This has been a few weeks in coming. Now I have finished my chronicle of my time volunteering at Calgary Expo, I can focus some time on other stuff – like how to not look like a fool when meeting a celebrity.
These rules apply almost universally – except when the celebrity is David Suzuki. If you’re unfortunate enough to meet him, then you have my permission to berate and insult him with great vengeance and furious anger, as you lay your vengeance upon him. (Just keep it legal, okay?)
Working, as I did last June with William Shatner, enabled me to see and hear some of the things that people did when filing past, either at photo ops or autograph signings.
Many people were great; others, not so much. Some of these items, I have messed up as well, and this list, by no stretch of the imagination, is exhaustive or authoritative; but merely consists of my observations from the weekend.
Do: Be polite. It may seem obvious, but it’s amazing how many people, well, aren’t
Don’t: Expect a chance to visit, or ask that Deep and Meaningful Question That You Have Always Wanted To Ask. The more popular the celebrity, the more serious this gets. There are loads of people behind you waiting for their moment, just like there were loads of people in front of you. If a celebrity spent a minute with each person, or worse, 5 minutes, imagine how long each person would need to wait. It just isn’t feasible. If you try, expect an ominous-looking, black-clad “Crowd Management Dude” to step in, say, firmly, “thank you for coming,” and then escort you out.
Do: Have your stuff ready to be signed. It saves everyone time.
Don’t: Try to think of something witty, or off-the-wall, or otherwise “individual” to make the celebrity remember you. They won’t, and you’ll just come across looking like an idiot. For example, Asking William Shatner, “so what’s your favourite Star Wars movie?” isn’t funny; it’s stupid. You know it, he knows it, and he’s heard it at least fifty thousand times before.
Do: Respect the celebrity’s handshake policy. Shaking hands can transmit germs and viruses, which some celebrities try to avoid, and also, given most are right-handed, constant handshakes can exacerbate cramping which can develop after hours of signing things. Many will prefer a fist-bump.
Don’t: Ask the celebrity to hold something, or do a ridiculous hand-gesture at the photo op. Some teenager asked Mr. Shatner if he would give a hand gesture, “Sure, how’s this?” asked Mr. Shatner, raising his middle finger. I don’t blame him one bit.
Do: Say thank you.
Don’t: Present the celebrity with a printout of a family tree showing how you’re their distant relative. They don’t care. No, really: they don’t.
Do: Relax. Play it cool. A celebrity is a human being after all. Be respectful, but remember – they’re not God. Treat them like a human.
Don’t: Go FanBoy. This is related to the item directly above. It’s easy to do, as it can be exciting to meet and talk to them, but babbling on about how excited you are and how wonderful they are and how you named your cat after them and how your sister met them at convention Xyz and how … ugh.
Do: Remember that the actor is not the character they play, and has emotions, moods, and may be tired after a long flight.
Don’t: Address the actor by the name of the character or characters he’s played. Additionally, don’t ask the actor to sign as one of their characters. Mr. Shatner’s name is William Shatner, not James T. Kirk, T.J. Hooker, Denny Crane, or Buck Murdoch.
Do: Compliment the celebrity for the quality of her work – appropriately. When I met Mira Furlan, I told her I was a huge Babylon 5 fan – and I am – however I didn’t go on and on about how wonderful she was as Delenn. She’s a good actress, and the quality of the character she played proves it.
Don’t: expect personalization. If it’s offered and you want it, then by all means, accept it, but unless it’s offered, leave it alone. Usually, this is due to time constraints, so the busier the place is, the less likely it is to be offered.
Do: Remember your basic social skills. If you’re Sheldon, this is going to be more difficult for you; but for most of us, geeks and non-geeks alike, this should be a no-brainer. Brush your teeth, take a shower, don’t interrupt people.
There you go! Follow these simple guidelines, and your meeting with a celebrity experience will go smoothly. If I come up with any others, I’ll add them as I remember them.