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No hallucination: 'Jeannie' to appear at Salt Lake Comic Con

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 3 2014 3:00 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Sitting in the office of Dr. Alfred Bellows, Capt. Anthony Nelson describes what he believed to be an imaginary encounter with a "beautiful," "desirable" and "helpful" woman while stranded on a desert island.

The astronaut had run into trouble on a mission to space and was forced to make an emergency landing in the South Pacific.

"When I saw the bottle on the beach, I hallucinated a genie out of it," Nelson explains.

"Captain," Bellows later says, "that's the classic fantasy — a beautiful girl on a desert island, a girl who would do anything for you. Do you know who that girl was?"

"No, sir. I've never seen her before in my life."

"She was your mother," Bellows says.

Puzzled, Nelson replies, "My mother's in Salt Lake City, sir."

The exchange occurs in the pilot episode of "I Dream of Jeannie," airing on NBC on Sept. 18, 1965, and starring Barbara Eden as Jeannie and Larry Hagman as Nelson.

It wasn't a hallucination then and it won't be this week when Eden visits Utah's capital city for Salt Lake Comic Con. The three-day event gets underway Thursday at the Salt Palace Convention Center, 100 S. West Temple.

Eden, 83, best known for her iconic role of Jeannie in the 1965-70 TV series, will be signing autographs and taking pictures with fans during her first appearance at such a convention. She's also scheduled to speak to fans in the Salt Palace's South Ballroom at 2 p.m. Saturday, along with "I Dream of Jeannie" co-star Bill Daily.

"This is the first comic con I have ever attended," she said in a recent telephone interview, though she's made herself available for several autograph shows over the years.

Eden said she decided to give Salt Lake Comic Con a try because she had heard good things about the second-year convention.

"I've heard that it's fantastic, that it has huge attendance and that it's well-run," she said.

Event co-founder Dan Farr said that positive word of mouth from the inaugural Salt Lake Comic Con last September and April's FanX made attracting guests for this week's convention much easier.

"Our best evangelists for us have been the prior guests and vendors who have been to our show before," Farr said. "They have really done a good job passing the word."

The key to a great show, he said, is having enthusiastic fans who support the celebrity guests, comic book artists, authors and other vendors in attendance.

"For a celebrity, the product they’re selling is an autograph or a photo op," Farr said. "When the fans are supportive and buy those things from the guests, that’s a good turnout for them."

Farr said he's particularly excited about attracting Eden to Salt Lake Comic Con.

"For me, I remember watching ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ as a kid, and I loved that show," he said. "To think that she’s actually coming to a show that I’ve had a part in putting together, it is surreal and exciting."

If Salt Lake Comic Con is anything like previous autograph and photo sessions featuring Eden, the actress said she expects to meet fans from "many, many generations" — those who grew up with "I Dream of Jeannie," as well as those who've embraced the show during its 40-plus years in syndication.

"It's very rewarding to me, but it surprised me in the beginning," Eden said of her multigenerational appeal.

And she also expects at least of few of those fans to be dressed as Jeannie.

"All ages, all genders," Eden said. "I've seen it all. It's fun."

Email: jpage@deseretnews.com

Twitter: jaredpage

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