I've never quite been able to fully grasp the nature of celebrity — I doubt anyone lacking in firsthand experience truly does. What's it like to have your face and work known on a wide enough scale that it melds into the everyday lives of people across the country and around the world?
It's something I thought of while trolling around the aisles of Denver Comic Con last weekend. It was my third year attending the convention but my first as a volunteer. I was stationed with line management outside of fantasy author Terry Brook's booth — essentially tasked with the orderly corralling of fellow nerds waiting for autographs.
I confess I'd never heard of him until minutes before starting my shift, which mostly spiraled into being handed fans' cameras to snap photos of them alongside the author, often holding up whatever "Shannara" book they'd just had signed but always brandishing grins that seemed to push past the corners of their mouths and radiate a whole-headed glee.
It's easy to sense the excitement in the con setting while you're walking the booths and panels alongside friends and fellow con-goers, but staying in the same spot for a few hours provides a bit of a different window. You get a better picture of the variety of personalities attracted to a type of work — the folks coming to shake Mr. Brooks' hand
That same level of excitement filtered into other areas of the con as I explored after my volunteering shift had ended, most notably in the other celebrity signing areas. The line to see Stan Lee must have wound around to at least a five-hour wait — father of modern comics or not, that's a whole lotta standing to see one man. But wait they did, and one by one they filtered out smiling.
Those smiles are reassuring to me. They're an indicator that meeting an idol is an experience I've been unconsciously discounting until now, and give a backing (to me, at least) that these types of conventions do grant fans a unique experience that extends beyond something bought and placed in a bag.
Cons can sometimes leave me feeling a bit unnerved — when you're on the show floor and surrounded by booths and price tags attached to knick-knacks of every variety, it's hard to shake the feeling that so much of what's going on around you is merchandizing, gleefully engorged.
Seeing cheerful folks leaving a line with a signed book or photograph — or even just after a quick conversation — from a favorite actor or author helps to dispel that. (It also helps that Mr. Brooks embodied just about the consummate fan/fame interaction — if all celebrities were that courteous, kind and human, TMZ would implode in a matter of days.) It's enough to keep me coming back for more.
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