By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Merchandising vendors are allotted two rooms near the hotel's entrance, far from the convention center. In these rooms, every free inch of space is covered with dishes, playing cards, T-shirts, photos, comic books, mugs, action figures, pins, videos, and stickers. In yet another room, models of spaceships, as well as some official props from different Star Trek shows, are on display.
The bar is the convention's social hub. Flat-headed humans and ridged-out Klingons occupy almost all the seating room and much of the standing room. A half-empty bottle of Blue Curacao -- one of the main ingredients of "Romulan Ale" -- remains off the shelf. The bar looks out onto the hotel's lobby, where con attendees and noncon hotel guests alike dote on three blond and sinewy young women dressed in gold sarongs and halter tops. With the exception of their scalps, every inch of their generously exposed skin is covered in kelly-green paint. They are Orion slave girls; scheming, seductive characters on the original Star Trek,these girls often boasted that no human male could resist them.
By around 6:00 p.m., the Klingons congregate outside the hotel for a shuttle to the nearby mall and the Hawaiian-themed Kahunaville restaurant. There, word of the Klingons' presence spreads quickly. Staffers take unnecessary detours to edge nearer their tables. Parents bring children for pictures, and waiting parties drift in with babies in car seats as the Klingons offer loud toasts and cheers for the waitstaff's service.
Many in this dinner party have known each other for years; they've swapped news of marriages and baby pictures over meals like these. "Conventions are kind of a family reunion," says a female Klingon named "LaQrue" (a.k.a. Susan Tery of the Daytona-based ship, the IKV Punisher), "except with family you like."
Seated across from LaQrue is one of the Orion slave girls, the aforementioned Miami native, Teri Leigh.
At the end of the table, Klingon couple Kim and Dianna Krummel are discussing the script for the evening's role-play, which involves a fight for her husband with a woman from a different Klingon "house" clan. The foe is Denise Lewis, who sits beside them. The script's climax: Lewis will beat Dianna senseless, then gouge out her eye. Dianna will acquiesce and welcome the mistress, now worthy by Klingon standards, into the couple's home. As a little preview, the trio lapse into character and begin quarreling at the table. To bemused diners nearby, the fight appears almost real. Apparently this happens regularly. Another Klingon at the table was almost arrested during role-play at a hotel in Daytona because a plainclothes officer mistook Klingon aggression for real violence.
The group stresses that the free-spirited, lusty, and proud Klingons are a misunderstood lot. "[Members of the media] try to focus on what the general populace will find humorous -- to give them something to laugh at," says Klingon tlq'batlh sutal (a.k.a. Michael Witty, Tampa's IKV Honor's Blade), a tall young man with full eyebrows, coarse stubble, and silver teeth. His fellow Klingons shudder in accord when he disdainfully mentions the documentary Trekkies; they nod when he says, "Nobody evertalks about the charity stuff we do."
Hours later, a Klingon room party is under way on the sixth floor. It's crowded. Apparently it was even more crowded earlier in the evening, but hotel security intervened. The hosts have strung Christmas lights, pushed the mattresses and box springs flat against the walls, and erected a bar in the corner. A young man named Saber mixes drinks with bare, muscular arms. Romulan Ale and Blood Wine are the two most popular Klingon drinks. There is no set requisite for mixing either, save that Blood Wine should turn out red and Romulan Ale be blue, and either should get you drunk.
Back in the main lobby, a couple named Denise and Norm Lidell from Orlando are lounging with their hometown friend Mark Sullivan. Unlike the third-generation fans of shows like Deep Space Nine and Voyager, they are older, first-generation Trek fans and neighborly types in socks, sandals, shorts, T-shirts. On the table, a bag of chips and a cooler. Margaritas. More alcohol for anyone who passes by. "Attending conventions becomes expensive," says Denise. Her husband says the couple has been to too many conventions to count. "If everyone shares a little, it goes a long way."
At 2:00 a.m. the woman who appeared the first night with the whip takes another march through the lobby, clad this time in silk pajamas. She's holding a leash connected to the handcuffs on a young man, her fiancé, who is dressed as a pigtailed schoolgirl and follows in her wake. With raised eyebrows, the Lidells make it known that they are far removed from such spectacles.
At the bar on Sunday noon, retired astronaut Richard Gordon of the Gemini XI and Apollo 12 missions fraternizes with con-goers before heading back to the signing room. It is standard for Vulkon to include scientists and astronauts at its Star Trek conventions. Gordon, a fan of the original Star Trek and Next Generation, was excited to meet Michael Dorn, Next Generation's Worf.