James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

James Griffin: People watching at Armageddon

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The Armageddon Expo is a great place to people watch. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The Armageddon Expo is a great place to people watch. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Best people-watching. Anywhere.

Yes, this long weekend (part of it, not all of it, obviously) will find me at the fantasy and pop culture expo known to the world as Armageddon. I would like to pretend this is because I am taking a gaggle of teenagers there, to oversee them and to ensure their minds are not warped by over-exposure to too much anime. But the truth - if I must be truthful - is that I shall dump them not long after getting through the gates and then happily spend the next few hours people-watching, one of my favourite pastimes in the whole world.

I have a love/hate relationship with fancy dress and the concept of getting dressed up as anything other than me to attend a party or other public event. I love it when other people do it; I hate it when I have to do it. Armageddon works for me in that while I can wander round as slobby old me, there are heaps of people dressed up as strange and fantastic creatures for me to appreciate.

Generally, I have no idea which character these people are meant to be, for the comic and gaming worlds they are spawned from are alien to me. Basically if you're not dressed as someone from Star Wars I have no idea who the heck you are meant to be. Sorry.

Actually, to be completely honest, I am a complete and utter ignoramus when it comes to most of what is going on at Armageddon. I have no idea who most of the overseas guests are or what they have done in their lives to lead them to a fantasy, pop-culture and sci-fi gathering of the geeks down here in Auckland.

There's a dude from The A-Team, which is a show I know and shows my age. And there's a guy who was the voice of Holly the computer in the excellent Red Dwarf who will be there, so I know that one too. But then I get to the stars of shows like Farscape and Babylon 5 and I am completely lost.

There are some people from Doctor Who, of course, which is good. And I must confess that at a previous Armageddon I did once use my son as cover to get into a Doctor Who autograph-signing line. It's not that he was an unwilling participant, because at the other end of the signing line were a couple of Doctor Whos, which was all good for him. The Doctor I was after was Paul McGann, who is like the Hawkes Bay rugby team of Doctor Whos in that he held the title for the shortest time lord ever. And I wasn't even really that interested in him as the Doctor either, because to me he will forever be the I of Withnail And I, a film I very much love and feel I have lived from time to time in my student years.

So after my son had had his Doctor Who photo dutifully inscribed, I thrust my Withnail photo in Doctor Paul's direction. I think he was pleased to have something other than his brief stint as the Doctor to chat about, because he started telling me all this stuff about the shooting of Withnail and I. It was great.

And then when I happened to mention I very much admired his performance in the TV mini-series The Monocled Mutineer, it was like a dam burst in Mr McGann and our chat became an animated discussion about great British television and the works of wonderful writers like Alan Bleasdale. Fantastic result for me! Talking television stuff with I!

But after a while of Paul enthusing at me, I became aware of a dam of another sort that was also about to burst: a dam of Whovians. There they all were, stacked up behind me, with their scarves and coats and bow ties and fezzes, clutching their photos, looking at me, wondering why the fez I was holding up the works. I knew if I didn't act fast and they didn't get their Doctor fix soon, they would go all Dalek on my ass. So I thanked Paul (as I now thought of him because we were almost on a first-name basis, even though he didn't know mine), gathered up the offspring and left him to his standard variety adulation.

I won't be doing any stuff that edgy this Armageddon because my wild years are behind me.

Nope, I will be there, with my people-mover-load of teens, to soak up the ambience and to admire the freaks and geeks in all their glory. There are considerably worse ways to spend a Labour Weekend.

Armageddon: not the end of the world.

- NZ Herald

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James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

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