Satellite News - DucKon 2003


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Our DucKon 12 Report

It was a cold and drizzly day in Chicago when DucKon 12 kicked off on June 6, 2003.

Billed as a convention of "Fantasy, Fiction and Fact," most of the guests at this year's DucKon were from the realms of literature, art and sci-fi fandom. But there was one guest of special interest to MSTies: Mad Scientist Guest of Honor Trace Beaulieu.

The convention officially started with the evening's Opening Ceremonies, where all the guests were introduced and asked to tell about themselves. When Trace was called on stage, he was short and to the point: "I live in Hollywood, and I produce a dark, loamy substance." One audience wag opined that Trace was refering to America's Funniest Home Videos, but Trace was actually talking about what he calls "L.A.'s finest compost." It seems he spends his spare time producing and selling the stuff. And what is the sign of good compost? "It doesn't smell."

After Trace left the stage, The Great Luke Ski was introduced. Regular listeners of The Dr. Demento Show may recognize Luke as the singer of last year's most requested song parody, Peter Parker, and this year's top request, Stealing Like a Hobbit. Luke sang a touching rendition of his song Mystery Science Theater Picture Show, complete with maquettes of Tom and Crow, causing Trace to rush the stage and hug him profusely. (By the way, you can find the song on Luke's CD Carpe Dementia, and you can hear a sample of the song by clicking HERE.)

Trace helps The Great Luke Ski plug his CDs. So we will, too. You can buy them at   Dr. Forrester has a slightly different opinion of Luke's work.

(Click on images to enlarge.)

On Saturday, Trace was scheduled to appear on two panels. The first, entitled "What Makes a Bad Movie Bad?," was a rollicking affair kept lively by Trace's cohosts, The Great Luke Ski and Dr. Samuel Conway (a scientist who is also known by the name "Uncle Kage"). The panel began with the titular question, which Luke answered with one word: "Shatner." Trace was a bit more eloquent: "All bad movies start with one thing: film stock." The discussion then moved on to current bad movies (what current release would Trace like to see get the MST3K treatment? The Matrix Reloaded) and the inevitable mention of MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE. Uncle Kage also asked Trace the question Best Brains has heard countless times before: Why would MST3K make fun of a classic like This Island Earth? Trace's response: "Because we could GET it!"

By the end of the panel, it never really was decided just what makes a bad movie bad. But Uncle Kage summed up the general feeling of the room when he stated: "I don't know what makes a bad movie bad. I only know that as long as they make them, I'll keep watching them." He won't be the only one.


The Great Luke Ski, Uncle Kage and Trace discuss "what makes a bad movie bad."

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In contrast to his first panel, Trace's second panel, "What is Mad, and Why?" was a more somber affair. Cohosted by a previous Mad Scientist Guest of Honor and his wife, they were intent on seriously answering the question. Discarding the realm of fictional mad scientists, they instead focused on real-life scientists and what it would take to consider one "mad." Trace pretty much stayed out of the conversation, until at one point when the discussion turned to the story of a chimpanzee that walked upright like a human, when Trace quipped: "He's now writing scripts in Hollywood."

Trace tries valiantly to inject humor into an otherwise staid panel.

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Sunday started with an autograph session for Trace at 11 a.m. Small groups of fans would occasionally approach the table to get books, posters and other memorabilia signed, but Trace spent most of his time waiting and clowning around with The Great Luke Ski. One thing that occured to us during this session... There wasn't a single Crow or Tom Servo puppet to be found anywhere. Obviously, this wasn't a normal MSTie convention!

Trace signs a Dr. Forrester poster.

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At 2 p.m., Trace hosted "All About Trace." The panel should have been called "All About My Time at MST3K," because that's mostly what Trace discussed. He even brought along a laptop and projected slides of personal pictures he took during his years on the show, featuring early images of Joel, Mike, Kevin, Jim, Josh and Jef Maynard, as well as shots of sets and props, that have never been seen in public before. It was a fascinating look at the evolution of MST3K. Unfortunately, we're unable to show you any of these photos, since flashes from cameras washed out the images. Hopefully, Trace will decide to display them at some other point.

After the panel, Trace led us to a hidden location deep within the hotel's basement, and finally revealed the secret to Dr. Forrester's hairstyle. Yes, it's Mano's Hair Design!

The secret to Forrester's image revealed!

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Before the convention ended on Sunday, we made a trip to the art room. There, to our delight, we found the original Satellite of Love model built for Comedy Central. Mary Lynn Skirvin Johnson, a longtime MSTie, had bought the model during the eBay auction and lovingly restored it with Trace's help. We think she did an excellent job. The last time we saw the model, it had a gaping hole at one end. Not only was the hole no longer there, we couldn't even find where it had been repaired. Good job, Mary Lynn!

Mary Lynn Skirvin Johnson poses by the restored Satellite of Love.   A closeup of the S.O.L.

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A closeup of the plaque displayed under the S.O.L. model.

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Also on display in the art room were paintings by Jean Jackson. Unfortunately, she was unable to attend the convention, but that didn't stop people from buying her art. And don't forget that you can buy prints of her art by visiting

All in all, we had a great time seeing Trace again, and meeting The Great Luke Ski and the other sprinkling of MSTies at DucKon. We certainly hope to see them all again sometime in the not-too-distant future.