Guest Starring Christopher Reeve and Noel Neill
Many fans have heard that Christopher Reeve made only one appearance at a science-fiction/superhero type of convention in the United States during his life…that convention was Dixie Trek in Atlanta, Georgia, on 14 May 1994.
I had the opportunity to get to know the organizer, Ron Nastrom, before the event. He was kind enough to give me the opportunity to be on a Q&A panel about Superman, and to also meet and spend time with Christopher Reeve backstage when he first arrived, talk one-on-one with him while he autographed memorabilia for the staff, photograph him with Noel Neill, and hang out while he signed autographs and posed for photos with a very long line of happy fans.
This experience was truly remarkable and very exciting. To finally meet Christopher Reeve was a dream-come-true for everyone. Chris was a true gentleman, very gracious, and, as you will read in Ron’s story below, humble and hopeful that he would please all who attended.
Thank you so much Ron for inviting Christopher Reeve and Noel Neill to Dixie Trek. I never imagined then that the experience would have such a tremendous impact on me years later. Chris…we miss you Friend.
All photos and videos featured on this page were shot by Jim Bowers and are © Copyright 1994 by Jim Bowers, and are not to be reproduced or excerpted without prior written permission from Jim Bowers. All Rights Reserved. Please do not post on other websites without express prior written permission.
Christopher Reeve Question & Answer Panel
Here is an exclusive CapedWonder™ presentation of Christopher Reeve’s 90-minute question & answer panel with the Dixie Trek audience. He was introduced by Noel Neill. Chris was certainly one of the most engaging, open and candid speakers I have ever heard. Luckily, I had my 8mm video camera and tripod with me. Enjoy! By the way, the date on the video is incorrect…the correct date is May 14.
Please enjoy these exclusive CapedWonder™ photos. All taken by Jim Bowers, except for the one of Chris and Jim. Copyright CapedWonder™.com. All Rights Reserved.
Devra Murphy Writes about the Convention Experience
In early 2012, I was very pleasantly surprised when I received this letter from Devra Murphy who attended the convention with her son Wade. The letter and photo made me smile! Devra later sent me her original camera negative from the photo she shot of Wade and Chris together. Unfortunately, it appeared that her point-and-shoot camera likely focused on Wade’s face, and Chris moved slightly during the exposure, so Chris’ face ended up looking rather out-of-focus, but I was able to work around it fairly well anyway. Below shows the before (left) and after. Enjoy!
Dear Mr. Bowers,
It wasn’t until three years ago that I discovered the picture of my son and me [on your website] from the 1994 Superman Convention in Atlanta. The experience of that day is hard to put into words as it meant so much to me as a fan from the original TV series and Christopher’s Superman movies and as a mom of a young fan of Christopher’s movies.
When Noel Neill began to ask for volunteers (I don’t recall knowing what we were volunteering for) I immediately grabbed Wade’s hand and we were asked to be on stage to read Superman and Lois Lane’s lines from an original script. The entire experience was and still is surreal to me and I can only imagine how it was for my son who had recently turned nine. My husband and I had divorced around that time and Christopher Reeve served as a role model throughout Wade’s young life. I can’t think of a better one.
I’ve attached a photo of the young fan today and of our Christmas tree on which you’ll notice Superman ornaments. We continue to love the story of Superman and Christopher Reeve will always live in our hearts.
Thank you for preserving one of life’s precious moments.
I Spent the Afternoon with Christopher Reeve
By Ron Nastrom
I had been involved with the Dixie Trek convention, in Atlanta, from its inception in 1980. Working my way up, I became the Executive Director for the last few years of the show. Throughout Dixie Trek’s existence, we were constantly asking the fans for suggestions as to who to have as guests in the future. Over and over, the same names appeared – Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Mark Hamill and Christopher Reeve. With an infant daughter now in the house, I felt my time with Dixie Trek would soon be coming to an end, so I began planning my last two conventions. I knew I wanted to host the 30th Anniversary reunion for the “Lost in Space” cast, but that would not be until 1995. I had to think of something for the 1994 show that would be equally special to both me and the fans. I had to have the star from what I consider to be one of the greatest movies ever made!
It started with a phone call. Well, it started and stopped a few times until I got the nerve to Christopher Reeve’s agent. At first she was uncertain what I was calling about, and what I would need from Mr. Reeve, but after a little more explaining, she understood. She informed me that his schedule was tight, but he was free for the Saturday of the convention. After negotiating a fee, I soon found myself writing up a contract to hire Christopher Reeve! It was, to say the least, surreal, even more so when his agent called to ask the names of some private airports in the area because, she said, “ Chris might fly down to Atlanta on his own.” I waited a few seconds as the statement processed, then asked her, “You do mean in his own plane?”. Another few seconds went by and his agent began to laugh, and I was assured that, yes, he might fly himself down “in his own plane”. Time was going to be at a premium, and Chris was only going to be available for the afternoon, so he was scheduled for a one hour Q&A then one, and only one, hour of autographing.
After nearly a year and a half of planning, May 14, 1994, finally arrived. I broke the news to my guest coordinators that I would be picking Chris up at the airport, at which time they told me they had no intention of letting anyone but me go. (I had the best staff!) So off I went to Hartsfield International Airport. After talking on the phone with Chris a few times, he finally decided to let somebody else handle the flying. In all the years I had been running conventions, and working with celebrities, I was never as nervous as I was when walking through the terminal to get to the gate. Celebrities come in all different types, and my deepest fear was that I was going to be disillusioned when I finally met someone who I truly looked up to. Making my way through the concourse I saw Jimmy Johnson, then coach of the Dallas Cowboys. People were following him, a lot of people, and as I passed through their mass, I could all hear them muttering under their breath about getting autographs and asking him questions. Now I was worried what might happen on the way back to my car. I arrived at the gate and thankfully did not have long to wait before the plane arrived. I began to worry, what if he looks different in person and I don’t recognize him as he gets off. Just then, a figure came around the corner of the gangway, towering over all the others, within moments I was shaking the hand of “The Man of Steel”!
As we made our way back to my car (luckily he had no luggage), we began to talk, and I soon realized that Clark Kent was about 60% Christopher Reeve. He expressed to me his concerns that his memories from the filming of the Superman films, mostly I & II, were a bit murky due to passage of time and just the sheer rigors of production, one day blending with the next. He was afraid he would not remember enough to answer many of the questions. I assured him that no matter what he told the crowd, they will be thrilled by his answer, even if he embellished it a bit. He got a big smile, you know the one, of relief on his face and relaxed noticeably. Then it hit me, he was just as nervous about meeting me, and the people at the convention, as I was about meeting him! On our trip through the airport, I glanced back a few times. Luckily, we did not have the same problem as Jimmy Johnson seemed to be having.
In the car, we finally got a chance to talk in quiet. I was able to tell Chris what an impact Superman: The Movie had on my life. We talked about his family and mine, and he even told me that he had never seen the final print of Superman IV. He said he was so upset about the cheap production that he all but refused to do any publicity for the film. The thing he was most upset about was the scene where Superman walks with the young boy and Jimmy Olsen to the United Nations Building. The scene was originally to be shot in Manhattan, with thousands of extras. Instead, it was shot at an industrial park in England with a few dozen extras and some pigeons. They had to bring their own pigeons to boot!
When we arrived at the hotel we went to my suite so Chris could freshen up a bit before he went on stage. Waiting for us there were my wife and daughter, my mother, my sister, and my niece and nephew. They were captivated by his presence as soon as he entered the room, my daughter most of all. She was the youngest, not yet four, and all she could do was stand at his feet and tilt her head back as far as it would go to look up at him. She was so enthralled by him that when he went to go to the bathroom she tired to follow him in. He turned around and laughed, telling her she would have to wait outside. After a quick lunch, we headed down to the main ballroom. We were a little ahead of schedule and waited backstage while Noel Neil finished her Q&A. This gave a lot of my staff a chance to meet him, something they normally didn’t get to do at the convention. They began to swarm him, asking for his autograph. He sat down at a table and gladly complied. Soon the table overflowed with items, and he signed them all. I began to worry that he might consider this as part of his autographing hour that he was contracted for.
The time had come for Mr. Reeve to make his first convention appearance. Before I knew it, the hour had flown by. He did not fail the crowd as he had worried about, though he did tell them about what I said about “make it up if you had to”. Well, he didn’t. He told of how he got the role of Superman, thankfully choosing to go to that audition rather than a toothpaste call back, and he talked about Somewhere in Time. When the hour was up, everyone stayed in the ballroom as we set up for his autograph session. Our plan was to have Chris up on a riser, so people would pass their item up, get an impersonalized signature and leave. No photos with him! This sounds strict, but he had to be on a flight back to New York in less than 2-½ hours and I wanted as many of the 500 or so people to be accommodated. When Chris saw the set up, he asked me if we could move the table down onto the floor. I explained to him the circumstances and he told me that these people came a long way and he wanted them to have a special experience. I didn’t argue. The table was moved down on the floor, and right from the start I thought we were in trouble. The first person in line was asked their name, they got a personalized autograph, and then the unthinkable happened. They asked if they could have their picture taken with him, and he said yes. I started doing the math on the number of people and the time it would and we were now looking at either a four hour session, which he was not bound to do, or only about 1/3 the crowd getting a signature. I whispered my concerns to him and his response was, “How long does it take to get to the airport from the hotel?”. I told him and he said to add ten minutes for him to get to the gate. So he said he would sign up until fourty minutes before his flight left, period. Again, I would not argue with that. For nearly the next two hours, hundreds of fans’ dreams came true as Chris signed photos, talked to each person, shook their hand and posed for pictures. As time was drawing near the deadline he saw me look at my watch and told me if he misses the flight he would get the next one. The last autograph was given with five minutes to spare, so off we were to the airport.
When we arrived at the terminal he told me in order to save time to just let him out at the curb. He thanked me for my hospitality and for getting a chance to meet the fans, and I thanked him for going above and beyond what he was contracted for. He hopped from the car and disappeared into the crowd. It was at this time that I was reminded of how just a year before, when I dropped a guest off, he left his jacket in the backseat. I laughed at the thought. History couldn’t repeat itself so exactly. One peak into the rearview mirror proved me wrong! I quickly pulled to the side, which was all the way at the far end of the terminal from where I left Chris. I grabbed the jacket, and in doing so could feel his boarding pass, and started to make my way down the sidewalk. I didn’t get far before I saw Chris running toward me, his head rising up and down the crowd parting as he neared, I could almost hear John Williams’ music. I handed him the jacket and he thanked me again for everything, shook my hand, turned and merged once again with the departing crowd.
Sadly, not more than a year later, Chris was paralyzed by his riding accident. My convention was by no means a financial success. I got only about half the attendees I was expecting. There were a number of reasons for this, two of which were a large free music festival picked that weekend to begin, attracting tens of thousands; and a rival convention that predated Dixie Trek by a number of years was spreading the rumor that Chris would not appear at my show, and that it was just a lie. I can’t tell you how many phone calls I received following Chris’ accident, all asking if I had any extra autographs. Knowing they had a chance and missed, all were told the same answer, “I have them, but they are no longer for sale!” I sent Chris a get-well card at the hospital, but never stayed in touch, though he was always in prayers. I don’t know if he ever thought about our day together in the decade following his accident, but I do know there are several hundred people that carry a very personal memory of Chris’ day in Atlanta. He was, and always will be, a Superman.