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Miracles don't just happen, you have to create them!
Written by Marcel Damen   
Saturday, 10 February 2007

Marcel Damen refound his love for Battlestar Galactica in 2003, with the release of the DVD set, the 25 Yahren Galacticon, and the premiere of the new series which was re-imagined from the original. This got him to track down the cast and crew involved in the original series and led to him to help organize a Battlestar Galactica cast reunion in The Netherlands. Ever expanding his "hobby", you can read here how he started with MAD's Battlestar Galactica Autographs & Photos and how it led to making GALACTICA.TV and several other sites.

Like most children, I was addicted to watching television. There was nothing that I enjoyed more than going through the TV guide the second it dropped on the doormat, and highlighting what I wanted to watch that week. I loved classic movies and series, particularly the epic ones: adventurous, swashbuckling stories of pirates (Errol Flynn!) or fascinating, big costume films with Romans or Ancient Egyptians and a cast of thousands.

My friends all loved Star Wars, but for some reason it didn't interest me, because I didn't want to watch it in the cinema. Also watching television, I wasn't particularly interested in scifi. Star Trek was broadcast here, but it didn't interest me (and still doesn't). In 1978, when I was 8 years old, a new American television hit scifi series called Battlestar Galactica was also broadcast here in the Netherlands. It combined all I'd ever loved: adventurous stories, great action, and classic elements like the Ancient Egyptian symbolism.

It was the first scifi series or film I ever sat and watched in complete awe. I was glued to the set week after week after week. My friends and I built our own vipers, made up our own stories, and while all my friends wanted to be Apollo or Starbuck, I always wanted to be Boxey. He was my age and I dreamt to be as adventurous as he was. I even dressed up our dog with a costume made out of boxes to become my own version of Muffit.

Galactica 1980 was also something I loved. As an adult I now look at it as a watered down version of the original Battlestar Galactica series, but as a child I didn't see it that way. I found the time travel idea fascinating and liked the new villain Xavier as much as I did Baltar in the original series. It even had some great episodes that highlighted Cylons (as opposed to just being a killer machine), like "The Night the Cylons Landed" and "The Return of Starbuck".

For many years my love for the Battlestar Galactica series was lost. In 2002 this all changed. I had just started collecting DVDs when EzyDVD in Australia announced that they were going to release a limited edition set of the Battlestar Galactica series. This fascinated me and made me look up the series and the actors on the internet. The Australian set was never brought out, since the Americans were working on their own set to coincide with the 25th Anniversary of the series. The end of 2003 became a turning point for me. The hype around the 25 Yahren Galacticon, the DVD set, and the re-imagining of the original Battlestar Galactica series into a new one had me hooked again.

Marcel Damen 

Autographs have always fascinated me. The feeling that the actor at one time had a photo of him in his hands, and left something on it to remember this by, was something that intrigued me. I live in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and as far as I knew, no Battlestar Galactica actor had ever even come to my country. I thought the closest I would ever come to them was watching the Galacticon photos on the internet and their interviews on the Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Epic Series DVD set. Wrong! On the DVD forum where I was posting, they were discussing a Dutch film convention Dirk Benedict had just attended. I could kick myself for not finding out sooner and I was discussing this on the forum with Dennis, an avid signature collector who had attended and met Dirk. Dennis pointed me to another convention he was going to where Britt Ekland attended (Tenna from "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero"). I went looking for a Battlestar Galactica photo for her to sign, but there wasn't a good one of her around. I figured out a way to make one for her myself using a screenshot from the Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Epic Series DVD set and she loved it. The photo also showed Denny Miller (Ser 5-9 from "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero") and I thought it might be nice to let him sign it as well. I quickly found out Denny even had his own website and when I e-mailed, he replied in person. This fascinated me and set me off to find other guest stars and the crew as well. This way I could actually communicate with my childhood heroes, even though I lived on the other side of the globe.

Marcel Damen 

The returns were amazing and I built a website to show off the results. Many fans contacted me for addresses, and I never actually gave away any. I had started from scratch and my collection was unique, so why should I give away all I had to any fan requesting it without doing any research himself. I did often point them to Denny Miller, Dick Durock or Felix Silla who all sell signed photos through their websites. Then Mike e-mailed, who also liked my collection. Only Mike was different. He had tracked down some of the main cast I was still missing and this interested me. We began e-mailing and we soon saw the advantages of working together. Over the next year we tracked down 150+ cast and crew of the original Battlestar Galactica series.

Next to collecting autographs I also started collecting vintage photos and other printed material. I'm now the proud owner of a great collection and have found a lot of rare material like the original contact sheets of the episodic photography and the preliminary pilot script (of which Glen Larson said only 50 were ever made, and to my knowledge only three are still known to be around, including mine). I also own an original matte painting and the actual script Ray Bolger used and made notes in for the episode "Greetings From Earth". If you'd like to see more of this, check out my website: MAD's Battlestar Galactica Autographs & Photos.

Marcel Damen    Marcel Damen

Marcel Damen

My friend Dennis, with whom I was also still in good contact, was also working on several movie related "projects" and one led to him being invited to help organize a film convention named "Screenheroes", here in the Netherlands. When they told him they were getting Dirk Benedict and Richard Hatch as guests, he immediately thought of me. He pointed the organization toward my website and they contacted me for help as well. Quickly after, Terry Carter and Herb Jefferson Jr. were booked as well. None of the organization were real Battlestar Galactica fans, so they asked for my help in putting it together.

We soon found out that we weren't the only ones putting together a Battlestar Galactica reunion. "Memorabilia" in the UK was also doing the same. I contacted the organization there to see if we could share some information. I had just tracked down Noah Hathaway and though he hardly replies to fanmail, I had got my photos back signed. "Screenheroes" wasn't interested in more Battlestar Galactica guests besides the four they already had booked, while "Memorabilia" now had nine main cast and crew coming. So not wanting to wait until 2008 for the next Galacticon, I flew to the UK to meet them. They were all great people to meet. Noah Hathaway and I really hit it off. I interviewed him and we even discussed me doing his official website. When I returned from a great weekend, I heard they were still looking for some guests to add to the list for "Screenheroes". I ended up pulling in Noah Hathaway and Anne Lockhart (Laurette Spang couldn't come) only weeks before the convention.      

Marcel Damen

Marcel Damen

Marcel Damen

Marcel Damen

I must say, I was really nervous at "Screenheroes". At "Memorabilia" I wasn't really part of the organization and was more like a fan meeting his childhood heroes. "Screenheroes" was different. Not only was I interviewing all of them on the day before the convention, but I would also lead a Q&A with the entire Battlestar Galactica cast for 45 minutes on Saturday and had to guide all the Personal Assistants of the Battlestar Galactica cast through the entire weekend. Next to that my good friend Mike had also flown in and I still needed to get him "in", because the people in charge of the convention still considered him a normal visitor. That Friday started out messy. The actors weren't following the time schedule (some hadn't even landed yet!) so we took advantage of the opportunity. This ended up getting us more time for all the interviews, but still to this day it saddens me we missed out on interviewing Dirk Benedict and Herb Jefferson Jr.

Marcel Damen 

When I arrived at the convention Saturday, I was surprised. The hall looked half empty and my gut feeling said this wasn't good. I quickly got Mike a job as Anne Lockhart's PA (a memory he'll cherish for the rest of his life!). The Q&A later that afternoon was a dream come true. I had thought of a list of questions up front and kept all of them talking for a full hour with some amazing stories. At night I was hanging out with Noah Hathaway in the lobby, waiting to go to the VIP party, when I got the news on my cell phone: the convention had gone bankrupt and the hotel bill couldn't be paid! Only half an hour later it became really hairy, when all the actors where kicked out of their rooms. Some were in pajamas since they had just woken up from their afternoon nap and most were confused about what was happening. I was never involved with the money and I thank the Lords of Kobol the actors saw that as well and didn't personally blame me for what was happening. When the confusion and anger had settled, practical solutions were made. All actors paid their own hotel bill and most decided to stay through Sunday, out of respect for the fans who had no knowledge or responsibility of the turn of events (since the hall was paid for in advance, it was no problem to do another day). It became very late in the hotel bar that Saturday night. I had a great time with some of the Battlestar Galactica cast and there was even room for a few laughs again. Noah Hathaway wanted to leave the hotel and I offered him to stay at my place. Now my childhood hero, who I had admired my entire life, was suddenly staying at my home. Something bad turned into something really good, because after the convention the contact stayed. We built websites for Terry Carter (Terry Carter - official site), Anne Lockhart (Anne Lockhart - official site) and Noah Hathaway (Noah Hathaway - official site: under construction) and started thinking about a general Battlestar Galactica site, named GALACTICA.TV, to put all the interviews on (and some we had already collected when we were writing to guest parts for autographs).

Marcel Damen

Marcel Damen

At "Memorabilia" I had also met up with Aaron Douglas. Next to acting in the new Battlestar Galactica series, he's a fan of the original Battlestar Galactica series and definitely didn't want to miss out on the reunion. A couple of months after the convention we interviewed him by phone. The interviewed lasted a full hour and this made us think on contacting others from the new series for interviews as well. The plans for the GALACTICA.TV site expanded to include promoting the cast and crew involved in ALL the Battlestar Galactica series. It has been quite a ride and we have interviewed many great people from the new Battlestar Galactica series as well. While expanding our network on the new series, I also sent a request to Leah Cairns. Her background story intrigued me since we had something in common: she had backpacked across the globe for a long time, like me. We e-mailed a bit back and forth and it clicked well. When it was time to interview her we had a LOT to talk about. The interview lasted almost two hours and it's the longest interview I ever did to this date. Leah is a great person, I loved talking to her and hearing her stories. When I offered to make her a website, she immediately agreed and I'm very busy working on that right now (Leah Cairns - official site: under construction). So now I'm ever expanding on new Battlestar Galactica related projects which have grown to become so much more than just a "hobby".  

Marcel Damen
 
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