I could see her across the lobby. I knew that if I was going to meet her now was the time. It was the post performance reception for the opening of the play Hotel Suite at the Walnut Street Theatre. I was standing with my wife who works there and it was perfectly normal for us to mingle with the actors on such occasions.
Yet tonight was different. Tonight the actor standing across the room from me was none other than Marina Sirtis whom I had watched for years as part of the cast of Star Trek, The Next Generation. So I leaned down to Becky and asked, “Can you introduce me?” She paused for a minute and said, “No.”
The exact reasons for her refusal are now lost in time but I have not forgotten the feelings of disappointment and the fact that I was more than a little miffed. Of course I could have just gone over on my own but I did because, well, I couldn’t think of what I would say other than to tell her that I enjoyed her performance that night and that I was a big fan. I was sure she has heard the exact same thing a million times and I didn’t want to come across as a total nerd.
That’s why the introduction was so key to my plan. It might have then allowed for the possibility of something other than perfunctory and brief conversation. And so I went home that night without having met her.
As I reflect on this now I have a hard time remembering why in the world it was so important to me then. I had a chance to reflect on this last month when I went to see Arch Enemy last month in Baltimore.
When the tickets went on sale there was an option to pay more for a VIP package. The extra money (about 2x the GA ticket cost) got you a bunch of swag, entrance to the sound check and time for a meet and greet with the band. I jumped at the chance.
As I stood in line outside the venue I entertained fantasies of how awesome meeting them would be. Would we hit it off and make that more personal connection that I longed for all those years ago at the theatre? Visions of hanging out and pounding beers after the show danced in my head.
Things started out well. Not long after getting inside I was approached by one of the guitarists, Nick Cordle*. Nick (whose dad I know through email) came up and asked if I was, well, me. We chatted for a while… about the tour, the travel from Japan and the few days they had off and about his brand-spanking-new Dean custom shop axe which was proudly wearing. He was kind enough to pose for a picture but then had to get to the sound check.
From that wonderful point of personal connection though everything was carefully orchestrated and managed. The road manager took time to explain the ground rules and then left us for the sound check. Periodically the band’s bouncer would come over and tell people to put their phones away so that no one could take pictures.
The meet and greet itself was nice- I had a few seconds to chat with the band while they signed my poster. They were warm and friendly but there was no time to make the kind of connection I made with Nick. Even if there had been time, they might well not have been interested. And you know what…. I couldn’t blame them.
I have come to realize is that the people I was so desperate to meet are just that- people. That means that they have limited physical and emotional energy to give to their fans, even when their fans are cool priests who hang out in bars. As I know only all too well, being “on” for the public can be exhausting.
And while standing in line at a Con or buying VIP access grants us time to shake their hand or take a selfie, the deeper connection I was seeking is far more elusive. When it happens organically, as it sometimes does if you’re lucky enough to be hanging around back stage or at the bar where the band goes after the show, it can be the best thing in the world. But it can never be forced. I guess that’s what makes those rare encounters so special. So in the end, I am totally fine with the fact that I never got to meet Marina Sirtis.
What about you? Do you geek out at the chance to meet your favorite actor or musician? If so is the selfie or autograph enough for you? Please share your story and thoughts below.
* Late breaking news. Apparently, Nick is no longer with AE. This bums me out since he brought a lot to the band and is a great guy. I’ll keep you posted on where he lands.