Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
It’s that time of year again! Anne and I are at Wizard World Chicago in scenic Rosemont, IL, where we’re so far having a blast even though parts of it resemble hard work and our feet feel battle-damaged after two days of endless walking, standing, lining up, shuffling forward in cattle-call formation, and scurrying toward exciting people and things…
My wife and I took an okay number of photos over the course of our three-day stay and will once again be sharing the most usable over the next several entries.
Tonight’s episode: RETURN OF THE JAZZ HANDS.
My wife has been a collector of actors’ autographs since before we started hanging out together decades ago (and she loves thanking actors in person who excelled in stuff she’s watched), and I’ve amassed my own sizable collection of inscriptions from dozens of comics writers and artists (plus some actors). At last year’s Wizard World Chicago we had an epiphany and decided to try a photo op instead. Longtime MCC followers have seen other examples over the past twelve months, but we picked up on a few key benefits from the results of that first foray:
* Sometimes the photo ops aren’t much more expensive than their autographs. In rare cases (cf. Matt Smith) they can be cheaper
* There’s zero chance that the results will be eBay’d, so the actor can rest assured you’re not a greedy vulture
* Photo-op lines are herded at twenty times the speed of an autograph line
* Photo-op schedules are more etched in stone, less likely to start an hour late (or worse)
* For sharing purposes, online friends love photos of familiar faces, but tend to be lukewarm on scans of unrecognizable scrawls
Photo ops have their own drawbacks, of course. The times are less flexible, so it can be tougher to coordinate your schedule with panels and other appointments. You’re in the photo booth a maximum of ten seconds, which means no time for in-depth conversation or heartfelt speeches (which, to be fair, weren’t much likelier to fly in the autograph line). Camera-shy fans may experience some psychological discomfort. There’s still the part where they cost money.
But we planned ahead for that last part. We saved up for months in advance and prepaid some of our con and travel expenses so they were already off our ledger before the big weekend arrived. We’re not upper-class by any means, but we can attain some pretty unusual goals when set our minds to it through the joy and power of marriage teamwork.
Some of the biggest-name guests could be snapped only at the professional photo ops. Exhibit A: Jeremy Renner, a.k.a. Hawkeye. We knew thousands of fans would converge on Rosemont to catch him at an extremely rare con appearance (his last for the foreseeable future, rumor has it) and we knew a photo at his autograph table would be impossible, maybe even a punishable offense. Hence, photo op. Renner was in high spirits, he’s as tall as I imagined, and he has about a sixteen-inch waist that shames all the unhealthy guys in the room.
Some actors will do either the big-ticket photo ops or allow pics at their autograph table with your own camera for a lower price. We met a few folks amenable to the latter, including TV’s Summer Glau.
Firefly was her first acting job, but she was equally impressive on the deplorably underrated Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles, which was better than at least three of the Terminator films. She’s also a new mom, and I used up my allotted microseconds on a personal parenting anecdote before moving on. Far as I saw, she was sweet to everyone.
Later, while I was trapped in another autograph line, Anne snuck away for a separate encounter with Sean Patrick Flannery. He’s been to WWC a few times largely on the strength of Boondock Saints, but she remembers him well as one of the stars of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, which time and fandom have mostly dismissed. Not her.
New rule began for me this year: if anyone from The Wire does a convention, I say yes. I first enforced this rule at C2E2 last April, and I stuck to it here. I was delighted to meet Seth Gilliam, currently at work as the deeply troubled Father Gabriel on AMC’s The Walking Dead, but I saw him first as Baltimore’s own Lieutenant Ellis Carver, another guy who did what he thought he had to, only to see things keep going terribly wrong.
(Will Father Gabriel recover anywhere near as well as Carver eventually did? Time will tell, unless Gabriel dies next. I’m hoping not.)
We approached Gilliam’s table late Saturday after his posted autograph times were over, but he was still in the vicinity, albeit on break. While we waited (a fast fifteen minutes, all told), Anne turned and snapped his neighbor Scott Wilson, whose classic In Cold Blood will be coming to the Criterion Collection in November.
Meanwhile at the booth on Wilson’s other side, Michael Rooker (Merle! Yondu!) got himself embroiled in an impromptu lightsaber duel with a younger fan. The action was fast and the pics were blurry, but that was indeed a sight to see. In hindsight I think Cliffhanger would’ve been such a better movie if Rooker the sidekick had been a Jedi instead.
Renner was one of four photo ops we shelled out for in all. Early Saturday morning, I had myself an appointment with the Nathan Fillion — captain of the Serenity, solver of ABC mysteries, Captain Hammer from Dr. Horrible, Dogberry from Much Ado About Nothing, man’s man and hero’s hero.
He made eye contact with every fan who’d let him, shook every hand, and asked everyone their name. When I asked if we could do jazz hands, he commanded with neither blink nor pause, “Done.” And thus it was jazzed.
Nearly all these pics were taken on Saturday, except for Renner’s (a Sunday-only gig) and one impulsive Friday shot with Jon Bernthal, formerly of The Walking Dead and soon to be the Punisher on the next season of Netflix’s Marvel’s Daredevil. Considering what a presence Shane had on TWD, I expected him to be a 6-foot-8 soldier, but he’s not quite. I didn’t mind explaining the “jazz hands” concept and, y’know, for a first-timer I think it worked for him. Maybe he can use this move again sometime and really mess with Daredevil’s head.
(Curiously, if you compare the lone Friday pic to all the other pics, apparently I lost a ton of weight in our first eighteen hours at WWC. Walking many miles around a show floor, plus to and from distant parking garages, can work miracles for you, I guess.)
Not every star is prepared for the intense physical rigor of performing five seconds’ worth of jazz hands. Sometimes (not always) we know better than to ask. Besides, my wife was so tickled to meet the Burt Reynolds, now age 79, that she refused to impose. Can’t blame her one bit.
It’s a shame that millions of youngsters like my son know Reynolds from nowhere except SNL’s “Celebrity Jeopardy!” Alas, if only the Cannonball Run series hadn’t ended prematurely. Anne, on the other hand, is one of the world’s most comprehensive fans of the original Twilight Zone and can tell you every famous actor who ever did an episode, and can tell you the title, season, and plot. Reynolds had a long, glamorous film career, but in her book he wins for the season-four hour-long episode “The Bard”, in which he played an alt-universe Marlon Brando who argues character motivation with the ghost of William Shakespeare. The full episode is up on Hulu and it’s an interesting reminder of Burt-that-was, before his biggest movies took him in a different direction.
To be continued! Other chapters in this special MCC miniseries:
Prologue: Five Shots from Our Convention Weekend in Progress
Part 1: Team Cosplay
Part 2: Marvel Cosplay
Part 3: DC vs. Star Wars Cosplay
Part 4: Last Call for Cosplay
Part 6: Cars and Other Objects
Part 7: Why We Convention