The huge ballroom was packed. The air sizzled with tension and apprehension as well over 1,000 fans awaited the arrival of Kate Mulgrew. We tried to listen to the convention director, really we did. But her frequent updates made it impossible to sit still. "Kate is in the building." And "Kate is in the elevator." WOW, I've never seen such heart-pounding anticipation in my entire life. Fans crowded the aisles and packed themselves tightly into every nook and cranny waiting to snap a picture of The Woman Herself.
She was a bit late, so they showed the winning music video from the contest to fill time. Unfortunately for me, it was an incredibly touching J/C video set to Bette Midler's song "One True Friend." So I was welled up with tears before Kate even stepped onto the stage.
The video ended, and a nervous and excited hum buzzed the room. Finally, Emily came out with a thrilled grin on her face and - with great enthusiasm introduced her. "Ladies and Gentlemen. Please welcome Captain Kathryn Janeway. Kate Mulgrew!"
Kate emerged from behind the curtain to a screaming and crying audience, every single person on his or her feet. (Except for the few who were, unfortunately, standing on mine.) She walked out, or more accurately swaggered in her Captain on the bridge way, a radiant and slightly cocky smile on her face, arms extended to greet her fans. The thunder of applause was deafening. I thought we were about to blow the ceiling off the place! She walked immediately to center stage, that smile that could power a starship on her face, and raised her arm in a wave. "Hello!"
When the thundering applause continued, increasing in volume exponentially the further she advanced on the stage, she said, "Thank you. Really, I am overwhelmed." And then the tears began to pool up in her eyes. It was obvious she was trying not to cry. I'm not sure what kind of welcome she was expecting three days after the airing of the finale, but she seemed genuinely engulfed by the magnitude of it.
First impressions? WOW! She is absolutely STUNNING. I have always thought that Kate is perhaps the most beautiful person in the world. I know now that that is an understatement. She's more than that. She was dressed in a very elegant white pantsuit with a black sweater underneath her jacket, and her shiny hair was styled a bit like Janeway's without the ridiculous curling under at the ends. She was elegance personified, as I always knew she would be. And that voice! It's not television effects of any kind. Those sultry, velvety inflections are all her own. She's very small, but in stature only, I assure you. She owned that room from the moment she emerged from behind the curtain.
She talked a bit about the fact that she now lives in Cleveland, saying "I can say now with conviction - I am home." Of course, the Cleveland fans went nuts at this point. And rightly so. Who wouldnt want to say they live in the same city as Kate Mulgrew? For me, however, it held an entirely different significance. I adore Kate in a way that is deeply personal to me. And it's been no secret that she was getting seriously wiped out by her taxing schedule and the commuting for her and Tim was taking a toll. So, to see her finally coming home to be a wife and mother, something she has made pointedly clear she that she wanted very much, made me very happy to say the least. She deserves that.
Now you must forgive me here. I was so overwhelmed trying to grasp the fact that Kate Mulgrew was actually in the same room as me, that I found maintaining higher brain function to be a challenge. I intended to take notes so that I could write a very concise con report, but I just couldnt take my eyes off her. Kate has such an incredible stage presence that the audience simply cannot do anything but fall to her feet. You think Captain Janeway is a powerhouse? She's nothing compared to her counterpart! So the following details will, undoubtedly, be unforgivably out of order from the way they actually occurred. And the quotes may be a tiny bit off. I apologize up front for this. But the fact that I managed to inhale and exhale was a great feat. Note taking was simply impossible.
Before she opened the floor to questions, she took a moment to share her feelings about the finale. She mentioned that this was her first time on stage since the finale aired last Wednesday. She said that she watched it, and cried for hours afterwards. Each time one of her costars came on the screen, she "grieved anew" and cried some more. "I cried for hours and hours, and then slept all day Thursday." She said.
I found her sentiments especially touching. I truly loved the fact that she so openly admitted that the show meant that much to her, and that she felt a sense of loss with its conclusion. How wonderful is it to know that the actress you adore would shed a tear, just as many of us did, when the series ended.
Kate also took a minute to thank the fans saying, "I want to say to every woman, and to every mother with a daughter at her side, that if it weren't for your steadfast support for this show and its female captain, it would never have been as successful as it was." She credited the fans for making Voyager a success, and the cohesive support of the female viewers for Janeway's triumph. It was obvious that the words came from her heart, and her sincerity was very touching.
She pointed out the differences in gender, saying that women are the most loyal fans in the world. And men are ... well, men. She wasn't speaking derogatory about the opposite sex (at least, not in my opinion), she was merely pointing out that they perceive things in a different way than women do. Amen to that, Kate. Amen!
She didn't spend a lot of time with her introduction, seeing the line of fans waiting to ask questions stretching all the way to the back of the room. So with an amused smirk and tilt of her head, she opened the floor to the fans by saying, "Now does anyone have any questions for me?"
My daughter, Kandise, and I were seated in row G, pretty close to the microphone. We had worked for weeks on a blanket, a picture quilt for Kate, that Kandise was going to present to her. So we rose and got in the rapidly forming line. We weren't too far back, about five people or so, but it was an eternity of anticipation, I assure you. I would like to tell you what questions she was asked before our turn, but I'm afraid my brain was temporarily out of order. I know I listened, but I just dont recall any of it.
Finally, it was our turn. Kandise stepped up to the microphone and opened her mouth to speak, but Kate took one look at her and cut her off immediately. She smiled sweetly and said, "Oh, look how pretty she is. Come up here, darling, and let them see how beautiful you are." Somehow, the child's legs managed to function and carry her up the small staircase into Kate's waiting arms. WOW! What a scene!
Kate met her at the stairs and said, "How old are you, honey?"
Kandise replied, "I'm ten. Almost eleven."
Kate chuckled and raised a finger pointedly. "ALMOST eleven." She echoed. Then she turned Kandise toward the audience. "Look how pretty she is." And then the moment I will never forget as long as I live - the audience applauded for my little girl. Kate gave her in that one moment what I've been trying to give her since she was born. Confidence. How can I ever thank her for that?
Kandise on stage with Kate Mulgrew.
Now, I realize that I am one of the absolute worst among the list of shamelessly bragging mothers. I fully admit that. But I have to tell you that I was so proud of my daughter at that moment that I found it difficult to breath. Not because Kate thought she was pretty. But because she stood a little taller at that moment, and because she looked as calm and collected as if she stood on stage with her hero in front of about 1,500 people on a daily basis. Incredible.
Kate glanced down at the blanket in Kandises arms and said, "What've you got, dear?"
"My mom and I made this for you because we love you so much." She answered. She offered the blanket, which was folded up and tied with a fat red ribbon, to Kate. "It has some of our favorite Voyager moments." To her credit, her voice didn't even waver. I think I would've died right then and there!
Kate took the blanket in her arms and looked to me as I blinded her with my camera flash. (Well what sinfully proud mother wouldn't have been snapping pictures like crazy?!?!?) She smiled and said, "Are you Mom?"
"Yes." I squeaked, trying desperately not to faint. I gestured to the blanket in her arms. "Kate, will you open it up?" (Yes, I addressed her by her given name, but she didn't seem to mind.)
"Oh yes, I'm going to." She smiled. She knelt down near the edge of the stage in front of me and flashed me a warm smile. "Look at her hair!" she said, nodding to me. "I love it." That was when I realized just how ironic and bizarre life can be. For seven years I have watched Kate on Voyager and envied her gorgeous hair. (Not those dreadful Star Trek hairstyles, just the color and radiance of it.) So when I finally meet her, what does she comment on? The fact that SHE likes MY hair. Is that a petty, trivial thing for me to cling to? Definitely! But it went straight to my heart anyway.
She pulled the card off the top and said, "Shall I read the card now, or just open the blanket?"
At this point, I am quite certain that I looked like a first year cadet before a review board. It's such a simple question, isnt it? Or, rather it should be. My heart was in my throat because Kate Mulgrew was looking at and speaking to ME! But I think I managed to keep my voice even when I babbled, "It's up to you. But you might want to wait on the card."
Okay, I know. Not eloquent. Not profound. Especially for an aspiring writer. But I was just pleased that I managed to speak at all.
She untied the ribbon and rose to her feet, holding the blanket up for the audience to see. Her eyes clouded up a bit and her voice wavered ever so slightly as she skimmed the collection of Janeway pictures and said, "Look at that! Favorite Voyager moments, indeed." And the audience again applauded.
She placed her hand on Kandises shoulder and thanked her, and then looked at me and said, "Thank you. Really, I just ... thank you very much."
"Your welcome, Kate." Was all I managed to say in response.
Then as Kandise exited the stage, Kate said, "Look at this mother and daughter. Look at the hair on these two. Beautiful!" I will never forget her kindness, or the affectionate smile on her face when she knelt down near me. Not for as long as I live.
Shortly after that, a brave fan made his way to the microphone and asked her to Strike the pose. She looked a little blank for a moment, so he elaborated. "The Captain pose. You know, hands on hips..." A delighted smile curled on her lips and she dropped her head back and chuckled. Then, amongst a myriad of camera flashes, she moved to the front of the stage and stood, feet shoulder width apart and her hands on her hips in the "I am the Captain" stance we all love so much. She even did the pressed lips and raised eyebrow. This earned her another incredible round of applause.
Another fan asked her which of Janeways hairstyles she liked best. A wry smile formed on her face and she rolled her eyes again. She said that they were constantly messing with her hair, changing styles and such to try and attract the male demographic. She made it very clear that she hated every minute of it, and said, "I just wanted to shave it all off." Then she went on to explain how much they fussed over her hair between every take on the set, always touching up her make up and smoothing her locks. At this point, she called her husband, Tim Hagan, to join her on the stage and testify to the hair and make up dilemma. Come up here with me, honey.
Another thundering applause echoed the room as Tim climbed the stairs and walked to Kate's side. They stood together for a few moments and allowed us to blind them once again with our cameras. Then Tim took the microphone and talked about how he would commute to LA to be with Kate on the set, and how much they smothered her with touch ups. Poor woman.
Now, I have seen many photos of this man, but I must tell you they do not do him justice. He is very handsome and incredibly charming. He had a strong stage presence that almost paralleled Kate's. He was at home before a crowd as well. And the unabashed affection and pride in his face as he watched his wife seduce the audience was heartwarming. The couple had a playful and benevolent banter that I found very entertaining.
At one point, Tim took the microphone and said, "I've been a politician for over 20 years. How many of you knew who I was before I was Captain Janeways husband?" This earned him a laugh from the audience and a coy grin from Kate.
A male fan said with a chuckle, "This question is for Tim. We all know that Captain Janeway is very commanding and dominating. I was wondering how you deal with that at home." Kate looked genuinely shocked at the question, but Tim grinned in amusement and ran with it. He stood before Kate in what must've been a thousand dollar suit and dropped to his knees, bowing before her. The audience went nuts, clapping and laughing.
And Kate? She bent over at the waist and laughed until her eyes watered. She regained her composure quickly though, and said, "Don't you believe it for a minute! It's not that way around our house. I am quiet and meek."
She was rewarded with a collective, "Yeah, right!" from the audience.
To that she quirked an eyebrow in mock offence and said, "You don't believe me?"
At that moment I became a Tim Hagan fan as well. What a wonderful sense of humor this man has! He went on to say that she ran the show at home as well, to which Kate replied, "That's enough, Mr. Mulgrew." It was a good thing I was sitting down, because I was laughing so hard I probably would've fallen over.
Another fan asked Tim if he would grant additional funding to space exploration if he were elected governor. He laughed and said, "I'm a politician, buddy. What answer do you think I'm going to give in a room full of Star Trek fans?" He also joked that he was only running for governor, not president. As far as I know, before then he hadn't officially said he was running, but only that he was considering it. I suppose it's official now, hmmm?
The show repeatedly moved from comical to serious as different fans took their turn at the microphone. There were several very touching stories about how Kate had affected someone's life or given a desperate person hope. She responded to each of these with a compassion the likes of which I had never witnessed before. Kate Mulgrew genuinely loves people, and she can hug you with her eyes and make you feel worthwhile and beloved with a single look. She listened attentively to each person as he or she spoke, as if they were the only two people in the world.
One story especially touched my heart. A young girl came to the microphone, already sobbing before she even spoke. Kate's face saddened as she observed the young woman. She said, "Oh, don't cry. What is it, darling?"
"I wanted you to know that you saved my life." She sobbed.
Kate looked a bit surprised by that, and said, "How did I do that, dear?"
The fan went on to explain that one day (she even gave the date, but I cannot remember it.) she had planned to commit suicide. She had been depressed for a very long time. She had made her decision and was going to take her life that night. Voyager came on and it was the episode with the Q suicide. (Death Wish) The girl quoted the scene where Captain Janeway looked at Quinn and said, "I like this life, Q. You might too. Think hard before you give it up."
She said that she knew at that point that she couldn't do it, because Captain Janeway would've been heartbroken. By this point, much of the audience (myself included) was in tears. And Kate looked genuinely affected by the story. She told the young woman that she would've indeed been heartbroken, and then said, "Life is pretty sweet, honey. You keep living it! Promise me. Promise me you'll keep trying."
To say I was touched would be a gross understatement. The courage it must've taken for this young girl to come forward is beyond anything I possess as a human being. And Kate's passionate plea for her to live was something I will never forget. I cry every time I try to recall the story for someone, and I'm crying now as I type it. Kate is a testament to the power that celebrities can have on society. When you're that resigned to dying (and I know of what I speak here, because I've been there very recently.) there is almost nothing that can change your mind. But one moment of compassion from a role model can change your life, and as in this case - even save your life.
Kate talked a little about her co-stars. She and Roxann Dawson repeatedly referred to the male cast members as, "The Boys". For some reason, I found that highly entertaining. Kate said that often she was the only female on the set with them, and that after dark all men between the ages of 8 and 80 begin to act in ways that their mothers wish they wouldn't. She said, "Being the only female present, they tend to forget I'm there." Then she joked about them showing her sides of themselves she wished she'd never seen. I just kept thinking, "What I wouldn't give to have been a fly on the wall!"
Her next question came from a man and his little daughter. Kate took one look at them and her expression softened as she gazed at the child. "What's your name, darling" she asked sweetly.
The man answered, telling her his own name without hesitation.
Kate rolled her eyes and laughed. "I was talking to your daughter!" Then she looked at the audience and said, "See what I mean? Gender differences again." She invited the little girl on stage with her and said, "Did you have a question for me?"
The sweet child, six years old I believe, said, "I was wondering what it was like to be with the Borg Queen."
Kate got a wicked smile on her face and in a dangerously deep voice said, "It was fun." Then she stroked the girl's hair, a bit eerily if you ask me, and said, "You saw what I did to the Borg Queen, didn't you darling?"
The child nodded.
"What honey? What did Captain Janeway do to the Borg Queen?"
"You killed her." The child grinned.
"Yes." Kate drawled viciously "I did. I killed her and it was fun." She put Stephen King to shame!
Toward the end of the show, a man came to the microphone and, with a mischievous grin said, "I just wanted to tell you that I'm very jealous of your husband, and it would make my entire life worth living if you would order me to your ready room!"
Kate raised a provocative eyebrow and pretended to be considering it as she eyed the man playfully.
The audience roared with laughter as Tim made a show of it. He came forward and stood protectively between Kate and her fan, his arms folded across his chest. He said, "Only if I can come."
As the man started to walk away, Kate brushed past Tim and said, "Wait! How old are you?" as if she were interested in considering his offer. "Do you have a girlfriend?"
He shook his head and said, "No".
"Really? Why not?" she drawled. "A young, strapping thing like you..."
It was hilarious! And I'm willing to bet that man's feet didn't touch the Earth for days to come.
Finally the convention director came out and said it was time for Kate to sign autographs. She was obviously very reluctant to leave the stage, which endeared her to me even more. Before departing, she said that this was the best group she'd ever had and that she'd truly enjoyed herself.
We waited in line for her autograph, and I was delighted to see the blanket folded up near her feet when we reached her table. My new friend, Chris, was ahead of me in line. She was having Kate sign a tee shirt that she wore a lot while watching the show. They laid the shirt on the table before Kate. She looked at the shirt and said, "Spread it out tight, tight." Then Tim read the caption on the shirt, which was something similar to "Just do it!". We all chuckled at the double innuendo, and then Tim said, "That should be my new campaign slogan. Vote for Mr. Mulgrew!" It was very comical. I was amused at how much he seemed to enjoy his wife's fans, and the sweet, somewhat over-protective way he stayed at her side.
A young man, probably a convention volunteer, came up behind her as she was signing my picture and said, "Whenever you're ready to take a break, Kate..."
"Six o'clock." She said without looking at him.
Apparently he didn't hear her. "Just let me know when you want that break, Kate."
"Six o'clock." She deadpanned. "I will take a break at six o'clock." It struck me funny because it reminded me of the episode "Basics" where Tuvok is somewhat antsy to fire on the Kazon ship and Janeway keeps saying, "Not yet. Not yet!" Her voice had the very same inflections and command intonation. Kathryn and Kate are so similar, its amazing. Kate is, without question, the captain!
I could go on and on about this experience, but this report has to end somewhere. So I will close with these thoughts. I have idolized very few people in my life, not because there aren't wonderful role models out there, but because I believe that when you put someone too high on a pedestal, they are bound to fall off eventually. I can say now with some degree of conviction that Kate Mulgrew is the exception to that rule. She presents herself honestly and sincerely, flaws and all. When I boarded that plane for Cleveland, there was nothing that could've convinced me that I could love or admire her more than I did at that moment. I was mistaken. As accomplished and beloved as she is, she took time to wrap her arms around my child and tell her she is beautiful. And as dignified and elegant as she is, she bent down on the stage in her white pantsuit to look me in the eyes and open a gift that I spent hours making. I could never have imagined it in my wildest of dreams! She is grace personified, and meeting her was truly an honor.
They say that the reality is rarely as magnificent as the fantasy. And in most cases, I think thats true. But Kate surpassed even my most fantastical expectations, and in turn won my undying allegiance. She is beautiful, not only in body, but in spirit. She said that life is about who you love and what you love. Well, I certainly love you, Kate! And I will for the rest of my life.
The convention photos are the property of LadyChakotay. Please do not reproduce or repost without my permission.