Everyone seems to be in agreement that they want to know more about what went wrong at LPU- so I'm going to offer up some of what I've seen/heard. In many cases, I'm may omit names- so if I say "a VA" or "a musician", just please respect that I want to pass on observations, but also respect those affected persons.
Before I get into the details, I've mentioned before that I'm not a fan of Vegas, but I want to get something off my chest about the choice of location.
Las Vegas is not a children-friendly venue. It's Casinos and Strip Clubs and Alcohol and Prostitutes and Clouds of Cancerous Choking Cigarette Smoke EVERYWHERE!!! My Little Pony is a show for children that became so much more- it became something we all love and enjoy- but the cons are supposed to bring everyone together, and this was not a venue for the demographic that mattered the most. Las Vegas is a playground for adults.
You might be wondering why I'm ranting about this... and here it is: Over the course of the weekend I saw many familiar faces, but what I didn't see were the parents with their children. Yes, a few parents brought their kids, but this was my third "Pony" con, and the lack of families and little ones was VERY apparent. This con alienated several key demographics of the My Little Pony fanbase by merely existing.
My flight got in early and the big news of the day was that there had been a drive-by shooting between a really fancy car and an SUV and that one of these vehicles hit a cab- and all of this resulted in some dead people and a car fire right on the Strip- This never affected anything, except that Sibsy and I got fleeced a bit on the cab fare to the hotel.
In all seriousness, nothing much was happening on Thursday- but there were some really big red flags that were waving around.
The first magor red flag that I noticed was that a very talented and experienced con volunteer had offered his assistance to the LPU staff, and he was turned away because "they already had plenty of volunteers". I was having a hard time finding those volunteers...
Second, when I went to pick up my badge during early reg, it took forever. Let me rephrase that, it took FOREVER! There were two people ahead of me in line... Not 200, not 20. TWO! And it took forever. Regardless of that, I was fortunate enough to get one of the very limited con guides... Again, for the sake of being clear about this- it was early reg and they were already rationing out the con guides. AND my con guide was assembled wrong, with doubles of some pages and omissions of others. I didn't care that the guide was basically printer paper folded in half and stapled together- but being haphazardly assembled and running out during early reg? WTF?
Several other artist friends showed up a bit later, and I directed them to early reg. Their badges weren't even ready yet! While there, I noticed a certain "Official Illustrator of the Licensed MLP Comic Book" *cough Andy Price cough* trying to get his badge and the staff member telling him that his badge wasn't ready yet either! VIP people, VIP! I went with Andy to show him the Vendor Hall- I had been through a couple times already (which was odd because I didn't have a vendor badge!) and we tried to figure out where he should be setting up. There wasn't any staff at all to keeping the non-vendors out, nor was there anyone to help the vendors get oriented and set up.
By the end of Thursday, I was already saying that the con was going to be a (pardon my language) cluster-fuck.
Friday: Friday was the slow day of the con- the VAs weren't really there yet. We were seeing some wandering about the hotel- mostly without escorts. Except for Lee- he had a whole entourage of his own. I spent a lot of time in the Vendor's Hall and hit a couple later panels this day- but rumors were that the early panels were all already running way late and others were being cancelled. I felt bad for the Artist's Alley- I didn't even know it existed until several hours into the day. The layout of the con meant that those in the Alley were set aside in no-man's land, and without guides for the attendees, most people just wandered about the Vendor's Hall without seeing it. Thankfully the con fixed this for Sat/Sun by taking down the portable walls that isolated it, combining the Vendor's Hall and Artist Alley into a super room.
What I noticed most about Friday was the lack of volunteers and a schedule that was in shambles. The front entrance to the Vendor's Hall was monitored, but as I explored the halls, I was easily able to wander in the back way near the panel rooms without seeing any staff or having to show my badge. The panel rooms weren't labeled, and again, given that the guides were in short supply, each panel room should have been set up with it's own schedule of events near the door.
Besides the lack of volunteers and con staff- the biggest problem I noticed for this day was that there just wasn't the number of persons there that the con had been promising. I honestly expected registration to be the scene of a riot on Friday, but it wasn't. It was almost ominous how short the lines were... a fact that would contribute to many future problems.
The concert that night was the next problem. The Crebers got held up at the border and were running a day behind. To the best of my knowledge, it was the other musicians and EFN staff who were running all the damage control on this- putting Michelle's set last in the hope that she'll make it on time to the event. Mic The Mic was the one who seemed like he was picking up most of the pieces there- and all the kudos to him for the job he did. But as to the parts of the concert I did see- the venue was terrible. The sound equipment worse, and whoever ran the sound board needed to be shot. The $5 cover charge (really, you're going to nickle-and-dime us all to death at the con?) probably kept a good number of people away- especially with all the last minute chaos and changes. Mic did some great stalling- and they succeeded in dragging things out until the Crebers ran in, and then the concert ended on a very big finale! Again, kudos to many many people for making this happen! Wish LPU had been up to helping make it work though..
Saturday: This is where it started being REALLY apparent that things were going way wrong. My insomnia was acting up really bad so I was up and about really early. After a light breakfast I loitered around the Vendor Hall waiting for it to open. Final Draft came by and we were joking around- and he snuck me in to the Hall a bit early. If I missed anything this weekend, it was having my Vendor tag on my badge. I hung out with friends a bit and tried to find out how others were doing. Sales were slow the first day, but everyone had hopes for Sat. I pulled out my guide and decided that I wanted to go hit up a couple panels. Panels were a novelty to me, so I wanted to make the most of them.
The first panel I went to for the day was the most telling. Andy Price and two guys from Valkyrie Komics (a small independent comic label located in Las Vegas) were doing a compare/contrast session between working for the big guys and going independent in the comic industry. Everyone kept checking their watches because Andy and the others were just sitting there waiting for their moderator, and no one was showing up.
I'm not sure what set me off- but I finally raised my hand and got things started by asking the usual background/introduction question. The panelists looked relieved and the audience got the idea that things were started. A few minutes in the questions started getting almost exclusively directed at Andy- all about pony- which the panel was not supposed to be about. So I shot another question in and redirected the panel back on track. The guests knew exactly what I was doing and you could see relief on them for me doing so. The gist of it is this, *I* had to moderate the panel.
A short while after this I was hanging out with Cat- we hit the Autograph room. The VAs were all set and ready to go, but the staff wasn't letting anyone in. I did use this time to get some of my ponies signed, but it was very frustrating for them and the fans that things weren't moving.
Cat and I revisited the Autograph room later on behalf of Andy Price- to both get him some autographs and to have one of his prints signed for the charity auction. As we were doing this, Cat was finding out that the VAs weren't being taken care of... For those who know Cat, she was an integral part of EFNW, and she knows almost all of, and is friends with most of the VAs. During the course of this day I helped out several of the VAs- most notably I provided my cherished Con Guide to one of them so they could figure out what/when/and where they were supposed to be at during the con. Things are pretty bad when you can't even provide a schedule to your guests. Cat really started to crack some skulls here- and I left her to do her thing.
Sunday: Things imploded. I tried to sleep in on Sunday- I had been out really late the night before chatting it up with friends. I got down to the con at about 11- and shortly after my arrival I found out Cat was running the Vendor's Hall- so I jumped on board to help make sure people were being taken care of. Over the next couple hours it became really apparent that stuff was wrong, and we were telling all the vendors that because of a double booking, the hall had to be emptied out early. Bejoty, Glittering Pony, Cat, and many others basically took control of the con because the staff just disappeared. Cat was literally given the reigns of the whole con.
Shortly after this, I ended up helping other friends who were afraid they might be losing their hotel rooms. Musicians, media, and even comped VIP guests were being locked out of and evicted from their rooms. This was happening mid-day while they were all trying to keep the con running for those in attendance.
At this point, things got hectic, and I can't remember very well what order they were happening in... so I'm just going to bullet point the particulars that I observed and heap praise on those who helped.
The LPU staff had vouchers that the vendors were supposed to accept. These were given out as part of some of the package deals. Vendors will most likely never be able to be reimbursed for these...
As the vendors hall was being shut down way early, I overheard several of them saying that they were told they needed to figure out the 8% of their profits thing. Rumor is that the LPU con was taking this 8%. I haven't asked any of my vendor friends to elaborate, but I can very easily say that most vendors did not profit on this venture.
Several VAs were furious for various reasons- I wont go into specifics, but I will say that yes, the LPU staff was *that* incompetent (or do I mean non-existent?). Most VAs were really disappointed and upset.
Many of the special guests paid the con directly for hotel rooms, or portions of... And then were stuck with the hotel bill because the con was unable to pay up- meaning that they actually had to pay twice. The con also was supposed to reimburse many for airfare and other travel expenses- and it sounds like they may still owe many for this.
I never heard anything about the con money being absconded with by Con personnel. I did very much hear that all the money present was distributed to try to cover as many debts as possible... until only a handful of coins remained. Any money still being raised after the implosion point was being channeled through trusted hands only- and by that I mean "trusted by those who had to take over from the LPU staff".
I was in the hotel helping friends, not the convention center, when the fire alarm went off. All I know is that there was no actual fire.
Steffan Andrews did a spit take all over me and Cat. Seriously. And it was his own joke he was laughing at.
The crew of EFN did their utmost to keep the panels and livestreams going so that those who came to enjoy the con could continue to do so. Like a band on a sinking ship, they tried to keep things running as planned, but as things panned out and the severity of the issues became more apparent, they came forward as best as they could to explain what was happening. Thus #LasPegAssist.
The EqD crew pitched in and worked with EFN in these efforts. These two outlets don't always see eye-to-eye, but this was a great instance of them working together to the benefit of everyone.
Cat, Glittering Pony, Bejoty, and many other experienced con personnel from other major cons came together to take the reigns on this sinking ship. All of these people came to enjoy time with their friends and socialize- not work. I have the highest of respect for all of them.
My highest of praise goes to Cat herself because she's one of my best friends and I know all too well that this was not what she needed in her life right now. She put all that aside and did everything she could, including filling a major leadership position.
I will continue to be impressed by Final Draft. I heard rumor that he took the hit on all the hotel costs for his crew. All my respect to the man- he is leadership. Lee Tockar found himself a great partner to start his venture with.
I know there's tons that I'm forgetting, so please do ask questions. I'll try to answer everything as best as I can. In the meantime- I'm waiting for something to be organized to help those who were hit hardest. When a plan is in place, I very much am going to be contributing something monetarily and also donating something to be auctioned to help them out.
For the moment though, I'm going to go take a shower and get my laundry started...
Listening to: The birds chirp
Eating: Apple Sauce
Drinking: I wish