Crypticon. Only the biggest* horror movie convention that Kansas City has ever seen.
Guess who got to go?
Me me me!
Guess who got to meet famous people for the first time ever and was starstruck and weird around them?
I went with Brent and our friend Hollywood Goodpath. That’s not his real name; I changed it per his request. However, I did not change it to Dick Jones Jr., per his request.
Brent and I got autographs and pictures with Tom Savini, Ken Foree, Margot Kidder, and Ernie Hudson. We were present when Hollywood Goodpath got autographs from William Forsythe and Fred Williamson.
In case you’re not familiar with how these conventions work, you have to pay for the autographs and to get pictures with the celebrities. Sid Haig offered the convenience of accepting all major credit cards, but nearly everyone else was cash-only. They were seated behind foldout tables and you’d just go up and hand them cash directly. If need be, they’d make change for you. Having a celebrity hand back a five-dollar bill in change felt otherworldly. On a normal day, the type of person I would exchange commerce with would be wearing a McDonalds uniform, but in Crypticon reality, Margot Kidder was the cashier.
Oh, Margot Kidder. Sigh. She was the last stop on our celebrity circuit because she showed up late. We knew where she was assigned to sit before she arrived because of this rudely misspelled sign on her table:
But she finally showed up. You could bring your own memorabilia for the famous people to sign, or you could purchase one of the pictures that they had on hand. Margot had about 25 different kinds of pictures of her for sale, including two nudies. Disapprove not, her Lois Loins (hee hee) were covered up so you only got to see the goods if you bought the picture. Having already bought naked pictures of Chatterbox from Hellraiser, Brent and I didn’t need any more “winks of the pink,” as they say. It was a no-brainer that we’d pick the picture of her and James Brolin in front of the Amityville house.
I was in fan heaven. I wanted to touch her hair, that’s how mesmerized I was by Margot Kidder. When she asked whether I spelled my name with an h or without, I felt like curtsying in gratitude as I humbly gave my response.
I never would have imagined that I would be so awestruck around famous people. I had always figured if I ever met a famous person, I’d impress them with my sparkle. But also in any scenarios where I ever imagined meeting famous people, I myself am famous and widely respected. Usually I’m in a ball gown because I’m at the Oscars and I’ve just won for best original screenplay (the edgy drama When Pugs Howl). Having never been to a fan convention where I was actually going up to the celebrities, I didn’t know what to expect, but I had the vague assumption that most of the encounters would go like so:
Me: Blah blah blah clever stuff hilarity blah blah punchline!
Famous Person: HA HA HA! You are so cool! I can tell you’re special. I never say this to people I meet at these conventions, but let’s be friends forever!
At least I can say that this daydream doesn’t end with all the celebrities hoisting me on their shoulders while chanting, “Number One Fan! Number One Fan!” Nah. What happens is, they invite us up to their hotel suites for the after party where they present me with a “Number One Fan” blue ribbon. Brent would get the red ribbon. Hollywood Goodpath would get a participation ribbon. Oh, and they all become devoted readers of this blog. That’s how the Crypticon fantasy ends.
I get it now, though. Now it’s clear to me that the whole convention setup is basically an invocation of the god of Awkwardness. I had no idea that the interpersonal exchanges with the celebrities would be so, um, face-t0-face. It was nerve wracking. It’s hard enough to be personable and engaging with new people under normal circumstances, let alone in a crowded, chaotic, and emotionally confusing scene like Crypticon. My brain is not built for handling such high level social interactions.
Like with Margot Kidder. Meeting her and getting her autograph was going smoothly, I’d say. Brent and I both were a little nervous but otherwise playing it cool and quiet. Then that dratted Hollywood Goodpath had to go and try to network (badly) with her assistant. Hollywood Goodpath said to the assistant, “Hey, don’t you work for Billy Dee Williams?” and Margot turned to watch their exchange. The assistant, clearly uncomfortable with the question, glanced at Margot. “Um, yes,” he said, “but I also work for Margot Kidder!” The assistant tried to inflect his tone with as much panache as possible when he said ‘Margot Kidder!’ Then Hollywood Goodpath said, “How do you get a job like that? Do you have an agent…?” All this time I had been trying to come up with something to say to Margot to get her to stop focusing on Hollywood Goodpath, but my mind wasn’t cooperating. All I could do was shift my body in an attempt to block Margot Kidder’s view of his schmoozing.
It’s not fair to single out Hollywood Goodpath, though. All three of us were uncouth. Brent, who has never been shy and is normally quite confident around new people, turned into a slack-jawed heavy breather around the famous people. When we were at Ernie Hudson’s table, Brent’s mouth was gaping open so far that Mr. Hudson was able to fix his hair using the reflection in the saliva that was hanging from Brent’s uvula. Hollywood Goodpath was the sweaty one of the bunch. All a famous person had to do was look at him and his perspiration spouts turned on full blast. Me, I wore many hats, all of them awful, where my trademark was cringe-worthy statements. To Ken Foree, I said something along the lines of, “Gawrsh, here in Kay-an-zus we don’t see too many people from the TV!”
That reminds me, Brent almost forgot to pay Ken Foree for his autograph. Let that sink in. Brent nearly stiffed zombie fighting bad ass Ken Foree!
But then Mr. Foree nicely reminded Brent: “Did you already pay me? I can’t quite remember.” When I say nicely, I mean it. Ken Foree was easily the friendliest and warmest of all my new celebrity friends. He even invited Brent and me to come back to his table a little later on to chat. Of course we didn’t because we were being shy and didn’t know what we’d talk about.
But let not these blunders be in vain. Everyone should study them, learn from them, so that the next time you, me, or whoever, attends Crypticon, we can be the smoothest smoothies ever to stroll the stained carpet of the Ramada Conference Center.
I hereby present to you with How To Be A Smooth Operator at a Fan Convention. A smooth operata, even.
Lesson Number 1: Don’t try to force a connection with the celebrity. Please?
Bless Brent’s heart. We were at Tom Savini’s table. It was early in the day and Tom Savini was our first celebrity. He had barely uttered any words to us except to say, “That’ll be twenty bucks,” after he signed his picture. He wasn’t mean, just brisk. Like when your doctor has to look at your anus. He was all business with us, even though we were the only ones in his line; everyone else was clamoring for Sid Haig next door. After Tom had collected our money, he waved good bye at us, but then Brent said, “Would you take a picture with me and my beauuuutiful wife?” Tom stood up dutifully but Brent seemed to be waiting for a response from him. I was worried that Brent expected Tom Savini to start gushing about my beauty, which would serve as the ice breaker needed to make the two of them friends forever. Instead, in the wake of Brent’s lavish praise and resulting pregnant pause, Tom Savini said nothing and instead gave me a quick once over. I could tell he was thinking, “Eh.”
As we positioned ourselves for the picture, Brent tried again to get Tom Savini to compliment my appearance. Damn it, Brent! I love that you think I’m pretty, but damn it, Brent! I didn’t hear exactly what he said, but I heard, “My pretty wife blah blah blah, ha ha…”
Tom Savini ignored him. He obediently shuffled into place, forgot to look at the camera, and then sent us on our way.
Lesson #2: Don’t fish for compliments
Hollywood Goodpath often goes to conventions like these and brings along obscure memorabilia for the celebrities to sign. He’ll ask them, “Have you ever signed this?“ According to him, he often surprises these celebrities with merchandise they never knew existed.
His scheme didn’t work on Tom Savini. When Hollwood coyly asked, “Have you ever signed this for anyone before?” the impenetrable fortress known as Tom Savini simply said, “Yes.”
Hollywood was bothered by this and didn’t fully believe that Tom Savini had never seen the poster he brought. I say this: don’t set yourself up for disappointment. The celebrity owes you an autograph, not self-validation.
Lesson #3: Don’t eat the gum that comes in the twenty-year-old pack of Ghostbuster trading cards
Fresh breath is important when you’re leaning in close to tell the famous person who to make the autograph out to, so bring some Dentyne. If you happen to buy an old pack of trading cards that comes with an unwrapped pink stick of gum, do not, under any circumstance, put that gum in your mouth. I made that mistake and am still regretting. Twenty years in a pack of trading cards will change a piece of gum. Harden it, literally. It’s not soft and rubbery anymore, it’s crispy and you run the risk of cracking a molar. As your teeth chisel through it, a toxic taste of wax paper, ink, and ammonia is released. It will make your breath smell even worse than before.
It was so gross that it stunned me. The chunks of gum didn’t soften up, so I was stuck with pieces of the foul hard gum resting on my tongue. I clasped my hand to my mouth and spun around, looking in all directions for a trash can. There was none, so I had to decide what to do. Spit the gum into my hand and then carrying it around until I found a trash can? As I was pondering what to do, I noticed a vendor staring at me in shock and I realized that I had stopped spinning right in front of this guy’s table and appeared to be staring at his merchandise with my hand over my mouth and a revolted look on my face.
“I just had some really gross gum,” I told him.
“Oh, okay,” he said.
“It was so gross. It was from an old pack of trading cards. It had nothing to do with your booth.”
“Okay,” he said again. He turned away from me for no apparent reason other than to not have to talk to me anymore.
That had nothing to do with famous people, but it rattled my confidence. It’s fun to tell stories about awkward encounters after they’ve happened, but in the moment I feel dejected, like I can’t talk to anyone without making them uncomfortable.
I’m going to end this here so you’ll have to tune in next time for the remaining lessons and to find out:
- Did I regain my confidence after the Ghostbusters gum incident?
- Was any celebrity impressed with Hollywood Goodpath’s memorabilia?
- What was the aftermath of me insulting Fred Williamson?
- Who was the celebrity who loved us most of all? (hint: not Fred Williamson)
- How Brent’s grisly tale teaches us the most important lesson of all.
To be Continued…