How to Meet Famous People

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One thing I quickly learned attending Phoenix Comicon last month is there is no shortage of celebrities to see and meet. Actors (live action and voice over), graphic artists (graphic novels and video games), and writers and authors are all there to sign autographs, have pictures taken, and participate in panel discussions. Despite being famously mocked by William Shatner on Saturday Night Live in a Star Trek convention skit to “get a life,” fans find comic and similar conventions so enjoyable in part because of the excitement in meeting the players, on screen and behind the scenes, who make their favorite characters and stories come to life.
Curious, I roamed the area where dozens of celebrities were signing autographs during allotted times during the 4-day convention. Curtained stanchions created mazes anticipating control of long lines. I imagined the actors, writers, and artists hiding in small rooms, receiving their adoring fans one by one. I was surprised to see celebrities sitting behind tables in full view of everyone. I got to see some of them without paying! You see, one must pay typically $50 – $100 on average to get an autograph or a picture with a celebrity. I didn’t know that until a friend of mine filled me in. I had considered paying to see one or more actors from favorite TV shows and movies and ultimately did not. I seriously considered paying $100 to meet and get an autograph from Dick Van Dyke.
Dick Van Dyke is an icon of my childhood. Just thinking about meeting him conjured pleasant memories of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins. Of greater impact on my young, developing mind was The Dick Van Dyke Show. I grew up on reruns, daily watching Rob Petrie trip over the ottoman and navigate the complexities, simple by today’s standards, of home life, work life, and dealing with the neighbors. Though similar in age to his TV son, Richie, I oddly identified more with the fictional writing staff of Rob, Sally, and Buddy, perhaps influencing to some degree the direction my professional life has taken. At the end of the day, I opted to focus on attending writing-related panels and settle for knowing I was in the same building and hoping to catch a glimpse of him. I didn’t.
In the afternoon, with an hour to kill, I returned to “stalking” celebrities in the autograph area. Of course, I didn’t really recognize most of them, either by face or by name, so my stalking was nothing more than curiosity. Trying not to stare, I glanced a couple of times at Danny Trejo, marveling at how nicely he was smiling, so different from his tough-guy persona. I was disappointed to miss John de Lancie, Q, Captain Picard’s nemesis. My friend who works closely with a lot of actors at several comicons says he’s a nice guy.
Without cost or premeditated effort, I was fortunate to meet and get the autograph of one celebrity. A friend who couldn’t attend Comicon this year had asked one of my group to get this author’s autograph for her, but she had plans to attend another panel. I volunteered as I was planning to spend most of my day in the authors’ area anyway. I had no idea what I was committing to, and it didn’t matter. I wanted my own autograph once I discovered who the author was.
I hadn’t read Outlander but had been wanting to, having seen the first season of the Starz series based on the book. Diana Gabaldon’s name didn’t mean anything to me until I learned that she authored Outlander. She has a multitude of fans, I discovered, as I found myself being herded in a long line of people clutching either their newly purchased book like me or slightly tattered versions obviously brought from home.
Being roughly halfway in the line of hundreds of people, I had a full hour to people watch (What? No Claire or Jamie cosplayers!?), chat with others in line, and learn from those ahead of me the proper etiquette for approaching the author, how much time is acceptable for each person, and how to get my photograph taken with her. You wouldn’t think it’s complicated, but with a finite amount of time scheduled for autographs and hundreds of books to sign, they don’t want anyone to be a detriment to the finely oiled machine that keeps the process moving. I’m happy to report I was able to take Ms. Gabaldon’s picture as she signed my friend’s book, hand my phone to the assistant to take my picture with her, and thank the author, all in the space of mere seconds. An hour for seconds. And I didn’t have to pay!
Fame… you can keep it. I’m not one who is entirely comfortable, let alone desires, to be the center of attention. I enjoy teaching and public speaking because the content is the center of attention, not me. Someone else can have the adoring fans and paparazzi. Case in point: On the first day of Phoenix Comicon, actor Jason David Frank, well known in the Power Rangers franchise, found himself the intended target of an attempted murder. The would-be murderer, believing himself to be a comic book hero, entered Comicon with several firearms and other weapons, intending to kill the actor and any “bad cops” who got in his way. So, yeah, bat crap crazy.
Here’s my advice if you want to meet famous people. Step one: attend comicons. Step two: leave weapons at home. Step three: pay. Step four: stand in long lines for hours. Step five: if you don’t care to meet them and just want to see them, settle for stalking.
Have you met anyone famous? Tell us how you did it in the comments…

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