The first time I heard “Cult of Personality” by Living Colour I knew it was special. Little did I know when I saw them play live at the very fist Lollapalooza back in (ah hell!) 1991 that the song would come to be very special for me. Lately it’s been associated with the former WWE wrestler C.M. Punk. That was until this weekend at Anime Festival Orlando when it sort of became my theme song.
AFO has always been close to Angie’s heart and to mine since we started going about 10 years ago. Great con, great guests, great attendees and always great damn memories to stay with me once all the “goodbyes” are said and done. This year was AFO’s 15th anniversary and once again Angie and I were honored and excited to be a part of putting on one fucking fine anime show here in sunny Central Florida. Back at the fully renovated, gorgeous and fabulously feng-shui Wyndham Orlando Resort, Florida’s Fan Favorite Anime Convention got to me more than perhaps any other year, or any other con, ever has. More on that in a bit, first there’s a few thanks that need to go out to some very deserving folks:
To all the volunteers, you served with alacrity, knowledge of your surroundings and seemingly endless energy. You’ve no idea how your smiles, bright eyes and liberal use of handshakes, fist-bumps and hugs mean to everyone you came across. You were all polite and professional. Thanks for greasing the mighty cogs of our con. It was very much appreciated.
To the “Rocket Rangers of Orlandia” production crew, the writers, actors, costume assemblers, stage managers and directors: job goddamn well done. I was less involved than ever with the RPG aspect this year which is to say not at all so it was with a giddy sense of anticipation I waited to take in each chapter of this year’s epic tale. And once the finale came, no one, including myself, was disappointed. We started something special a few years back and you all have continued to run with it. For all your hard work and excitement in doing so, I thank you.
To the tech crew. Without you nothing would be seen and no one would be heard. Not one game could be played, nor any AMVs enjoyed. No one could hang on every word of our guest or try to ignore mine. As a host, you all are extremely near and dear to my heart. Without that soapbox you all tirelessly build for those of us upon the stage each and every year we would have nowhere at all to stand. That we can all jump up and entertain every one every time, I thank you. You’ve done more than I can ever express and have given me more than I can ever return.
To our guests, professionals one and all, much respect and all the best for your future endeavors. I count many of you as friends, some as close ones at that, and hopefully one as a future boyfriend (You know who you are Reuben Langdon call me!) Every one of you went above and beyond to give our attendees a terrific fan experience that will not soon be duplicated. To work with you all, to see the looks in the kids’ eyes and feel the excitement in their hearts, was a pleasure. Whether we’re 8 or 80, you are the voices of so many childhoods. My deepest thanks for keeping that spirit alive.
And to Karen and Eric. I know this year has been challenging but none of us will ever know the depths you’ve both had to tread just so we can all get together and celebrate our silly fascination with Asiatic cartoons. Your endlessly hard work is apparent. The dedication you have to this genre and these fans is monumental. And the gratitude I feel that you allow my wife and I to be your voice each and every year is immeasurable. I thank you, for the opportunity, your confidence and your love, more than you will ever know.
AFO 15. Big year but I’d have never guessed how big going into it. The year leading to AFO 14 had been difficult on a personal and professional level for me and I used the Panel About Nothing for something very different than it had ever been used for up to that point. I began with a speech, here on the blog if you care enough to dig, but I won’t put a link here as the exact words aren’t even important at this moment.
What happened a year later is.
From a heavy and terribly true heart I cried out to you many months ago. I called on you to take responsibility for whatever direction you were headed in, I demanded that you stand up to whatever bullshit you were faced with, I challenged you to make this world a better place no matter the cost. Then unexpectedly, but so delightfully, it seems some of you listened. I don’t consider myself much of a leader in the formal sense of the word. I’m a loose cannon with a loud mouth and a smart ass. But you listened. The P.A.N is hours of drunken fuckery, hardly the hearth in which to grow the fires of personal revolution but goddamit, you listened. And story after story after story came my way of lives that were changed for the better all beginning that night. I planted some seeds, some could say out of vanity or pride, but those seeds grew and took on a life of their own and last weekend, as the panel came to a close with a great deal of whiskey in my belly some of you came and shared what you did (started exercising, moved across the country, put together your own fucking awesome panel!) all these stories came to me along with a more than a few choked back tears and right there along with the gut full of whiskey my heart swelled with gratitude.
Fans, friends, family…one of my greatest joys is to grab a microphone and give people a night they will never forget. I am narcissistic and I am vain. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that no one I have ever seen, no one I ever will see, can touch what I do on stage. For 10 or 10,000 I speak, the thunder booms, and the audience shudders with an electricity that few understand and even fewer have the ability to reproduce.
Because doing so requires knowing a certain truth. A truth not many can accept.
As a voice, I am nothing if I am not heard. Many have spoken but many have fooled themselves that you’re really listening and not just checking your watches. I always knew you were listening to me and now I have the proof. This is a symbiotic relationship then, beyond belief. From the very bottom of my heart, thank you. For being there, taking my words to heart and then going out to change the world. I stand up on that golden pedestal every single time I get the chance but it’s not because I’m better than you.
It’s because I’m the very best with you.
Last weekend has come and gone leaving me deeply moved and greatly changed in it’s wake. And Anime Festival Orlando almost didn’t happen for me this season as I was previously signed on to host events elsewhere. But then came the conflict of interest. It seems I had become more interesting to the audience than the product and that was causing a conflict with the business owners. Hey-yo! And though at the time I was more than a bit upset at being kicked to the curb I can see now, with misty eyes, a multitude of reasons why it could not have worked out better for me to stay in Florida and entertain the home crowd.
Among my beloved hosting and moderating duties I am often blessed with the opportunity to perform at conventions with my wife Angie in a little sideshow we call the “Panel About Nothing”. AFO weekend (and a scheduled P.A.N.) had been headed down the tracks for quite some time but I honestly didn’t know how I would feel about it all when it pulled into the station. Ang and I had been through an awful lot the preceding 12 months and here now, unavoidable, was literally the moment we had been waiting for. Could I see past all the betrayals, the attacks and the collection of truly sad individuals from whence it all came to find a greater purpose?
One of my nicknames to a esoterically literate few is “Muad’Dupe”. It’s hilariously referential to DUNE I assure you but even if you don’t get it all you need to know is that main character Paul Atreides senses some kind of terrible reason driving him to do what he does and I have felt the same way for as long as I can recall. Ang and I have always been good in front of crowds, on the mic and in an improvisational setting but all those things came together a few days ago in a way that seems to have had a warm, peculiar and powerful effect on everyone involved.
It was the start of an amazing weekend and two comments that came my way during those few days really stood out and will forever remind me to always listen to that tug in my soul and act on it unflinchingly.
“You’re magnetic” she said staring off into space with glazed but honest eyes. I saw myself briefly as a famous purple, red and Fassbender clad mutant high on my own charismatic power and while that image is really damn cool and admittedly sometimes accurate if I am somehow attractive to all of you then the opposite is also absolutely true. I crave the interaction and that encourages me to make every single one meaningful. There’s nothing worse than a “hey, how you doin’?” as the person slides past you finishing the question on the fly and with no regard whatsoever to the answer. Fame is useless without reciprocation and I’m no one special or maybe I’m as special as you are. Either way we kinda need each other. So never put me on a pedestal unless you wanna get up here with me.
Weird stuff to hear from the guy who heads up a “Panel About Nothing” but as one rainbow haired and be-goggled bro reminded me when everything was all said and done at nearly 3 in the morning “it may be the Panel About Nothing but that doesn’t mean it’s without heart or that you don’t have something to say.” Power is nothing without a purpose behind it and if I can gather hundreds of people together to hang on my every, if oft retarded, word then I had better make damn sure I’m digging deep and really saying something every once in a while.
I knew what I had to do and how I had to do it.
This year’s P.A.N. was different from the start as usually I am rather drunk by that point. But not this time. Not a drop. Shit, I must be serious. Someone once told me that I was a lot funnier when I drank. We’ll she was a lot more attractive when I drank so touché. But no, this time would be different because people expected drunken fuckery and while that surely followed I was stone cold sober as I delivered the following opening speech presented here for the first time in print and in it’s entirety. Thanks Rose for the encouragement to do so:
Two nights ago I came across a letter I’d written and inside I read the following words…
I am too old to hide who I am.
Those words are no less true today than in the heated moment when I first put them to paper nearly a year ago now. This past year for Angie and I has been full of growth and also terribly difficult as growing usually always is.
I went toe to toe with more than a half dozen now former friends and left a decade old relationship in the dust. All of this because those standing against me were standing between the man I could pretend to be or the man I truly was. I chose to stay true, not to break in the face of the social media hurricane, all the arm chair quarterbacking and dime store psychoanalysis.
Friends, don’t go looking for fights, but don’t shy away from them either. I didn’t and for all the cuts those superficial and the ones deadly deep I have emerged stronger and more self-assured than ever.
I am too old to hide who I am.
But so are you.
From Boston to the San Francisco Bay, Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York City, Indianapolis, San Diego and Seattle to all over this very Sunshine State people have heard my voice, ogled my body, celebrated my antics and shared in my adventures and some of these people to my surprise have asked me how they can be like me?
And always my answer is: be like you!
I am never happier than when I am 100% all American me.
We can be inspired by and encouraged by anything and anyone around us but come the end of the day let’s never forget ourselves in this magnificent mess of a thing we call life. And therein lays the challenge for all of us. To reach out, and plug in, and interact and live and love and somehow stay true to the hearts that are beating in each of our breasts.
“It’s unthinkable that we should refuse to meet this challenge.” I believe in each and every one of you. And more so, you should believe in yourself.
That could mean dying your hair bright green or cutting it all off. Or painting a picture, writing a story or dressing up as something silly. Maybe that means finding a new job, or moving across the country because you fell in love with the desert or maybe that means letting an old friend go because it’s time to do just that.
It means long looks in the mirror and tough talks and tough walks…but you’re worth it.
Never be afraid of what others might say or worse what they might think.
Think for yourself and dare I say fuck the haters!
Never be afraid of becoming those dreams you’ve always had or of taking the paths necessary to get you to them.
If you want something by God get off your ass and go and get it!
Never be afraid to reverse course or damn the torpedoes and go full steam ahead.
There’s no normal life Wyatt there’s just life, be open minded always and a little bit crazy the rest of the time.
My friends take that risk, take that leap, take each and every moment of this so very precious life.
And proudly, without shame, be yourself.”
Sound and light astound
Playing games deep in the grid
Thank you friend Hedgehog
Just shot our first live episode of Your Week in G33k tonight and here’s something that didn’t make the cut. Doesn’t mean it’s not cool just that I couldn’t figure out a dick or poop joke to go with the video.
It seems pretty nifty at first but I think I could run that fast too with a few wires shoved up my ass! I guess that counts as a dick and/or poop joke. And this is what you get to hold you over until tomorrow night.
Okay, I can’t leave you that way…here’s Mothra from GenCon.
And if you’re still not satisfied just be thankful you’re not drinking this: