It sometimes –though not too often- happens at a FedCon that I get quite overwhelmed by one of the actor guests, in terms of their personality that for a variety of reasons I find enormously appealing. I do like many of the actor guests we’ve met in almost 15 years of conventioneering, some of them I don’t really care about , yet a few stand out as people I would want to have as my friend. This FedCon I met two such people. One of them I expected to like immensely, but the other was quite unexpected. I am talking about Ben Browder here.Now, who’s Ben Browder? SciFi fans will know him best from his portrayal of John Crighton in the groundbreaking Farscape show, or for his role as Cameron Mitchell in the last two seasons of Stargate SG1. In both series, Browder plays a rather brawny character with some rough edges and a certain ‘redneck’ factor as well. Add to that the fact that he grew up in the Southern USA and you end up expecting a certain kind of person. And yep, it is a prejudice and a generalization, but there it is anyway.
Well, Ben Browder is nothing like that at all, there is also a lot more to this man! We first met him upon check in at the hotel reception and many more encounters were to follow. At his autograph session Bill and I have a quite long talk with him on the insanity of some of the anti-gay things happening in the States, and if I still felt there was something redneck about him, that had melted by the time we were done.
I sat though his two panels and they were a blast. Ben turned out to be a born entertainer and he is absolutely hilarious on stage, redecorating the stage set up, sprinkling water on the floor “for Barrowman”, but at times shifting gear into a more solemn and more serious tone, when a question begged for that. It’s also quite a sign of having some guts to address WWII within five minutes of appearance in front of a predominantly German audience, always a sensitive and precarious topic.
One thing does need clarification: the look on my face on my photo shoot picture. As one can see, that day I had dressed up in Star Trek 2009 gear, including the phaser which I had holstered at my left side. So, while we are posing, Ben all of a sudden says: “I hope it’s that phaser of yours poking me”, on which we both fall apart from laughing, so the photo has to be done again, and I find myself struggling to keep a straight face, as I am very much aware of that phaser poking him again. Hence the rather strained look on my face in the picture, and hence my feeling of being “Browdered” .
But the last impression Ben made upon us will last the longest. It happened during the closing ceremony, after everyone had come on stage and John Barrowman was being ‘hailed in’. John dances in, starts fooling around with Ben-who happened to be closest to him- and of course stage and audience alike go crazy-as this is the power of Barrowman. Things cool down a bit and then all of sudden Ben Browder turns towards John, grabs him in an embrace and tenderly and lovingly gives him a full kiss on the mouth. Yep, these are actors, yep, this is acted, but to me this is a very powerful expression of complete and total acceptation of a gay person, at the same time showing that this is not something to be feared, looked down upon, vilified or ridiculed. Seldom have I seen such a meaningful symbolic act and it really affected me. Barrowman then obliged the audience by pretending to swoon and faint, but to me the hero of this convention was Ben Browder. I am glad and proud to have met him and talked to him.
And that brings me to the ultimate highlight of this convention. John Scot Barrowman. Scottish-American actor, singer, dancer, writer, and entertainer. Openly gay icon and quite flamboyantly so. An amazing multitalent, as I discovered a long time ago after being captivated by that iconic series Torchwood. Now, John Barrowman at a convention is like a force of nature. This man has such an enormous amount of energy, he has such an hysterical sense of humor and, above all else, he is such a warm and giving human being, it is almost unreal. On stage, he is the Entertainer Incarnate with never a dull moment during his two panels. Off stage, he is someone just like us, who is clearly thrilled to be there. There was an instant connection between Bill, myself and him, as evidenced by the first thing he says when we meet him for his autograph: ”You were sitting front and center, in blue and yellow, right? How long are you together, fellows?”, so I’m all like “Wow, he remembers us from the f**king audience!”.
The photo shoot with him was something else as well, as he is actually the only male actor ever who actually hugs other guys (as evidenced by the picture). And to be honest, Bill and I were quite “happy” after this, hence the “We’ve been Barrowmanned!”.
John Barrowman is everywhere, he is at the party, where he runs into me, looks me in the eye and goes: “Well, Hello again!”. Acting, or does he recognize me for real? I’d like to think so, as most actors (will pretend to) recognize you only AFTER you’ve drawn their attention. This was Barrowman drawing MY attention.
And on it goes, Sunday Morning, Barrowman is late after a whole night partying, he is almost an hour late for his autographs. No problem, after we are done with Ben Browder, after we have chatted with Anthony Montgomery about his first comic book there is nothing to else to do than wait for John to ‘arise’ . Luckily, the things that I want him to sign (I think more of it as “Imprinting his energy into it”) are his two autobiographies “I am What I Am” and “Anything Goes”. So I set myself down and start reading “Anything Goes”, chuckling all the time, because the way he writes is very much the way he speaks as well, which is at times hilariously funny.
Then he walks in, sunglasses and all, not really Mr. Sunshine this morning, but professional to the end. And I have the rather surreal experience of reading a book written by an author who is sitting right in front of me, talking the same way as he wrote the book. We are getting in our line, and once we reached his table, it is: ”Hi again” and then the mask drops and he tells us he’s so tired and needs to go on autopilot for a while. One again, it feels like the person talking and not the actor.
Later we go to his panel, that he holds together with Eve Myles and he seems to have recovered considerably, or he must have a really good autopilot.
So why am I writing all this, as if I were some star struck teenager who’s meeting his idol? Well, partly because I do feel that way J. But mostly because I feel and want to show that John Barrowman brought something unique and precious to this convention: a genuine concern and love for fellow human beings coming from a genuine and fully developed person. That at least is what I got from the personal time we had with him. Yep, he is hilarious, yep he is raunchily flamboyant, a born entertainer, a fantastic singer actor and o, yeah, I love his books! But he is also a beautiful human being, willing to share this inner beauty and wisdom. And that is most important of all and it holds a significant teaching to me. I cannot wait to meet him again…