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Old 05-16-2010, 05:44 AM   #1 (permalink)
My future is coming on
 
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On celebrities and fandom

This might belong more in Philosophy, but I'm gonna put it here anyhow.

My entire household are huge fans of Jonathan Coulton. If you don't know who he is, google him and remedy that immediately. The dude is brilliant. He wrote the closing song for Portal, he wrote "Code Monkey," and a 5-minute-long, very heartfelt cover of "Baby Got Back." His concerts are a microcosm of geekdom.

Anyhow, we just got the opportunity to see him in concert on Friday, and it was awesome.

Afterward (and let me preface this whole thing by saying I am an admitted over-thinker...if you are going to tell me I think too much, just stop reading now, or skip to the bold part) I really struggled with whether or not to hang out and wait for him to come out and sign autographs. Partly because it was late and I was tired, but partly because what would it really accomplish? I would 1) have an opportunity to tell him how great he is, and 2) get proof in the form of an autograph and/or photo that I got to stand next to him.

So...I sort of got to do the first - I turned into an incoherent giggling fangirl and really, you don't want to take up the guy's time by what, listing all the songs you love and why? The guy's tired and there are people in line behind you. And I got the 2nd:



That's Paul and Storm, the opening act and also incredibly funny performers, and Stellaluna and me and JoCo.

But ultimately it was a little disappointing and after a couple of days of kicking it around in my head, I think I figured out why. I think I just wanted to be noticed by this incredibly smart and talented person and distinguished somehow from the million other fans. And that's such a weird and unrealistic expectation.

I've never really been a "fan" before. I love Star Trek, but not enough to go to Cons. I respect many musicians, but I don't go to a lot of concerts.

So what is it that makes someone a "fan" and what do fans really want when they meet one of their idols?
Are we indulging some fantasy that we'll get to be friends with this person? Is it just an opportunity to show your friends that you were actually there? Is it the opportunity to tell them in person how much you admire them?

In the end I think I've decided that since we live in a digital age I can write the guy an email and say what I didn't get to say while my brain was turning into mush standing there in front of him: you're awesome, thank you for writing music that speaks to me.
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Old 05-16-2010, 06:21 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Lurkette, thank you for this thread. I have a lot of thoughts about this subject, and I hope you don't mind if I indulge myself. By the way, congratulations on your awesome fan experience!

First of all, I think all humans, no matter how cynical or methodical, have an urge to connect to some "magic." We need that feeling of electricity in our lives, and celebrities are perfect for that. Realistically, John Lennon was just a white guy who played guitar, sang some songs, and wrote some songs. Millions of people can do that, right? What's the big deal? However, anyone who was ever around Lennon in person usually remarks on the electricity surrounding him. Magic. Charisma. Immortality. All of those things. Through some quirk of fate and karma, Lennon transcended all those other boring singer-songwriters and soared, and you couldn't NOT notice it in his presence. I believe that all celebrities share that same quality, and their irresistability lifts our lives in some way we can't explain.

Having said that, I've been blessed to know and spend time with some celebrities (music, acting, sports, etc.) and I've seen them as "normal" people. My relationships with them always causes me to re-think my "fan" attitude towards other celebrities, and I try to relate my experiences with my idols back to my relationships with other celebrities. Just like you, I want to ask them the one question that will cause them to remember me. I want to make such a cool impression on them that they will want to maintain correspondence with me. I want my own private tap-line into that magic.

What I have come to believe is that celebrities are more apt to remember your interaction with them if you ask them something that relates to them being a "normal" person. Trust me, whatever brilliant question you think you've conjured about their career or art, thousands of other people have beat you to the question, and they've probably settled back into giving rehearsed, meaningless answers. Ask them something that makes them snap out of monotony and actually makes them think.

My favorite question is, "What all did you get to do today?"

If you are lucky enough to get a follow-up, THEN ask that brilliant question about their career and art. You might actually get a sincere answer from that angle.

Now, after having typed all that psycho-nonsense, I have no doubt that if I found myself face to face with Sir Paul McCartney, I would be reduced to a useless, babbling idiot, and I would totally blow whatever miraculous chance I had.
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Old 05-16-2010, 10:53 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I don't really do the typical "fan" bit. Most of the people I am a fan of are musicians. I've been to a lot of concerts and met a lot of the bands I'm a fan of. It's never really that weird. Usually, I'll just be sitting at the bar and they'll walk up and I'll probably strike up a conversation. Not because they're in a band I like, but because that's what I do with everybody in that type of environment.

This type of thing has even led to some of the people I consider myself a big fan of getting trashed with me, crashing at my house, being gone the next morning, and that's that.

Basically, in answer to your bolded question, I think if you appreciate someone for what they put out to the world, you're a fan. Through being a fan you begin to idolize people, and that seems to naturally lead to wanting to meet those people and find out what they're truly like.

I think if you just remember that no matter how much you idolize that person, they're still just people, things are more natural and you actually have a better chance at getting to know them a bit. Even if it is just briefly.
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Old 05-16-2010, 04:58 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Hey Lurkette

I tend to over think these sorts of things too. There are any number of actors, famous chefs, directors, that I have had access to in the course of my career. Some of whom I managed to interview, some for whom I did their PR and others who were just around at industry events.

With one notable exception (my very recent encounter will William Shatner) I have never gone out of my way to get an autograph a picture or any of that sort of stuff. I don't really want to meet these people in that sort of circumstance. I find it entirely weird to stand and gush to the person about how cool they are, etc. Having done PR, I've seen fans do this to a few celebrities and it's always just a little bit more than awkward and I never wanted to put myself in that same position.

The best encounters I've had with celebrities are where I am encountering them for work (PR, interviews, etc.). I suppose it felt like a legitimate excuse to meet someone. Less contrived (interestingly, I often feel the same about world travel... business travel is somehow less contrived than other forms of travel... but I digress).

The only other exception to this is when you are introduced. I was waiting in line at a sushi restaurant with a producer I know. In line, in front of us was the actor Jeff Bridges. The producer had made a film with him the year before and struck up a conversation. He introduced me. Clearly I was thrilled to meet him but had there not been an introduction, I would never have intruded upon him for a chat.

I guess it comes down to two things:

1) I don't want to intrude on them.
2) I don't want to meet someone in those sorts of circumstances. I have no desire to have an autograph (I wouldn't know what to do with it). I would rather just appreciate their art than meet the person behind it in an, inevitably, awkward encounter.
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Old 05-16-2010, 05:24 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlatan View Post
I don't really want to meet these people in that sort of circumstance. I find it entirely weird to stand and gush to the person about how cool they are, etc. Having done PR, I've seen fans do this to a few celebrities and it's always just a little bit more than awkward and I never wanted to put myself in that same position.

[....]

I guess it comes down to two things:

1) I don't want to intrude on them.
2) I don't want to meet someone in those sorts of circumstances. I have no desire to have an autograph (I wouldn't know what to do with it). I would rather just appreciate their art than meet the person behind it in an, inevitably, awkward encounter.
Exactly! Like, in this situation (after a concert) what is there to say, exactly, besides "I really enjoyed the concert and you're awesome"? And I'm making them stand around when they're tired and sweaty and probably want a shower and/or beer. I didn't feel like it was intruding exactly...it's kind of expected. But I really don't think I would go up to someone famous just on the street or something and intrude on them. So it feels weird to do it at all just because you came to their concert. What an odd set of conventions we have around concerts. Don't get me started on the whole "encore" charade. (Which, incidentally, Jonathan Coulton mocked in the concert.)

Quote:
The only other exception to this is when you are introduced.
So does anybody know Jonathan Coulton, and could you introduce me?

Thank you all for confirming that yes, this whole thing is weird and for helping me work through why exactly it feels so weird.
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Old 05-19-2010, 03:21 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Here's how I put it to our lurkette as she's been processing this over the last few days:

Let's say, at the end of your workday, waiting outside your office door, there was a pack of like twenty people who have been waiting there to congratulate you and adore you and just sort of generally lose their shit when you walk out. Wouldn't that be the best part of your day? And if you didn't want that to happen, couldn't you go out by the office back door instead?

This whole "I don't want to intrude" thing is, IMO, a bit misplaced when the artist himself is walking out to meet the hard-core fans in the theater lobby at the end of the night. As a former performing musician, the post-gig accolades are one of the best parts of the thing.
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Old 05-19-2010, 04:20 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ratbastid View Post
Here's how I put it to our lurkette as she's been processing this over the last few days:

Let's say, at the end of your workday, waiting outside your office door, there was a pack of like twenty people who have been waiting there to congratulate you and adore you and just sort of generally lose their shit when you walk out. Wouldn't that be the best part of your day? And if you didn't want that to happen, couldn't you go out by the office back door instead?

This whole "I don't want to intrude" thing is, IMO, a bit misplaced when the artist himself is walking out to meet the hard-core fans in the theater lobby at the end of the night. As a former performing musician, the post-gig accolades are one of the best parts of the thing.

It's all about context. I agree, if the performer is coming out to the lobby, to say hello. That's cool.

If you are skulking around the stage door waiting for them to come out the back... That, I am not so cool with.

If they are in a mall shopping for socks. This too, is not a good to approach them.
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