Mindscanner Issue #82
Spring 2012

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TREKTRAX ATLANTA - April 20-22, 2012

Eric WattsTrekTrax Atlanta is a brand new Star Trek convention in Atlanta, founded by Eric L. Watts, who is best known to members of KAG as the former Dragon*Con Director of Star Trek Programming (1993-2009) and the creator, producer and master of ceremonies of the world-famous Miss Klingon Empire Beauty Pageant. Watts, who is a member-at-large of the IKAV Nemesis in Lawrenceville, Georgia, has made the MKE pageant the centerpiece of his new convention, which has been officially endorsed by the Klingon Assault Group International as the National Klingon Konvention. Mindscanner asked Watts about his longtime involvement in Star Trek fandom, TrekTrax Atlanta and the MKE pageant.

How long have you been a Star Trek fan?

I first started watching the show on weekday afternoons after I got home from junior high school in the early 1970s. Batman came on at 3:30, Star Trek followed at 4:00 and then Wild, Wild West was on at 5:00. It was two and half hours of pure escapism every afternoon. In high school, I started buying the Star Trek paperback novels and reading fanzines, and in 1978, I attended my first Star Trek convention. I started a Star Trek fan club called The United Federation of Trekkers in 1980, which I ran for eight years. In 1993, I created a track of programming devoted to Star Trek for Dragon*Con called TrekTrak and I served as their Director of Star Trek Programming for 17 years. In 2006, I was elected president of the STARFLEET International chapter in Atlanta, the USS Republic, and am now in my sixth year as its commanding officer. Last year, in 2011, I launched my very own Star Trek convention, called TrekTrax Atlanta. So, I have been a fan of the show for about 40 years and actively involved in fandom for more than 30.

Looking at the TrekTrax Atlanta web site, it sure looks like you've got a lot of Klingon guests and events planned.

Absolutely! Our three main guests are Tony Todd, Spice Williams and David Orange, all of whom played Klingon characters in the Star Trek films. We've also got Dr. Lawrence M. Schoen, founder of the Klingon Language Institute; il Troubadore, a four-person musical troupe from Indianapolis who specialize in Klingon music; and Keela & Katkith, hosts of the enormously popular Klingon Karaoke. You may have heard of them. We also have an entire track of programming devoted exclusively to all things Klingon, which includes il Troubadore's "Klingon Ballet" with belly dancers, a Klingon wedding, Klingon language and grammar classes, Klingon costuming and makeup workshops, Klingon Karaoke and of course, the Miss Klingon Empire Beauty Pageant. I can't emphasize enough how much work me and my team have put into making TrekTrax Atlanta the best possible Klingon convention it can be, and I really do hope Klingon fans, both in KAG as well as in other Klingon groups such as KLAW and others, will support the convention with their attendance. Krikor, Kris and Kerla have all endorsed TrekTrax Atlanta, which I very much appreciate, and it's my intention to do Klingon fandom proud.

Why did you originally create the Miss Klingon Empire Beauty Pageant?

A couple years after creating TrekTrak for Dragon*Con, a lot of fans started asking me to present a Star Trek costume contest as part of my programming track. Well, not only did Dragon*Con already have its own costume contest, but every Star Trek convention ever held has held costume contests as part of their event schedules, and to be honest, I really was not particularly interested in holding Yet Another Boring Star Trek Costume Contest that was just like every other costume contest that had ever been held at every Star Trek convention that had ever been held. So I came up with the idea of having a beauty pageant instead and, in 1996, I presented the Miss United Federation of Planets Beauty Pageant on TrekTrak at Dragon*Con. I thought it was a terrific idea but unfortunately, it just did not work: it was a parade of very nice young ladies walking to and fro wearing Starfleet uniforms, looking more like a marching band than a bevy of beauties. Despite my best intentions, it turned out to be just another costume contest. So I killed the event and let the idea percolate in the back of my mind for a couple of years until it dawned on me: Klingons! In 1999, I presented the very first Miss Klingon Empire Beauty Pageant and it has been a tremendously popular event ever since.

On your web site, there is a video of the 2006 competition. Do you always open the contest with a song? Is that you singing? Did you write it?

Since the 2002 pageant, I have taken a popular song, rewritten the lyrics and performed it as the opening number of the pageant to give the event a more theatrical flair. The original song used in the 2006 pageant was Peggy Lee's I'm a Woman, rewritten as She's a Klingon.  In other years, I have rewritten Peggy Lee's Hey, Big Spender as Hey, Miss Klingon; Tom Jones' She's a Lady as She's a Klingon; West Side Story's Maria as Miss Klingon; and even Big & Rich's Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy as Save Yourself! She's a Klingon! It is a different song each year, and right now, I am working on the opening number for 2012. I cannot give away what it will be, but I can promise you it will be a real thriller. And yes, that is me singing.


Why did you carry the Miss Klingon Empire Beauty Pageant from Dragon*Con to TrekTrax Atlanta?

The MKE pageant was one of Dragon*Con's biggest and most well-attended events and after my departure from Dragon*Con in 2009, I didn't know if they intended to continue it with another producer and/or MC. Not long after they hired Garrett Wang to replace me, they announced their own "Miss Star Trek Universe Beauty Pageant," which was essentially copying my basic beauty pageant concept but, by opening it up to all humanoid species, made it different enough that it was an altogether different event. I interpreted that decision as an abandonment of the MKE event and, since my name was already so closely associated with it, I felt it was entirely appropriate for me to continue MKE as the centerpiece of my own new, independent convention. I knew the new MKE pageant would be a smaller event, but it was so enormously popular at Dragon*Con, I really wanted to keep it going.

Let's talk about the "new" Miss Klingon Empire Beauty Pageant, held last year at the very first TrekTrax Atlanta. How many contestants did you have? What were their names?

We had five contestants in last year's pageant. Contestant #1 was "L'Junar Sot," played by Laura Wallace; Contestant #2 was "L'Bellar Kor," played by Laura Belle Wallace; Contestant #3 was "K'Zuul tai Kolos," played by Dana Tyler; Contestant #4 was "Katara Koloth," played by Inez Foust; and Contestant #5 was "SajQa sutai Fenix," played by Andrea Benton.

Is there still an age restriction on the pageant? The original web page said contestants must be over 21, but the current one says 18.
Did it change?

Yes and yes. The 21-years-old age requirement was necessary when the MKE pageant was held at Dragon*Con because on several occasions, I actually had parents who wanted to enter their very young children into the pageant (think "Toddlers & Tiaras"), but because the adult contestants' talent presentations and answers to their Personality Competition questions were sometimes rather risque and not necessarily suitable for small children, I didn't think it would be appropriate to have contestants that young exposed to that kind of language or behavior. I also didn't think it would be fair for very young girls to be competing against grown women or for grown women to be competing against very young girls. The age requirement prevented that problem. With the MKE pageant now being presented at TrekTrax Atlanta, with a smaller and presumably more family-friendly audience, I felt it would be okay to lower the age requirement to 18, which also opens the pageant up to more potential contestants.

We saw a photo of Laura playing on the clarinet in last year's pageant. What was she playing? Was it Klingon-themed?

Laura's talent presentation was interesting. She started playing the Darth Vader theme from the Star Wars movies on her clarinet in much the same way you might expect a beauty pageant contestant to play a wind instrument as part of a talent show, but her performance was  . . . ah . . . less than stellar. After a minute or so of some truly awful "music," she stopped and cursed at the clarinet (as if it were the problem, not her playing) in what can only be described as some of the most authentic-sounding Klingon profanity that you have never heard. It turns out that her "talent" was not playing the clarinet at all, but her fluency in the Klingon language. And (if you will pardon the pun), that is the "beauty" of Klingon talent: you never really know what you are gonna get.

There was another contestant in a green dress, singing. What was she singing?

That was Andrea Benton, singing an original song in the Klingon language, not only fully memorized but a capella, as well. I have no idea what the lyrics meant, but the song sounded something like a cross between an Irish drinking song and an English sea shanty, and during the performance, she had the audience clapping along with her. It was very well received by the audiences and the judges, and I am sure it was the main reason she ultimately won the title of Miss Klingon Empire 2011.

What kind of questions/simple tasks did you ask of the contestants in the 2011 pageant in the "Personality" competition?

Contestant #1: You are hosting a Klingon dinner party to honor General Chang and his glorious victories in battle. However, unexpectedly, Captain James T. Kirk shows up at your dinner party. How do you handle the situation?
Answer: To deal with this interloper of James T. Kirk, I would call the men for a battle royal, and it would be five against Captain Kirk, so that we could get rid of him as quickly as possible.

Contestant #2: You are a young female warrior, and I am sure you are looking to establish a glorious House in the near future. What are you looking for in the perfect Klingon mate?
Answer: Very interesting, but the one thing I want is a true killer.

Contestant #3: Why should you be Miss Klingon Empire?

Answer: Because I am Klingon. I am woman.

Contestant #4: Why should Contestant #3 NOT be Miss Klingon Empire?

Answer: Why? Because I can take a man where no other man has been.

Contestant #5: Can you please tell the judges and the audience why young Romulan children are unable to locate the Klingon Empire on a star map?

Answer: Because they can't count past two. One, two. They have no idea of direction.

Have you got any tips for people who want to win the Miss Klingon Empire Beauty Pageant? What are the best ways to dress/act/show a talent etc.?

The best advice for scoring points on the judges' ballots is clearly described on the MKE web page:

In the Beauty category -- Poise, grace and the authenticity of her persona will be the criteria for judging.
In the Talent category -- Originality and the authenticity of her persona will be the criteria for judging.
In the Personality category -- The authenticity of her answer or performance, and of her persona, will be criteria for judging.

The common criterion: authenticity of persona. If she looks, acts and speaks like a real Klingon, she will score many more points than another contestant who does not give it her all.

How did the winner react when her name was announced?

I think it is safe to say that she reacted with all the smugness of a confident contestant who, in true Klingon fashion, expected to win. As soon as her name was announced, we loaded her down with all the trappings of victory: the crown, the sash, the flowers, the trophy, etc., and she simply stood there in all her glory, accepting the applause and posing for pictures, just as you might expect from Klingon royalty.

What particularly stood out about the 2011 winner? What were the judges' comments?

I was not privy to the judges' deliberations, but I think it is safe to say that of all the contestants, Andrea consistently conveyed the most authentic Klingon persona in all three categories of competition, and that is what earned her the highest number of points.

How did the judges react to the 2011 contestants? Was there anything that particularly impressed them/made them laugh, etc.?

Over the course of more than a decade of MKE pageants, I can tell you that what most impresses the judges year after year is the depth of passion that contestants bring to the competition. These ladies clearly put a lot of thought, time, effort and financial resources into their characters, their costumes and their talent presentations. Judges are used to going to
Star Trek conventions and seeing hundreds of fans walking around in all sorts of different costumes, but the MKE pageant really brings out the competitive spirit in fans who are especially drawn to the Klingon warrior culture. The judges, who are more often than not professional actors themselves, recognize and appreciate that extra something, that X-factor, in those fans who go the extra light-year to compete in an event like the Miss Klingon Empire Beauty Pageant.

Have you seen a change in the number of people attending conventions/Star Trek fans in the past decade?

Yes. In my experience, the number has only increased. Dragon*Con's overall attendance, as well as the number of Star Trek fans attending Dragon*Con, has increased dramatically in the last ten years. Similarly, attendance at other, smaller cons in the Atlanta area, like Sci-Fi Summer Con, TimeGate, Outlantacon and AnachroCon, have all increased in the past decade. And membership in my own Star Trek fan club, the USS Republic, grew from ten members in 2006 to over a hundred members by 2010. So there are lots of Star Trek fans out there. The key to getting them to crawl out from under their rocks is to give them something fun, interesting, entertaining and rewarding to do, whether it's a convention with big-name guests or a fan club dinner meeting with friends.

Why should Klingon fans attend TrekTrax Atlanta?

Generally speaking, I've had close to 20 years of experience developing and producing Star Trek-related programming by and for Star Trek fans, and although not every idea I've ever had was a great one, I think my career has had many more hits than misses, and I think I've got a pretty good idea of what Star Trek fans like, want and will enjoy at a Star Trek convention. While TrekTrax Atlanta itself may be a new convention, this certainly isn't my first time at the proverbial rodeo, and I'm really proud of what we've got planned. More specifically and as I've already mentioned, we've really made Klingon fandom the focus of, at the very least, this year's convention with a hoard of Klingon guests, events and activities. If we have the support and attendance of Klingon fandom that we're hoping for, TrekTrax Atlanta could very easily become the annual Klingon convention. Let me also say that even though we're now less than two months away from our 2012 convention, there's still plenty of opportunities for Klingon fans to become involved with our programming. Anyone who would like to be involved in our programming as a panelist or participant or who has a great idea for us, I encourage them to contact us. TrekTrax Atlanta can be a great Klingon convention only if we have Klingon participation.

Okay, let's talk about the dirty business of money. How much does it cost to attend TrekTrax Atlanta?

A regular adult membership is currently $45, but members of KAG can buy a membership for only $40 by clicking the KAG Discount link on our Memberships web page. To qualify, they must include the name of the KAG chapter of which they are a member in the PayPal information field. Considering everything we're offering, I think this is a great deal. Hotel rooms are only $79 a night, and if you're interested in attending our exclusive VIP Champagne Reception with Tony Todd, Spice Williams and David Orange, tickets are only $30.

Thank you so much for your time! And best wishes for a tremendously successful TrekTrax Atlanta.

It's been a pleasure, and I look forward to seeing many, many Klingons at the convention. Q'pla!

TrekTrax Atlanta will be held April 20-22, 2012, at the Holiday Inn Atlanta Perimeter hotel in the northern Atlanta suburb of Chamblee. Additional information on guests, programming, hotel reservations, memberships, dealers room, program book advertising, volunteer opportunities and registering to compete in the Miss Klingon Empire Beauty Pageant can be found at the TrekTrax Atlanta web site at www.trektrax.org.