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An island of Losties

Like Trekkies before them, devoted fans of the current hit TV show find camaraderie at a convention.

June 14, 2005|Roy Rivenburg | Times Staff Writer

What's inside the mysterious hatch on ABC's hit TV show "Lost"? Maybe a tunnel to Burbank, where a dozen cast and crew members surfaced over the weekend for the world's first official "Lost" convention.

In an event that was billed as "history in the making," fans hobnobbed with the show's stars, scooped up "Lost" merchandise and unearthed a few secrets about the cryptic series, which is like a cross between "Twilight Zone" and "Gilligan's Island."

The two-day convention was organized by Creation Entertainment, a Glendale company that also runs fan conventions for "Star Trek," "Xena" and other shows with cult followings.

Nobody wore costumes to this confab, unless you count the woman with the red blob of fake flesh attached to her shoulder. "It's a piece of Arzt," she explained, referring to the character who inadvertently blew himself up in the season finale.

Other "Losties," who paid as much as $189 per ticket, were just as ardent about the show. One asked actor John Terry, who plays the father of Jack, if he was "in need of female companionship." Terry said he was "happily married."

At the end of a Q&A session with several of the show's writers, one audience member shouted, "Don't kill Sawyer," referring to the island's hunky bad boy. Executive producer Damon Lindelof replied, "We won't. But he did get shot, which means his shirt will be off in a future episode." As female crowd members whooped, Lindelof added, "And he'll be wet" (Sawyer fell into the ocean after being shot).

Many of the audience questions focused on various conundrums from the Wednesday night show, which will move to 9 p.m. this fall. Set on a strange tropical island, the sci-fi series revolves around 14 survivors of a plane crash, and their encounters with an unseen monster, a polar bear, the wreckage of a 150-year-old slave ship and other oddities.

"Have any of you heard of string theory?" Terry asked at the beginning of his talk. "I think the characters have fallen into a tear in the fabric of the universe, and they're co-creating this reality." But, he added, "I really don't know. And even if I did know, I couldn't tell you or I'd have to kill every one of you."

It's a familiar refrain among the show's cast and crew.

"You learn to become artful about giving infuriatingly vague answers," writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach said backstage. "I don't even show the scripts to my wife."

He added, "Our fans are like Talmudic scholars. They have created a body of scholarship about every episode."

About a month after the series debuted, Grillo-Marxuach was walking his dog when a neighbor yelled from across the street, "Are they dead?" Grillo-Marxuach shouted back, "No, they're not dead." The neighbor replied, "Really? Then why are their clothes so clean?"

At the convention, Grillo-Marxuach and his colleagues dangled a handful of clues to fans. "The plane did not crash by accident," Lindelof told the crowd. "It crashed for a very specific reason." But he dismissed speculation that someone aboard the plane caused the crash. "I will tell you today that is not the case."

He also promised, "Season 2 is gonna get weird" -- though he and other writers promised the mysteries wouldn't drag on as long as "The X Files," which ran nine seasons.

Other tidbits:

* What's inside the mysterious hatch will be interesting, but not as interesting as the effect it has on the John Locke character, according to Grillo-Marxuach.

* The rear section of the plane -- and additional survivors -- will be discovered during the second season.

* The people who kidnapped Walt, the young boy, are the "others" on the island.

* Eight infants have played the newborn son of Claire on the show. "They keep growing," so new ones have to be brought in, said Emilie de Ravin, who plays Claire. "It's a constant struggle to find newborn Caucasian babies in Hawaii," where the show is taped.

Fans came from as far away as Toronto, Brooklyn and Alaska for the convention, but Creation Entertainment officials admitted they were disappointed by the turnout. Although they had hoped for a crowd of 1,000, actual attendance was closer to 800, they estimated. Even that might be generous, judging from Sunday's crowd. The ballroom, with seating for 280, was never full.

One fan, Marianna Anderson, blamed the weak attendance on a shortage of marquee names, such as the actors who play Jack, Kate or Sawyer. Organizers did recruit De Ravin and Jorge Garcia, who plays Hurley. But after that, the speaker lineup went to such second-tier characters as evil Ethan (William Mapother), and the psychic who warned Claire about her baby (Nick Jameson, a former member of the rock group Foghat).

The fans didn't seem to mind. Many crept up the center aisle on their knees to snap photos while the actors spoke. They also stood in a long line for autographs, and bought $25 T-shirts and caps, $40 canvas posters, $8 stainless steel shot glasses and $130 "Lost" jackets.

At one point, Terry was asked to sign a photo using his character's name. He paused, searching his memory. "Christian Shephard," the woman offered. Is that with one "p" or two, he asked. Someone pulled out a program and supplied the correct spelling.

Convention organizers said the weekend event was the first of six "Lost" gatherings planned for the next year. The next will be held in Northern California sometime before the end of 2005, they said.

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