San Francisco Comic Con 2018, pushed out of “The City” and forced to come to “The Town” (and to be held this June 8th – June 10th at the Oakland Convention Center) may think that’s a bad, thing because the organizers didn’t change the name to “Oakland Comic Con” but it’s not. Unbeknownst to them, the owners of this version of what’s commonly known as San Diego Comic Con are coming to the best place for it in Oakland, which happens to be the unofficial home for Star Trek Fans. So, on behalf of many, this author says welcome to Oakland, and thank you for bringing back Star Trek, in the form of “Number One”, Jonathan Frakes.
You see, during the 70s, Oakland was the place for Star Trek. The now closed-due-to-City-of-Oakland -laziness Oakland Autditorium, right across 12th Street from Lake Merrtt, played host to two Star Trek Conventions: one in 1975 and the other in 1976, and which drew 30,000-plus people, each time. And while that is a small number compared to the 170,000 that attend San Diego Comic Con today, believe me, it was large enough for Oakland.
This author (or blogger or vlogger, Oakland’s first YouTube Partner, whatever) worked as a volunteer for both Star Trek Conventions, and in 1976 handling phone calls for organizers while such stars as Mark Leonard, who played Sarek, Spock’s father, walked by the desk. While, it may not be cool to admit this at a time when people seem bent on being serious and extremely neuotic about everything from Twitter tweets to holding a barbeque at Lake Merritt using a charcoal grill (did someone check to see if these folks should be commited for psyciatric evaluation?), it must be known to you that I remember today goosebumps coursing through my body as I uttered the words “And Mark Leonard is right behind me! You know, Spock’s Dad!”
Yeah, that happened in Oakland. At the Oakland Auditorium. Not in San Francisco.
In fact, a lot of Star Trek-related somethings happened in Oakland and at the Oakland Auditorium and not in San Francisco. I’ll also recall the 10,000 people who crammed into the main arena at the Oakland Auditorium to see William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly, George Takei and James Doohan, and also to hang out and wonder if they were all going to show up at once. They did. The crowd roar was deafening. I can hear it – well, feel it – now, today. Being there, and recalling that my long time friends Bill Boyd and Lars Frykman were there too, with me, was nothing short of time-in-a-bottle fantastic.
And why not? After all, Bill, Lars and I started the Bret Harte Oakland Star Trek Club that year of 1976. We were perhaps all too frequent visitors to the Federation Trading Post in Berkeley, where you could by everything from Spock ears to the Star Trek Technical Manual (the ears I skipped, but the tech manual, was gold for me). We were fans of Gene Rodenberry’s hope for a positive future, expressed as a television show. And, like Star Trek, we are all different in skin color, but united by Star Trek – not just Bill and Lars and I, but others in our class (who will probably blast me for mentioning them) like Craig Pryor, Kelly Wismar, and Julie Hoffman. Star Trek brought us all together, and for the most part, kept us all together. Like the time Bill, Lars, and I went to watch J.J. Abrams then-new Star Trek movie reboot at the Grand Lake Theater, again, in Oakland.
Lars is not with us, anymore as of this year. So, I wrote this, in part, for him.
So, if you see this, Jonathan Frakes, welcome to Oakland. We have a very rich history of celebrating Star Trek, and geeking out over it, and in all of its incarnations, including Star Trek: The Next Generation. So don’t feel left out of the party.
Oakland is a fantastic city with wonderful people. You’ll discover that when you visit. And don’t be one of those folks who just checks in and then checks out after you’re done. Hang for a bit. Bring Comic Con guests “Dr. Who” Matt Smith and Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter film series) and walk over to Cafe Van Kleef at 1621 Telegraph Avenue, just three blocks down the street from the Oakland Marriott, where you’ll probably be staying on Broadway, and connected to the Oakland Conventon Center.
And before you all do that, have dinner at Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe at 1805 Telegraph Avenue, where you can order breakfast any time of day. Then, after that (cause you’re probably going to want to anyway) walk over to Make Westing, right next door. Or, if you’re in for something uniquely Oakland, grab a ride share and head over to The Alley at 3325 Grand Avenue, where Rod Dibble once held court at the piano, and folks still sing there, and in his memory.
Welcome to Oakland, San Francisco Comic Con, Mr. Franks and company! Star Trek is right at home!