While this story has nothing to do with comics, it does have to do with cons, and when people see the word con, they think of the wonderful world of “Comic-Con,” a celebrity filled nirvana of excitement and fulfillment. But it is not always that way. And it seems that Rewind Con, a 80/90s themed boy band/90210 celebrity show, was a perfect example of how NOT to put on a show.
I’ve written over the years of many “autograph cons” that bombed without a nerd factor, and Rewind Con, held November 11-13 in Bloomington, IL seems to have been one for the ages.
I’d heard a little about Rewind Con over the last few weeks but due to other matters couldn’t check into it. When I finally did I found their twitter account removed, and their website lost to Google Cache. This despite a guest line-up that included a 90210 reunion that was written up on Perez Hilton, live streaming of panels on Hollywood Life, members of Backstreet Boys, NSync, O-Town and 98º, Alan Thicke and a total of 64 guests from your favorite TV shows of the past. Beyond the first show, five more events were planned, including a Friends reunion con. It all seemed full steam ahead – what had happened in just two weeks to shut everything down?
— Green Inc Promotions (@GreenIncPromos) November 17, 2016
For the answers I plunged into this epic thread on the Rate That Comic Con FB group. Reading it is like watching a Melrose Place-like soap opera set in the world of running a con. I’m not going to give a chronicle of the whole debacle, but here are some of the juicy bits:
• The event was originally scheduled for September, but moved to November and a new hotel. This led to people not being able to go, and not being able to get refunds. The reason for the move wasn’t clear but some alleged that the show didn’t have the money to pay the first hotel.
• The show seems to have been horribly organized on every level. Perhaps the worst thing is that the celebrity photo up set-up included only ONE PRINTER…which kept breaking. Meaning people couldn’t get their photos with Joey Fatone for hours…or maybe at all. The original photographer didn’t have a website set up where the photos could be downloaded. A second photographer was eventually brought in with his own set-up, but many people had missing photographs that they paid hundreds of dollars for.
• People paid hundreds of dollars for an exclusive 90210 panel…only to find it was live streamed on Hollywood Life. OUCH.
• There was supposed to be a boy band reunion concert on the Sunday night of the show — odd timing since usually folks go home by then. That is in fact what most of the boy bands – now MAN bands, let’s be blunt – did, since no one told them about the concert. The few guests who did show up did a Mannequin Challenge and turned it into a dance party. For the 15 people who came. A ticket for this event ALONE was $175. However, as pointed out in this lengthy report on the many problems of Rewind Con, it costs a LOT MORE to put on a concert than a party, and autograph bookers are not concert managers, so it’s likely show runners knew all along they couldn’t put on a concert.
• Someone who worked for the show (as an unpaid volunteer) posted that pizzas were promised to volunteers on Saturday, but never arrived, meaning they didn’t get fed. They didn’t get water, either. Half of the volunteers didn’t show up for Sunday, and I can see why.
• Someone else who worked for the show refuted some of the previous person’s claims and said she was mean and made Tori Spelling cry by being rude to a fan.
• The showrunner was usually nowhere to be found to answer any questions, leaving volunteers to clean up all the messes. But at one point she literally did a “talk to the hand” gesture at someone who asked a question.
• People who paid thousands of dollars for travel and VIP packages were shocked to see that volunteers for the show were sitting in the front row at panels, and taking selfies with celebs — for FREE. But after the privations the volunteers endured, you can’t really blame them either.
• This is how low it got: Patrick Muldoon – forever known as the guy who got his brains sucked out in Starship Troopers – tweeted vague complaints suggested he wasn’t paid.
All of this — and so so so much more – rolled out in the RTCC thread. The big problem above all else is that..no one showed up. While some estimated between 1000-3000 people, others said it was maybe 500. Social media postings show tumbleweed friendly aisles and empty chairs galore. While this meant that fans who did show up had a lot of quality time with the celebs — who were lovely and gracious despite the problems, by ALL accounts — it also meant that none of the celebs made their guarantees. 64 guests is wayyyyyy too many for a first year show, especially with so many who have big guarantees. You can see a six figure loss right there.
And indeed, at the very end of the thread, it was revealed that the showrunner, Jaymie Lashaway is filing for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Rewind Con is dead, although talent bookers posted ominous warnings that we haven’t heard the last about this, presumably over not being paid. Although with a Chapter 7, good luck on that.
So what can we learn from all of this?
I’d like to note, once again, that this wasn’t a comic con. It wasn’t even nerdlebrities. It was just celebrities. I’m sure there are successful celebrity autograph shows – especially ones based around specific TV shows or movies – but having some kind of nerdy connection seems to raise the chance of success for these sorts of affairs. Walker Stalker cons and the Heroes & Villains spinoffs are nothing but autograph shows, but they have nerd connections and encourage people to participate by dressing up. They also seem to have, for lack of a better word, more energy, whether it’s from the participatory nature of cosplay or even lowly comics artists sitting and drawing.
I wondered how many pure autograph shows there are and a little googling revealed The Hollywood Show, which is literally an artist alley for people your parents once had a crush on. Interestingly, the site boasts that they have vendors at each show, and the first item available for purchase mentioned is “comic books.” This website also includes the most half hearted endorsements I have ever read, if it isn’t a joke:
“It’s nice to see the faces on the other end of the phone!” – Steve Moriarty upon seeing someone from his agency.
“This is only my second show. I didn’t like the other one but I’m really enjoying this one and having a great time!” – Richard Roundtree
One can only guess at what horrors the “other one” offered Shaft.
Reading all of this, I also have to wonder…are celebs really so desperate for cash that they’ll go to any first year show no matter how sketchy it looks? I mean, I know Patrick Muldoon isn’t too busy these days, and I feel genuinely sorry that he and the other celebs got stiffed — especially as they were so nice to the fans at this obvious mess — but doesn’t common sense kick in at some point for the talent bookers? I dunno, is a mystery.
Of course the biggest lesson of all this is to put on a show you need to be organized and have some idea of how to actually do it. We’ve run many many stories in the “When a con is crap” category where people were in over their heads from day one – or else running a con from day one. This isn’t easy money for showrunners. With Wizard tightening its belt and some other shows going away, the whole nerdlebrity economy will see some changes in 2017. But Rewind Con will be only a memory of how not to do things.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.