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Friday, November 16, 1999

I have to admit that my favourite secondary character in The X Files has always been AD Walter Skinner. Scenes involving Skinner and Scully, whatever the circumstances, are just about perfect. So I was very pleased to learn that his alter ego Mitch Pileggi would be visiting not only our fair shores but my beloved Sydney. I had already met Gillian Anderson in 1996 when she came to Australia, now I was determined to meet Mitch Pileggi: Mr Skinner himself, and complete the double.

The back story to this was the fact that both Mitch Pileggi and Nick Lea were in town for the official opening of the new Fox studios in Sydney. Unfortunately Nick had to return to New Zealand as he was heavily involved in filming a feature there. However Mitch, his wife Arlene and their little baby girl Sawyer stayed on to do the touristy thing and see the sights. After about a week Mitch resurfaced towards the end of the month to meet his publicity requirements for Fox's upcoming Biogenisis home video release. I heard that he would be signing autographs at Grace Bros in the city on Friday, November 16.

All in all it was pretty fortunate in a way. I had already decided to take a week's annual leave because my birthday falls towards the end of the month. I just tacked that Friday onto the leave. Then an unexpected twist happened that couldn't have worked out better even if I had planned it in advance.

2DAY FM, is the local the radio station I listen to regularly. I especially like their breakfast shift known as The Morning Crew (featuring Wendy Harmer, Peter Moon and DJ Paul Holmes). The Crew would be conducting an outside broadcast at Latham Park in Coogee, Sydney's east side, on that very same Friday and that Mitch Pileggi was going to be their special guest. Well of course I just had to go. I fancied that this would be an ideal situation to meet him on a less official basis and that he would be more approachable without too many minders running interference as they tend to do.

I got to the park early, at 5.30 am and waited for a while glad to see it was shaping up to be a beautiful day. I watched the radio techs and stall holders set up. I say stall holders because as well as the broadcast 2DAY FM were throwing a 'breakfast' of muffins and banana smoothies. These breakfasts had been a semi regular promotion by the station during the year. The Morning Crew start their shift at 6 am and I found myself the only 'civilian' there for a while. I guess the hour was too early for most folks other than keen X Files fans, although I had expected them to be well entrenched by now.

The crew made comment about their huge audience. I couldn't resist in raising my hand and waving. I was the only one standing on the open ground in front of them at the time and they obviously singled me out. They wanted to know how I had found the place - had I been orienteering? Actually, although I had never actually been there before, I remembered the park because it was located not far from an army barracks I had once been posted to. Peter Moon also suggested that Id probably only come along to see Mitch because it was cold enough to wear my X Files college jacket and I stuck out as an X Phile as you can imagine. True enough, they had spotted my intentions, but I was indulging in a double helping; I was there to see them, too.

Eventually folks began to arrive at the park in dribs and drabs - a man walking his dogs, a couple of joggers... Finally, reinforcements as two other fans arrived. (After introductions, Monica Duff and Kim Jacobs). Monica had come all the way from Victoria just for the signing session, so this was an added bonus for her. The girls were well equipped: lots of 8X10 glossies for Mitch to sign as well as plenty of other TXF merchandise to show off. They even set up a video camera to record proceedings. Something told me they had done this before. I was quite impressed.

The girls were interviewed by 2DAY's general roustabout Michael 'Sydney' O'Neill while I ensured they were all kept in the frame, so to speak, with the video camera.

Mitch himself arrived at 7.15 and had a quick smoke some distance away before his scheduled appearance at 7.30 am. He looked tanned, relaxed and dare l say, pretty damned good.

Mitch seemed to have fun during the interview, actually it would be hard not to with the Morning Crew, and joked with us a bit during the breaks. The girls were over the moon, especially when they allowed us to ask a question on Air. We were lucky as there were only the three of us it was deemed appropriate to let the fans ask the questions.

For some reason my question ultimately caused some considerable amusement, although I asked it innocently enough. (I've edited the following slightly for clarification).

CATHY: I've heard you say Skinner's relationship with Scully is a brotherly one...

(Laughter from all.)

MITCH: Rather than fatherly?

PETER: You've got to be suspicious of guys who say that don't you?

(More loud laughter from all especially Wendy).

CATHY (carrying on regardless): If that was true why would he go to such lengths to save her, including a pact with CSM? (Pause. Did I have him stumped? Too heavy a question? Surely not?)

MITCH: You, ah, I think that he's definitely, Skinner's definitely, ah... how do I? (Suddenly) That's the way they wrote it. (Huge laughter from everyone including me).

PAUL: Mitch struggled with that at the very end.

MITCH: I tried to come up with something really, ah, I don't know.

PAUL: It's a bit too early for that.

MITCH (to me): That's what they wrote on the page.

PETER: Let me help you - Skinner might have been interested in her, instead he read all that stuff about her in the National Enquirer and decided she was too dangerous. (Laughter).

MITCH: He does have a thing for redheads you'll notice. His secretary is a redhead.

FROM THE AUDIENCE: And his wife.

MITCH: And his wife who is also his secretary.

Of course Mitch meant his own wife Arlene, who also plays Skinner's secretary on the show. Kim followed with her question. She wanted to know what it was like to work with David Duchovny. Mitch explained they were good friends and got on well together. Monica was interested to learn whether there was any relationship between Skinner, whose middle name has been revealed as Serge, to Krycek. Definitely not, Mitch replied firmly. Skinner hates Krycek and wants to be the one to put an end to him.

Finally, after his stint was over we got to meet him, have a chat and autographs. He asked me where I had bought my jacket and I told him where, then said that I knew he usually wore one. I asked him to sign some cards that I had made up for the 'purpose and also my Skinner laminated FBI ID badge. "Is that where that got to?" he asked and I said yes, confessing jokingly, that I'd stolen it. He laughed. He's a very sweet man, generous and very accommodating. Plonica, Kim and l shook his hand and wished him well.

We met up later at the signing session at Grace Bros in the City, the 7th floor, where the younger fans had already gathered. The Management

insisted you buy a video in order to qualify for an autograph, which I resented, so I decided to watch proceedings and ended up taking photos for other fans as they went through. I also met with a couple of fans there as well - Greg and Lucy, friends of mine.

Mitch's wife Arlene and baby girl Sawyer were also present so we made quite a fuss over them, and at one point Mitch showed off his daughter to the crowd. She was so cute, especially when she snuggled into his shoulder. I actually caught up with Arlene quite by accident and had a bit of a chat and also thanked her for her work on The X Files. She's Gillian Anderson's photo double, of course, and does look a little like her physically but is pretty on her own account. Arelen was in a bit of a hurry. She had to get back to the hotel as the little one was very tired, quite overwhelmed by her first overseas public appearance. Still Arelen picked her up and showed her off to me as a proud mum would which was very nice of her.

Too soon the day was over.

I must say it was good to gather with the fans. I was even recognised by a few from my appearance on Witness, so that was rather odd and interesting. I heard nothing but praise about Mitch and his wife. All we need now to polish things off would be for the X Files Expo, preferably hosted by Mitch and Arlene, to hit the road again and come to Sydney. Don't you think that would be good - too spooky to be true7


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