On April 2, Jarrod Cooper posted some bad news on his convention site.
Colin Baker, who played the sixth Doctor in the classic “Doctor Who” series, would not be able to attend Cooper’s growing Hurricane Who convention in Florida. Baker, Cooper said, had an “extended professional acting engagement” that prevented him from traveling to the United States, leading to his bow out.
Of course, cancellations like that for conventions are not uncommon, and not even bad for a convention that is still several months out. But there was one peculiar thing about this particular post — it’s the last time most anybody has really heard from Cooper.
Airlock Alpha has received several reports over the last several weeks that Hurricane Who — which started just a couple years ago in Florida — had not been paying some of its past guests in a timely fashion. Because this site has had an informal relationship with Hurricane Who in the past, we tried to contact Cooper — a former writer for Outpost Gallifrey — to get some information on if those stories were correct, and if so, what the convention was doing to fix it before it started collecting money from its next event.
We never received a response. Nor did we receive any response in a followup we sent to Cooper and to every listed staff member at Hurricane Who earlier this week asking for immediate response in light of a new report that the first guest scheduled for the October convention has dropped out because of the rumors.
Ian Cullen of SciFi Pulse pointed us to the official website of Doctor Who comic book writer Tony Lee, a participant at last year’s Hurricane Who.
“Over the last few weeks, there have been unsettling developments coming to light, of guests from the 2009 convention still not being paid, of debts being owed and Jarrod has disappeared from the Internet, not replaying to e-mails, phone calls and messages, leaving behind countless fans and friends worrying for his safety and unsure of whether the 2010 Hurricane Who convention will even be happening,” Lee said in his blog. “As the rumors circulate, committee members leave and additional debts come to light, the likelihood of the convention keeping to its schedule lessens every day. Although I wish Jarrod all the best and hope he can weather the storm, one thing has concerned me immensely — and that is that the Hurricane Who website is still actively accepting bookings for this convention, monies from fans that in all probability won’t be recuperated by them if the convention does fail, not to mention the hundreds of dollars in plane flights and hotel fees that the fans will never regain if the event does fall through.”
Earlier this year, Cooper hosted a mini-convention of sorts at a popular British-style pub in Orlando, Fla., that originally was supposed to include Nicholas Courtney, who played Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart in the classic “Doctor Who” series as a special guest. However, weeks before the event, Courtney had to withdraw, and he was instead replaced by “Being Human” star and modern “Doctor Who” guest Russell Tovey, borrowed from a neighboring convention taking place in Orlando.
Airlock Alpha attended that event, and Cooper expressed to the site at the time that the number of tickets sold would not cover costs, and he was confused as to why Tovey — an up-and-coming star in the genre — could not generate the same draw as Courtney, who has been off American televisions for the most part for quite some time. Cooper told the site they would likely lose money at the event, but it was expected since it was a last-minute guest change.
Lee is still listed among the guests at Hurricane Who, and tickets are still being sold through the group’s website. No one from the convention has returned requests for comment, including Cooper himself who has previously had a regular dialog with the management of Airlock Alpha.
Because of that, Airlock Alpha encourages potential convention-goers to wait until some of these issues can be worked out before purchasing tickets or making plans to attend the event. There is nothing yet to indicate the convention won’t go on with its remaining guests, but the lack of communication and the level of reports surrounding the convention are troubling enough to wait before buying tickets.