The Golden Ticket
I suppose now is a good time to mention I moonlight as a real live grown-up nerd. Aside from working at a library for the past 5 years (that’s pretty nerdy, right?), I also attend and help sell mixed media merchandise at Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror conventions in and around the Midwest. Most of us own geek rights in some way, and if you follow current events at all (read: have a TV or some sort of media) you know that nerds and all things nerd-astic are a thing. Fandom, as it’s termed, is a die-hard, yes-I’m-judging-you lifestyle, and one faux pas will get you excommunicated from all things geekery (i.e. Warner Bros recent “Batgate”). I’ll be honest, I am not the hard-core Sci-fi/Fantasy/Anime fangirl that I secretly wish I were. But I’m in the mix. And one of those categories is my admittedly “12 Step” addiction with AMC’s The Walking Dead. There. I said it. I feel better. Betty Ford would be proud, as we all know the first step is in admitting we have the problem.
A good percentage of The Walking Dead fanbase of course, is, the fangirls. Why, you ask. This would partially be because (I’ll be fair to the other male actors with their own fanbase) of the character “Daryl Dixon”, played by actor Norman Reedus of The Boondock Saints fame, but…do I really need to point this out by now?! Ahem, sorry (tucks her nerd girl back in her pants). Anyhoo, if you’ve been hunkered down in your own pre-apocalyptic bunker or just haven’t checked out the show yet or read the graphic novels, it’s about the aftermath of as-of-yet-unknown-cause for unadulterated, regenerated, zombie-fried apocalypse. I’ll skip the detailed summation of plot and character (especially for you non-viewers, no spoilers here), so you’re just going to have to put your best nerd suit on, tune in to AMC October 13th and catch up with the 4th season (Seasons 1-3 are all available on DVD, with intermittent marathons of past seasons on AMC). But take it from me, your humble blogger, it. is. awesome.
And now, the moment the fangirls reading this have been squeeing their cosplay for: That time I met, Norman Reedus.
As a co-Dealer, I specifically wanted to work Fandomfest in Louisville, KY this past July 27th-29th because cast members of The Walking Dead were in attendance, and this of course meant, Norman Reedus, but I’m serious when I say I was genuinely excited about the TWD cast in attendance (and, hello, Stan Lee, William Shatner…Firefly? A ridiculous amount of awesome). Fandomfest, as it turned out, was the center of some tension. On Saturday, the fire marshal reportedly made a mistake thinking the convention was being held in one building instead of two, and turned down hundreds of pre-paid show-goer’s. Not pretty. Amid the drama, were rumored waiting times for actors like Reedus. I heard from bleary-eyed customers who wore their waiting-line-battle-scars like war torn soldiers. Wait time was anywhere from 3 to 8 (yes, a whole work day for some of us) hours. Some would be deterred by this. I nodded my head, said some generic things in agreement, and dreamily thought to myself, “This is a non-issue.”
Mr. Reedus was there Saturday and Sunday. Convention dealers know, that Saturdays are high sales, so I was prepping myself for Sunday as the “big event where Norman realizes his undying love for me”. And hey, the big hoo-hah was Saturday, and maybe things had died down? Perhaps the high-volume wait would be cut in half (it turns out, I was somewhat right, “waiting in” at 4 hrs.). I went to the Norman Reedus area around 9 am, hoping for a good spot in the line. As sometimes happens, and dealers are considered money-makers for the conventions as well, a red-haired staff member gave me a knowing look when she saw my dealer tag and said, “You should have no problems. Come back at 11:30 with this–,” and handed me my general admission Autograph Line ticket. I smiled and floated off, feeling all big and nerdy. At exactly 11:20 am, I began the ghostly journey of yesterday’s Trail of Tears fan line, connecting again with the red-haired staff lady wearing her bright yellow tee with big, black font reading “STAFF”. She directed me to the next staff lady, down the long hall. I had my most assertive hat on, making sure they knew I was a dealer and that I was specifically directed to this point. The blonde staff lady, with a mystical serendipity, clearly understood as though this point and time was destined to be a piece of mine and Norman’s timeline forever (or, maybe she was just doing her job…clears throat…). I was told to “hang out” in the dealer room until her line formed. Norman Reedus and Scott Wilson (aka TWD‘s Hershel Greene), along with Sean Patrick Flanery (The Boondock Saints), were seated at their tables at the far end of the room. I was here. This is really happening.
I pretended to be interested in some dealer wares at nearby tables (the irony is not lost on me). I spotted an artsy-looking table, and as a former art student myself, took the time to check out their stuff. It was a somewhat superficial conversation with the artist but I enjoyed their work (unfortunately as I was in Daryl Dixon La-La land, I forgot the artist’s name and cannot link here). I moved on, browsed a table or two more inside the room and then reminded myself I needed to get back to the blonde staff lady’s spot. A few sojourners were beginning to form what they termed “the line before the line” and I stood there taking in the room and the line before us. The line. It was huge. Formed behind a long, black, curtained convention divider, was a mass of silhouettes and the unintelligible murmurs of a crowd. This of course was nothing compared to the complaints I heard the previous day, but for someone who has an intense difficulty waiting in public (I begin to feel claustrophobic), a sinking feeling told me this was going to be more of a challenge than I had allowed myself to acknowledge.
I tried to play as cool as I could, and kept myself busy trying to sneak peeks at the table at the far end of the room. There was fanfare, cameras flashing, and voices and exclamations rose the closer to the tables. A happening occurred, and our attention turned to two young girls, supported by two others on the ground, creating cheers for, who else, but Norman. Could this be happening? I rubbed my eyes. The cheering girls were still there, and some people began taking pictures of them. It was all too much. On my tip-toes, I peered across the large room, toward the darkened area, the focus of their cheers. And then, it happened. I saw IT. The hat. Then the figure under the hat. Anyone who knows anything about Mr. Reedus and the loyal relationship between himself and his fans is that Norman likes to wear “the D” hat (Detroit, but also, theoretically an inside joke in reference to women wanting “the D”, for Daryl Dixon, and well, you fill in the rest). Fangirls/women have a love/hate thing about this hat. I get it (pausing), it’s his thing. As a woman, and there are lots of photos circulated with his “hair down”, the guy’s got, a great face. Not to mention, the I-must-touchy-his-hair hair. Just as guys like the ladies to get dolled up, so it is also with women. Ah well, aesthetics aside, we love him and we’ll take him in the damn hat if we have to.
Now I was getting super-excited but I knew the long wait ahead. As I’m watching the sideshow, I see a flash of white and soon Norman is hugging a man with a shock of white hair pulled into a ponytail. Hershel! Oh my word, my heaving breast (haha). I couldn’t stand it. Before the show, Scott Wilson was not slated to be there, but at the last moment filled in for Jon Bernthal, of whom was unable to attend. Years ago, I knew Scott Wilson from the Truman Capote movie, In Cold Blood. This was the portrayal of two men that murdered the Clutter family in Kansas. My dad went to college at Pittsburgh, Kansas, where as rumor had it, a college student there had dated one of the Clutter kids. This was a story that rocked the Midwest. That kind of thing, just didn’t happen in a rural area like that. My parents have never forgotten it. I was so hoping to meet Mr. Wilson and share that, but alas, he had gone on break by the time I moved up the line. Opportunities are so fleeting in life.
The mass of people moved up and our line had now merged into THE LINE. And now, the real wait began. I busied myself with eavesdropping on some of the conversation around me. Some fans had brought memorabilia for their favorite actors to sign and they were studying it, turning it this way and that, as we waited. Perhaps they were imagining their interactions with Norman, Scott, and Sean. As we inched up, the divider cut us off from the rest of the room but it was thin and we could make out some of the dealer activity. One of them had a coin toss but we didn’t pay much attention until quarters started rolling our way. Lucky for them, they had The Walking Dead fans on the other side (hey, we’re on the straight and narrow). We returned the quarters to the dealer, and turned back to our conversations and mobile devices to keep us distracted. Every 6 ft or so there were gaps between the black curtains and we caught glimpses of the room outside. I needed serious distracting at this point so I turned to the cell phone and tried to get ahold of my best friend to tell her I found out Adrian Paul from TV’s Highlander was there. She was a HUGE fan of his, back in college, and if I was meeting my celebrity crush, I was willing to meet hers for her (she agreed). It was going to be a good day. I was feeling uplifted…dreams were happening here. It wasn’t the resolution to the Syrian crisis, but to a fan like me, it felt damn good. No turning back now.
After about 2 1/2 hours had passed, my phone usage was getting boring and I didn’t want to run the battery down as I needed to record the moment when Norman sees me and well, the rest is history (a girl can dream, no?). What the hell was I gonna do now? A part of me was beyond itching to just bolt but I knew that wasn’t going to happen and I had come too far. There was a man standing behind me with a teen-looking boy. I was getting panicky so I struck up a conversation. It turned out to be one of the best things about waiting as this man and his son were super nice and easy to talk to. They were from Tennessee and in fact, from a town I had been to before (a college friend’s parents lived there and I and my best friend had went to stay for a weekend years ago). I can’t remember this man’s name, nor his son’s now. He used to work for NASA and his son had started reading The Walking Dead graphic novels. Being the dork that I am, I was on #17 out of 18 currently available (I told him nothing, Kirkman). We were enjoying each other’s company and then random announcements instructing VIP’s, etc to move out of the line were made. One of the announcements enforced that if you were not holding the coveted autograph line ticket that I held, you would be pulled by armed forces and placed in a containment area. Well, ok, that didn’t happen but it did happen that my new NASA friend and his son had been told by a staff person that it was ok they didn’t have the actual ticket. I believed he was honest but alas, rules were rules. My new friends had to move back in the line, like pawns taken from the chess board, extending their wait to at least another hour. I was bummed. Onward we inched up the line as I felt bad for my fellow conversationalists.
About 3/4 up the line, I surveyed the fans in front of me. While I had focused my attention on the phone and my friends, I failed to notice most were laying or sitting on the carpeted dealer room floor. All that was missing were togas, totally ripped half-naked Mediterranean men waving large feather fans, and lots of fresh fruit. We would’ve had it made. But this wait was kicking my ass. It was time…to get me some of that “D”.
The clearing at the front of the line began to open up and we could see a little action now. I had noticed Norman’s buddy, Sean Clark early on, talking to some young girls and here he was now assisting with the seemingly unnamed but seen everywhere pretty blonde lady with inked arms helping too. This was really happening, right? Standing there, I started to fidget again and tried focusing on different things but it was cold. Not just a little chill but C-O-L-D. And I’m not someone who gets cold often. We were under the A/C at that point. I was patting myself on the shoulder for having worn my hoodie sweatjacket but it was doing nothing for my hands and I had my camera ready to capture our as now unforeseen love (hey this is MY story). The blonde tatted lady announced that unfortunately time was getting by, and we would have to keep in mind to try to hurry along. Not good news for us. But, I was willing to roll with it, I mean, what was I gonna do? Anyway, I don’t know if it was the long wait or what, but I was very…calm. Not at all what I thought would happen. It was a dense fog-feeling, but I stepped forward. I watched Norman as he met with fans. People describe things as “out of body” and, it kind of is. You’re there but…it’s odd. Some people were hugging him 2-3 at a time, others individually. He greeted, he signed, he was beautiful. But he had the Ray Bans on, and I knew, I was not going to get to meet those bright and salacious eyes. First the hat. Then the hurry up announcement. And now, the Ray Bans. I suddenly understood how Taylor felt at his horrific realization of Lady Liberty’s demise on the beach in Planet of the Apes. “Damn you, REEDUS!”
But I could not be deterred. With my phone held up like Excalibur, I clicked rapid-fire shots just praying some of them would come out. It was a lot darker in that area than other conventions I’ve been to, plus the constant movement in front of Norman had me concerned. The I-means-biznezz handler lady at the end of our roped off section let us know we were not allowed pictures past this point. So I’m just clicking away. The security dude (also behind shades) is watching me, a little too closely for comfort. My phone is older and not as sophisticated as some I guess…perhaps it resembles some sort of Bond-like death gadget. I started to sweat, but my hands, were cold and stiff. The moment was near.
There were just a few in front of me now and we had moved up to the table where the pretty platinum blonde lady has us look at glossy 8×10’s, and asks us to choose, she’ll take our payment. A man and a little boy had been in front of me the whole time and they made their choice. I begin quickly scouring the table of photos, wanting to be cool and pick one that I really liked and that I thought Norman would think was good. The blonde says,”Hi sweetie, do you have your payment ready?” I say yea as I continue to find the perfect picture to give Norman. She laughs as she takes my money and says,”Yea I know right? You guys have to wait that whole time and then once you get up here we’re like,’Hurry!'” I laughed and said (ooooh, there’s the one where he’s dressed like Daryl, with the vest and bow…AND he’s holding HIS black cat. It’s perfect. A personalized touch. I’m so in with Reedus. I got this.), “Yea, heh!…” I handed her the super perfect 8×10 that was going to seal the deal and he would be my little hick from the sticks forever and ever, amen.
Wha–d’fuhh…shit he’s talking…to me.
“Hey sweeeetie. How ya doin’?”
Um, what’s holding my hand. There’s something holding my hand. HE is holding my hand. And like, stroking it. Whaaat the fuuuuuuccckkk
“M-m-m my hands are really cold…”
Still smiling, he slides his hand away. No. N-n-n-NO. No WAIT. Don’t do THAT!
“So how’s it going babe? What’s your name–where ya from sweetie?”
Merp. Derp. Merp merp.
“……I’m Melissa! I’m from St. Louis. (In a pretentious voice) St. Louis says hi by the way….”
Shit. Shit shit shit, pull up! Pull up!
(He takes note, but makes allowance) “How do you spell that? M-e-l-i-s-s-a?”
(Trying too hard to agree) “Yup!! M-E-L-I-S-S-A!”
(Scribbling on photo) “Ok well thanks babe!”
Oh my God. No. That’s it, it’s over. I’ve turned this into a transaction. In that split-second, I remember my self-sworn promise that I would get a hug, from Norman Reedus.
“Can I get a hug?”
“Yeaaa.” He leans over to my left shoulder, and there we were. Embracing in front of God and all His creation. His hair, that beautiful hair that women globally want to touch, was on the left side of my face, full on. And in that moment, I swear to you, it was as natural as when you are with a lover, I nudged it. I did the nudge. In his hair. It. was. magical. I could tell he noticed (and possibly prepared to pull Mr. Security over if need be). It was pure bliss. I recaptured my confidence.
We pulled away. I looked up at him. “You’re doing a great job.”
Genuinely appreciative, he said,”Thanks……SECURITYYY!”
Ok, he didn’t yell for Security. But I did feel we had a special moment. He then handed me the glossy (still proud of the pose I picked) and as I walked away, I told myself, “Don’t turn around, Melissa.” Let it go. I kept walking and like so many of the other fans I had watched in front of me, I too had an indescribable smile on my face as I looked to see how he signed my picture. It said only this:
“To Melissa ❤ ” Norman Reedus
And that’s the time, I met Norman Reedus. And something tells me, we’ll meet again, babe. Some day.
Security Guy’s gonna get me!