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Dragon Con: Billy Dee Williams, Ed Asner and a $6k Iron Man suit

Ed Asner
Melissa Ruggieri

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[We interrupt our regularly scheduled music coverage to bring you some news from Dragon Con. Why? Because it's Dragon Con, that's why.]

The beauty of Dragon Con is that you’re just as likely to bump into Billy Dee Williams riding a motorized scooter around the autograph room as you are to smack into an intimidating Bane from Batman or a white tape-wrapped Leeloo from “The Fifth Element” (you want to see a guy’s head rotate off his body?).

We’re still not sure about why fans dressed as the cats from “Cats” roamed the hallways, but they looked so spectacularly Broadway, we have absolutely no complaints. Oh, and if anyone can help identify the giant gray mouse, described as “the Japanese Mickey Mouse” (pictured left), it would be much appreciated.

As the 27th annual sci-fi-comic-book-superhero- arrived in downtown Atlanta Friday – where it will crowd streets and hotels with tens of thousands of awesomely costumed fans and the rest of us trying not to sweat through our Flash Gordon T-shirts through Monday – so did the stars of that universe.

“Star Trek” legend George Takei enticed a winding line of fans waiting for autographs (at $40 a pop – a bargain compared to William Shatner’s $75), while “MacGyver” himself, Richard Dean Anderson, now more silver than surfer blond, signed and chatted as well.

This year’s Dragon Con includes the usual impressive array of names known to casual fans as well as the intensely dedicated (Lee Majors, CCH Pounder, Kathy Najimy, Malcolm McDowell , cast members from “True Blood” and “The Walking Dead” and seemingly 500 more) and most will make several appearances over the weekend.

A personal highlight was Ed Asner (and my lowlight for the day was hearing numerous people remark of Asner, “Who is that?” “Never heard of him.” And these weren’t particularly young people, either. Maybe call up “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” next time you’re on Netflix).

Asner, 83, was there, ostensibly, because of his brilliant work as Carl Fredricksen in Pixar’s 2009 animated gem, “Up.” But the hilarious and lovably cantankerous star, who walked out with a cane, electric cigarette and no introduction, spanned a dozen topics during his hour-long Q&A session.

About his role as the president of the Screen Actors Guild in the ‘80s: “It’s a crock! It’s a zoo and everyone has their own pet projects.”

About his new role in the Disney feature, “The Games Maker”: “It’s a little like Harry What’s-His-Name? Oh, right. Potter.”

About his paternal look: “I resemble everybody’s father…except the thin ones.”

About his grandkids: “I hate kids. Because if you saw my grandkids, you’d understand why I hate kids.”

About “Up”: “I’m so proud of ‘Up.’ I did eight or 10 sessions, each about six to eight hours and never saw what it looked like until I saw the final product. The first two times I saw it, it was 3-D and I didn’t like it, it was too dark. It was the third time, not a 3-D showing, that I realized what a winner we had.”

About acting: “I love acting. I don’t need a costume. I don’t need to shave. I don’t need deodorant.”

About the “Lou Grant” show: “When we started ‘Lou Grant’, we didn’t have these – what do you call those things? Computers! – We had one photographer and two reporters, but it had the best cast you’ll ever find on a TV show with the finest actress in America, bar none, Nancy Marchand.”

Asner also told the timeless story of the rocky start to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (recounted expertly in the recent book, “Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic”) and even gave the crowd a read of his iconic “I hate spunk” growl.

Game over.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Smooth (aka Williams) made a return to Dragon Con after 14 years (he mentioned that his son lives in Atlanta).

While most in the crowd worship the actor for his dapper portrayal of Lando Calrissian, Williams recounted his roots as a Broadway star at the age of 6 ½, and reminded fans of his extensive art background.

Naturally a question was posed about the upcoming “Star Wars” movies and whether Lando would appear.

“I have no idea about what those folks are going to do,” Williams said. “My idea is to bring me back with a daughter who is a Jedi.”

Even though Williams, 76, has starred in classics such as “Mahogany” and “Lady Sings the Blues,” he said the one role he wished he could play was Duke Ellington.

“I always felt like I was a perfect fit,” said Williams, who worked with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in D.C. “You talk about a man with great charm…”

As for his much-admired debonair vibe, Williams demurred when asked about the key to being suave.

“It’s very simple,” he said with a smile. “Just be silly.”

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