Contact With Celebrities May Render You Stupid
I admit it, I'm a total loser. I'm as smooth as extra-chunky peanut butter dipped in gravel. I fall all over myself in social situations and make bad first impressions. My idea of suave is telling a cheesy joke at a party and hitting the punch line in the moment of silence between tracks on a CD. That's a good night.
But, as bad as I can be, in my long life in said industry has shown that when being introduced to a celebrity, people generally tend to become ten times worse than me. Very rarely do I lose all control of my body and become a drooling moron. Running into celebrities is a common thing for me. So I've built up an immunity to them. Most would freak out. They fall under this spell that they have this one opportunity to meet someone and you are probably going to blow it because you're trying too hard to be cool.
When you encounter a celebrity you have three possible reactions:
1) You say "hi" and maybe shake their hand. If the setting allows, you can chit-chat politely for a minute or two and then wish them well.
This first option is never exercised. Celebrities are normal people.. but to the average joe they become something else. Suddently they are 5,000 times busier than you are on your worst day and they are all fantastically wealthy and powerful. They live in unparalleled opulence and every free moment is spent being entertained in ways that would send shivers up your spine. SCTV's Joe Flaherty channels spirits for the Red Cross and hang glides over Mount Fuji daily. Dustin Diamond? Shits money and builds beaver dams for crippled beavers when he's not working on mastering cold fusion.
In other words, these are immortal, indefatigable and inscrutable beings that you cannot treat as you would a normal person. That leaves options two and three.
2) You play it cool as ice. You give them a nod or a smile and walk past like you don't really care. I'm sure they'll empathize, they don't care. You gain little or nothing from the experience, but you aren't harmed. Once they're gone you can throw up all over your chest out of nervousness and pass out on the floor.
3) You cram as much into the brief meeting as possible. You talk a mile a minute, hard-selling them on the idea that you are their ultimate fan. You want them to love you and you want them to understand why you love them. This is a life changing experience. If you feel like vomiting from nervousness go ahead and do it right on their face.
Obviously option three is going to have some unintended negative consequences, which is ironic because it's also the most widely exercised option. I don't want to rub anyone else's nose in their shameful celebrity encounters, but I will share my own to show that even the veterans can lose their shit every now and then..
Authors are unusual celebrities. Oftentimes their names are very famous, but their faces and who they are is not widely known. Dan Brown sold like 50 billion copies of that Da Vinci book, but I have no idea what he looks like. J.K. Rowlings sold 500 billion copies of various Harry Potter books and all I know about her is that she has a vagina or at least self-identifies as female. I think she probably has a British accent.
Neil Gaiman - I met author Niel at Vromans in Pasadena when he was touting his less than great sequel to American Gods. I brought him a copy of Sandman to sign as well and then I gave him a picture I drew of a crab smoking a cigar. He looked at the picture and said, very politely, "That's ah, from my, ah-." I interrupted him and explained, "It's not from anything, it's a crab smoking a cigar." He nodded and the line moved on. I'm not sure if that cancer ridden... cancer will ever make it to any published work of his.
Dan Clowes - I met author and cartoonist Dan Clowes at a signing for his graphic novel Ghost World. Ever the contrarian, I brought a dog eared copy of Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron for him to sign. When I handed it to him I had a stuttering fit and was unable to say anything. I do not stutter. He was very polite and even signed a couple other things for me. I managed to blurt out "thank you!" after he had finished. This is possibly the worst overreaction I've ever had to a celebrity, considering 99.999% of the population would not recognize his face.
Jim Henson - When I was little I went to a Jim Henson book reading where he brought a muppet to join him. It was a touching moment and is one of the reasons why I love those not-quite-a-mop, not quite-a-puppet fuzz balls. I was little. Very little and it was something special to me to see him in this fashion. Also a little troubling realizing that he wasn't actually giving the muppet a back massage but had his hand some place I was told was not acceptable that the priest would touch me there.
So I was kind of morbidly confused and looking at him in a strange evil eye sort of way. My face was making a lot of strange and unique facial expressions. This wasn't so much the issue. The real problem was that during the reading this old man next to me kept letting out these hideous squeaking farts that smelled appalling. Every time he would fart he would make this high-pitched giggling sound and grin really big. I know everyone thought it was me with the bad gas, because what kind of fucking psychopath laughs at their own farts in public?
We were sitting in the front row so Jim kept getting blasted with this old dude's stench. It got so bad that at one point he had to stop reading to start on this coughing fit. His face got really red and I think he almost passed out. What's worse, this old dude got up and left during the pause, so when Jim regained his composure he looked right at me accusingly.
My train wreck brushes with film and TV celebrities have been even worse. Always coincidental, I have never failed to make an ass of myself no matter what approach I take to the celebrity.
Will Smith - I was walking to lunch on the studio lot and really excited to get some keg root beer out of the tap I sudden see that Will Smith is walking towards my direction. My first when he was within arms distance and minding his own business was to scream in a serious tone "Aww Hell Naw!" This caught his attention and he reached his hand over to shake mine. I didn't know what to do so I improved a fist pump, slap high five train wreck of a greeting hand bump that only a white boy could have come up with. This confused him and it was a little odd for a moment. The small chat ended with me saying "Yo, homes, smell you later!" I'm not sure why I wasn't fired and removed from the lot at that moment. Maybe my badge wasn't showing my name.
Halle Berry - I stood behind her at the craft service table. She backed into me when she had her food. That would have been no big deal, except I was wearing torn up jeans and generally looking like a grunt production worker looks like and I was on this medication that had given me painful priapism. In other words, I had a raging boner and she backed onto it like she was playing slow-motion ring toss. When she turned around she was absolutely furious and she just stared at my erection. I have never felt more humiliated in my life, but she had to kick me once before it was over. She snorted derisively and said, "That's it?" before walking off. I was off that production shortly after when she realized I was the lighting guy.
Jason Lee - I brought my skate board on the set of Earl for him to sign. Which is generally not something that is looked up to while on the clock, but the man was a hero of mine for his skate boarding years. Well, I made the silly mistake of mocking Scientology around him. Let's just it was a bit awkward after that as I can't legally say anything about the law suit.
Those are just the worst of them. I've also made a fool of myself to David Boreanaz and I once mistook some poor guy at a bowling alley for Rob Morrow from Northern Exposure and spent almost fifteen minutes accusing him of being in a shitty ripoff of Twin Peaks.
I live with the shame of these embarrassing moments every day of my life, and I have just doubled that shame by revealing them to the world. The lesson for everyone else is simple: if you see a celebrity, just stay the hell away. It's for your own safety. If veteran industry workers can't handle it, what makes you think you can? The one who could end up hurt is you!