OK, so where was I? Oh right, at the 10th annual International Classic Videogame & Pinball Tournament, talking to Billy Mitchell via Walter Day's phone. Whaaaaaaat?!
He was definitely in fine Billy Mitchell form from the get-go. I asked how it was going, and he straight away let me know that it was going really, really, really great, pretty much as good as I could possibly conceive, if I hadn’t heard (and yes, I had heard rumors to that effect). He’d seen my casting call, and wanted me to know, in no uncertain terms that his wife should not be played by a bimbo. She’s actually got multiple degrees including a teaching degree I believe, and all in all sounds like quite an achiever. I let Billy know, in no uncertain terms, that I view Jennifer Tilly as a great actress (Bride of Chucky), a dangerous Texas Hold'um player, and definitely not a bimbo! (If there’s any bimbo in my casting selection, it's Colin Farrell.)
We also found some common ground regarding the difficulty of attending events like this with kids. I know some of you will instantly cry "BS!" but after experiencing the rigors of just being spectators with two very well-behaved children in tow, I can only imagine trying to actually focus and play for scores (and kudos to Steve Wiebe for pulling that off!). Just because I can relate though, doesn’t mean I couldn’t come up with 15 reasons why he SHOULD HAVE come!
While I adore the film, and love rooting for Steve Wiebe, I guess I'm just too laid-back to consider anybody an actual villain (if I thought Steve was actually losing sleep over any of this, I might feel differently). Or maybe he's just the villain I love to hate. Either way, I get a kick out of Mitchell's persona, which may be leaning ever-so-slightly towards arrogant, but is undeniably entertaining. Of course, I haven’t yet been subject to the wrath of Billy Mitchell, and I liked Darth Vadar too. Until he turned out to be Hayden Christensen. Ugh. If Billy turned out to be Hayden Christensen, I’d have hung up immediately.
I think he takes all this nemesis stuff in stride, and honestly, I think he totally does it on purpose (draws controversy, that is…kind of like the Kirk/Picard issue). He told me that when he was discussing the movie with somebody, who started to kind of trash-talk him, he said that it was obvious that if the guy felt that strongly, the movie must have been well done to evoke an emotion of that nature. Which it wouldn't have done if it were about two nice guys. That’s what I’m talking about, and I appreciate a story that can provide that. It’s possible I’m evil too, though. I did display some elements of griefer back in my WoW PvP days.
So during this conversation, the hot sauce topic came up, because apparently closer to the beginning of the tournament (Thursday and Friday) there had been commemorative bottles of Ricky’s to be had, and alas, being a late arrival on Sunday, I’d missed out on that. Billy was nice enough to offer to send me some in the future. Now, what he doesn't know yet is that actually, I'm a buffalo wings FIEND, and have yet to encounter a boneless buffalo wing hotter than I can handle (the suicide hot ones at John Harvard's are pretty good, but the habanero ones that Chilis has right now…come ON guys, don’t throw a word like habanero around unless you mean it). I'm looking forward to seeing where this Ricky's rates, in scoville-ville. Bring it on!
Eventually I realize that I've been talking to Billy for probably longer than I ought to be, given that I'm monopolizing Walter's phone (he's a busy guy - there's a tournament going on and all) and so I say goodbye for now, hand it back with a grin and a big thank you, and head back in. My son's a little out of sorts by this time…ok, a LOT out of sorts, audibly so, and my husband looks half relieved/half annoyed to see me. "What kept you?!?!" he says.
"Well, I was on the phone with Billy Mitchell."
"Oh. Well…alright then." Aside from “I tripped in the parking lot and broke my leg,” I think that was one of the few responses I could have given just then that would have made things OK.
About this time I took a breather, played some Dig Dug (nothing fancy, just to the 9th board or so), and realized, “Oh cripes, I’ve been carrying around the cover insert for The King of Kong all day to get it signed, and I totally forgot about it!” Luckily, I ran into Joel again after this revelation, and he did the autograph thing. Then we wandered over to THE Kong machine, which was right next to one of my childhood favorites, Timber (hey, I grew up in Montana, what can I say?). Chris kicked off a game of Dr. Mario that lasted a looooong time, as in we took the kids downstairs after a while, let them play whack-a-mole and some other games, went back up to check…nope, still playing…went back down, got a drink…maybe you should try his cell?...nope, he’s not picking up – I don’t know what his score was, but he’s always been really good at that one, he probably gets to the Dr. Mario kill-screen multiple times on the same quarter.
I caught up with Walter again later in the afternoon, and he introduced a couple world record holders for various games – I mean, you couldn’t swing a dead cat in there without hitting a world record holder. We got to hang out with the record holder for Elevator Action and hear Walter talk a bit about transcendental meditation. This is a very interesting topic, and I don’t fancy I would do it justice trying to paraphrase what he said, but I do plan to check it out. As we joked at the time, anybody with kids could use some re-centering and stress relief.
There was a lot more I intended to ask, but before I knew it, he was being pulled away on another mission of great urgency, to help organize all the big names in the building for a group photo finale out front. He said if I was able to stick around for a while longer, I’d be able to get some great shots! (Sadly, the kids had other plans for us.) Before he raced off, I did pull a final fanboi maneuver, asking if he could autograph my cover insert. Which he did, because he really is a nice sort.
I hope to talk to Walter and others I met there at greater length in the coming days. I don’t think he’d argue (and has in fact stated) that there have been mistakes made through the course of Twin Galaxies’ existence, mistakes that have been dragged into the limelight and turned around to bite their masters. But if somebody hadn’t started keeping track of video game scores back then (and boy must it feel like it’s more trouble than it’s worth sometimes!), there might never have been a 10th annual International Classic Videogame & Pinball Tournament, and you probably wouldn’t be reading this, because my favorite movie of the year would never have happened.
And thus our day was at an end, and it was time to go. As we drove by, I could see several arcade machines outside, and a crowd starting to gather. We were almost able to stay long enough to catch the group photo, but those meddling kids just weren’t going to let it happen. So instead we drove away with an awakened sense of nostalgia, a little regret at missing so much of the tournament, and I with a renewed sense of determination to acquire a Ms. Pac-Man tabletop and Theater of Magic pinball machine for our basement.
Billy? Steve? I hereby put you both on notice; your days are numbered:
PS - July 4, 2008 - You can read about the 48 new world records achieved at Funspot X at the Twin Galaxies website. There was a Donkey Kong kill-screen, among other things!