Celebrate Romance 2002
by Linda Hurst
May 2nd this year found me driving in a rented van to Las Vegas with 3 other happy book lovers from the Bay Area of CA. We were on our way to the annual Celebrate Romance Convention, which was celebrating it's 5th Anniversary this spring. The first convention was also held in Las Vegas, so this was a special reunion and happily our number has grown to nearly 100 attendees.
My van-mates included 2 other readers and my nonreader best friend Cathy, who heard how much fun we were going to have and decided to come - we will make a reader of her yet. After a 10 hour drive, which sadly did not include time for bookhunting along the way, we arrived at the Flamingo Hotel and immediately ran into other excited readers in the check in line. We were in time for the Sea Food Buffet outing to the Rio Casino. Ten of us chattered and talked books until we decided to check out the Mardi Gras going on in the gaming rooms. I decided to try my luck at the Slots and was quite happy about winning $40.00 until I noticed a commotion behind me and turned to see a very excited woman, who had just won $10,000.00! Kind of took the shine off my win.
Friday, is a free day and while some went bookhunting (one group hit 30 bookstores and thrifts!!), my group decided to visit the Liberace Museum. I loved it, the clothes are beautiful and several of the outfits had me imagining how a Georgian or Regency hero would look in them. Of course, my imaginary Regency/Georgian man bears a strong resemblance to John DeSalvo I know John would definitely have looked better in these clothes then Liberace did. But, the detail and beading was amazing and worth the price of admission.
Friday afternoon also saw a large number of us gathered at P.F. Chang's for a sumptuous lunch and lots of discussion of books and authors. The interaction of readers and authors in a casual environment is the true joy of Celebrate Romance. We are all grateful for Margie Wilhelm's putting this concept together each year. The spirit at CR is different from RT, no cover models for one thing; CR is more like the best slumber party you ever went to times 10!
Friday evening was the opening reception, which was cosponsored by AAR. The buffet was wonderful, but the best part was that everyone really mingled this year and most went out of their way to welcome newbies. The highlight for me was meeting author Bonnie Tucker, with whom I have corresponded with for 5 years. I also decided on meeting Lisa Cach that she would be a great spokesman for the romance community. Not only does she look like the press probably thinks romance authors look/should look (she's very pretty and trim with waist-length blond hair), she's also very well spoken and has a great attitude about readers. We discussed her next book, George and the Virgin, which Blythe and I are reading for our next Pandora's Box. The concept of a time-travelling professional wrestler is unique and I was interested to hear how she came up with the idea. Lisa also pointed out an anachronism on the cover of her historical fantasy Mermaid of Prospero - the mermaid is wearing a gold lamé bra and Lisa wondered where she would have gotten lamé during the Regency? As anyone who has followed AAR's cover contests knows, the mistakes that are made on covers can be lots of fun. Just think of the pudgy SEAL on the cover of Suzanne Brockmann's Get Lucky, popularly known as Get Pudgy, no way that guy could have passed the SEAL physical.
The program for Friday night was a hilarious treatise on Sinning by Erotica author Stephanie Burke with help from the very pregnant KitKat. Stephanie brought along her Viking husband for a "show and tell" on sinning and it was obvious she really enjoyed her topic.
Saturday morning found us bright and early downstairs, where we received our wonderful goodie bags. They were filled with books and all kinds of promotional material. It was obvious that the authors know their readers, as there were several promo items that included chocolate. My nonreader friend was ecstatic, as thanks to the goodie bags, Cathy now officially has a TBR Pile.
Falcon (well known on AAR's discussion lists), was Mistress of Ceremonies. She delivered the same opening monologue on fashion that she had used for the very first Celebrate Romance! conference. Since only four people have attended for all five years, it was new material and still funny for everyone. The sequence and speakers for the first part of the morning's program also followed that of CR#1.
Jo Beverley gave the keynote address and she also chose to talk about the same topic she had during the conference's first year: the evolution of a book. Jo is always witty and interesting; this year was no exception.
Bonnie Tucker followed Jo and had us in stitches with her adventures in getting a book published. The contradictory editorial opinions she had received and her shock when her first book made it to print were hilarious.
Another highlight of Saturday's program was the "3 C/Kathys" (Kathryn Garbera, Kathleen Nance and Cathy Carmichael), who did a treatise on the famous C/Katherine's in history and literature. They had the audience shouting out answers to their clues and it was amazing how many C/Kathys were prominent in both areas.
The last group to perform were readers: The Not Ready For Sound Players. This "acting troop" enacted melodramas of the various eras in Romantic literature in pantomime, while Falcon and Lisa Baca read their lines. A special mention has to be made of Jan Brown's portrayal of THE MAN, made anatomically correct with socks. This acting group will never be ready for prime-time or sound, but they had the readers in stitches.
The highlight for many readers is the Saturday afternoon book trade and it was amazing how many classics appeared and were immediately snapped up by the traders. Carol Carter does a good job of keeping this event from being an elbow throwing, shoving and pushing melee and I was happily going over all the books I received while we ate the 5th Anniversary Birthday cake. I am sure I am not the only one who goes home with many more books then I brought to CR.
Saturday night we split into several groups. I was in the largest group which went to The Excalibur Hotel to see the Medieval Dinner Show. I was lucky enough to sit next to Christine Feehan, who proved to be lots of fun. She also convinced me that her books are basically love stories, even if they feature Carpathian Vampires - need I mention I ended up buying the entire series on Sunday morning? Our group rooted loudly for the French Knight, who was the Champion of the night. He was also adorable, with a winning smile and stayed late to pose for pictures with our delighted attendees.
Another large group of readers went to the Thunder Down Under show which featured thong-wearing Australian dancers. My roommate Marilyn had a memorable time as one of the dancers cleaned her glasses on his thong and then kissed her! Marilyn was laughing and floating on air when she returned to the room - I don't think she will ever wash those glasses again. Her experience was much discussed by those who witnessed it; apparently her face was very red.
Sunday morning started with bookselling and booksigning by our attending authors as we ate brunch. Author Jane Porter gave a terrific presentation on the Alpha Male hero and why readers are so attracted to him. It was a multimedia presentation and her use of Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans has me wanting to rent the film. Apparently Dan was not only gorgeous, he was the perfect alpha male in that movie. Tarzan was another alpha guy and we all chuckled when he held his vanquished foe over his head and gave the trademark Tarzan yell - a true alpha male. Jane did point out one fact that I think most readers agreed with: the strong alpha male needs an equally strong heroine for the story to work well. I do love those strong heroines like Jamie in The Bride, who surprise their men with their strength and bravery.
After the drawing for the many door prizes, the convention was sadly over - these few days go much too fast for my taste and the rumors about where we are going next year were also being discussed by the revelers. Chicago and San Antonio seem to be the favorites, but wherever it is next year I will be there.
As our weary troop piled into the van on Monday for the return trip, I could at least console myself that not only was I leaving Las Vegas with more books then I brought, but also was nearly a thousand dollars richer!