Space: Above and Beyond Wrap Party
Photographs contributed by Allison Sills
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Field Report from the Space: Above and Beyond Wrap Party by Allison Sills

Santa Monica -- Saturday, April 15, 1996 -- We started the night painting and primping, moving relentlessly between the two bathrooms and the living room. Because on this Saturday night, SPACE was being shown in a special test time slot, at 8 p.m. However, just the day before, Friday, it had run in the slot it always deserved -- right before THE X-FILES. And this weekend was additionally special because David Duchovney and Gail O’Grady guest-starred on the show, AND Chris Carter had put a S:AAB-ish cameo on his show. In an episode that would go on to win an Emmy for writer Darin Morgan ("Jose Chung ’s From Outer Space"), a UFO enthusiast wears a SPACE T-shirt.

We waited until SPACE was over to head to the party. We arrived in a borrowed Miata (top down) at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica. After signing in at the door we moved inside. The place was packed.

A huge warehouse-size building, now it was party-lit with a spotlight casing the room. On a raised platform to the left, a motion ride was bucking. On the opposite corner, to the right, a band was playing -- The Blazers -- who were featured in the SPACE episode "R & R." The left center of the room, closer to the stage, was fixed up with tables and chairs. Dead center was a staircase that wound up to a second, floating track floor which, itself, wound around the warehouse with an excellent balcony view of the floor below. In the open center hung a Stearman World War II trainer, a genuine yellow biplane, which was suspended from the ceiling and could easily be scrutinized from the second floor. To the right of this staircase was on open bar, which I shamefully admit we visited first.

Toting my Chardonnay (served in a clear plastic cup!), we started to tour the building. We were immediately greeted by members of Area 51. Someone had found out the projected Nielsen ratings for Friday, and this topic became paramount. SPACE had done remarkably well. If I remember correctly, the show had started near 11 million viewers and had finished near 17! Too bad the show didn’t always have this time slot.

Next we ventured on the motion ride. A motion ride is a pod with seats inside and a movie projector. The pod moves in coordination with the video shown to give you the sense of actually being in the action of the film. The first film was shot from the perspective of a jet pilot. I loved this one -- so we saw it twice!

Then we went upstairs where all of the Area 51 boys and their guests had gathered including Glenn Campbell, Tim McHugh, David Jones, Scott Wheeler, Karl Denham, Wayne England and Justin Hammond. I got to meet the other guests and thankfully found like souls who didn’t really know what everyone else was talking about either. I communicated my anxious desire to whip out my cardboard Kodak but that I was terrified of being considered a crasher. It was then that one of the other guests admitted to me that she, too, desired a more permanent reminder of this night.

I don’t often get to live the dream -- I’m financially challenged -- but when I do I am compelled to create a photographic record. Not having the artist’ s eye for detail, I need the camera’s to recall the clarity of the moment. With this in mind, I couldn’t believe that I forgot my trusty Olympus at home! But, admittedly, I got the call to go at the last minute. Thank God for the recent advent of disposable cams -- now with the handy flash!

So, there on the balcony, my new friend and I elected a photographer and started off on our quest to capture the moment.

We started with a few, group shots of Area 51. Upon the balcony was a paneled area with a pictorial history of local jet aviation. This served as a perfect backdrop for shots of our boys who make such craft from scratch. The boys gamely acquiesced, and a few of them walked with us to meet the cast.

We found Rodney Rowland about to walk back downstairs. Dressed in a silky, black shirt, untucked, with the first button undone and sleeves rolled up midway coupled with olive green-colored jeans, Rodney happily posed with both of us. He behaved very Cooper-ish, excitable and playful. He showed us a small model of a Hammerhead he was holding. One of the guys from Area51 told us it was made from a laser beam cutting into some kind of plastic using only the Area51 computer model as it’s guide.

Walking downstairs we found Morgan Weisser dressed opposite Rodney in an olive green shirt, also untucked, with black pants. He was very laid back and friendly while sipping his soft drink.

Moving through the crowd I made eye contact with Steve "Butts" Rankin. He was dressed in a brown denim shirt with matching darker brown sport coat, jeans and cowboy boots. He introduced himself to me after seeing me notice him and smile. I replied quite calmly and slightly amused, "Yes I recognize you, Mr. Rankin. I enjoy the show quite a bit actually, and I would love a photo with you, if you wouldn’t mind." He chuckled and agreed.

Then we spotted Kristen Cloke. She was wearing a body-hugging, blue, short- sleeved sweater with skin-tight, black pants. She also had on a very lovely pearl choker wrapped four times, and a black backpack rested off both shoulders. Our photographer and one of the attending Area 51 onlookers asked for a photo with this lovely.

Lanai Chapman won my "Best Dressed" award. She appeared fashionable late, and all eyes were diverted. With the grace of a fashion model, she sauntered into the room. She was clad in a floor-length, clinging, black sleeveless gown with hair upswept and face aglow. Her slender neck was framed with a glittering, silver, multi-chain necklace. SEVERAL guys asked for pics with her including the most reticent of the bunch. She was as gracious as she was beautiful and posed appreciatively with each of us.

Tucker was hard to miss in his azure blue t-shirt and cream-colored jacket with black pants. But upon closer inspection, it was his shoes that caught my eye. Even in the darkness I couldn’t help notice his two-tone (black and white) wingtips.

Standing near Tucker was Doug Hutchison and Joel de la Fuente. Doug wore a white, long-sleeve t-shirt with a brown vest and jeans. Joel was very dapper in a black, banded-collar shirt with black pants and a sapphire blue sport jacket.

Amanda "Kylen" Douge was, to me, the most memorable person. She was open, talkative and gracious. She was truly incredulous that anyone would want a photo with her. Her hair was now bobbed (in fact I think she wore a hair extension in "Tell Our Moms..."), and she wore a black mid-calf length dress. She was absolutely radiant and sweet, her big blue eyes animated and her Cupid’s bow lips in play. She was from Queensland, Australia, where the pilot of SPACE was filmed -- as was our elected photographer. My new girlfriend and I scouted the room while they chatted about home.

But there was only one person left with whom I wanted a photo. And by that time I was finally drunk enough to approach him. God knows why I found this chore so daunting. I’ve said before, I’ve met many a star and very few provoke this kind of reaction. If I had to guess I’d call it a symbolic return to the idea of approaching the victorious, star football-player during the Homecoming Dance. And I, of course, returning to the four-eyed, nose-in- book, "trekkie," geek TK (teacher’s kid -- mother. A definition further complicated by the fact that my dad was the no-nonsense, bad-ass Counselor within the same school -- small towns SUCK!).

wrap.jpg (43943 bytes)James Morrison was very sweet and obliging. He looked sharp in a smart, black, double-breasted suit (jacket unbuttoned) with a white banded-collar shirt. I did not take the opportunity to linger or chat, although I’m sure he would have obliged. In fact, he did ask me if I was from Area 51. My answer, "Sort of." I deferred to my partner in photo crime who confessed to me that she really dug McQueen, too.

Perhaps I should have said something, but there were only two ideas I wanted to communicate. "Hey, love the character" and "Gee, I think yer purdy." I thought both of these things were implied when I asked for the photograph, so, after it was snapped, I thought it wise to withdraw with much gratitude.

Soon everyone gathered near the stage above which was set a movie screen. Glen Morgan took the microphone and announced how they had planned to put together a reel of clips from the shows to play here. But he went on to explain that a fan had sent them a music montage which they felt was so extraordinary that they had decided to show that instead. In fact, Glen and James Wong were so impressed with it, I found out afterward, that they invited its author to the Wrap Party, too.

The video played, and we all stood in awe. Especially touching to me was the Cooper/McQueen footage set to Peter Gabriel’s "Don’t Give Up." I watched from the middle platform of the center staircase. The higher altitude provided an unobstructed view.

Dancing followed on a chessboard-paneled floor in front of the stage. The band was replaced with a DJ who spun radio standards.

As the end of the party drew nigh, we made plans to hook up at a draft and darts bar. We hit the motion ride one more time, this time it was the perspective of a downhill skier, then we picked up the Miata and headed for the bar. We stayed there just long enough to realize how exhausted we really were. So, after making our good-byes, we hobbled home.

It was a blissful night. The party was an experience I’ll never forget, and which I shall always be grateful I was able to share.

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