Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sorry, Brad Pitt. But if you and Philip Pullman were walking down the street, I would shove you out of my path to the Great Pullman like a sack of overly handsome potatoes.

I've mentioned before that I interned for The Hollywood Reporter in college. In a previous post I spoke about one of the less fun aspects of the job: Hours of mind-numbing transcription.

Now I'm going to discuss one the most fun aspects: Covering events. Once I'd proven my mettle by breaking a story on Baz Luhrmann's plans to direct an adaptation of The Great Gatsby (say what you will about the recently released trailer)I suddenly had much more to do at work than transcription. I wrote a few blog pieces, and even got to hang around in my pajamas in the early morning after the Golden Globes nominations were announced, waiting to be called at home for interviews with the nominees on their reactions.

The magazine also started sending me out to cover premieres, parties, and screenings around New York City for the About Town events page. Covering events was kind of a Poor College Kid's Paradise. I got to watch movies for free. I got to eat popcorn for free. I could scrounge up enough food at the after parties to get out of procuring dinner for myself that night. All in all it was a pretty sweet deal for my broke-assed twenty-year-old self.

While I got to eat food that was better than in restaurants and see movies that weren't in theaters yet, the trade-off was that I had to get up the courage to interview celebrities and executives for quotes. Sometimes publicists set up interviews but often it was every reporter for her or himself. I was terrified at my first event, and it didn't help that the first celebrity I approached looked over my head and said he "really didn't have time for this."

But I happily discovered that same night that not all of them would be that way. Some would tell heartfelt stories about their commitment to independent film. Others would give me a perfectly hilarious quote right off the bat, then proceed to recommend some great places to play ping pong in my dorm's neighborhood. 

It was surprisingly easy to get used to talking to actors I admired and executives who could have built literal castles out of their fortunes. After a few minutes of weirdness, the people I knew from the television or movie screens shifted into simply people, and nothing more.

So you might be surprised to know how incredibly not cool and collected I've been on occasions when I've met famous writers. You would think that if I could keep calm around A-list actors I could deal with meeting a comic writer in a crowded bar. Or that I could get a book signed at Barnes & Noble without grinning like some kind of Jokeresque lunatic. 

But no. Whatever you're working right now zen I was able to muster in my Reporter days utterly deserts me when I meet writers I like. I did get the chance to interview a very well-known writer once when I was an intern. Luckily I had never read her writing and was interviewing the author about something completely unrelated to her work. So now that I have read and adored her books, I get to remember her as the adorable lady who complimented my Mary Janes, as opposed to the adorable lady whose drink I spilled because my hands were shaking because OH MY GOD SHE WRITES THE MOST AWESOME WORDS.

To the wonderful writers of the world I am ever lucky enough to meet: I’m sorry I will most likely lose my shit the first time I meet you. My palms will sweat, my already googly eyes will get even googlier, and I will speak in half-sentences that make little to no sense, like: 

“Books, I love read them.”

“You write historical fiction that is best.”

“Review in Kirkus at job. Congrats?”

I promise I can usually speak words just fine. I even write them down--for money, on occasion! I can talk to the latest big screen superhero without breaking a sweat, but I just get too excited about great writing to even make coherent sense.

Sorry about your sweater, Neil Gaiman.

P.S. I didn’t do anything to Neil Gaiman’s sweater, and in fact have never met him. But I’m going to consider that one time he retweeted my blog post as the beginning of a beautiful broship—if a mostly one-sided one.

If we ever do meet, Mr. Gaiman, I promise to be very careful with any and all sweaters involved. 


  1. I can totally relate to this. I met writer James Rollins just after he'd written the Indiana Jones book. His stuff got me through the hospital when my Dad had a heart attack. I felt so out of place and totally inept, but he was so gracious I was able to do it. I met him at his book signing and he spent more time with me than he should have.
    My geekiest, though? Adam Savage. Same thing - gracious as hell.
    But even though I've talked with world leaders, politicians, presidential candidates . . . it's those personal ones - meeting your heroes - that unnerve you. Particularly when you worry they may be just that heartbeat off from courteous or out-and-out nasty. The ego overtaking the grace. That's what always bothered me. When I met my hero - BB King - I was so concerned because his people were awful. But he was amazing. He gave us an hour instead of the 10 minutes his people promised. That night he pulled me backstage, hugged my 5-year-old daughter (my wife couldn't attend) and was gracious and thankful for my presence. I was weak-kneed like a kid with jello for knees.
    My advice to you: keep a camera, and then you have evidence to brag about forever.
    Or at least until Neil Gaiman re-tweets you again.

    1. Definitely--it's always the personal ones that get you. I have a hard time asking for pictures with celebrities/authors. Doing so was so off-limits back in my intern days that now I still feel weird about it even in non-work settings. I do have a picture of Neil Gaiman retweeting me though, at least :)