as many of you probably know, i am a Star Trek fan. i'm a fan of the movies, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. the only reason i'm not a fan of the original series and Enterprise is because i haven't had the time to sit down and watch them yet (i'm sure i'd like them if i watched them).
as many of you probably know, i am also a Las Vegas fan. for the past several years it's been my mission to (boldly?) go to Vegas at least once a year. after last year's Thanksgiving Vegas trip, i thought we might be taking a year off this year. and we did - well, 2/3 of the usual crew did. but once i heard that Star Trek: The Experience in the Las Vegas Hilton was closing its doors after almost 11 years of operation, i had to say goodbye (see the first paragraph).
so i wrangled up my good buddy (and inside guy to The Experience) Todd and the two of us headed out to Vegas this Labor Day Weekend, 2008.
highlights of the trip:
- meeting up with so many of Todd's Trek friends, many of whom i had met before but am by no means friends with myself (though i'd like to hope we're all acquaintances now at least). they went out of their way to make me feel welcome, like part of the crew. it was great hanging out with Paul, Barry, Todd (the other Todd), Bev, and Mary (to name a few). not only were they a fun bunch, they all had worked (or still did work) at Star Trek: The Experience and offered up lots of great stories. it was great getting the inside scoop, experiencing the closing of The Experience from other points of view.
- getting to visit the gift shop in its final days and see what kinds of things even fans of Star Trek won't buy. among my favorites were a beardless William Riker figure sitting in what was described as the "commander's chair" even though it obviously was the captain's chair, and a disembodied Diana Troy holographic head postcard of which they still had hundreds of.
- getting to meet/be reintroduced to so many of the fine actors and actresses that played the parts of the aliens that made The Experience come alive. it was one thing to have them come up to us in character and chat with us like that, but it was something else entirely to see them out of makeup being toasted by their peers during one of the many after parties. the passion many of these actors/actresses put into years of work was evident. one summed it up saying "Star Trek is my life."
- being present at Quark's to hear the "official" story as to what was happening with the time station (The Experience) from the mouth of one of the Andorians (as he stood atop the bar). the temporal rift that formed, allowing the station to come to our present, was closing, but at the same time it was returning in a way back to when it started (1998) so that we all could relive the past 10 years - relive the happy times - over and over again. i can't do the speech justice, but out of all the stories and speeches that nearly brought me to tears, this was the best.
- getting to see, meet, and hear the stories about all the "superfans." these were the fans that would visit The Experience month after month, the fans that were vying for who rode the ride the most, the fans for whom it made everything worthwhile. the great thing was, the majority of them weren't crazy or out of their gourds or anything - they just loved Star Trek. and really, what's wrong with that.
- being there for the decommissioning ceremony. as with every ship or station, there is a commissioning ceremony upon its completion, and a decommissioning ceremony upon its destruction. this decommissioning ceremony was held right outside the entrance to The Experience and had about 200-300 fans in attendance. the names of all the employees currently working there were read, they all came down and received recognition, speeches were given, and finally a chord was released and a huge gold curtain that hung from the ceiling came down and covered the entrance. Star Trek: The Experience was no more.
- getting to hit the strip at least once. unlike many of my visits to Vegas, this one we stayed pretty much off the strip (and in The Experience). however, Todd and i did take the monorail one afternoon from the Hilton to the strip and walked down a little ways to Casino Royale, my now-favorite casino on the strip. why? because beer there is $1-2 a bottle when everywhere else it's at least $4-6. yay cheap beer! so we got to see the strip and good news, it's still alive and kicking.
- getting to do off-strip stuff. last November was the first time i was introduced to off-strip Vegas goodness - of which there is a lot of. the German beer hall, the plethora of awesome local bars, the local comic book shop, the great local place to eat breakfast... this time we were lucky enough to have Mary drive our dumb asses around one afternoon and hit up the breakfast spot, an antique store, the comic shop, and two other magnificent places. first was a pinball arcade. yes, nestled in an unassuming strip mall was a pinball machine arcade. it was almost like a museum (for us video game fans) because they had machines ranging from the late 1950s all the way to the 1990s. i played Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turles, Super Mario World, and Nugent. yes, there was a Ted Nugent pinball machine from the late 70s. it was amazing. second, we visited the Liberace museum. it too was in a strip mall and oh man it was unbelievable. i had no idea who Liberace was before going into the museum (i was just along for the ride at this point), but man it was still fun going around in there and just being like "am i really in a museum dedicated to this flamboyantly gay musician in a Las Vegas strip mall?" yes, yes i was.
so that was pretty much Vegas 2008. it was a much different Vegas trip than what i've grown accustomed to the past few years, but it was a much more personal one - yes somewhat for me (like i said, i did tear up a few times), but more for those that had worked there, that still worked there until the very end. it was amazing seeing the end through their eyes. The Experience really meant a lot to a lot of different people. other than the Star Trek convention, it was one of the last mainstream things keeping the Star Trek Universe alive (until the movie and the online game come out sometime next year). and now it's gone.
thank you to all of the actors and workers that made it all happen. 10 years isn't a bad run, especially in today's Vegas. you should all be proud of yourselves. you brought a lot of smiles to fans and superfans alike. as the Andorian said, we'll be seeing each other again, for the first time, on and on, forever and ever. Star Trek will never truly die.