CLEVELAND—X-Files fans from all over the Cleveland area flocked to the downtown Concourse Hotel this weekend to attend "Relating To Others X-ceptionally," a traveling friendship skills seminar and encounter session targeted specifically at the program's socially inept fan base.
"The truth is out there," X-Files star David Duchovny told the predominantly male, all-white crowd. "But friendship, real friendship—not the imaginary kind—is within yourselves."
More than 400 people paid $150 each to attend the two-day seminar, which teamed Duchovny and X-Files co-star Gillian Anderson with award-winning therapist Dr. Ellyn W. Rosenblum.
"Having David and Gillian at the seminar has really helped get people excited about improving their friendship skills," said Rosenblum, author of the best-selling Go For It!: 30 Days to a More Outgoing You. "The response has been tremendous."
In addition to the thrill of meeting the stars of their favorite paranormal investigative TV show in person, seminar attendees also received important advice about engaging in social relations with others, even with those who are not X-Files characters.
"Sometimes, you can achieve the same sort of close, deeply involved relationship that you have with the characters we play on X-Files, but with another, living, non-fictional person, who actually lives in the real world," Anderson said.
Continued Anderson: "Agent Scully does not believe in spaceships. But she most definitely does believe in friendships."
Response from seminar attendees was overwhelmingly positive.
"Scully is a very skeptical FBI agent, and I was skeptical about this seminar at first," said Chris Froman, 23, reachable at www.xfiles.cancerman.com. "But just as Mulder can convince Scully that anything's possible, I have also been convinced that friendship is a goal I might someday reach."
Added fan Frank "The Doctor" Hugh: "Scully is sexy, but I like Lois Lane. Isn't Teri Hatcher hot?"
For at least one fan, the seminar led to an important "letting-go" of false dreams. Cleveland Heights resident Maria Renquist, 27, broke down in tears when she and Duchovny shared an "honesty moment," mediated by Dr. Rosenblum, in which the actor told her kindly but firmly that he was not attracted to her, and never would be.
"I learned a lot today," Renquist said, "like how Mulder is a fictional character and stuff."
According to Rosenblum, much credit for the event's success lies in its simulation of the attendees' imaginary fan-lives in a seminar setting.
"X-Files fans divide themselves into two categories," Rosenblum said. "There are the 'Shippers' (short for 'relationshippers'), who are those who want Mulder and Scully to become romantically involved, and 'Non-Shippers,' who feel that a sexual relationship between the two characters, while vicariously fulfilling, would ruin the show's chemistry."
"In my seminar," Rosenblum said, "fans are divided into the same two categories, with 'Shippers' being the ones who desperately crave a relationship in real life, and 'Non-Shippers' being those who have given up hope of ever having a relationship with another person."
"The slogan of X-Files is 'Trust No One,'" Duchovny told the crowd in his closing remarks. "But I want you to learn to trust each other, and let social relationships—just like the ones you've seen on TV—materialize in your own lives. The friends are out there."