track and was making him nauseous. They lubed him up, “broke up” the obstruction, and put him on IV fluids for an hour. The poor guy, our alpha male cat, came back to me in his carrier, curled up and exhausted - and very stinky. I packed him into the car to head home.

--

As I pulled out of the vet’s driveway, I got a call. Remember how I was squeezing in job interviews? The previous week I had gone to two interviews - one through my sister for a small company she was working at, and one through a friend for Pandora internet radio. The interview at my sister’s place went terribly - their questions threw me off and their CTO remarked upon the plain style of my resume. Pandora had gone much better, and I was hoping for a callback. Here it was. On the phone was Chris Martin - not lead singer of Coldplay, but VP of Engineering for Pandora.

“Hey, just wanted to say congratulations - we’d like to offer you a job here at Pandora.” He outlined the compensation and benefits. I would have fewer responsibilities and get paid over 30% more to do it. My head swam.

“That really sounds great!” I replied, “This is weird, but, I’m actually on my way home from the vet because my cat was sick and throwing up-”, I started babbling, “and now I have to get him home and then pack up for that convention - I think I mentioned it to you? - so yeah, I’ll be there this weekend-”, babbling continued, “and then I need to go over it with my wife, you know, so how about I think it over?”

Chris seemed a little confused. “Uh, sure, that’s fine - think it over, and give us a call when you’ve made a decision. I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon.”

“Great thanks talk to you soon!” I said, running a red light.

--

Finally home. I laid down the cat carrier and opened it up. Alpha cat exited hesitantly, tired and wary. I gave him a pat on the head and went to get carpet cleaner for the patches of vomit throughout the apartment - once I’d cleaned, I could load up and ship out.

As he walked away from me, I saw why he was stinky. His butt was covered in lubricant and crap. All of that blockage that the vet had broken up - it came out while in the car. There was the hair tie that he had eaten, dangling off his rear. Getting to con isn’t going to be so easy, I thought to myself.

Bath time. I lathered him up twice. Usually one would use a cup or bowl to ladle water onto the pet. I held him under the bath faucet. He was too tired to care. I dried him with towels, brushed his fur a bit, then left him to clean himself. Done.

Carpet time. Paper towels and Resolve spray everywhere. Done.

Loading time. Huge suitcase, boxes of supplies, a surround sound system - on to a cart, then into the car. Done.

I took a second to catch my breath. What a weird day, I thought.

--

I got onto 880 south in the afternoon, but traffic was surprisingly good. I was blasting music in the car, singing along - a great de-stresser, like exercise and warm baths. I got a call, this time from a former colleague I hadn’t seen in a year. I let it go to voicemail, then listened: she was asking if I was available for contract work. Could this day get weirder?

I shouldn’t have asked.

It was dusk as I approached the Hilton, car full of crap, my formal attired sweat through and crumpled. Everything was dark. The reg line was peeking out of the SJCC, running into South Almaden boulevard. Getting to con isn’t going to be so easy, I thought to myself.
The car went with the valet and I went into the Hilton with just my suitcase. I could see commotion in convention center from the Hilton lobby and - old chair instincts kicking in - went to go investigate. The air was stale and warm, and the mumblings of upset attendees was developing into a low roar. I ran into Terrence, head of the Ops division, who along with many staff were doing line control. “What the hell happened?” I asked. He barely looked at me. “Power outage. Whole block down. No ETA. Dude - don’t block the walkways, get out of here!” I smiled and waved goodbye to him and the crowd.

I had to somehow get to Marie and the rest of GR staff up in the green room. There was no real option but to climb the height of the hotel with my suitcase. Climb I did.

Up in the green room, Marie was calm but on high-alert. “This has been the weirdest day. I’ll tell you all about it later. How’s everything going, love?”

She furrowed her brow. “Not great,” she said, “but the guests are being fantastic about the power outage and everything. We can’t check them into their rooms, so we’ve been collecting their stuff” - she waved to a pile of luggage in the corner - “and sending them off with their handlers.”

“Are all the staff on-site already?” I asked.

“No,” she explained, “they’ve all been pulling double-duty. We sent a party off to get dinner since there was nothing to do. Koyama-san is climbing the stairwell for exercise. There’s a limo that is over an hour late, so I don’t know where those guests are, or when they’re coming. I’ve got to stay here until they do.”

“Wait. But there’s only one flight. They should have all arrived together, at the same time,” I said. But then I remembered. “That’s right! When I was listening to the radio for traffic reports, I heard there was a major problem on 101 south. They’re probably stuck in traffic.”

“Even though they left at the same time?” Marie was incredulous.

“I guess so. The limo company must be losing it, with how they budget their time. We should probably tip them a little extra.” You do a lot of tipping in GR, and usually aren’t paid back.

It was actually quite calm. The guests were affable. The staff were working hard, but were calm, not yet stressed and exhausted. In the green room, with only dim emergency lighting, it was almost romantic to look over the city, sun set, no electronics or sound or chatter to take away from it all.

--

Then, the lights came back on.

Staff snapped into action. They took the guests in shifts to check in to their rooms, pick up their luggage, and then rest for the night. The missing limo finally arrived and we got them settled, too. The elevators strained under the surge of usage.

The green room emptied as everyone bunked down for the night. Marie and I collected our items, closed up shop, and went to our room. I walked her through the bullet points of my weird day as we got ready for bed. She was a bit dumbstruck.

“Well,” she said, “How about you take a shower and we call it a night?”

“Sounds like a plan,” I answered.

As I got undressed, I went over things. The day was done. Tomorrow would be a new day, full of challenges and accomplishments. A new chapter would be opening up for us, personally, with me getting a new job that would give me more time to enjoy life.

I climbed into the shower and was hit with a cold spray to the face.

The power had been out to the boilers. The boilers were still cold. Only cold showers for me, Marie, and the guests.

Getting to con really wasn’t so easy, I thought, shivering.

That was a Day Zero to remember.
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Jimbly

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #66 on: May 21, 2015, 04:44:24 PM »

I've only read up until 2008, but just wanted to drop a note to say I'm finding these super interesting!  I usually don't read this "long-form" kind of stuff, but either this is extra interesting (a bit of "seeing how the sausages are made" combined with having been to the same 12 years of Fanime and knowing some of the staffers), or I'm just really trying to kill time before I can leave work and start getting ready for Fanime.   And, hey, it's almost 5, I think I'll call it a day...
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Tony

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #67 on: May 22, 2015, 08:51:43 PM »

It has been two weeks!

Here's maybe my favorite story to tell about my time as chair. Mostly because it has star power. It wasn't necessarily my happiest, nor most intriguing, but it was a whirlwind of fun. It is kind of the epitome of the experience of FanimeCon.

I visited today and was floored at how many people said that they were keeping up with these stories. I really should have taken a writing class before all this! But I hope you've had fun and learned a little bit about what goes on behind the scenes. I'm quite touched that anyone would read so much of my story.

Really, though, this all just scratches the surface of the many stories there are to tell. I've filtered out the mundane stuff, the controversial stuff, the personal stuff, and the painful stuff. Some of these things I will have to bury inside myself, but others I will keep, like medicine, close to my heart - to remind me of the good times that were.

And I'm just one of many staff members with stories to tell.

--

Marie and I will be there tomorrow, letting our daughter burn off her toddler energy on the convention floor.

Hopefully we'll see you there.

Thanks for reading.

--

I want you to picture Willy Wonka. No, not Gene Wilder. Not Dahl’s character in the books, either. Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka.

Keep this picture in your mind.

On Saturday of FanimeCon 2011, Willy Wonka and his assistant paid us a visit.

You probably know him better as Yoshiki from X Japan.

--

The day before Yoshiki was supposed to arrive, our contact explained that he was sick; there was a chance he couldn’t show up for his events. We wouldn’t be able to know until the next morning. That night, we met to go over our plans and contingencies.

The first question was what to do if he could not come.

We weren’t too worried about that. Attendees would be more than sympathetic about a sick Yoshiki, and our contact would be able to host his panel. It wouldn’t be ideal, but it would work.

The second question was what to do if he could, actually, come.

Without a firm schedule, we would have to book him a limo from the airport on short notice. If he wasn’t feeling well, we would likewise have to book him a limo to the airport on even shorter notice. He would do his panel, and hopefully we would be able to treat him to dinner before he left. I think it was Ashley that prepared the Arcadia with the news that we may need to host a large dinner for a VIP on extremely short notice.

The third question was what to do if he could actually stay. The hotels were booked.

Ashley came to the rescue again. The Hilton was remodeling, and although some floors were closed off for construction, the suite in one of those floors was actually finished. It would be a little weird, but he would be able to crash with us.

“If he stays, he’s not just going to want to sleep,” Tomoko chimed in.

Tomoko, previous chair of FanimeCon and board member, was present. Fanime had taken a back-burner in her life, but on special occasions should would appear with her expertise. Being a people person and Japanese, this was exactly the scenario we needed her for.

“If he stays, we’re going to have to throw him a little soiree,” she explained. “That means appetizers, drinks, and um - how do I say this?” She thought for a moment. “He will want a, uh, balance, in the atmosphere. There will need to be… hana. You know - not too masculine.” I looked at her, puzzled. “What I’m saying is,” Tomoko explained, “is it can’t be a bunch of guys hanging out. He’ll want nice, discreet girls around.”

Oh. Got it. Hana.

There was the plan. If he came, it would be limos and dinner. If he stayed, it would be suites, drinks, and girls. Such is the life of a rockstar. We prepared ourselves.

--

Morning came, and no word. Yoshiki was still resting.

Late morning came, and no word. Yoshiki still needed to rest.

Noon. No Yoshiki. We were feeling deflated.

Next thing I know, Yoshiki is on a plane from LA. Oh shit. Kick it into gear.

--

I did not actually see Yoshiki arrive. His limo from SJC pulled up to the Marriott and our contact greeted him. We had previously planned several routes for moving him from place to place discreetly, so I didn’t know he was there until he was already whisked away into a meeting room to freshen up.

Meanwhile, the line for his panel grew and grew. It was wrapping around the room, so we had to keep him staged until the attendees could be seated. Once that happened, chair team waited behind the room. We were to greet Yoshiki and tend to him before and after his panel. Ashley and Sam were with us - I think dressed as Panty & Stocking, if I’m remembering correctly - along with Tomoko. Our contact was warming up the panel room and we could hear the crowd growing louder.

He emerged. From the staging area, out walked his assistant - tall, filming with a camera - and then Yoshiki. He looked like a rock star. Sunglasses, long black coat. His right hand was in a splint - “I was practicing too hard, haha!” he said - but you couldn’t tell he was sick or tired. He was on.

We introduced ourselves. He introduced himself. His assistant introduced himself - though simply as “I’m his assistant and videographer.”

Yoshiki was quite affable. We led him to take a seat. It was still a few minutes until it was time to go in. Those were agonizing minutes; we had nothing to talk about. Yoshiki was politely smiling the whole time, occasionally checking his phone. He was really into Twitter.

Finally, the doors opened. You can see him, just before he entered the panel, here: http://ameblo.jp/saint-mary/image-10912581395-11269105781.html - two-thirds of chair team on the left.

Tomoko went in first - she would be host and translator, if need be - and then off went Yoshiki. The room erupted in applause.

The doors closed behind him. We looked at each other. “Ok, what’s next?” We would need to be back in about an hour to carefully move him to dinner at the Arcadia. Ashley left to confirm the reservations. Chair team meandered over to ProReg to wait for dinner.

Yoshiki had a lot of fun at the panel. We met him outside and he was energized. “Ah, that was fun!” he exclaimed.

“It was fun, and we were so glad to host you! Now, do you feel up to being our guest at dinner?” we asked.

“Of course!” He smiled and laughed. I guess he was feeling better.

We went ahead to make sure things were in place.

--

The staff at the Arcadia were not very happy.

We came early to make arrangements, but the arrangements kept changing. The wait staff were becoming impatient with the changes. Ashley, however, was in full control of the situation, and they quickly snapped out of their funk. “I know their bosses very well,” she explained, “and I can get them into very hot water if they aren’t on their best behavior for us.” She smiled.

Yoshiki arrived, smiling and laughing, his assistant trailing him with a camera. A long table had been set up for us. “Boy, boy,” he said, gesturing to the assistant, “shall we sit in the middle? Haha!” He took a spot in the middle of the table, his assistant to his left, Fanime staff across.

“That was very fun, wasn’t it?” he mused. “Boy, let’s tweet about that!” His assistant put down the camera and picked up Yoshiki’s phone. “Ah, let’s say…” Yoshiki began, pausing to think, his assistant at the ready. He began dictating a tweet. “Can I see it?” Yoshiki asked. The assistant showed him the tweet. “No no, delete that part - yes - ok…” He was revising the tweet through his assistant. Finally, he was happy. “Yes, send it! Haha!” He loved to tweet, he explained, because his fans were wonderfully excited and supportive.

Slowly, more people began to show up. Our contact appeared with her assistants, and they began chatting with him. Fanime staff cycled in and out as well. The waitstaff were placing dishes in front of us, only to have to move them, because guests were moving all around the table. The head waiter was getting noticeably impatient.

Yoshiki was struck with an idea. “Boy, boy!” he said, “Let’s start a flash mob!” His assistant picked up the phone and Yoshiki began dictating. “Ah, what’s the name of the stage here?” Yoshiki asked, “The one in the center of the convention.” “Stage Zero”, we replied. “Yes! Boy, tell my fans to go to Stage Zero, and then to be ready for my next command!” His assistant typed away, showed it to Yoshiki - who then nodded - and hit send. Yoshiki smiled.

I discreetly texted Operations. Marie politely excused herself, stepped out of earshot, and then got on the radio. Both of us were trying to contact ConOps to expect a disturbance at Stage Zero.

Suddenly three models from the Hangry & Angry fashion show appeared, still dressed in their fashions, and flanked Yoshiki. He laughed and welcomed them to dinner. They took pictures together and he laughed more. Ah, I thought - Hana.

“Boy! Tell them to get ready to scream, ‘We are X!’ on my command! Whoever is loudest will win dinner with me, here!” His assistant tweeted. When he did give the command, thankfully nothing crazy actually happened at Stage Zero.

Marie and I looked at each other uncomfortably - why was Yoshiki calling this guy boy? Was this some weird arrangement? Was it a hazing thing for Yoshiki’s assistants? His assistant picked up on our look. “Oh, hey - so, that’s not a pet-name or anything. My name is Boy. It’s actually ‘Boy’. I know, it sounds weird. I’m from Europe.” We relaxed a bit.

Seemingly from nowhere, Tuxedo Mask - our guest of honor Furuya-san - appeared and sat next to Yoshiki. Yoshiki was delighted. He gestured for the head waiter to come over, and asked if Furuya wanted dinner. Furuya couldn’t stay. “Let’s have a snack, then! Duck-fat fries, please! Haha!” The waiter nodded and left, sighing just slightly. Marie and Furuya shared fries as he chatted with Yoshiki. She was tickled to be sharing fries with Tuxedo Kamen.

Outside it had rained a bit. The fountains were clear of their usual cosplayers. There was a line out of the door of the Civic. It was the first MusicFest in a long time that I had not opened. I worried that the line was because seating was going poorly, but I was please to learn later that it was a full house.

Furuya and Yoshiki talked for some time in Japanese, laughing and sharing stories. Boy fetched the attendees that had screamed “We are X!” the loudest, and they took pictures with Yoshiki and joined us for dinner. Ashley, slightly heartbroken, had to leave early and excused herself. The models left and were replaced with new ones. Yoshiki laughed.

It was getting late. The limo for Yoshiki’s ride to the airport had arrived and was waiting. Our contact approached Yoshiki and gently let him know. “That’s fine, we can stay a little longer, right!” We talked and ate and laughed some more. The limo drove off. Tomoko arranged for another car.

Now it was really late. “Yoshiki, I’m sorry,” began the contact, “but you really must leave now if you want to catch your flight...”

“Oh, that’s ok!” Yoshiki replied, “I have my own jet!” Marie and I looked at him, shocked. You have a jet, we asked. “Oh, I don’t own it,” he explained, “it’s just a time-share. Haha!” We laughed. Tomoko chimed in: “If you don’t have any plans, we should let you know that we have accommodations. There is a lovely suite you can use, if you want to stay overnight.”

“Thank you!” he exclaimed, “but no, I really should go, shouldn’t I?”

That was the cue to pay. Tomoko produced her credit card, but Yoshiki beat her to the punch. He leapt up from his chair and gestured to the head waiter. When he approached, Yoshiki reached into his jacket and pulled out his credit card. I only caught a glimpse, but it was unmistakably an Amex black card. “No, thank you for welcoming me to Fanime. Please let me take care of dinner,” he said.

We were aghast. Yoshiki was our guest, but was paying for dinner - an expensive dinner. We protested vigorously. He laughed. “No, no!” he said, “Thank you for having me!”

The waiter returned with the bill and the card. Yoshiki signed for the check. “This FanimeCon was very fun! Thank you!”

We bowed, he bowed, Boy waved. Then Yoshiki was gone.

I like to imagine that he climbed into a glass elevator, assistant in tow, then flew off in the night - waving and laughing into the sky.
Logged
Retired.
Tyrannical Board Admin, 2003-2015
Webmaster, 2003-2007
Head of MusicFest, which has the best damn staff out there, 2005-2008
Convention Chair, 2009-2011
Director of Guest Relations, 2012
Something with Guest Relations, 2013
Father, 2014
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