SUBJECT: HomiCon '99

What follows is a write-up of my experiences during Homicon99. It may be too long for many people's taste so I'm warning you all ahead of time. Also, this is my take on things. It may differ slightly from other reports because, after all, perceptions are different. If I leave anyone out, I apologize ahead of time. I didn't write things down like I did last year.

Kathy, Maura and I worked long and hard on Homicon99 and it paid off. From all the positive feedback, both written and verbal, it was an unqualified success. Before I start on my little diary, I want to take a minute to fill you in on some relatively unknown information which may explain why I was acting meshuggeneh during the first days of Homicon. First off, I am not usually a worrier. I tend to follower Wayne Dyer's advice when it comes to worrying. Get up, take 10 minutes and sit down and worry about the fate of the world and anything else you might want to worry about that day, and then when the alarm goes off, stop worrying and go about your day. Unfortunately, the following incident set off a spate of worrying but thanks to Paul Kilduff, everything worked out just fine.

Approximately 11 days before Homicon was to begin, I received a letter from our bus tour company telling me that our tour was cancelled. The owner of the tour company made it sound like we were asking too much and she would not be able to deliver what we expected and she didn't want to do the tour if it couldn't be top-notch. The bottom line was that she was unable to rehire the man who had done last year's tour. I e-mailed Kathy and Maura to tell them what happened and then I e-mailed Paul Kilduff who did the tour with us last year, but was no longer working for the tour company. He was very supportive and even though he said "I told you so" it wasn't said as many times as he should and could have. Even though the owner later agreed to give us a tour, it was obvious she would probably cancel the day of the tour. I ended up cancelling her. Paul came through and made the tour better than we could have ever hoped for. I'll get to that later in the narration. I don't think he realizes what a hero he was and how much the Homiconners appreciated what he did last Sunday. I just wanted to state up front how much I appreciate what he did and the work he put into the tour. All I've heard were complimentary things and how much everyone is looking forward to next year's tour.

I also want to thank Kathy and Maura for the hard work they did to get Homicon99 to fruition.

Now for Homicon99. The way Thursday went, I was concerned that that would be a precursor to how Homicon would go. The only good thing that happened that day is that Bubba went happily off to the kennel and didn't howl or make a scene. I didn't know whether to be happy or sad that he didn't miss me.

My big problem was packing. My sister "organized" my house before she moved. This is her shtick and more power to her but I couldn't find anything when it came to filling my suitcase. Because I didn't have the time to search for things, I ended up speeding to Walmart and Target for "essentials" that I already had but was unable to locate. Things like travel size toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant etc. I still have no clue what she did with my stash.

Quicksilver limo service came for me at 5:15 a.m . Friday morning. Plenty of time to get to the airport for the 7:15 a.m. flight on Southwest. However, there was a crimp in the plans. The driver had to pick up two ladies in Kansas City, Kansas. That in and of itself should tell it all. He had trouble finding their address, and of course they weren't ready when he got there. We had to wait and I was getting antsy. Southwest doesn't have seat assignments and I was afraid I'd be so late I'd be stuck in the middle of a row. He drove like a bat out of hell but I was boarder number 69, not a great choice for a good seat, but a heck of an interesting number. Well, that turned out to be the last of my bad luck. The rest of the trip was wonderful.

Got into Baltimore around 10:45 and made it to the Admiral Fell at noon. My room wasn't ready, but the staff greeted me like it was old home week. After all, it's like my fourth or fifth stay in the hotel. I was informed that the packages from Court TV and the Baltimore CVB had arrived. I left my luggage in their good hands and went to explore Fells Point again. I spent a couple of hours doing the various shops and had my requisite grilled cheese sandwich at Jimmys. Stopped in at Koopers and said hello to Patrick. I didn't see anyone from the group so I wandered back to the Fell. My room still wasn't ready so I decided to take advantage of the Harbor City Shuttle and went to the Inner Harbor. I visited Barnes & Noble (I don't know why, we have enough of them in Kansas City and they are larger than the one over at the Harbor) and the Balto Convention and Visitors Bureau Visitor's Center and then it was back to Fells Point. It was a little after three and my room was finally ready so I unpacked and made it over to Koopers by four (like I'd promised).

Maura showed up at about 4:30 p.m. and slowly but surely people started gathering. Kathy showed up and LeAnthony and Gina Marie and Erika. The crowd soon started to swell. As usual Patrick let us take over the back section of his business. The usual suspects began to show up along with newbies Mark and Marie Sobieski, Gene and Mickey Meier, Tara Pratt and her mom Linda, Ketina Taylor, Pat Sallin and Gail Thompson. It was quite fun showing pictures and meeting each other. We had dinner at Koopers and I od'd on diet coke. I think it was the lime twist that did it.

Gina Marie and Erika had prepared gifts for Kathy, Maura and me. I couldn't believe mine. It was a little ceramic teddy bear in a fire hat and slicker a la Mike Kellerman. It now has a place of honor on my fireplace mantel. The Mike Kellerman connection doesn't end there. Maura and the writers from Autofocus came up with a Mike Kellerman trivia quiz for the Mike Kellerman Pub Crawl. Maura outdid herself on this. She had toy badges for us and had prizes for the top three winners. We started out at the Wharf Rat where Bill Grossman serenaded everyone Richard Belzer style with "Mack the Knife." In honor of Mikey most of us had shots of "Jim Peam." Outside the bar Maura read several questions. We all yelled out answers. It was a hoot.

Next we went to Miss Irene's but it was obvious it wouldn't be "safe" for us in there that night so we did our thing outside. Maura's questions were hard. I thought I was a Mikey expert but I was stumped on a lot of them. The good news is that so were a lot of others. We passed the Waterfront. Sad, so sad. I don't remember if it was then or the next day when the owner tried to get us to come inside. It was like "I don't think so." Then on to High Tops. It was too crowded so we did the "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" routine from "Wu's on First" outside. Then a round of questions and answers. Next stop The Horse You Came In On.. They wanted a dollar cover charge to get in but we nixed that. Still, I was let in long enough to buy a t-shirt. They didn't have any last March when I was last in Baltimore. Anyway, to the delight of passers-by and the bouncers of The Horse we finished off the trivia quiz. When it was all over I had won, Bill Grossman was second and Ketina Taylor was third or vice versa. Our prizes was a plastic Glock 9 mm. inscribed with the Mike Kellerman Pub Crawl. Maura, it was a great! Somehow or other I managed to get the gun through the x-ray machines. I presume they x-ray luggage that is checked. I also presume that plastic doesn't really show up in x-rays, especially when hidden in shoes.

Afterward, a few of us including Morpheus and the Sobieskis went to a bar on Broadway called the (something) Oyster. It was a really quiet bar considering the others although we were cautioned not to block the aisle in the backroom and not drop things on the floor. At least that's my take of it. Had another Jim Peam and more diet Coke. Morph and I closed the place.

Saturday began with trying to get ready for the walking tour. I'm not known for my bookkeeping ability and the calculator I brought broke down on me. Still, I had everything in hand and stumbled out of the Fell with my coffee and camera and met people who wanted to pay me for the bus tour and the walking tour. Somehow I got it all together. Zippy was there and a dear and helped organize things. I joined the tour for about thirty minutes but I had to leave to meet Gina and Erika and Jim and Judy Lawrence for a riverboat cruise and lunch. Still, I was lucky enough to meet Pat Moran on the street. We had pictures taken with her and she told us that she'd signed everyone for the movie. No other hints other than the dates--November 15 through December 23. I found out later that the members of the Saturday tour got to meet Gene Hackman at Henderson's Wharf. Oh, well....

I met everyone at the riverboat and we had a nice lunch while we sailed the harbor. Later we went out on the deck. It was a beautiful day and a great view. A lot of fun. Afterwards, we did a little shopping and then took the shuttle water taxi back to Fells Point. I stopped in at Koopers and Kathy and Morph were there watching the Mets. I stayed until the the game was over and the Mets won (that was fun). Then I went back to the hotel to get ready for the Redball and Kathy took Morph to Camden Fields. When they returned, they helped me get the giveaways over to Koopers. At 5:30 we lined up for group pictures in front of the stationhouse. Of course, it began to rain. We had the pictures taken and then took shelter at Koopers.

Ralph Tabakin and his guests came and was he ever a doll. He had brought copies of stills and other pictures from the show and he had little skeletons for some of us. He signed and took pictures of us and we took pictures of him. I don't know if you read my post on the ng but he's not sick. The reason he can't hold his head up is because of complications from an old World War II injury. About five years ago he was helping his sick wife (she later died from cancer), and he dislocated or pulled muscles in his neck. Because of the old injury the muscles did not regenerate. He undergoes physical therapy all the time but what you see is probably going to be as good as it gets. After all, he's about 78 years old. Still, he's sharp as a tack and enjoys getting out, and working whenever he can.

Michael Ahl and Dirk Pratt who have been in over 100 of the episodes are extras. Michael wears the name tag I.M. Phatt. They were both a lot of fun and told some great stories. The hit of the evening was when Michael showed a tape that had been given to everyone at the season six wrap party. It was filled with clips from all six seasons and at the end they showed the board. It was divided into seasons as headings and under each season were the names of the episodes of that year. Then at the very end, you see someone writing "Season Seven" and the cast and crew erupted as did every one in the room watching. Then Michael said everyone present at the Redball would be sent a copy of the tape. It was truly a moment.

Patrick and his wife put on a great spread but I couldn't tell you what it was. I think I remember having a buffalo wing and a wrap of some kind. I was too busy giving the guests "crabs," little embroidered red crabs that the Baltimore Convention & Visitors Bureau gave me. I also met Vince Perranio and his brother Paul. It was a fun evening. Before we knew it it was already 7:30 and we started giving out the door prizes and the big prize was a nice basket that Erika had made up. Valerie won that. Court TV had given us some Court TV cubes and towels to give away and I had some barbecue sauce. Robin Schwalb came up with the best idea which was a box of couscous with a Meldrick cover. We had several of those to give away. Court TV also had given me copies of David Simon's book and a Homicide bookmark for every attendee.

Robin and I exchanged home town gifts. I gave her a bottle of K.C. Masterpiece original barbecue sauce and she gave me a bottle of the makings for chocolate egg cream. Robin, I've made several of them already. Delicious. Almost like being in New York.

A group of us including Dirk and Michael went over to the Wharf Rat and continued the evening. It was raining outside but who the heck cared. We learned all about Michael's pet pig--it turns out Marie has one too--and they both told interesting stories about how spoiled they were. I thought Bubba was spoiled but no way does he live in the lap of luxury that those two pigs do.

It was raining pretty hard by now and Michael offered to take Bill to his B&B, and pretty soon it was just Dirk and me, Terri Lemmert and Morph left. I think it was Terri's idea to play pool. I am so lousy at it to begin with and I haven't played in years. Still, I actually got one ball in the hole, and I didn't knock the eight ball in. I looked like a bad rank amateur next to the three of them.

Then we were kicked out because it was closing time. The rain kept coming down and I could feel my hair curling. Lord knows I do my best to keep it straight but Saturday night it was a lose/lose situation for my hair. Back to the Fell and to bed.

Sunday morning--same routine. Try to get everything arranged for the bus tour. Robin said she and Morph were going over to Jimmys for breakfast. I had her order a high cholesteral breakfast for me of bacon and hashbrowns (no eggs, thank you very much). The rain was coming down steadily and everyone was making fun of my poor, pathetic umbrella. It had lost the battle in a severe hail producing thunderstorm several weeks before and I might as well not have had it with me. Coming out of Jimmy's was the sight I had prayed 10 days to see, a beautiful shiny bus parked along Thames Street facing east. I knew I could count on Paul; I just didn't know he would be early. Maura almost didn't make it--Montezuma's revenge or something, [ed's note: Thanks for sharing, hon! *blush*]but she finally showed trouper that she is.

Paul had been up till 2 a.m. redoing tapes so we would have the visual stimulus of the shot to go along with the real thing. The Columbus Day Parade wreaked havoc with his tour plans and he had to reroute everything so we could get in the downtown scenes before they closed down the streets. It really was better seeing the locations with the tape and we have to thank Paul's daughter Crista for the fine job she did with the VCR. Poor Bill could finally see the locations this time and didn't have to rummage through his tapes to find applicable ones. We didn't do the Subway area as much as last year because the Johns Hopkins station was closed down on Sunday. Still, we did Federal Hill and a lot of areas including Pigtown, the Belvedere, the B&O Railroad Museum.

Then, it was off to the bowling alley for pizza and a round of Duckpins. I was hoping to win the low score. I had one heck of a time trying to throw that little ball. I'm not looking for excuses but ever since I broke my right elbow during physical training in 1981, I get tendonitis once in a while. This was "the while." I couldn't straighten my arm out and I knew each time I threw the ball into the gutter that I looked ridiculous. And it hurt. Even so, I managed to bowl a 57, nowhere near the low of 28 that Welby bowled and so far removed from Terri's high of 128 as to be laughable.

Then we went across the street to the cemetery where Jake Rydzinski's (sp?) father was killed. Other cemetery scenes were filmed there too. The rain had stopped and the day was turning into a nice one. We went through Druid Park and the area where Luther shot his lieutenant. We went to the house on Eutaw Street where Bayliss was shot. Bill rang the doorbell and lo and behold we were taken inside the hallway (we didn't see that last year) and then out in the back yard to see where the shooting scene was shot. The garden is rather large but not as large as it looks on the episode. When you consider how many people were in that scene, it's just amazing that it turned out the way it did on tv.

Paul gave us a great, great tour and I hope he agrees to do another one next year. I can't thank him enough. I also want to thank Kate Finston who lives in Baltimore and saw a lot of the filming and shared some stories with us.

Robin and Morph, along with some others wanted to go to Bertha's. A bunch of us had made reservations at Margarets for 6:00. I went to my room and had a message from Zippy. I called her and we were on the phone for quite awhile. I invited her and her husband to Margarets. Then I went to join the others at Bertha's. Got there in time to have an ice tea and say goodbye to Robin and Morph. Had a nice conversation with Jules and Erin. A group of us then headed over to Margarets. For whatever reason I wasn't really hungry and I ended up with the couscous. Bill amazed me. He had eaten at Bertha's yet he ordered couscous and a seaweed salad. We had quite a table. I think we overwhelmed the poor waiter since he was by himself. Margaret came by to say hi. We had Tara and Linda, Erika and Gina, Jenn, Kate, Bill, Ketina, Kathy and if I'm leaving anyone out, I apologize. Zippy and her husband joined us and she brought her Homicide scrapbook. Lou's been in "Red, Red Wine." He had a copy of his check for being an extra.

Bill and I opted to share a dessert, the bread pudding. No one makes bread pudding like Margarets. Now you know the real truth why I only had couscous.

There had been rumors that The Corner was filming somewhere on Broadway. Gina Marie and Erika left and then Jenn presumably to look for the cast and crew. Bill and I walked up Broadway until it became evident that there were no film crews and the neighborhood started looking iffy. We went back and headed to abar across from Henderson's Wharf but it was closed. We ended up meeting Jenn at the Daily Grind. Bill left and Jenn and I had a latte. The Grind looks different, almost too modern. Dogs aren't allowed in any more, but they do have a doggie window so the owners can get their coffee and the dogs don't feel deprived.

Monday morning was the last of my banking responsibilities. We met at 10:00 for the Monday walking tour. Joining us was Cheryl Wagg's friend Diane, who has kept a very low profile during Homicon99. Zippy gave us a fine tour. We met a crew member of an old schooner that was there for a race that was going to occur on Wednesday. Actually Zippy gave us more than the usual tour and although Monday's group didn't get to meet Gene Hackman, we did get to meet Reggie Cathey. He was here to do The Corner. He plays Skillio (sp?) a bad drug lord. Sorry, I haven't read The Corner. Too depressing. He used to play a Klingon on Star Trek someone named Morong (sp?). He also played the drug courier that Bayliss and Pembleton busted when they thought he was a murderer. So, he had a Homicide connection. He was really nice and we got some good pics.

Afterwards, Kathy, Gina, Erika and I had lunch at Koopers and then took the water taxi over to Harborplace. Did some shopping and Erika and Gina headed back to New York. Kathy and I watched some filming of a new John Waters movie, Cecil B. DeMento in Harborplace. Saw Melanie Griffith in a red wig and John Waters. Then, Kathy and I went back to Koopers, ate a small dinner and indulged in some Maggie Moo ice cream. Kathy went home to recuperate and I did a little more shopping before heading back to the hotel to watch Munch on SVU. Monday night was just basic stay in room, watch TV and zone out.

Tuesday, Tara and Linda and I spent a long time on the square talking and then ended up at Jimmys for lunch before they headed back to Ohio. My plane wasn't leaving until the evening and the cab was ordered for 3:00. I ended up doing some serious final shopping and discovered a mystery book store on Fleet Street. During this last frenetic round of shopping, I ended up buying a Star of David clock and two bricks painted with scenes of Koopers and The Horse You Came In On.

Then home to Kansas City. Pretty routine. Arrived at the house at 8:30.

I had a fantastic time but like Kathy and Maura, I was more concerned that everyone else had a good time. It looks like they did and so I feel good about that. I might have missed out on some things, and I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot of the things I did do, but in return I got to meet a lot of new people and it was fun keeping Homicide alive. Seeing the regulars like Maura, Kathy, Melissa, Bill, Jim and Judy, Jim and Susan, Crys, Joanne, Cheryl W., Jenn, Teddy, Terri, Robin and Morph, and meeting the new guys Gina, Erika, Emily, Tara, Linda, Pat, Gail, Mark, Marie, LeAnthony, Mickey, Gene, Ketina, Amie, Kate, Martha, Jeanne, Holly, Jules, Welby, Karlyn, Erin etc. was worth it. So much that I'm ready to commit to next year.

Return to HomiCon Main Page