Monday, October 6, 2014

Celebrities take different approaches with fans at conventions

CINCINNATI — Some celebrities live up to their reputation of being the nicest people they could be and others. … Well, to be nice, I'll say they confirm the popular opinion about being full of themselves.

Let's first take comic-book artist George Perez and TV actor, Henry Winkler, whose most famous role is the one and only Fonzie on "Happy Days." Then I'll move onto the completely opposite end of the spectrum, artist Neal Adams.

Before the Cincinnati Comic Expo (which I attended Sept. 19-21), I had read many online stories about how personable Perez is.

Legendary comic book artist George Perez (left) couldn't have been sweeter when I met him
at the 2014 Cincinnati Comic Expo. Check out how he posed with me!
He's one of the true legends in the business and when I heard he was going to be at this convention, I was worried about one of two things 1) I wouldn't get to talk to him and 2) that Perez would be primadonna/diva material.

Perez couldn't have been any sweeter when I chatted with him. (For more on that interaction, follow this link.) Each morning before the so-called V.I.P.s were allowed to enter the convention hall, I'd take a walk around to not only stretch my legs before a very long day, but also to check out what I might have missed.

Each and every day, Perez was the first major celebrity on "artist row" to be in his booth. And soon thereafter, many, many fans lined up to speak to him. Perez greeted each person with a big smile and exuded genuine enthusiasm all three days.
Julie Newmar chats with a fan.
(Cary Ashby/CARY'S COMICS CRAZE)


Whenever I was on a mission to get pop from the loading dock, I passed by "celebrity row," where Winkler, Julie Newmar (Catwoman from the "Batman" TV series) and TV's Incredible Hulk, Lou Ferrigno had their booths.

Newmar (right) sat in a high-back, comfy looking chair as she signed autographs and had her picture taken with fans of all ages.

Ferrigno's table was unintentionally hilarious as so-called "security guards" dressed in dark fatigues were in front of the booth to make sure fans took their turn and made a proper line.

When I chatted briefly with the TV star and former body-builder and his assistant, one such guard — whom I assume were hired by the the Cincinnati Comic Expo — made sure one man waited behind me until I was done. These guys really took their jobs waaaay too seriously; talk about making my eyes roll!

Winkler was a whole 'nother story. As I said, I passed by his booth whenever I was buying pop for the two comic vendors for whom I was working (and a mutual buddy).
This is typical of the way TV star Henry Winkler (Fonzie from "Happy Days") acts at conventions: Down to earth, interacting with his fans – and taking a genuine interest. (Cary Ashby/CARY'S COMICS CRAZE)

The first time I walked by, I wondered where Winkler was. He was nowhere to be seen at his booth.

That's because the actor better known as the ultra-cool Fonzie rarely sat down. He stood in front of his booth, chatting it up with fans and dishing out hugs. It was easy to tell from Winkler's expression and body language that he legitimately was interested in what people had to tell him.

A true class act.

On the other end of the spectrum was Adams.

As I've said before, I find it appropriate to tell celebrities what their work has meant to me. (When I did this with "definitive Iron Man artist"Bob Layton, he told me he was "blushing a little bit. And I'm confident  he wasn't BS'ing me!)

Adams, on the other hand, had two words to tell me when I told him I adore how well he draws facial expressions — truly a lost art in comics. His response? "Too true"! (Insert my eye-roll.)
Legendary comic-book artist Neal Adams autographs prints
for fans at the 2014 Cincinnati Comic Expo.
(Cary Ashby/CARY'S COMICS CRAZE)

And get this: Adams went on to say he wished other artists would follow his example. (Sheeees, dude!)

Of the three prints I had Adams signed, one of them was the iconic cover of the oversized DC TREASURY EDITION featuring the first multi-part appearance of Adams' co-creation, Ra's al Ghul. I figured I had to buy that one and have Adams personalize his autograph, as it was my first exposure to Adams' art and made Ra's one of my favorite Batman villains.

Despite knowing likely what kind of response I was going to receive (having had the aforementioned conversation the day before), I still told Adams pretty much exactly that. His response? Not a thanks, but: "It's a great piece of art." (I will say Adams was nice enough to shake my hand, not once, but twice.)

Later that day, "Big Ron" Cooper (the vendor for whom I worked) and I were walking out the side door after a loooong day at the con. Here comes Adams and the people working at his massive booth who intersected our path. (I'll give him credit; he smiled. It was a small one, but it was a grin …!)

Once we were out of earshot of Adams and had just walked out of the door, Ron and I went into full snarky mode.

"That was Neal Adams; he's awesome. And if you don't believe it …," Ron said.

"Just ask him; he'll tell you how awesome he is," I finished, joining Ron with a laugh.

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