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Kids (and adults) raised in the action-movie ’80s may remember–perhaps gleefully–a music-infused New York City martial arts flick called “The Last Dragon.”
Produced by Motown’s Berry Gordy, the now-cult film was tuned perfectly for adolescents (and adolescent adults) who loved to blow their hyperactivity karate-chopping the air around them while moonwalking across their living room carpets in one spastic discharge of energy.
“The Last Dragon” indeed cast that spell.
It also gave kids a hero in the film’s well-mannered, lighter-than-helium and bullet-quick star, Taimak–just Taimak–who will give Wilmington a rare appearance this weekend at the inaugural Port City Pop Con, planned as a massive celebration of pop culture past and present, highlighting sci-fi, action, horror, animation and dozens of cult personalities.
“It’s very rare that Taimak does appearances, so the fact that one of the first times that people will be able to meet him and get autographs signed and get their picture taken with him will be in Wilmington,” said Mike Roberts, Pop Con’s chief organizer. “We’re actually pretty excited about that.”
The May 10-11 gathering at the Wilmington Convention Center has dozens of film and television iconics booked for appearance in what Roberts and company say is really the first event of its kind for the Port City.
More on that in a moment. First, a few other notables on Pop Con’s bill:
-Ernie Hudson, probably best known for his role as Winston Zeddemore in the “Ghostbusters” movies. (He also has a Wilmington connection for his part in 1994′s “The Crow.”)
-Margot Kidder, regarded for her role as Lois Lane in the Christopher Reeve-starring “Superman” films and for her part as Kathy Lutz in horror classic “The Amityville Horror.”
-James McCune, who played Jimmy on AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
-John Russo, who co-wrote the screenplay for the original “Night of the Living Dead.”
-Claudia Wells, who played Marty McFly’s girlfriend, Jennifer, in “Back to the Future.”
-James Tolkan, who played Marty McFly’s baldly authoritarian high school principal, Mr. Strickland, in “Back to the Future.”
-Noah Hathaway, who played Atreyu in “The NeverEnding Story.”
-Richard Edson, whom many remember as the shady, joyriding parking garage attendant in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” He was also in “Platoon” and (another Wilmington connection) the “Super Mario Brothers” live-action film.
Roberts, the event’s facilitator, is a Wilmington native who says he has managed celebrities and such gatherings for years. For the Pop Con, “We decided to bring it to Wilmington,” he said, “because anything that looks like it could be beneficial for Wilmington, I’m going to bring it here.”
Roberts, who moved to Texas a year ago, said he toured as a hip-hop artist with the likes of Ice Cube, Wu Tang Clan and 2 Live Crew before sliding into film work and eventually speaking at conventions on horror films and scant-budget productions. Connections from there grew into a booking business for celebrities like one he most recently signed, Scott Grimes, who does the voice of Steve Smith on animated TV series “American Dad” and played Brad Brown in the ’80s sci-fi-horror-comedy film “Critters.” Roberts also represents Michael Biehn, whose roles have included time-traveling guardian Kyle Reese in “The Terminator.”
Grimes and Biehn are both booked to appear at Pop Con.
Asked his expectations for the weekend, Roberts said it’s difficult to predict as “there hasn’t been anything like this in Wilmington. I can tell you that we just did a similar convention in San Antonio, and it was a very extensive turnout, a lot more than we expected.”
He guessed Wilmington’s turnout would be in the thousands, adding the plan is to establish “something that can keep coming back every year.”
Tickets for various levels of access this weekend range from $35 (Friday attendance only) and $45 (Saturday only) to $60 for a full weekend pass and $150 for VIP access, which grants early entry and admission to an exclusive party with celebrities among other perks.
Children ages 11 and under are admitted free to Pop Con with a paying adult (limit of two free children per adult) and must be accompanied by the adult at all times.
On the topic of autographs, the event’s website notes there may be charges. “This will vary from celebrity to celebrity as they have their own set prices. We do not control these prices. Most of them will be in the $20-$40 range for an autographed photo.”