(Subtitle: I Think the Universe Just Winked at Me)
In honor of the recent, entirely non-sucky performance of The Winter’s Tale of which I was lucky enough to be a part, I want to tell you all a story. Specifically, my Brent Spiner story. Some of you have heard parts of this before, but I want to tell the whole thing here, in all its geeky glory.
Back in 2011, I went to the Star Trek convention in Chicago with my dear darling mother. It was Leonard Nimoy’s last convention appearance, so like heck I was going to miss the chance to be in the same room as Spock.* I mainly went so I could see Leonard Nimoy, let’s be real.
However. Over those two days, through a truly stunning stroke of luck, I also met Brent Spiner. Twice. And both times, I had an actual, legitimate conversation with him.
The first time was on Saturday afternoon. Mom and I got to the con just in time to hear Brent and Jonathan Frakes take the stage. (Man, those two play off each other so well. It was HILARIOUS.) Afterwards, we drifted out to the lobby area to get autographs. See, Brent, Jonathan, and John de Lancie didn’t do this whole autograph thing like other convention guests (like Leonard Nimoy) did. Instead of having a set time for autographs, they just had tables out in the general convention area, the idea being that they could interact more with fans.
Mom and I actually got Jonathan Frakes’s autograph first, on a cast picture of TNG, because Brent Spiner was taking a while to get to his table. (Jonathan Frakes is a lovely person too, I might add – very genial.) Then Brent arrived, and soon enough it was my turn to get his autograph. I had very little idea of how this getting-a-celebrity’s-autograph thing worked, so I tentatively offered my money in Brent’s direction.
He indicated his assistant (who I, conveniently, had not seen till that moment), and said, “Oh, you can give him the filthy lucre.”
I’m not joking. The phrase “filthy lucre” actually came from Brent Spiner in that moment.
Anyway, moving on. Being me, I had planned out what I was going to say to him in my head, in order to avoid stammering and stumbling and just generally looking like a complete gibbering twit. So I shook his hand, told him I was a huge fan and Data was one of my favorite characters… Something like that, anyway. My mouth was kind of on autopilot by then, while the rest of my conscious brain was like HOLY FRICK I AM ACTUALLY CONVERSING SEMI-ARTICULATELY WITH BRENT SPINER. He was incredibly gracious about it – seriously, if I’m ever famous, I want to be exactly that cool with my fans. Then he asked me what my name was. When I told him, we somehow ended up getting into a conversation about that TV show Whitney (which at that time I had not watched, though Mom and I actually ended up watching an episode that night in our hotel room). That lasted about twenty seconds, and by that time I had to move on so the next person in line could have a lovely conversation with him. Mom and I started walking away from the table, and that’s when it really hit me – I had just met and talked to Brent Spiner without making too much of a fool of myself. I was absolutely freaking out. So much so, in fact, that some random person asked me if I was all right. (I’m pretty sure my reply was “yeah, absolutely fine” in a super-high-pitched voice.)
So that was one for the books. That was great, I thought. I have now met Brent Spiner. My life is basically almost complete. I just have to not make a fool of myself in front of Leonard Nimoy tomorrow, and I can pretty much die happy.
But I had no idea just how fortunate I was going to get the next morning.
Mom and I had come down from our hotel room, and we were walking down the huge main hall of the Hilton O’Hare, where this con was taking place. We were just ambling along, minding our own business.
Then a door near us, marked “Associates Only,” opened.
And who should come out of that door but Brent Spiner and Jonathan Frakes?
I’m pretty sure my eyes got as wide as saucers, and my internal monologue was something along the lines of ohmygodohmygodohmygod. I was about level with Brent, actually, so in a moment of surprising boldness (really, I haven’t a clue what possessed me to do this), I fell into step with him and said, “Hey! How are you today?”
Yeah. Smooth, I know. (I still marvel at that sometimes. Man, why can’t I boldly go like that all the time?)
As it turned out, he remembered me from the previous day, and we struck up a conversation. I think we talked about how well we both slept in the Hilton’s super-soft beds first, and then at one point I cracked some really amateurish redshirt joke.
But the best part was this:
I mentioned to him at one point that I was a biochem/pre-med major (because that was a thing back in 2011). He told me – get this – that before he became an actor, he was an orderly for Dr. Michael DeBakey. Yeah, that DeBakey. The heart transplant guy. He then said, and I’m quoting this to the best of my memory: “I decided I’d rather play a doctor than be one.”
(Hey, Shakespeare Comedies classmates – does that quote look familiar? It totally should.)
The second-best part of the whole thing was that while we were walking down this hall, there was a kid walking the opposite way. This kid was in the single most accurate Data cosplay I think I’ll ever see. So I had Brent Spiner next to me and this kid dressed as Data passing me on the other side. That was pretty much the most surreal moment of my whole life.
Okay, now fast-forward two years, to this semester. About a week ago, to be specific. I’ve decided to not become a doctor and dropped pre-med. I am also playing Paulina in an adaptation of The Winter’s Tale. We’ve decided to go for a modern, Mafia-style aesthetic for our production, and as such, Paulina (who’s basically a brilliant magical snarktastic healer lady in the original) is now a doctor.
So I’m sitting there, fondly remembering the Brent Spiner encounter, and then I realize something.
I decided not to become a doctor – and now I’m playing one.
Without even meaning to, I have done the exact same thing that Brent Spiner did.
And that is why, dear classmates, I put that quote in the play program. It’s entirely too appropriate.
*I can’t just end this post without mentioning a few things on the subject of Mr. Spock himself. One, I got a photo-op with Leonard Nimoy at this con. Two, although they were moving the line along pretty fast, Leonard Nimoy still said hi to me. I was like…
So that was beyond amazing. Three, that picture has been my background on my computer ever since then, and I don’t think I’m ever going to change it, ever ever ever.
Four, at least two people have seen that picture and thought Leonard Nimoy was my grandpa.
I am NOT arguing.