Celebrity panels are one of my favorite things about going to cons. Seeing celebs in real time, fielding questions from random fans, and telling stories…. I just can’t get enough of it. I know for a lot of people who go to cons the experience is more about the story or the art, about finding new and lesser known comics that you might just fall in love with. I enjoy all of that too but there is just something about the draw of celebrity that keeps me heading into those over-sized ballrooms where I can spend an hour being regaled by stories from someone famous.
It was a surprise to see Joan Cuscak and John Cuscak as headliners for Rose City Comic Con this year. I saw the announcement on the con’s Facebook page and immediately tipped my head to the side and said, “Huh?” I couldn’t come up with any connection between the powerhouse acting siblings and, well, anything to do with comics. I didn’t know that Joan was the voice of Jessie in the Toy Story series but even that seems like a bit of a stretch for me. Regardless, I was still glad to head in and watch their panel.
It was their panel that made me realize what it is I love about celebrity panels. I am waiting with baited breath for that moment when the celeb lets his or her guard down, when a genuine moment of connection occurs, either with the audience or the panel moderator. It doesn’t matter to me what the moment is or who it is with. But I want to see through the facade of celebrity, beyond the polish and glimpse what they might be like if they were sitting on a couch in someone’s living room instead of on a stage in front of a thousand or more people.
That moment never came with Joan and John. There were a few good laughs but almost every question answered was restrained and squeaky clean. I understand there are serious politics involved in Hollywood and why answers to questions like “Who was your favorite director to work with?” need to be politically correct. It made me sad to think the polish was so complete with these two that it couldn’t be scratched for even a moment.
Luckily, I was not disappointed by any of the other panels I was able to attend. Ming-Na Wen, the affable and awesome Billy Boyd, and Stan “The Legend” Lee all delivered exactly what I was looking for from a celebrity panel: authentic human experience.
Do you attend celebrity panels when you go to a con? What makes a celebrity experience worthwhile? Do you pay for pictures or autographs? Tell me in the comments!