How did I celebrate yesterday’s holiday after I posted the blog appreciating the music? I guess you could say that I cheated. I cheated on Duran. I suppose this is a bit of a confession. So, what did I do? I attended the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con. I wanted to attend for a couple reasons. First, as a student of fandom, I wanted to see, to witness, to experience one of these comic cons for myself. While I have never really been a part of any of those fandoms (comic books, sci-fi, superheroes, etc.), I have been around them enough in my life that I feel pretty comfortable. My brother is a huge comic book fan (He even wrote a few books on the topic!). If you have been reading this blog for long, you are aware that I grew up with Star Trek in my life and do consider myself a fan. I have been a fan of a number of other sci-fi shows, too. While Duran is always my fandom, my central fandom, I do like other things. It’s okay. It’s good. Anyway, I figured that I would be comfortable enough in the environment of the convention to be able to not only learn something about fandom but also have fun. Second, I won’t lie. I read that Zachary Quinto was going to be there. For those of you not in the know. He plays Mr. Spock in the Star Trek rebooted movie series. Of course, he has been in other things, most notably, like Heroes and American Horror Story. I have appreciated his work for sometime and consider myself a fan. So, attending seemed like a win-win for me.
Once I decided to attend, I had to learn a little bit about how it worked. I could buy a one day pass or a pass for the entire four days. This would get me into the convention where I could attend panels of all sorts from celebrity question and answer sessions to writing a sci-fi screenplay to discussion about specific movie projects. I could also shop at the 80 billion vendors (not an exact number but there were a lot) that were there selling everything from comic books to action figures to sci-fi jewelry. What this ticket did not get me was any autograph or any picture with any of the celebrities there. Those opportunities were there for most of the celebrities but did cost extra. Since I wanted the entire experience and did kind of like that Quinto guy, I figured I would pay for the autograph and picture. Why not, right?! You live once and will probably only have the chance once. Plus, I have to say that I appreciate how clean this is. You pay and get some access. There is no waiting back stage after a show. There is no trying to find someone at a hotel or a bar. There is no having to hope for that chance encounter on the streets somewhere, all the while, in all of those settings, hoping that it is the right time, right mood to ask. No, in this circumstance, there is no need to have to ask. No worry about stepping over someone else. No worry about upsetting the celebrity of choice. It is all clean and clear.
Did it go as smoothly as I had hoped? It absolutely did. While there was a long line for both, everyone got their chance. The rules were easy to understand and follow. Everyone, fan AND celebrity, knew what was going to happen. I did the picture first as there was more of a set time for that whereas there was more time to get the autograph. For the picture, there was a line if you were VIP and a line if you were general. Oh yes, there were VIP tickets for some celebrities. They cost more (obviously) and included the picture, the four day pass, the autograph, guaranteed prime seating at the question/answer panel, and first in line spots for the pictures. Then, once everyone was ready, at the set time, the VIP people went first followed by the line of general attendees. There was a table to put personal belongings on and were told that we couldn’t take any personal pictures and there was to be no hugging or kissing, which made total sense to me. We were told that it would go fast and that autographs wouldn’t take place then. The picture could be for just you or a group, if so desired. If there were more than 2 people per picture, then there was an additional cost. So what was my experience like? It did go fast but not as fast as I thought it would. I wasn’t prepared to say anything because I assumed it would go so fast that words would not be exchanged. When I walked in, Zach actually directed me to a particular side. I’m not sure why. Maybe, he was switching back and forth each time. Maybe, it was due to height. Maybe, it was something the photographer requested. Anyway, he put his arm around me, I did the same to him. The picture was taken. Then, he thanked me for coming and wished me a good day. I muttered a thanks back and moved along. I noticed that no one tried to stay longer than was necessary to get the picture done.
After that, I walked around for awhile before heading back to the photo opps area to pick up my picture. I was pleased and walked over to the autograph area to get it signed. This again was a smooth process. There was a convention volunteer there either handing out a headshot picture to get signed, if people didn’t have anything, and to write people’s names on a post it note. The post it note was used at John’s book signing and I can imagine how helpful it is for the signer. The autograph can be personalized but no worries about spelling someone’s name. The whole interaction is more than the celebrity asking and spelling your name. After that, my picture with the post it was passed to another guy, who I assume is either Zach’s manager or someone else who works for him. We briefly discussed how tiring days like this must be with the nonstop activity and being “on” for so long. It was a nice conversation that was allowed to happen since Zach was taking his time with the person in front of me. When it was my turn, he greeted me by name. I thanked him for volunteering for the Obama campaign, which lead us to discuss my work for the campaign, the results of the election, and the alternative. It was a nice interaction. I thanked him and he thanked me. He shook my hand, wished me a good day and I, him. It didn’t feel rushed at all. Yes, there were people behind me but no one was pushing. After looking at my picture, I put it in my purse and walked around to watch other autograph stations as I wanted to see if Zach was unique in his warm, welcoming nature and the time he took as well as to see how other fans responded to other celebrities.
Here is what I found. Every celebrity seemed to take their time with the autographs. Every single one. Some, obviously, had longer lines than others but no one seemed to be rushed. In front of every station, there was a sign to indicate what times the celebrity would be there to sign. Some also had signs telling people if they could take pictures or not. I didn’t see or hear anyone complain about this or violate this rule with those celebrities. I was curious to see how it would be when the celebrities were done and were leaving. Would people let them leave? Would there be a rush of fans asking for autographs or pictures or simply a moment of time? Nope. It was calm. While there were convention volunteers around, the celebrities all seem to leave on their own with the people that they came with. They left without any fanfare and I watched most of the big names to see. What does this tell me, show me? It reminds me of some of the lessons I learned when I met President Obama last October. First, rules are helpful. Fans need to know what is allowed, what isn’t allowed and what it is going to be like. It also helps the celebrities to know that those rules will be followed and that they are safe. Second, access helps. If everyone has a chance for a picture or an autograph, if s/he has money, then there is no fighting over the celebrities. It probably also helps that there were many celebrities there and much to do. People couldn’t wait around and didn’t want to because they didn’t want to miss something else. How could this help celebrities like Duran? I would start with really clear expectations and rules about the meet and greets. Also, they might benefit to open up meet and greets to more fans. I realize, though, that this is very difficult on show nights. Then, I go back to the rules and expectations. If everyone was on the same page, that can’t hurt.
Overall, yesterday was a very positive experience for me. I learned a lot about fandom from watching and talking to other fans. I saw examples of great meet and greets. I also feel like my appreciation for Zachary Quinto has increased from this. He was so nice that I can’t help but to want to support him and his projects more. I can imagine that people who have had positive interactions with any celebrity feels that way. Something for all celebrities to think about. On that note, here’s my picture.
I think it turned out pretty great. I’m hoping that my field trip outside of my fandom won’t be frowned upon too much from the Duran universe as I think it was definitely worth it on many levels.