Today marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Pokemon Red and Blue in Japan, and fans are celebrating by sharing their fondest Pokememories. Mine involve a kidnapping, complete with Polaroid shots and a magazine cut-out ransom letter.
It all went down at Dragon*Con 1999 in downtown Atlanta. I'd been working security for the convention for some seven years at that point, but this year was proving more difficult than the previous ones. Two months earlier (right after E3 1999, which I attended) my wife had left, and our mutual friend base was pretty much the entire security staff of the convention. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go that year.
But thanks to the prompting of close companions and the support of the woman I was dating at the time (who would eventually wind up the stepmother of my nephew, long story) I decided to attend. I packed some clothes, a walking staff (geek), some dice (such geek) and a my best fake friend, a chubby little stuffed Pikachu.
Turns out I was worried about nothing. Or at least worried about the wrong things.
I left Pikachu in the security operations room late on the first night of the convention while I responded to a call. I'm relatively certain that call was the infamous 18th floor orgy. The hotel we were in consisted of two towers connected on various floors by walkways, and from the walkway on the 22nd (or something) we had an excellent view of the event happening on the 18th with the window curtains wide open. As late-night security, our job was to stand there and watch it while making snarky comments. We performed our task admirably.
When I got back to the operations room, Pikachu was gone.
I searched and found nothing. I asked around, but no one saw anything. I returned to the hotel room I was crashing in, searched my bag, and found this:
I see Wendy's, Dots candy, Reeses something and I am not sure what else. Exhausted from my search and devastated by my loss, I took a long nap. When I awoke, I started asking important questions. How the hell was I supposed to get $US1,000 ($1,388) to replace my $US15 ($21) plush Pokemon in just a couple of days? And what guarantee did I have that my Pikachu was still alive and well? Where was the proof of life?
The answer to that last one was waiting for me in the security operations office in the form of a Polaroid picture.
Mind you all of the photos in this article will be Polaroids from 1999 captured in a scanner after the event. It was the first of many.
Over the course of the next several days, Polaroids would show up at the security operations office regularly. I hunted for my small furry friend everywhere but never found him. That's odd, because everywhere was exactly where he was.
In some of those photos it was clear that Pikachu was in grave danger.
Left: Pikachu blindfolded and tied to a chair. Right: Pikachu in the mouth of GWAR props.
Left: Starship Troopers take aim at Pikachu. Right: Exactly the Pokemon they're looking for.
Left: Xena, Gabrielle and Link close in. Right: Damn you Klingon bastards you killed my Pikachu!
Left: No, baby. Right: Before Cylons were cool again. I should have been terrified for my poor Pikachu's life, but as many pictures that arrived showing him in grave danger, just as many portrayed a Pokemon having a hell of a good time.
Left: Pikachu takes a break at Planet Hollywood. Right: Atlanta's Hard Rock Cafe, where I've never been.
Left: He's got game. Right: While I am panicking, he's at the pool?
Left: Pretty sure he's too young for that beer. Right: Not too young for ice cream, though. As the days passed I started to resent my missing friend, as he was obviously having a better time than I was at the show. He even got to hang out with the stars of science fiction and fantasy.
From left to right: TV's Riddler, Frank Gorshin, Mira Furlan and that other guy from Babylon 5, and master of horror Tom Savini. Eventually, after days of hot and cold running worry and jealousy, Pikachu and I were reunited in the hallway outside to security operations office.
I blew this one up, because 17 years ago I had hair. Also I still own that shirt. I never did find out who was behind the kidnapping and the photos. I suspect it was a group effort, partly motivated by pure convention mischief, and partly to keep my mind off of the whole wife leaving me thing. Whatever the case may be, it worked.
Though I'd been to many before and several since, that Dragon*Con will always be my favourite, thanks to my little stuffed Pikachu and some good friends.
Check out more pictures over at the Internet Wayback archive of the site I posted following the convention. Pay special attention to the flavour text at the bottom of the links page, as that's one of the earliest flirtations with the woman who eventually bore my children.
Feel free to share your fondest Pokemon memories in the comments section below. If they're as twisted as mine I'll give you an imaginary hat.