Like a nerd in a candy store Union City geek amazed at Star Trek convention in Secaucus

It is said that in the Kingdom of the Blind, the one-eyed man is king. The same is true in reverse. In the Kingdom of the Nerds, someone like me who is only a semi-nerd is lesser than the true aficionado.

This is the lesson I learned while attending the Star Trek 40th Anniversary Creation Convention on Nov. 12 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Secaucus.

I went on Saturday, when Kate Mulgrew who played Captain Janeway on “Star Trek: Voyager” was the Guest of Honor. She was to be followed the next day by living legend William Shatner, Captain Kirk from the original “Star Trek.”

Having learned of the event months ago, I had waited eagerly for my chance to thrive among fellow sci-fi aficionados, geeks, and dorks.

Starfleet Academy

As I approached the Crowne Plaza in my car, I knew I was at the right place when I noticed the car in front of me had a Starfleet Academy sticker in the window.

As I entered the lobby, I saw many Starfleet uniforms and alien outfits (including a young child dressed as a member of the human/machine race, the Borg).

People were already reusing their Halloween costumes in November. How cheap!

Keeping in mind the journalistic nature of my visit, I walked around and began interviewing various people. As I did, I understood why film crews automatically seem to go to people who are dressed in team colors, whether it’s a sporting event or a Star Trek convention. When they’re dressed up, you know they’re a fan. I would have dressed up as well, but I was trying to look professional.

My first round of interviews was with the Row of Obscure Celebrities in the Vendor Room. Understand, these are not true celebrities, but rather celebrities of science fiction and fantasy television. Some of them carve out their own living based on a single appearance by sitting at tables and signing autographs.

The first celebrity I approached was Herbert Jefferson, who played the character of “Boomer” in the original “Battlestar Galactica” in the 1970s. A similar series of the same name started two years ago on the Sci-Fi Channel to rave reviews. I asked him how he felt about the new Boomer being an Asian-American female rather than an African-American male.

He replied with a smile, “That’s show biz.”

Row of Obscure Celebrities

Next I approached Bobby Clark, whose best known role on television was playing a lizard creature called a Gorn in an episode of the original Star Trek called “Arena.”

I found it ironic that in his best-known role you never even see his face, and told him so. He’s now retired, and I asked him if the acting life was worth it. He responded, “I can’t think of anything I would rather have done.”

One final face of the Row of Obscure Celebrities (R.O.C.) was Eric Pierpoint, who appeared at least once in every modern incarnation of Trek, but is better known as the alien lead in the television series “Alien Nation,” which ran on Fox for a single season in 1989-1990. It developed such a cult following that five television movies were later developed.

I asked why he attended conventions, and he responded that he enjoyed “reconnecting with the fans and getting out of town” (meaning L.A.). I also asked what distinguished sci-fi fans from other types of fans. His answer: They were “more loyal and more knowledgeable” than fans of other types of shows.


The fans

Next I turned my attention to the actual fans.

One family included two children dressed as Captain Sisko from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” I asked the children how they became fans.

Brothers Thomas and Robert Austin, ages 10 and 7 respectively, responded, “Mom and Dad got us into it.” Their parents learned of the convention online and the family drove from the Philadelphia area to attend.

Nearby, three teenagers, two female and one male, were dressed in Starfleet uniforms. They were Steven Grant (age 16), Sheila Smith (age 14) and Kelly Smith (age 12) from the towns of Troy and Kingston in New York. I marveled how they stood at attention like good Starfleet cadets when I took their picture.

Sheila’s favorite Trek captains are “Tasha Yar and Captain Janeway” (many Captain Janeway fans were there, which made sense given Kate Mulgrew’s appearance that evening). I reminded her that Tasha Yar died in the eighth episode of “Star Trek: the Next Generation,” but she just shrugged her shoulders.

I also noticed a couple dressed as two Voyager characters: the holographic Doctor and the Borg cast member called Seven of Nine, known for her silver form-fitting jumpsuit. Rick Lewis, age 24, and Debbie Mankita, age 26, of Long Island had followed the Creation events from Las Vegas to New Jersey. Noting how female Star Trek fans are the minority, I asked Debbie how she came to enjoy the series.

“Every boyfriend I had liked Star Trek,” she said.

Hear that, girls? If you want to get a geek, follow Trek.

There were many other events at the convention. A band called the “Vulcan Freedom Fighters” played for a half-hour. There were roundtable discussions such as “the women of Classic Trek” and “Alien Nation.”

Why Secaucus?

I also had a chance to speak to Creation Entertainment co-founder Gary Berman. I asked why the convention was being held in Secaucus, N.J. rather than New York City. Berman, who has been organizing conventions for 35 years since the age of 14, said holding such an event in Manhattan would make the events cost-prohibitive.

Berman said that while such conventions allow people to relive their youth, running them is “an adult endeavor.”

Right before the Guest of Honor (Kate Mulgrew) spoke, there was the Star Trek Trivia Contest. This is when I knew I was a rank amateur compared to the legions attending this event. I didn’t even remember the registration number of the U.S.S. Voyager (it’s NCC-74656. I had to look that one up).

It was at this point that I realized that I was nowhere near the nerd that I thought I was.

Nothing is quite as dejecting as being a nerd pariah. But still, I was able to have conversations with actors I’ve seen on television, and people with similar interests to mine.

In the end, I can comfort myself with the fact that when it comes to matters of Star Trek trivia knowledge, the fan base is far more forgiving than, say, sports fans.

Live long and prosper. Creation Entertainment holds conventions all over the country. You can see their schedule at Freelance writer Brad Trechak can be reached at


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