RCW 139: A Cop, A Mountie and A Convention, or... A Midsummer Week's Dream

Monday, August 3rd 1998

What a strange feeling it is to be on my way to Toronto. RCW 139 won’t start until Thursday, but I’m headed down a few days in advance. I’ve been to Toronto before, so it’s not so much to visit the city, but rather to spend more time with all of my friends – most of which I’ve never met before! Of course, there have been many conversations through e-mail and through Internet Relay Chat (IRC), but you never know… I have a good feeling about it all, though, as if this was going to be a week to remember. I would be proven right in short order!

I leave Ottawa late in the afternoon – it’s a sunny day, beautiful in fact, but it’s about a 5 hour drive to Toronto, so it will be dark by the time I get there. The drive is uneventful, I stop once or twice, and now I’m already at the outskirts. A few more minutes and a sign says: “Don Valley Parkway” – that’s where I need to get off the highway. Traffic is light. Almost there now, and I start wondering about my roommate. I’ve never met him before, but we certainly got along well on IRC. I hope this works out!

First thing though, I meet up with another Due South friend from IRC (another person I’ve never met before!). She lives only a few blocks away from the Radisson Plaza Hotel, and offered for me to park my car at her apartment. So far, so good. She’s very friendly and we head down to the hotel together. A little bit of a hiccup at check-in as they don’t want to give me my room key. My roommate is already there and he left my name at the desk, but at first they don’t find it. Finally they do. The moment of truth is almost here! I go up to the room… and turn on the light. My roommate is there, sleeping, and not particularly happy about the fact that I turned on the light. Uh oh. Well, I’ll just drop off my things and come back later.

I head back down and tell my friend was just happened – she laughs. She says that we can meet up with a couple of other Due South friends from Toronto (again, more people I’ve never met!). Might as well, and grab something to eat at the same time.  Again, these people are very friendly and we get along well. Now it’s time to go back to the hotel. I hope my roommate isn’t still asleep! Nope, he’s not there anymore and he’s left me a note: “Sorry for the rude welcome” and a phone number – he’s a member of the organizing committee and there’s still work to be done, so he anticipates being up for a while longer. Well, I have no plans for the night, so why not join him?

Out I go again, and hop in my car, with my friend – my roommate is all the way up north of Toronto.  We end up in a cookie store of all places, using the office in the back to finish up with the RCW 139 program. Finally I meet my fully-awake roommate – I definitely like this version much better than the “awakened-by-the-light” one! I also meet yet another friend from IRC, who is also part of the committee. This is getting to be fun.

For the next few hours, we chat about Due South and the upcoming convention, while the program work gets done. At some point, we stop for food (no, not cookies!) and soon enough it’s already light out. Where did the night go? By the time we’re done, it’s well past seven and I’m feeling just a little tired. The day looks to be sunny, hot, and hazy. I head back towards the hotel – this time the traffic isn’t so light, and it’s a good hour to get down. After I drop off my friend and my car, I’m thinking it’s finally time to get to sleep. But then I remember…  I have to go pick up some Mountie accessories at Malabar, the costume shop which is a few streets down. Yes, a group of us crazy Duesers have decided it would be fun to film a Due South spoof video, and filming starts this evening. Yikes. By the time I’ve got the Stetson and Sam Browne Belt in hand, it’s noon and the sun is shining bright. Well, now I’m not just walking like a zombie, I’m also hungry. Grab something to eat, and finally get back to the hotel room. My roommate is there printing some RCW 139 material. I tee things up with yet more Due South friends for the filming tonight – it’s already well into the afternoon now. My bed looks so appealing.

Tuesday, August 4th 1998

It’s been Tuesday for a while now, but I finally get some sleep. Maybe two or three hours. Soon enough it’s time to get up and get ready for the filming. There’s a knock on the door and I meet three more Due South friends for the first time. We head down to the hotel lobby, meet up with friends from yesterday, and with another friend whom I haven’t met before but who’s going to play Kowalski for our spoof. We film a scene just outside the hotel lobby, to amused looks from curious passerbys and hotel staff. Things are definitely off to a good start!

Next we all head to Union Station to film another scene. There’s quite a crowd, but we find a place to shoot. I suppose we really should have had a permit… oh well. Nobody bothers us this time and we complete the scene. On the way out, we get stopped by some tourists, “Are you a Mountie? We want a picture with you!” Hmm, no, I’m not! Really! They don’t seem to care. No choice but to oblige. We go back to the hotel and I get changed – it’s late evening by now. My roommate is off somewhere. I head out again with the rest of the film crew and we get something to eat. It’s 10 or 11 now, and I’m falling asleep. Time to retire for some well-deserved rest. What a day (or two!)

Wednesday, August 5th 1998

I allow myself to sleep in this morning. RCW 139 is just a day away, and more and more people are arriving. There’s a buzz of excitement around the hotel. Staying here was definitely a good idea! I hang out with my roommate for most of the afternoon, and meet a few more friends.

It’s another beautiful day outside, and later in the afternoon, I join three friends for a nice dinner (three I met yesterday!). They have plans to see “Les Miserables” that evening and have invited me to join them. Dinner’s great, and so is the show.

Back to the hotel after that, I end up chatting with other Due South fans that have just arrived.  Tomorrow is the big day!

Thursday, August 6th 1998

Yes, there was excitement in the air yesterday, but today is crazy. Just after lunch, I go down to the convention level. Registration has started. RCW 139 has started! Volunteers are handing out convention packages to arriving Due South fans. Off in one of the conference rooms, one group is already holding an event. I catch up with yet more friends that I’ve never met before – and with other people to whom I’ve never talked before, but with whom I’ll soon be friends. I register – my badge says I’m #139. Cool. One of the convention organizers catches up with me and asks me if I would mind filming a presentation given by the Toronto police to volunteers. Sure thing. There are lots of volunteers!

By now it’s almost 5 in the afternoon, and more people are arriving, gathering for the Meet and Greet in the Hospitality Suite. I meet yet MORE people (is this possible? Yes!) – there are over 200 people attending the event. We chit-chat about Due South… trips to Toronto… (there are many Canadians, but also many people from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and even some from Australia and New Zealand). The Meet and Greet is soon over and people are starting to move to the main convention room, where the production panel will be held. The guests are trickling in – Jay Semko, Jack Lenz… Sandra Kybartas… George Bloomfield. And then Gail Parker with Draco, who steals the show. They all seem genuinely happy to be there and to answer questions about the show. It’s easy to tell that Due South was a one-of-a-kind experience for most of them. The evening passes by rapidly, and then the guests have to go… not before signing autographs. I make sure to give Draco a little pat before he leaves!

The production panel is over, and it’s late, but nobody is ready for bed. We stay up for a while longer, chatting in the convention rooms, exchanging a few more Due South tales. Finally the group breaks up, some going to bed, but others heading out to grab a bite, or gathering in hotel rooms for some impromptu Due South room parties. Yes, RCW 139 has started. What a day (or four!)

Friday, August 7th 1998

There is a ton of excitement in the air as I wake up this morning. David Marciano will be here, and nobody wants to miss this. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to – I have to head back to Ottawa for the day due to some family matters. I get a ride to the airport from a Due South friend who just arrived – this one, I had met before! I hear that David’s Q&A panel was exceptional – and that he also attended smaller panels from the Detective Armani and DMOB groups. By the time I fly back in town late in the afternoon, the panels are all over. I do get a special treat, however, as my roommate comes to pick me up at the airport – in the Riv! Wow!

Back at the hotel, some people are participating in KitKat tasting… others have gone to the Blue Jays ball game. For me, it’s time once again to get back to the spoof video, and our first evening of commandeering hotel rooms. We get a number of scenes done (too bad I don’t know all my lines as well as I should though!): Kowalski and Fraser discovering the escape plan, Kowalski and Fraser interviewing the convention organizers… “I suppose we’re going to have to go sniff some clothes now?” “As a matter of fact Ray, we do!” And more: Ray and Fraser searching the suspects’ hotel room, and the suspects coming out of the closet… producing some very funny bloopers. By the time we’re done, it’s very late – but nobody is ready for bed. We head down to get some food, chat even later into the night, and finally retire for the day. And what a day (or five!)

Saturday, August 8th 1998

Better get up early this morning – Gordon Pinsent will be here for a Q&A panel. My roommate and I quickly grab something for breakfast, and we head down to the convention floor. Soon enough, Gordon comes in and seems rather overwhelmed by our welcome. He’s very gracious and answers a number of fan questions, and stays behind for an autograph session.

Soon after Gordon’s panel, it’s time for the Charity Auction. Items include autographed Due South scripts, cast and crew pictures, paintings, t-shirts, and of course… the Riv! David Marciano makes an appearance to auction off some of the items himself. Over $10000 is raised during a rather exhilarating afternoon.

The auction is barely over that it’s time for the next event – the supporting cast panel, with Dean McDermott, Ramona Milano, Ann-Marie Loder, and Tom Melissis. It was obvious that the camaraderie displayed on Due South wasn’t just acting – these guys really get along well, and try to outdo each other with witty comments. Tom even auctions the shirt off his back after being dared to do so by one conventioneer… after the panel, birthday cake is served as Ann-Marie and Tom celebrate their birthdays around the time of RCW. We then head down the hall for some autographs.

Whew! What a busy day, but it’s not over, as it’s time to get ready for the gala dinner. It’s a buffet-style formal dinner, the food is excellent. David, Tom, Ann-Marie, Dean, and Ramona are in attendance! After the dinner, the Due South blooper reel is shown – and everyone has a good laugh! Many people stick around the ballroom, but it’s time for me and a few friends to head upstairs and commandeer some more hotel rooms so we shoot more scenes for the spoof. This time, we have a bit of an audience – the auction winner of a red serge has agreed to lend it to us so our Thatcher can wear it, as long as she and her friends can watch the shoot. No problem! We finish up around midnight – some people are still watching Due South episodes in the Hospitality Suite. What a day (or six!)

Sunday, August 9th 1998

Today is the last day of RCW – it’s hard to get down from such a high. But we make the best out of our remaining time together. There are a few activities on Sunday morning, such as Due South trivia, but people are mainly chatting on the convention floor. We head down, and take advantage of the opportunity to shoot yet more scenes – this time ad-libbing interviews of convention attendees.

By early afternoon, people have started to go their own ways – some are staying a few extra days in Toronto to visit, while others are heading back home today. It’s sad to say goodbye to friends, some that I’ve known for a while but had never met, others that I’ve just met at RCW 139. But on the other hand, it’s nice to have made and strengthened those friendships. I have an extra day - I’m staying here tonight.

Evening comes and the convention is over, but we still have some scenes to shoot for the spoof! The script calls for a grocery store, but it’s doubtful that anyone will let us film in their grocery store… but as mentioned, one of my friends knows a friend which owns a cookie store. Cookie store… grocery store. It’s all the same? Sure. So we head for the cookie store. As we’re filming, a couple comes in the door – oops. They think the store is open. Sorry! So we lock the door, but the next scene requires the suspects, chases by Ray and Fraser, to run out of the store… and the door is still locked. Funny, funny blooper.  Eventually we get everything done, and I’m back at the hotel by two in the morning. What a day (or seven!)

Monday, August 10th 1998

This is my last day in Toronto. Or is it? My roommate isn’t leaving until tomorrow, and I don’t have anywhere to go. Plus there are still a few shots left for the spoof… why not stay an extra day? So I do… but I’m definitely sleeping in this morning!

The afternoon is spent doing… not much at all. Later in the evening though, I meet up with Toronto Duesers so that we can complete our spoof. We head back to Union Station, but this time we get intercepted by security. “What do you guys think you’re doing?” “Just doing some filming…” “No you’re not!”. Oh. Fine, be that way. As we are escorted out of the premises, we come up with a nifty way to do the missing scenes. Later, we all end up at the condo of our friends, and talk forever about Due South and RCW 139. Midnight comes and it’s time to go. What a day (or eight!).

Tuesday, August 11th 1998

Well, today really is time to go back home. What an experience this has been. We’ll do it again, won’t we?

-Stephane Racle

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