There may come a time when I can look Jonathan Frakes in the eye and have a conversation without turning tomato red and losing track of basic language skills. This past week wasn’t that time.
But we’re getting closer!
We have to start way back in 1987 when the Civil War led me to the Final Frontier. I watched the second part of a huge miniseries called North and South that actually began in 1985, but I don’t remember seeing it then. I was pretty young and going through some rough things in my family. The important thing is North & South had a character called Stanley Hazard played by (drum roll, please) Jonathan Frakes, seen here in Book III in 1994. At the same time that he was making Book I and II of North & South, he was also starting to work on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Presto! I followed “the guy with the blue eyes and the chin dimple” (quickly covered by a Civil War-appropriate beard) from the 19th century to the 24th century when I wasn’t interested in sci-fi at the time.
That’s love, folks.
Most of you know me enough by now to understand that I was born with a desperate need for connection to 19th century American history, so me as a child watching a giant Civil War miniseries, despite its major historical costuming flaws, isn’t that unusual. When Jonathan Frakes narrated a documentary called Lee & Grant a few years ago, I lost my mind when I heard his voice and had to pause the TV long enough to tell everybody in my house. I’m just like that. It’s part of my charm.
Last year, I met Jonathan Frakes when my friend invited me on the Star Trek cruise. Let’s revisit that glorious moment.
He did a Q&A that week and walked right by me because I was too chicken to ask a non-Star Trek question. What I really wanted to know was whether he did any preparation to play a villainous puppet like Stanley Hazard, whether he has interest in the Civil War period in real life, etc. Stuff that matters to me, not that Commander Riker isn’t a fantastic character. Trust me – I wouldn’t kick Riker out for eating cookies in bed. But I’m so invested in American history that I went to college for it before I got too sick to continue. Rooting out other people interested in American history is my stock and trade. So after the Q&A where I remained silent last year, I silently resolved to have North & South art autographed this year just for myself.
That brings us to last week. I boarded the cruise ship armed with unfinished Stanley Hazard art and sequestered myself in a corner of the pool deck to work on it before our ship even left port. They don’t tell you when autographs are right away and I was afraid there wouldn’t be time to finish it. Portraiture is my business, you see. I was swamped with orders well beyond Christmas and I barely had time to sketch out Stanley’s bewildered, resentful face before I left for the cruise. So I had to work on the ship in between activities.
Here’s how the progress went.
On the cruise:
How did it turn out? In my opinion … meh. My problem with it was the rolling, rocking ship and the unfamiliar surroundings. I need my little artist habitat to do my best work, although I did enjoy people coming by on the pool deck to tell me they liked it.
One of the crew people on the ship in particular spent quite a while talking to me about my art. I told her all about Jonathan Frakes and showed her what he looked like in the present so she could spot him when she met him. Every time I saw her after that, she had intel for me like, “Oh hi! Mr. Frakes up in VIP lounge now,” (she was Asian, I think, so English was a little tough) or, “Ah, it’s you, Miss Frakes Girl. You see him yet? You finish your art?” She even showed me the photo she took with him one night in that VIP lounge. I never asked for the intel but she was fun. Like, really, what was I going to do? Sneak into a place I wasn’t allowed to go? That’s not cool.
Yet I did see Jonathan every day on the ship. Most of the time he saw me too, but there were a few times when he was engrossed in talking to other people or headed somewhere fast (someone with legs that long moves much faster than I do) and I just didn’t want to be a bother. I ran into him immediately on my way to breakfast on the first day at sea. A big smile came over him and he rubbed my arm and spoke familiar greetings. I hadn’t had my coffee yet but that was a better wake up than caffeine. If you’ve ever been the target of his real smile, you know what I mean. I couldn’t believe it seemed like he remembered me.
The oddest thing was that we ended up on the same tender boat headed out to Grand Cayman. A zillion boats going back and forth all day and we ended up on the same one just a few rows apart. I don’t think he ever saw me since he was with his friends and I kept to myself out of equal parts politeness and shyness. You will have seen a photo of him snorkeling that day on Twitter. He went out there to see stingrays. As soon as I got off the tender, I went the opposite direction as him. Again, I didn’t want to be a bother.
It got better from there. He always had a big smile for me when we saw each other and said things like, “There she is,” or used kind endearments like “my dear” and the like.
Apparently one night while I was trying to find Jonathan’s photo op line, Jason Isaacs very nearly bumped into me and said hello but I never noticed him. So naturally my brother, who loves Jason Isaacs, made fun of me for the rest of the night and swore he was going to tell Jonathan that I was so laser focused on him that I completely missed Jason right in front of me. He never ratted me out. I think he values his life too much. But he might have had a point. Let’s be real. I spent a lot of time looking for a dress that made me feel like a lady to wear in my photo op. I didn’t say that, of course, but I was hoping Jonathan would notice it. He has to be a mind reader or he sincerely meant it because he said, “Beautiful dress,” without being prompted. The photo here is me strolling the pool deck after seeing him. I look drunk. I swear I wasn’t. I rarely get compliments from men that aren’t followed up by unsolicited photos of nude genitalia or being propositioned to send my own nude photos, so it was a moment.
I don’t fit in this century if we’re honest about it.
The autograph session for Jonathan was close to the end of the cruise, so I had plenty of time to finish my North and South art. I never could get it the way I wanted because of poor lighting and total exhaustion on my part. If you’ve never traveled with me, then you won’t know how much pain I go through every day. I don’t like to dwell on it in the moment, which means someone like Jonathan won’t ever see me suffer. The more I smile, the more my body hurts. Traveling causes more pain and more pain causes my artistic skills to decline. You guys probably can’t see it in Stanley’s finished art, but I can see exactly where my physical struggles overrode my creative drive.
However, Jonathan sincerely seemed to like what I did. I was terrified standing in line because people say he can be indifferent or cold sometimes. They say that about Michael Dorn too. My worst fear was him mumbling hi, how are you, scribbling his name, and moving on to the next person. The reward for an artist isn’t money at all but the fulfillment we get from seeing our work touch another person, especially if they are the muse. I really wasn’t expecting back flips, mind you. I just dreaded feeling passed over.
So Jonathan’s handler took the art first and got very excited over it. She asked to take a photo and she said he was going to love it. I have no idea what she did with the photo but I hope she liked it. When my turn came, he gave me that smile and said, “There she is!” as if he’d been expecting me. He took the art from his handler and he didn’t say anything for a second while I chewed a hole in my lip in abject terror. Then looked over the paper at me and said with a grin, “Spineless Stanley Hazard!” Relief flooded my body and I burst into laughter. He spent time studying my art and saying, “This is so great.” I wanted to say that North and South brought me over to Star Trek TNG through him but I was starting to fall into the dumb, speechless, tomato red thing I do around him. Luckily he was busy trying to plan how and where he was going to sign the art to notice that I was starting to freeze.
When he asked for my name and started to write the J, his eyes slid over to mine and he said, “Don’t you have three names?” It took me a second to realize he probably meant my name on Twitter. I’m listed as Jessica Jewett Jones @JJ9828 on Twitter so people who read my books or buy my art as well as people who know me in real life can find me (Jones is my legal name, Jewett is my name for books and art). I don’t know if he saw the panic alarms going off in my head. He never replies to people, so I figured he didn’t read his tweets. I have a have a habit of live tweeting Riker-centric Star Trek episodes. I express Beardo love on @swear_trek too. Twitter has to be the only place he’d see me with “three names” unless he has a secret Instagram account.
Who knows what kinds of embarrassing tweets he’s seen when I thought he wasn’t looking? Oh well. I never truly say anything online that I wouldn’t want the rest of the world to see. You just never know who’s watching. It’s fine for him to know that the Riker Maneuver in the movie (or generally Riker in combat command) turns me into one of those Victorian women in need of smelling salts. You know what? I own it. Still, I was teased the rest of the night for being busted.
I don’t know if photos in the autograph line were exactly kosher but my brother was behind me and he knew how important that night was to me. He discreetly took a few photos while Jonathan and I were talking. Hopefully we won’t get in trouble for this since it wasn’t done obnoxiously.
All joking aside, after Jonathan signed my art and handed it back to my brother (bonus points to him for knowing I can’t hold objects in my hands without being told), he caught my eye and got serious to say something to the effect of, “It’s always a pleasure to see you. Always.” It was a crowded atrium and I was honestly overwhelmed. But he made a point to make me feel valued and wanted. That meant everything to me.
Here’s the finished art with his autograph.
The next time we bumped into each other was unexpectedly at Brent Spiner’s theater show. My brother saw him sitting in my row on the other side of the theater, which was cool, but I wasn’t going to approach him. I never approach him, in fact. I just wait to see if he notices me and he usually does. He spotted me as he was walking by and he called out, “Hey, baby!” and blew a kiss at me with his whole hand. Nope, I can’t tell you what songs Spiner sang for a big part of the show after that. And for most of the second half of the show, while Spiner sang love songs, Jonathan sat right across the aisle from me and it took all of my internal fortitude to stay focused on the show.
I had hoped to catch him one more time on the last day to thank him for being so lovely to me all week. That never happened. I slept in late and then I spent the afternoon with my brother at the bar above the pool deck, ironically not drinking any alcohol. It was just a nice place to sit and watch the world go by.
There were so many other great things that happened on my trip, like Gates McFadden accidentally shoving my chair into Wil Wheaton, but it’s all too much to write in one blog. I mainly composed this one for myself so I could remember the things that were most important to me. If you found it interesting and made it to the end, you’re the kind of person I want to know and I thank you for hanging out here. I think I might do more North and South art once I’m not so buried in commissions too. We’ll see.
Yes, I am going on the Star Trek cruise next year as long as Jonathan Frakes will be there. I’d probably go even if he wasn’t there since it’s my friend Wendy who buys my passage, but he makes it so much more fun for me. And maybe I’ll figure out how to stop blushing like a virgin and say something more intelligent than hi and thank you. That’s really irritating me. I’m a 36-year-old woman who has had almost two dozen surgeries, a dozen broken bones, I’m a domestic abuse survivor, I’m more than a decade sober, and I can’t stand women that get all shy and silent around men. I’m a goddamn warrior! I can handle a 6’4 man like a queen! Next year, I’m going to blow his socks off with my charm and intelligence. He’ll go home and tell Genie Francis how awesome I am (ha!)
Next year’s autograph art? Will Riker vs Thomas Riker. So mote it be.
Oh, PS, it’s Wendy who has the photo ops and she’s in the middle of moving house during a snow storm. I’ll update this blog when she sends me the photo ops. In the meantime, go ahead and follow my social media at the bottom of this blog for more photos and my latest art projects.
Star Trek the Cruise 2019, signing off. Back to real life.
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This is so great! I’m so happy for you. Can’t wait to hear the story of how Gates shoved your chair in Wil. I think your piece turned out nicely. So glad that he liked it.