Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

That's Show Biz

While there is fan activity going on this weekend in downtown San Jose (Further Confusion), I am utterly strapped for cash right now, can't afford a membership, and won't ghost conventions. However, the RetroDome had put out a call for volunteers to help disassemble the theatre. There's still one more weekend of life for The Red Room (movies), the Blue Room (live theatre) is done. Everything inside the building belongs to Guggenheim Entertainment, including the seats, and Everything Must Go. I volunteered to help today.

When I got there at 10 AM, the lower ranks of seats were already gone and the deconstruction was well under way. This is what it looked like from up in the Cheap Seats.

I pitched in with helping wrestle seats out of the Dome. Some of the seats were very balky, and it seemed amazing that they got them installed in the first place. Ken Patterson had to work hard with a pry bar to pry conduit out of the way in order to get at some of the holding screws. On the bright side, we really didn't have to worry about any damage we did to the building in the removals process, since the shell will be torn down in March.

A temporary ramp had been nailed over the stairs to facilitate lowering the seats from the upper level. The seats were mostly in modules of three and were very heavy. Even three strong people were challenged in wrestling them around. At the top of the ramp, they put the seats on this blanket that one of the volunteers brought and then they looped a rope around the seats and slid them down to the bottom. These photos aren't very good — the camera phone and the low light conditions in the Dome don't mix — but if they were better, you could see Jerry Majors-Patterson at the left of this photo. (I'm afraid I didn't collect a lot of the names of most of the people there who I didn't already know.)

One person I did know was Scott Jackson, who was (among other roles) "Johnny Magic" in The Game Show Show. Here he is guiding the final seat module down the ramp.

Once seats were at the bottom, we loaded them onto furniture dollies and rolled them out to the curb, where the Guggenheim Entertainment truck was making trips to take loads of stuff to the storage facility where it will sit until they can find a new home for the theatre. Here Scott and one of the other volunteers take a breather among the seats lined up at the curb outside the Dome waiting for the truck to come back to take another load.

Dollying the seats out of the theatre had its own hazards, not the least of which was the minefield of floor studs where the ground-level seats had been installed. They were not only a tripping hazard, they were just itching to poke holes in your shoes. I wish I'd brought my heavy work boots down from Nevada for this, and I wasn't really joking when I said, "I hope everyone has had their tetanus shots." Indeed, I wouldn't have been surprised if the 'Dome had asked us all to sign volunteer waivers, as that job was a series of accidents waiting to happen. We were all pretty careful, however.

I had my work gloves with me, and wouldn't have dared do this work without them. Lisa was adamant about this: "Your hands are our bread and butter," she said, and she's right.

Here's what it looked like with all of the seats gone. Sort of spooky, although the Guggenheims said that in the early days they had an idea of, instead of seats, covering the ranks with sand and having people bring cushions, Greek-theatre-style.

Speaking of whom, here's Scott and Stephen Guggenheim working on disassembling some of the stage floor. This was an all-hands-on-deck operation, and everyone pitched in.

The 'Dome paid for bagels for breakfast and pizza for lunch, which I appreciated. After lunch, with the seats gone, I helped remove screws from the stage. The floor that the audience see was a series of 4x8 sheets of plywood attached by wood screws to a wooden under-floor, which was attached to a sturdy framework under the stage. Getting the wood screws out was a significant challenge. The screws had been covered with spackling paste, and over that was what seemed like a dozen coats of paint from various productions. Even when you knew where the screws were, getting a purchase on them with the power drill was difficult. In many cases, we had to simply pry up the flooring and hope for the best. On the other hand, under the circumstances, I guess anything they can salvage and re-use is a bonus, so if some of the plywood doesn't survive the removal process, it's not a tragedy.

I lasted until about 4 PM, at which point I'd spent much too much time on my knees. If I'm able to come back for one of the February work parties (and I hope that I am able to do so), I'll look into buying some knee pads. I gingerly made my way home, had some dinner, and fell into bed and slept for a couple of hours. Everything hurts. I wish I had a hot tub at this apartment building and think longingly of having had one at the last place I lived (but that I only ended up using once or twice in ten years, silly me).

Today was a vast amount of work, but I actually rather enjoyed it. (Although I wish it wasn't necessary.) And considering how much fun I've had at the RetroDome in the short time I've been acquainted with it, I'm happy to do what I can to help out. Besides, there was an element in this work comparable to what I've done with SF conventions. I remembered seeing Joe Siclari, chair of MagiCon, helping disassemble the miniature golf course on the last afternoon of the 1992 Worldcon, and Karen Meschke, chair of LoneStarCon 2, helping carry what I recall as art show panels on the final day of the 1997 Worldcon. Everybody works, everybody plays.

Jerry Majors-Patterson cracked about how glamorous show business is while we were wrestling with seats. We all laughed, but there's a serious element here. For every bit of showtime, there's a huge amount more times where you're doing the hard work to make the show happen. This is as true for SF genre conventions as it is for theatres like the RetroDome. And this is why I get so riled up when people accuse me of only being involved in conrunning because of the Vast Perks or Big Bucks Under the Table they're convinced I must be raking in. This says more about them than it does me, since such people would never put in the work necessary to make things happen unless they were being paid big time for it, and therefore they can't conceive of other people like me working our a**es off like this. It sure wasn't for the free pizza, that's for sure.

I guess I just have the volunteer gene, also known as a severe reluctance to say No.
Tags: conrunning, fandom, game show show, retrodome, theatre

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