I’m slowly recovering from four days of a fantasy adventure known as Dragon*Con, a gathering of weird and wonderful people from – literally – all over the Earth, a mixture of talents from the literary world, theatre, and art, their fans, and the hordes of misfits – those regular folks who come together annually in Atlanta, Georgia. They completely book out five major hotels there to celebrate their discovery that whimsy is the flavor of the week, that vampires and fairies can co-mingle along with wheelchair-borne guests as well as with the similarly-giddy security and maintenance staff. It’s a delight, an eye-opener, a circus, a fair, a blazing carnival, a delightful caprice, a great collection of human beings…
Cashiers, restaurant and desk personnel, all dress up to enthusiastically support the theme – while carefully performing their duties. Smiles, laughter, enchantment, joy. Where are the words to describe this event? I was first swallowed up by this monster two years ago, had to miss the 2011 observance, but devoured it again this year. It tasted just as good, believe me.
But hold on. A minute ago I described the attendees as “misfits.” That doesn’t seem a very polite or gentle way to judge my fellow-revelers, does it? But it’s quite correct, and appropriate. These are people who just don’t quite fit in with the rest of the world – and I certainly belong in their midst. At Dragon*Con, they fit, perfectly. Some can hardly get into the elevators, but a couple of other misfits are always there to squeeze them in and out. A Tinkerbelle will always materialize to take over the maneuvering of a wheelchair, a Darth Vader or a Stormtrooper will mop up a coffee spill. The very first day I was at Dragon*Con I rode in an elevator with a security guard who assured me that these folks “looked after themselves,” that they were well-behaved, careful, and considerate. I learned to agree with that assessment.
And hey, I got to meet my friend Alice Cooper again! "Coop" and I sat before a packed room of fans and for an hour we ran on about how I chopped his head off every night during the "Billion Dollar Babies" tour back in 1973. We had a barrel of laughs, and when we retired backstage - where I met his wife Sheryl for the first time - we realized just how many stories we could have told. Yes, if we'd run on for another hour, we'd not have lost one of our audience. Coop is a great personality, a bright, very talented guy, and it was my great privilege to have worked with him, I assure you. We'll be posting video of my talk with Coop very soon.
The parade? Ah, the big parade! In 2010, I only stood and watched as the Jedi, dragons, gnomes, ghost-busters, fairies, and robots marched by, but this year, I rode perched atop a vehicle as a “celebrity” participant, and waved to the crowd – most of Atlanta, I suspect – just as if I’d done this before. I was followed by Lou Ferrigno – The Hulk, remember? – who flexed his biceps shamelessly, and that gave me a false impression that rather concerned me. As I approached the crowd, I heard what I perceived as “Boooo!” but was actually an attenuated “Loooo!” directed at Lou… What a relief!
Special thanks to Derek Colanduno and all the wonderful volunteers at Dragon*Con's Skeptrack who have been successfully reaching out to the public for so many years. Special thanks as well to Margaret Downey and her team for making the skeptical presence so effectively felt at the Dragon*Con parade.
James Randi is the founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation.