March 11th of 2018, I had the extreme honor of helping Cheryl Sparks with her table at the Bakersfield 2018 Mini-Comicon.
Back when I interviewed Cheryl Sparks for Amazing Figure Modeler magazine, one of my questions was if she’d ever considered being a guest at a convention. Cheryl laughed and said that sounded like “a kick-in-the-butt good time!“ She’d made an appearance at a UCLA screening of SILENT RUNNING with director Douglas Trumbull in 2012, and had no idea she’d be asked for autographs or treated like a celebrity for her appearance in that film. I’d interviewed Cheryl over the phone for the magazine, and we’d become Facebook friends, but we’d never actually met.
I flew into the Bakersfield Airport and my good friends Bart and Bret Mixon, who’d driven up from LA, picked me up.
I stayed at the convention hotel and the next morning we were setting up the table with some of the fun things I’d brought: a painted model of Huey the Drone, an iPad with a continuously repeating video snippet of the “Drones” section of THE MAKING OF SILENT RUNNING (Thanks, Mark Dowman!), and two large vinyl VistaPrint posters I had made.
And then my phone rang, and it was Cheryl asking for help in the parking lot. She’d lucked into a good parking space, but it was not a Handicapped space with the extra room for loading and unloading a wheelchair. So here she was, Cheryl Sparks herself, halfway into her parking space, asking if I could park her car after she got out. She pulled the wheelchair out from behind the driver’s seat, and hopped in. I was amazed and impressed with how well she got around. Though her car has hand controls, the factory controls are still there, so I squeezed in and tucked the car the rest of the way into the slot. We hugged, and the day was off to a great start.
I was sorta star-struck all day long. Cheryl had brought a photo album of pictures she’d taken during SILENT RUNNING, and 8×10 glossies she’d been given. She also brought her script, in a flowered 3-ring binder hand-labeled “This Belongs to Cheryl Sparks” like a 17-year-old girl would have done.
During the day, several of the other convention guests came by and took pictures. Many of Cheryl’s family and friends came by, too. It was a wonderful day for Cheryl, and for me. The Mixon brothers, as always, had incredible stories to tell, and Bart was wearing his AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR crew jacket. We all made some new friends, too, like Walter Evans.
We all went out for dinner with the convention’s producer Steven Wyatt and several of the other guests.
Cheryl and her husband Toby drove me back to the airport the next day. And Cheryl loaned me her script, letting me take it home. An incredible weekend. Spending the day together behind the table made our friendship grow.
We’d do it again 8 months later at the bigger and better version of the Bakersfield Comicon!
Great convention report, Tom. Bart and I had a lot of fun. It was so nice meeting Cheryl – she is such a wonderful person. I wish I had half her energy!
Thanks, Bret! It was a wonderful experience for us all!