HG Conan

Last year and the year before I had the privilege of attending Comic Con by obtaining a coveted badge. It is an overwhelming adventure of sights and sounds and Hollywood A-listers. SDCC is dream come true to any fan of the colorful world of comics in all of its media renditions.

With 130,000 fans descending on San Diego for the event each year, the logistics for non-locals are daunting. My badges the past few years were always arranged within a few weeks of the event. This meant the monumental task of finding a place to stay when there are no hotels available with less than a $300 night price tag.

The first year I lucked out and was able to stay with a friend who had a lovely apartment in Point Loma. The second year, although I was not guaranteed a badge until the week before the event, I booked a hotel a year in advance with one of my travel memberships, but ended up dog sitting and apartment sitting for a family member in Oceanside.

Parking around the Convention Center during Comic Con is another challenge. The parking passes are expensive and hard to come by. The Public lots are expensive and also require reservations. The first year I drove from Point Loma to Shelter Island found free street parking and walked to one of the nearby hotels to catch a bus as part of the Comic Con Shuttle system. The second year I rode the Coaster Train from Oceanside to San Diego and then hopped a trolley to the Convention Center.

This year lodging and transportation were no problem at all, because I am now a resident of San Diego. I have a charming studio apartment in University Heights and I am just a $2.25 ticket from the convention center on the local SDMTS bus system with bus stops only a few blocks away. I did, however, have a bigger problem-no badge!

I heard on the news one night that there was a list of “free events” associated with Comic Con on the news station’s website, and checked it out.

I was aware of the free displays and activities in previous years, but the extent of what was available this year was truly amazing. It seems that the film, TV and gaming companies producing Comic related fare realize that there is a bigger audience that can be reached outside the confines of the Convention Center.

High on my list was seeing the panel for the Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2. This is because I am a big fan and wrote a book about The Hunger Games- Blessed Are They That Hunger. The panel was to be at noon on Thursday the first day of SDCC 2015 in Hall H. I did attempt to buy a pass on Craigslist from someone who lived near me but offered them less than they were asking for it and never heard from them.

As I perused the free events, I found that Conan O’Brien was broadcasting his show from the Spreckels Theatre downtown and featuring some of the stars that would be appearing at Comic Con. I also found out that on Thursday, his guests would be the Hunger Games stars. The tickets were sold out long before, but standby tickets were available if you were willing to show up at the box office at 8 am the day of the show.

I decided to take a chance and drove down to Horton Plaza. I was early enough to get a parking place before the throngs filled the gaslight district for Comic Con. The line was wrapped around the building and I dutifully waited until a Team Coco staff member gave me a wristband with my standby number. She told me to report back at 3pm to wait for a ticket. As I walked away a gentleman asked me politely what number did they assign me? I told him, “200.”

“There are only 148 standby seats you are not likely to get one,” he told me, “My friend has reserved tickets but all members of our party must be present. If you are willing to stay in line with us you can have one.” Of course I said “yes!” and “score” I was in there!!

We were to be in our seats by 4pm. I knew it would be impossible to find parking at the time so I hopped a city bus at a stop a few blocks from my apartment and within 30 minutes was at the theater.

The Spreckels Theatre is a historic theater build in the 1912 and touted as the first “modern commercial playhouse west of the Mississippi” (Wikipedia). It has been beautifully restored and was a fantastic venue for the Conan Show. It is also much more elegant than Hall H at Comic Con, not to mention more intimate since the audience size was about a fifth of the size as the Con. Our seats were in the orchestra section and we had a perfect view of the stage.

They did a few comedy sketches including an “origins” version of Conan and an Anime creation of Conan and his announcer Andy Richter. Then the Hunger Games Stars Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, and Jennifer Lawrence were on the stage. I was much closer to them than I would have been in Hall H.

The only down side of being part of a live taping was the fact that the cameraman blocked Jennifer Lawrence as the cast was being filmed close up for the interview. I could see her up on the screen which helped. They did a bit where she said every swear word she could think of and Conan made a donation to charity for every one she said. TV audiences saw a bleeped version but we heard every salty word! Miss Lawrence you are not as sweet as you look!!!

Had I not insisted on sitting closer to the middle of the theater and kept my original assigned seat, I would have been filmed during a skit that was in the audience. I did see a quick shot of me as the camera panned the audience after the commercial break.

The show was fun and funny and Conan was very entertaining. And although I was badgeless it was my best Comic Con experience to date!!!

We each received a Special Comic Con Edition Conan O’Brien doll-Batman O’Brien!

Friday-day 2 of Comic Con I was tired from the previous day’s events so did not attempt any activities. Another advantage of being badgeless is that you don’t feel the need to attend everything because of the large financial investment a badge requires.

Had I been able to venture out, however, there was an unannounced free Star Wars Concert on the Green behind the Convention Center. Badge holders got entrance and a free light saber. The badgeless could enjoy the music al fresco and free.

On Saturday I hopped the city bus once again and headed for the Spreckels Theatre. I missed the 8am ticket line, but hoped I might be able to gain entrance. Unfortunately, they filmed earlier than they had on Thursday so I was too late to get a ticket.

So I walked to the Convention Center. I knew that there were some free events by the Hilton Bay Front Hotel. My path there lead me past the front of the Convention Center and I was audience to several outstanding cosplay characters as I shuffled along.

When I got to the Hotel I was amazed at the “free events” that awaited me. FX had a fantastic Fear Arena Theme Park with interactive activities including a Haunted House for “American Horror Stories”, a motion simulated entertainment for “The Strain”, a jousting re-creation for “The Bastard Executioner” and a large blow up snow globe of the Waffle Hut in “Fargo”. My favorite was a Kwikee Mart Truck handing out free Squishees in honor of the Simpsons. I even got my picture taken with Homer.

Waffle Hut

There was also a Carnival put on by the folks at “Adult Swim” and a “Scream Queen” Amusement Park complete with carnival rides and food trucks. There were many more free events all over town but this badgeless fan did not have time for all of them.

As its popularity grows, I am sure the free events will as well at San Diego Comic Con so don’t let your badgeless state keep you away. There is plenty to do and see for everyone! By the way, Conan announced that he will definitely be back next year!