I’m seeing stars… but do they see me?

As we enter convention season it got me thinking about the “stars.” Not that stars that swirl around my head after a convention weekend – the actual celebrities that are at the conventions. But even beyond the convention floor, “comic” celebrities in general…they are a different breed. Or are they?

 


If I didn’t start with Lou Ferrigno – the article wouldn’t be worth reading. He’s most famous (at least to certain generations) for playing
The Incredible Hulk on the early 80’s TV show of the same name. He’s a staple at conventions… as is his price tag. It costs (last time I checked) $20 to stand next to him and have your friend snap a shot on your camera phone. Recently, Lou made a cameo in the new Paul Rudd movie I Love You, Man in which he puts the sleeper hold on some guy (from that show with Neil Patrick Harris) for calling him “Hulk.” (Note: I’ve not seen the movie, going solely off the preview here).  

That clip sums up ENTIRELY what Lou Ferrigno is to me. A star that sucks! Don’t charge people for a snapshot and an autograph. Don’t get mad at people calling you “Hulk” when you then turn around and charge people to look at you selling yourself as “Hulk.” If you’re not in it for the fans, get out.

 


And cue Peter Mayhew. Many years ago, Peter put on the hairiest costume this side of Cousin It (he was Chewbacca). Peter is another staple on the convention floor – and he never seems happy about it. I’ve never seen one man look so grumpy day in and day out.

I heard through the grapevine that he’s not happy about being called “Chewy” all the time. I’ve not had the nerve to ask him – but the look on his face would confirm the rumor. So, I guess if you’re done being remembered as a Wookie, here are some easy steps to follow.

1. Don’t look like a Wookie.
2. Don’t go to conventions and sit under a “Chewbacca” sign.
3. Smile more.

 


Kevin Smith is a tricky one. He might actually be a nice guy, but there is no way of knowing. He walks at incredible speeds (especially given his size) and he is always surrounded by a large posse of body guards(?) and fanboys with cameras. Nobody can ever actually get close enough to see if he is fan friendly or not.

And to me – that means he’s not.

 


Another man that walks at high speeds (which is even more amazing given his age) is Stan Lee. The buzz about Stan on the convention floor flows like a wave about one minute ahead of him. People get their cameras out and set their ISO’s to high speeds in hopes of getting a “clear” picture. His posse is huge – and I’m pretty sure they are all secret service or at least highly trained specialists.  

With Stan, though, if you can get through the guards he is VERY fan friendly. He’ll pose for pictures, he’ll smile, he’ll tell an Iron Man joke… and he won’t charge you a dime… except for all the money you’ve dumped into the empire he created. In the end though, Stan’s the Man!

 


Another biggie – if you can spot him is Joss Whedon. I recall the first time I saw him, Ron said “Hey, should we go interview him?” So we moseyed over and Ron said “Hi, I’m Ron from iFanboy” and handed him a card. Joss’ response was a nod and “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of you.” That = fan friendly. We knew that he was lying, but he was being polite and appeasing us.  

After finishing a quick interview he went on to sign some autographs of people that were loitering around. He could have easily skipped the interview and the autographs – but he didn’t.

 


Speaking of Buffy – I just recently had the pleasure of working with Anthony Steward Head (aka Rupert Giles) on a production of The Tempest. Tony was set to be the headliner for the show – but that’s not the attitude that he brought. Rather, he came in willing to work and struggle just like everybody else. He was warm and receptive to ideas, and he was courteous when presenting his own. He was not a “star” rather more like “just another guy.”

And it went beyond that. During breaks, walking down the street he was frequently approached by fans of Buffy asking for pictures and autographs. Rather than saying “I’ve only got 10 minutes to eat,” he stopped, smiled/posed and signed… each and every time.

And Tony (as I call him) is not the only one like that. More and more in this industry the fans are able to get closer to the celebrities that exist within it. And the celebrities are opening themselves up more and more. Twitter has been an obvious player in this game – as has Facebook – provided you actually connect with the “real celebrity” and not some Bot or kid in Nebraska pretending. But still, there is no substitute for talking face to face… provided it’s free.

So as you head out into the convention season – pick your stars wisely – you’ll appreciate it more if they appreciate you.

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Gordon!  You’ve got a lot of awesome stories, but as a Shakespeare + Buffy geek I particularly love the Tony Head "Tempest" story.  Sounds like that was an awesome experience.  I love these pictures.

  2. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    So jealous.  SO jealous.  

    Several years back I actually emailed the company that makes those Buffy/Angel life-size standees.  

    "Please make a big cardboard Giles so I can put it next to my bookcase."  

    "Thank you for expressing interest. If there is a demand for such a product, we shall certainly consider offering them."  

    "I just meant one.  For me."  

  3. Damn, G, where you been?! Nice to see you again.

    I was pleased to find Geoff Johns and BMB are very pleasant human beings. They were a delight to meet. Seems most the guys in the community are pretty cool, but there can certainly be exceptions (I’m looking at you Alex Maleev. Then again, maybe i just caught you on a bad day).

    on a side note: had a chance to meet Amber Valentine from Jucifer last night and have my photo taken with her. such a treat to find someone who can ROCK so hard and be so sweet. hello new avatar.

  4. Yeah, Lou Ferrigno was at Wizard World Texas.  And yeah, he was charging just to be seen in a photo with him.  Cory Feldman was there too and he was charging the same amount. All I could think was "Who cares about Cory Feldman enough to pay money to be seen with him?"

  5. If you see Harrison Ford don’t shout out "Hey Solo, where’s Chewy?" he’ll just walk away.

  6. Waiting for the bus outside of the San Diego Con last year, some friends and I saw Stan Lee walking to his hotel. Of course we shouted and said hi and, although he was old and obviously very tired, he still took a second to stop and say hello. Hell of a class act.

  7. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    David Prowse leaned on my car once.  

  8. My friend, who is equally as large as Kevin Smith, intercepted Smith coming off of an escalator at the first NYCC. He ideally put his hand out, Smith stopped long enough to shake his head and smile and shot off a platitude. And then Smith booked it out of there.

    This year’s NYCC saw Colin Baker (Doctor Who #6) appearing. And while he was charging, he was really nice, went out of his way to be like "Well, you paid to get this signed don’t feel like you need to run away. Stay, chat, wait for the ink to dry!" I really enjoyed the experience.

    I have to say, most of my meetings at NYCC this year were positive experiences. Matt Fraction was really cool, grateful that my friend read Casanova. He seemed genuinely happy when I told him his WWH: Punisher issue included one of my favorite sequences. (Gun that shoots knives!) Mitch Brietweiser and his wife were really cool. Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak were really cool. Ivan Reis was nice, he "remembered" me day-to-day. Geoff Johns was nice, and he wrote "Boo!" on the cover of Legion of 3 Worlds because I told him he surprised me. And Peter Tomasi was quit friendly, if only because no one was visiting him. But probably the two nicest guys I talked to were Greg Rucka and Billy Tan. We were on a huge line, and Rucka took the time to tell us about his writing process and his plans for stuff. And Billy Tan pointed out his favorite panels to draw this issue while signing our books. It was nice to have "normal" interactions with the creators instead of those weird "In Issue #4 you had X do Y when last issue he did Z first! Explain! You’ve ruined teh Cannon!"

  9. Stan is that dude!

  10. I saw Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker in front of their hotel Friday before WonderCon started.  I wanted to say hi so badly, but contained myself because they looked busy and figured I would get a chance all weekend.  Sadly, I never tracked down Bru to get some stuff signed and say "hello", even though I was in the same room for panels and such.  Matt on the other hand, was the first person I ran to and talked his ear off.  Total man crush on the dude.

    I tried to sneek a peak at Mark Hamil, but he always had a crowd around him.  I’m convinced he pissed in a can by his booth all weekend.

  11. When i met Bendis and Fraction (though not really big stars) i was extremely surprised at how friendly and courteous they were

  12. Brubaker is cool at conventions. He never seems to get too jaded by signing comics all day. I’ve also met Brian Posehn, and he is one cool guy. Of course, if you’ve watched Comedians of Comedy, then hou know how he is. He’s exactly like that.

    Tim Sale is awesome too.

  13. I would imagine the young Kevin Smith (without the guards) would take the time to say ‘hi’ and what not. Judging from your experience seeing Smith, I can only imagine he doesnt want to talk to the public.

    Stan Lee=Nicest man in the entire industry? Amazing what he has to put up with every day and still act like the old man sitting in the porch of a Convenience Store…Or is that just me thinking that?

  14. No one’s nicer than Wil Wheaton!

  15. To be fair, guys like Ferrigno and Mayhew…this is what they do, for a living.  If they’re giving it away for free, they’re not getting any income to live.  I can’t begrudge them that.

    As far as being being nice or not on the con floor, well if Kevin Smith stopped and had a conversation with everyone who stopped him on a convention floor, he’d still be there today.  Again, I can’t blame him for that.

  16. @josh – well, they don’t have to be so grumpy about it.  As for Kevin Smith – good point.

  17. I’m to shy to go chaseing people down at cons.  I did notice Barker at ny comic con but that wasn’t untill after I had walk away to look at the rest of the doctor who stuff after staring at the table of audio plays he was standing behind.  The only thing I got signed was the comic book comic issues that Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunavey  I just fine by me to walk within a few feet of them.

  18. From my understanding from Ferrigno he’s not gurmpy about it.  I’ve seen him a few times at the Novi comic con, I did not pay for any pictures, but from my experience he’s an all around nice guy.  Also one of my friends volunteered at the Chicago Comic con a while back and she got put with Ferrigno.  From the way she tells it he was one of the nicest people she met, when she asked him if he needed anything he would say, "Don’t worry about it I can get things for myself would you like anything?"  I guess he got her water, food, and when she mentioned her husband liked Kevin Smith, He walked over to the View Askiew booth to got Smith and Mewes (who I have heard multiple times can be big dicks) to sign a poster personalized to her husband.

    I would have to say that this is the first time I’ve heard ill will spoken about the man.  Although it’s not like I look around the internet for articles about Ferrigno.

    You want someone that ticked me off, Mark Hamil at Wondercon.  $100 for ONE autograph, you weren’t allow to take a picture with him either.  I’m sorry I can understand the $20 dollars from some people as all they do are cons, but no one’s autograph is worth $100.  The better part is that it was $100 dollars for one, $90 for the second, and back to $100 for any past that.

  19. Great picture with the Taster’s Choice dude, Gordon.

  20. @josh

     Or they could get real jobs and then just go to cons and meet fans.

  21. @SixGun: In this economy?

  22. I have to co-sign with jstump, I met Ferrigno in San Diego in 2007 and found him to friendly polite and very funny, we shared a couple of laughs about one of his old Hulk posters, and when I saw him at WonderCon in 2008 he remembered me and we chatted for a bit.  I think the "problems" begin when a person’s celebrity grows, as it grows larger they have less and less time to be as personable as they would like.  And then some people who had celebrity in the past seem to feel that they are entitled to be treated a certain way and tend to forget that what made them popular was in reality several years ago.  Jim Lee acts as if its still 1994.  And of course, and lets be honest here, many of our convention visitors do have a tendency to embody all of the negative stereotypes regarding personal hygeine, and it must be difficult for a celebrity or anyone for that matter to have to deal someone who hasn’t seen a shower tell them how on page 4 of issue 234 that something was wrong.  That has to get old for them.  My caveat is to the ifanboys, I have had the chance to see you guys at the last couple of WonderCon’s and you have all been friendly and easygoing, and fun to hang out with, but as your popularity continues to grow, and it will, you may find yourselves on the other side of this issue, because of your popularity you guys won’t always have the time to stop and chat with fans who genuinely enjoy what you do.  And someone may take an honest lack of free time as arrogance and all of a sudden you guys are getting heat for being dicks on another site. The higher your visibility the less time for personal interaction with fans.

    Among Comic people who really stand out, Erik Larsen is the most fan-friendly one that I have met, he makes time for everyone and answer each question fully and always sign things for people. Not to say that he is the only one, but he really does stand out.

  23. I stand corrected about Lou Ferrigno…apparently he is only grumpy if you try to take a picture of him WITHOUT painyg. 

    Which begs the question – why or how did this become a job?  And – how can I get it?  If you see me in SD this year – you owe me a buck.  If you talk to me – $5!  Oh wait – now I’m going against all of @k5blazer’s points.  Argh!

    OK – free to see me…free to talk to me…but if you want dinner you’re buying!

  24. @SixGun – Man, this is the pop culture retirement plan.  These guys didn’t get rich or that famous from their acting careers, so this is what they do.  You can’t begrudge someone that.  You gotta pay the bills. If people are willing to line up and take a picture, and they can pay their rent, good for them.

  25. @gordon-I would pay $10 for a picture with you!  But if I have to pay for dinner than you better make it worth my while afterwards

  26. This year I finally decided to meet and chat with some creators and every single one of them was a delight to talk to – from Rick Remender and Bryan Lee O’Malley all the way to Irwin Hasen and Carmine Infantino.  In fact I tried to give Infantino a little more than he was asking for his autograph and he wouldn’t even consider it.

     Oh and that Kilpatrick guy was pretty nice too even though he had the plague.

  27. Marina Sirtis (Star Trek TNG) was so cool at fanexpo a few years ago.  We chatted about british tv.  one of my friends fell into her and she just laughed and made a joke and hse charged for autographs but not for taking pictures.  Also Kevin Sorbo was amazing too. We were getting an autograph for a friend who couldn’t go and asked if we could take a picture.  He jumped up from behind his table and wrapped his arms around a friend and i and told his handler guy to take the picture.  he was so nice.  On the other hand Adam West was a total jerk last year.  By the end of the weekend he was charging like $60 for an autograph and asked a some people to delete pictures from thier cameras.

  28. OK – free to see me…free to talk to me…but if you want dinner you’re buying!

    Posted by gordon on 03/13/09 at 04:21 PM

     
    DEAL! anytime you want dinner and you’re around Detroit let me know.
  29. http://www.wired.com/culture/culturereviews/multimedia/2009/03/gallery_wwkb

    That pic, and the fact that he charges 100 bucks for his sig sums that guy up for me 

  30. $100?  Someone should inforrm Mark Hamill that his blockbuster film "Corvette Summer" over 30 years ago…is that in the AFI top 100?

  31. I understand that signing autographs and taking pictures is how some of these people make their money. But it’s a totally shitty experience, expecially when it’s someone your excited to meet.

    "Hey, I love your work"

    "Thats’ cool. You want a picture?" "Twenty bucks."

    Actually, while my girlfriend was in line to pay for an autograph from Cory Feldman I got a chance to talk with Danny Trejo. I talked with him for a minute and then end he signed something for me for free. That was an ideal celebrity interaction.

     

  32. I’ve met some people at film festivals (I’ve yet to go to a con), and I haven’t met too many dicks. Tom Savini and Jason Mewes were both really nice guys. George Romero was also pretty cool. However, the guy that played the sheriff in the original Halloween was charging twenty fucking dollars for his signature on my DVD, but the guy that played Michael Myers only charged ten. Regardless, most of the people I’ve met have been pretty cool, and very grateful to their fans.

  33. I had no problem paying $20 to get a autograph and a picture from Ferrigno at last year’s Motor City Con.  He posed for some great pictures for us and was hilarious.  I agree with Josh, what else does he have at this poin?  This is what he does, and could charge mush more than $20.  I actually hope he’s at the Con again this year.

  34. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I’m surprised no one’s mentioned the fact that Josh puts on a pair of leather driving gloves when listeners approach us at conventions.  

    Also, Jason Schwartzman and Wes Anderson were very nice when I met them after a screening of Darjeeling Limited.  Jason seems to love interacting with his fans. Imagine a really tiny, really hip version of Buddy the Elf.  

  35. My con interactions have gone surprisingly well by comparison.  I’ve had long conversations with Shane Glines and Adam Hughes at Dragon*Con.  Sad to hear that about Mark Hamil.  I’m guessing part of the reason is that he really doesn’t hit the Con circuit.

  36. @Paul-I vaguely remember Josh applying some Purel on his leather gloves after he shook my hand.

  37. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Which is weird because he just throws them out after one use anyway.  Only person I know who uses his glove compartment as an actual glove compartment.  

  38. I actually bumped into Patrick Wilson about six months ago at a coffee shop.  I don’t know if that counts because my dad knew him a little, but he talked to me about the watchmen movie for about twenty minutes.  This was back when I was really excited for it.  

  39. I was bumped into Mythbuster’s Grant Imahara at Dragon*Con.  He was on his way back to his room after attending a panel and he was obviously tired.  I told him I loved his show and he was very pleasant to talk to. 

    Also at Dragon*Con, it’s a common to see Grant and Jason from Ghost Hunters bombed out of their gourds, walking around the con, taking pictures and being really nice.  

     

  40. Alex Maleev was interesting to talk to. Not really friendly or unfriendly per se, but definitely an experience.

    During a fire drill at Baltimore Comic Con a couple years ago, I got to chat with Mark Waid and Dan DiDio (separately). They were both really cool, and DiDio was very high energy.

    Humberto Ramos is extremely devoted to the fans. He’ll stick around at a signing long after he’s scheduled to have moved on. He won’t leave til the line is gone. Unfortunately, this can mean that he’s late to the next thing, but still pretty cool that he’s that devoted.

    Frank Cho was great at Baltimore too. He’s very friendly and full of jokes.

    I’ve heard things about Alex Ross being a d-bag, but when I met him he was great. Very accessable and friendly.

    I got a chance to talk to Frank Tieri and Tom Raney at the Marvel booth in Philly a few years ago (while I was waiting in line for Bendis), and they were a lot of fun. Bendis is cool too, but you can tell he’s gotten just about every question imaginable.

    But the best experience I’ve had was with Steve Dillon. He did a signing for the Hero Initiative at my LCS, and they were serving beer at the event. Just before he began a sketch of Cyclops for me, he asked if I minded if he went out for a smoke. Of course I didn’t mind, and he and I and a buddy of mine joined him outside, lit up, and got to chat with him over a beer and a smoke. Probably the friendliest comic book celeb I’ve met.

  41. Good article