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The Geek Life and Being That Guy

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The Geek Life and Being That Guy

When is a good time to cross the line?

By Robert T. Trate     December 28, 2011

The Geek Life is a weekly look at what is going on in the Geek Culture. Movies, Comics, Books, Video Games, and TV Shows encompass more than just release dates and reviews. This week the Geek Life discusses when it’s okay to be that guy.

Over the Holidays I had the opportunity to wish Tron himself, Bruce Boxleitner, a happy holiday. Tron was sitting with a friend enjoying his lunch. I recognized him right away as having seen Tron Legacy not that long ago. A quick word to his friend and upon hearing his voice I knew for sure. Now I was working at my “other job” and really not dressed as a man on the street. Yes, it seems hard to believe but this mild mannered reporter does have an alter ego that helps pay the bills. I personally was not waiting on Tron so it seemed a bit awkward to go over and wish him Happy Holidays. I wrestled with this for the duration of his visit and before I knew it, he hoped on his light cycle and was gone.
I just didn’t want to be that guy. In case you have little to no idea what I am talking about, that guy is the super fan that makes it awkward for the celebrity in the real world. Yes, they are famous but for some reason people out there in the real world think they are entitled to five minutes of face time with a celebrity. People who think they know a star so well (only because they watch their movies over and over again) that they can walk up and strike a conversation with them. A prime example of this is from a little gem of a film called Free Enterprise (1998), seen here at 4:51:

The scene is both a prime example of what to do and what not to do in that given situation. If you have never watched Free Enterprise, check it out on Netflix. It’s a great movie.
Now, the following stories and anecdotes are not to preach to you the do's and don'ts of meeting celebrities. Nor are they me bragging. I’ve just had a run in with more than my fair share of stars from the big and small screen. I am just trying to pass that knowledge on to you, all in the hopes of avoiding being that guy.
The Autograph Line

Geeky Rules to Follow

This is place that many of us living the Geek Life have been. Creation Conventions were all the rage back before the Internet. They were a great place to see new footage, hear backstage stories, and above all meet celebrities. The first two Star Trek cast members I ever saw were Jonathan Frakes (Commander Riker) and Marina Sirtis (Counselor Troi). Frakes was not signing autographs, but Sirtis was that day. My buddy got his uniform signed and I, an 8X10 picture. A couple of conventions later, Sirtis again made an appearance with Michael Dorn (Worf) and the late great James Doohan (Scotty). Since autographs were included as part of our admission, my buddy went for another one from Sirtis. In his awkwardness of getting yet another autograph, he politely asked Sirtis if she wore contacts because he remembered her eyes being blue. She sternly said, “My eyes have never been blue”. She then looked at Dorn with a “can you believe this guy” look which prompted Dorn to role his eyes. My buddy took his autograph and has never lived that moment down.
The Geek Life’s Advice: Smile and say thank you to the person signing your autograph. Yes, this is awkward. You just asked for proof that you met/ saw some one. It is even more awkward if you had to shell over $20 to their money handler. Get your autograph and get out. If they will personalize it then by all means go for it. My James Doohan autograph proudly rests on the wall next to David Prowse and Jeremy Bulloch. All are addressed to me.
A follow up story for my buddy, as he did not learn his lesson, involves Bruce Campbell.
With the Kid(s)

Geeky Rules to Follow

There are some celebrities that are very open about their personal lives to the point where we know and recognize their children. Outside of the celebrities that can’t stay out of the tabloids, you’ll find a few like Kevin Smith. Smith’s stand up, films, and even his pod cast get very personal. A few years ago I was walking near Hollywood Blvd and saw Kevin Smith walk out of a Jack in the Box (it’s like a poor man’s McDonald’s). Walking beside him was his daughter, Harley. My friends and I all saw him and quickly decided not to go over and see him. Why? He was with his little girl. The sight of having five guys coming over to him probably not only would have scared him but his little girl, too. Scaring a little girl was not worth telling him about how we loved his movies about dick and fart jokes.
The Geek Life’s Advice: There are those opportunities that, sometimes, you just have to let go. Unfortunately for Silent Bob, three other guys recognized him as well and bolted over to him. Damn if he didn’t get that kid in the car quick.

Geeky Rules to Follow

Being that I am a writer, I will always sit down at a Con and listen to a writer from any medium speak. There is always something to learn and the opportunity always outweighs anything else going on. One of my favorite writers is Brian Michael Bendis. He is always ready with a great anecdote and will sign everything you put in front of him. Which brings us to my point. Many of the author’s are flattered and thrilled to sign their books, just don’t be that guy in line with over 5 books. Yes, I said over 5. The autograph line usually has a cut based on the time the author has. Usually at cons authors are regulated to a set time to sign books. When I want to beat down a fellow Geek is when I stand there with one book and the guy holding up the line has 50.
The Geek Life’s Advice: If you are that guy, by all means stop. Pick a couple of books (as in under 5) that mean something to you. My autograph from Bendis was on Ultimate Spider-Man #11. The reason being it was the book which I picked up to find out what was going in this new approach to Spidey. It was also the first Bendis Comic I ever read. He re-ignited my love of comics. 
A quick side note to the story is that Bendis signed for an additional 20 minutes just to get everyone in.

Geeky Rules to Follow

Special screenings in big cities of older films usually have a star or two attached to them. If you are lucky to attend one, then by all means bring something to get autographed. Recently, I have seen this at Raiders and of the Lost Ark. Believe it or not, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford signed autographs afterwards. This is the prime time to get their signatures if they are willing.
The Geek Life’s Advice: Movie posters are what we always want our autographs on. They are big, eye catching, and always out for display. However, if you are in the middle of mass hysteria your poster is either going to get trashed or the signature will be ineligible. Soundtracks covers (mainly the record version) are perfect for framing. The ever hard to find 8X10 photos are a great alternate for the poster as well. Preparation and determination are the keys to get that autograph at a screening.
Charity Events

Geeky Rules to Follow

This is a tough and easy one to do. Many celebrities participate in charity golf tournaments and sporting events. They are catered to in every sense of the word at these events. Most of the time they either have a personal stake in the cause they are supporting or they are friends with the celebrity spokes person. The celebrities are there to meet and greet you. That includes shaking hands, posing for pictures, and hearing your opinions on their work. In essence, they are working.
The Geek Life Advice: Never is there a more opportune chance to be the worst that guy ever than at a charity event. Those celebrities will grin and bare it for the cause. So stand out from the crowd. Don’t tell them a movie you like them in is great. Ask them about a particular scene, a television episode they were on, or what was it like to work on that? Before you know it you’ll be having drinks and hearing war stories about Full Metal Jacket and Quantum Leap. An autograph is worthless next to the personal stories you’ll never hear on a DVD commentary track.
Why those two projects? Well R. Lee Ermey and Bruce McGill are two of the nicest guys to share a drink with and chat about past projects. I knew nothing about golf so I went with what I knew.
Comic Con

Geeky Rules to Follow

Comic Con is really like one huge rock concert of celebrities. They are brought out on stage, they do their bit, and they are escorted off. The green room, if there is one, must be amazing. Imagine the one for the Avengers right before they assembled on stage. San Diego is a great place to see all the wonders for the following year in our Geek lives. What truly makes Comic Con surreal is that after the con ends for the day, celebrities head out into the same restaurants and bars as the attendees. Granted, not all of them are heading to Dick’s Last Resort (one of my personal favorites) but you will find a few at The Field. While on my own way to a restaurant, the Doctor (Matt Smith) and Amy (Karen Gillan) ran by me. The urge to follow them was great because my first instinct was there must be something terrible chasing after them. 
The Geek Life Advice: Chasing after the Doctor and his companion would have been fun. What was more fun was watching Gillan pull down her skirt as Smith was in full stride trying to cross the street. They looked like they were having fun and kicking back. Reenacting the scene from A Hard Days Night was clearly not on their agenda. Comic Con is crazy like that. The story is a great one to share. You’ll never know who you’ll see walking the streets of San Diego. That is what makes Comic Con so special.
While on the Job

Geeky Rules to Follow

Now you might think I am referring to my other life as a waiter in Los Angeles. Well you would be wrong. I mean here at Mania. In the last 4 years as a columnist I have covered several big events and had the chance to talk with a lot of famous people. One of the perks of working at Mania is that if you are an expert on a particular show you are usually the one that gets the assignment. I’ve learned that it is not only unprofessional but also uncool to ask for an autograph. This goes for before, during, or after an interview. Trust me, the urge at the beginning was tough but when I got to talk to Tim Roth about his kids destroying his toy likeness, told David Tennant a story about last Comic Con, or had Kenneth Branagh address me personally, the autographs aren’t worth it. 
Enter that guy (aka the Douchebag). There has been, in my experience, a fellow journalist that has crossed that line. After asking a question, he whipped out an animation cell for a director to sign. This wasn’t for his magazine’s charity; no, it was for his own personal collection. What made it worse was he defended himself by saying where else was he going to have a chance like that? He then did it again to one of the great movie directors of all time. Foul called on this Douchebag and talk about completely unprofessional.
The Geek Life Advice: Douchebag, read my column above. The opportunity you have is something many Geeks would kill for. Take joy in having a sit down with these celebrities, artists, writers, and cartoonists. For years you probably read other people’s stories featuring these celebrities. Well, now it’s your turn to ask the questions and get the insight. It’s a press pass not a free ticket to autograph town.
Robert Trate writes three weekly columns for Mania: the DVD Shopping Bag, the Toy Maniac, and The Geek Life. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms


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Wyldstaar 12/28/2011 5:54:05 PM

I've seen that guy so many times it's sickening.  The last time was at a burger joint.  Barry Corbin and his family came in (they live in the area).  I was tempted to just stop by the table and say a brief, "Hello Mr. Corbin, I love your work." but I thought better of it and decided to leave the guy in peace.  Then that guy and his buddy came in.  Barry is impossible to miss.  He's a very loud speaker, and his voice is so distinct that nobody can help but notice him.  The murmurs of, "It's that Northern Exposure dude" and such began to waft over to my table, and I knew a painful scene was about to be witnessed.  Sure enough, they both approach his table and call him "Maurice" because they don't know his real name.  He was nice enough, despite their idiocy.  I felt like I had to do something to make up for what they'd done, so as I was leaving, I gave him a nod and called him, "Mr. Corbin." so he could at least have someone who knew his real name.

That must be a major annoyance for celebrities who are known for a particular role and little else, despite their vast portfolio of work.  How many times has Mark Hamill been called Luke to his face?  Too many too count I suspect.  If you can't be bothered to learn their name, keep your mouth shut!

DaForce1 12/29/2011 2:48:05 AM

 I like celebrity watching at Comic Con. One year I was in line to pick up my four day pass, and outside by one of the doors was this familiar looking guy that was puffing away on his cigarette like crazy. He was puffing, puffing, puffing, and I was racking my brain trying to remember where I'd seen this guy. Finally he takes one last puff, stubs out the butt and runs back inside just as I realize it was Bruce Timm. 

Or the time I saw Paul Bettany with kids in tow (Jennifer Conolly (his wife) was doing a panel for The Day The Earth Stood Still) walking through the aisles in the old comics section while talking on his cell, Or having a thoroughly stoned Seth Green stop by the booth I was working at to check out the Clockwork Orange Alex figure we had for sale (only to have my friend (who's booth it was) chase him off when he was fumbling for his camera). Or having Peter David swing by the booth after the floor closed so he could take a few pictures with the Ultimate Thor hammer we had on display. Literally bumping into Ron Perlman out in front as he was trying to find his ride. Being hit on by one of the Marvel female writers line up, when really all I wanted was to get an autograph for my sister who was a big fan and couldn't be there. Running past Joshua Gomez (from tv's Chuck) and his girlfriend in the parking garage as they stopped to pose for pics for a few fans. Being shoved up against Olivia Munn (yeah, I know, horrible, huh?) by the crowd as they surrounded her in front of the con while she was trying to tape something for G4. At the time, I didn't know who she was, and I was really just trying to get to my car after a very long day. Winding up in a hotel room suite during Wondercon talking to the head of Boom Studios and a few comic book writers and artists about anything and everything during a private party. absolute favorite, and most random, had to be when my buddy (who lives down in SD) came by the hotel and took me and another friend to this little dive bar nearby. We were there for about an hour when the DJ said something that sounded like a major DJ group was going to be stopping by for a visit. We thought we were hearing things..but we stayed. We were rewarded with a small (about 200 people) concert put on by Daft Punk who had played Petco Park just the previous night and were in town for the Tron Legacy panel. Turns out they knew the local DJ, and it was his birthday, so they decided to play for about two hours! No cover to get into the place. No prior annoucement or ticket sales. It was a totally last minute thing they decided to full costume. I have about an hour's worth of video of the show still on my computer. 

Honestly, I've seen so many celebrities in my travels and different working environs (don't get me started about The Bob Hope Desert Classic), that I just don't bother asking for autographs or photos or anything anymore. Why? Because they're just people like you and me. If you're a fan, you can mention it politely without having to go overboard about it, AND if and when it's appropriate to do so. The same as any other social situation. They'll appreciate that more than having a paper and pen shoved at them. 

Wiseguy 12/29/2011 5:24:42 AM

I've seen a few celebs too. I'll be honest usually I just keep walking, even in NYC sometimes folk'll just ogle. If they're at an event promoting something or signing stuff yeah I guess it's ok to approach them but that doesn't interest me personally. A long while back  I actually walked by Arnold and he was/is one of my childhood movie idols but I still couldn't bring myself to chase him down and ask for a picture (which is what I'd want not an autograph) or something. Seems so intrusive

InnerSanctum 12/29/2011 2:48:05 PM

 I got over the "autograph scene" after I put on my own fest aboard the Queen Mary.  I met many James Bond and other related celebrities.  We even had the entire cast of Kill Bill (the movie was being released.)  After talking to so many actors, writers, etc. I just lost the thrill.  Some are generous with their time, others area pain in the arse and, really, it is a bit silly to want an autograph from a guy who makes his living play acting.  Like Robert said, a good story is just having a simple conversation that is not forced with someone who admire.  

chervil 12/29/2011 3:27:57 PM

I was working at a locksmith shop in Texas when Barry Corbin came in.
He was buying padlocks for his ranch in Ft. Worth (this is when Northern Exposure was still on.)
I waited until after the transaction was complete, and then let him know I really liked his work, especially in War Games.
He kind of stared me down, grunted in what I can only expect was disapproval, and left.
Not sure if I was being "that guy", but he made me feel like I was.

About a year ago I was in a local restaurant and saw Adam West.
Now, I love this guy, and was tempted to go up to him.
However, he was at a table with his wife (I assume) and another couple.
Had he been alone, I might have chanced it, but I felt that he should have his peace.
So I was able to avoid being "that guy".
Next time, Batman, next time!

And lastly I was in LAX a few months ago and saw Thomas Hayden Church.
Thought it was cool seeing Lyle in an airport, plus I think he is genuinely funny.
He was standing alone, and back by a wall just kind of hanging out.
As I debated whether or not I would be "that guy" if I went and just said how much I enjoyed his work, I watched as "that guy" appeared out of nowhere.
"You're that dude! Y'know, that, that dude from that movie and that show!"
Needless to say, he was less than impressed.
In fact, I think it is safe to say he looked kindof pissed off.
Decided that after he had been subjected to "that guy", I would just leave him be.

BTW - If any celebrities are reading this, just know that for every "that guy" you have to deal with, there are at least a half dozen of us who did recognize you, but choice to let you have your space.
You're welcome.

karas1 12/30/2011 11:40:17 AM

I was at Scapercon 2002 and Virginia Hey (Zahn) was attending.  It was a small con and by the third day everybody but my roommate Sidhesong had stopped by her table for a chat and an autograph.  Sid was too shy to meet her so I got an autograph for her.  Ms Hey told me that my roommate was being silly and she should stop by and say hi.  I bodily dragged Sid to Ms Hey's table and at first she was shy but soon the two women were talking like old friends.

The next day the con ended and Sid and I saw Ms Hey checking out at the front desk.  Sid went over to say goodbye and unfortunately mentioned another Scaper who had been rude to Ms Hey at a prior convention.  Ms Hey frowned and exclaimed at how angry she was about that.  Sid was so embarassed she started to cry and turned and ran down the hall.  I will always remember Virginia Hey chasing Sid down the hall yelling "Come back, I'm not mad at YOU!" 



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