Monday, July 15, 2013

Hail to the King, Baby or Micturating with Hollywood's Most Famous Chin

            Being a teacher usually leads to the need for a second job to supplement the actual career. I’ve always made a point to find part time jobs that were fun in some aspects. When I moved back to Savannah, I became a ghost tour guide. During my first marriage, I’d escape Satan’s Step Daughter to the boys club which was Charlie’s Package Store. During my Snellville days, I worked part time at a bookstore that I think has gone out of business called Chapter 11.

            During my three years selling books I had some outstanding experiences. The opportunity arose to re-touch base with author, Terry Kay and YHC alum, Zell Miller. The author who wrote the Junie B. Jones series refused to travel so the publishers sent out an actress to play the title character who’d show up in a purple school bus.  Imagine my surprise when “Junie” hit on me after her show while I thought I was just being helpful by suggesting decent places to eat nearby. Awkward.

There was an outstanding day when Oliver North announced over conservative talk radio how be signing at our store later that day he’d love to personalize each and every copy of his book which went directly against the strict orders given by his handlers/publishers. My entire day was spent dealing with pre-Tea Party readers and how I was wrong to deny customers.

            At one point some guy from NC was shouting at me via his phone how I didn’t know shit because he heard Ol’ Ollie say he’s personalize on Sean Hannity. I took a moment in reminding my caller who he was speaking of the same guy who lied to Congress so what chance did any of us have for anything being true? The only sound was the laughter of my manager who was motioning for me to just go ahead and hang up the phone.

            This particular event would lead me to another book signing where the author had requested volunteer staff who were assertive and familiar with his work. It was 2005 so this guy hadn’t hit the pop culture status he has now. I knew him from the Evil Dead movies, the Sam Raimi Spider-Mans, and Xena. Only one other co-worker, Sandy my asst manager, had any idea why we should be getting excited about the chance to work with Bruce Campbell so we signed right up and was accepted.

            Campbell was in town promoting his new book Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way and decided to hold a screening of his first attempt at directing his own picture The Man with the Screaming Brain. By this point, I had worked several signings but never been to a screening before so to quote REM, I was feeling “kind of psyched.”

            About an hour before the Plaza Theater opened its doors for the signing,  Sandy and I were given the task of going through the line and passing out index cards for the attendees to write their names for personalized autographs. (You’d be surprised at the number of authors or their handlers who don’t go for the personalized touch but unlike Ollie’s folks, Bruce was all about it).     

The line wrapped around the Plaza theatre and well into the sidewalk along the street. It was also the craziest assortment of people I had ever seen at a signing. Even Sandy was taken off guard and she’d been with Chapter 11 for ten plus years. The crowd looked as if Dragon Con had dropped off all their Evil Dead fans right in the parking lot of the Plaza Theatre. It would also be Chapter 11’s only time that I had the honor of sharing with the crowd how chain saws wouldn’t be allowed inside for the signing.  After a huge crowd sighing “Awwwww” about fifty people walked back to their cars to lock up said apparatuses.
borrowed from

With that uncomfortable chore finished, Sandy and I returned inside just in time to have our own meet and greet with the most famous chin in Hollywood, Bruce Campbell. I was very impressed with how gracious Campbell was and insisted we all call him Bruce. After some questions and joking around, Bruce got right down to business.

Bruce started off, “I want to take a sec to thank you guys from your normal routine. I am guessing this is your normal crowd you guys deal with at these singings.” After a laugh or two from us, he went on,” I realize there are some Grade A weirdoes out there and some are just downright scary but I want you guys to realize those weirdoes got me here and help put food on my family’s table.”

Campbell went on for a few more minutes and I realized how in addition to being a nice guy, he was also pretty sharp on the best way to play a room. He was the first to admit how he was nowhere close to big Hollywood bucks so these people had to walk away feeling great about meeting Bruce. Campbell also interjected that if he spent five minutes with each person we’d get out sometime next week so it’s also imperative to keep the crowd moving.

            At this point, he requested an assistant to stand beside him to keep things going and had no problems telling one of the attendees “no” to things like pictures and such. Odd how Sandy and the other Chapter 11 volunteers all turned and looked at me.

“Big man, “Bruce Campbell said looking at me. “You up to this task? Your job is to take the brunt when the fans are irritated they don’t get what they want. No shame in saying no.”

“I work with special ed high school kids kicked out of their regular schools and one step from prison.” I responded to the Evil Dead star with a smile.

“Shit, I should hire you on fulltime, Big man. What’s your name? ” We both laughed and a partnership was created.

So that was my next four hours with Bruce Campbell. He’d sit at his table while I stood next to him and would interject when someone wanted a pic with him.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. Campbell but time doesn’t allow for this.” Became my patented response as Bruce would look hurt leaving the fans sympathetic to him while I received more than my fair share of boos and hisses.  We were both playing a role here and I was actually digging mine.

Campbell was shrewd. When I’d say no to a fan for whatever various reason, he’d stop and talk personally with them about a variety of subjects ranging from the best places to eat around Atlanta to his favorite drink recipes. I began to realize it was Campbell’s way of personalizing the fan experience so each fan walked away with a special moment with Bruce. Pretty cool and I learned how to make mean Dark and Stormy.
Campbell also suggested garnish w/ coconut

About three hours in, Bruce said he needed to take a break from all the signings. He got up and began to walk to the restroom when he turned to me and whispered, “You’re my body guard on this one, Robby. I gotta pee and don’t really want my fans to see all of me if you know what I mean.” We both chuckled as I escorted Bruce Campbell to the restroom.

I stood outside the restroom as the Plaza staff put up those velvet ropes keeping the hallway clear. It was then when I also began to feel that pressing need to pee too and realized matters must be dealt with. I walked in the Plaza’s restroom leaving a buffer urinal between us and commenced business.

“Sorry, Mr. Campbell, I said as I relieved myself. “I swear I’m not a perv but had to really pee too.”

Bruce Campbell laughed. “No worries and it’s Bruce. Mr. Campbell is my dad, Robby”  

We both stood in silence and peed.

It’s an unspoken law between men that while peeing you do the following:

1.       Eyes forward with no accidental side glances

2.      Draw no attention to yourself

3.      You also do not speak to others around you  (unless drunk )


Imagine my surprise as Bruce Campbell becomes Chatty Frickin’ Cathy while we are

peeing. “So you do a lot of these signings, Rob?”

            I am frozen because all man rules are being broken here. I know everything is on the up-and-up but still bathroom stuff has always made me self conscious. My brain was a whirl. Finally that little voice I have learned to listen to over the years began to yell inside of my head.

            “Dumb Ass! If Bruce Campbell wants to chat with you while you guys are peeing, you do so!!!” 

            I relaxed and answered,” I do a few but rarely anyone big because I work in one of the smaller stores located out of the Atlanta perimeter.”

            W chatted as things wrapped up and we began to wash hands. My head was scrolling with questions to ask. My brain searched for that just right thing to ask. I wanted to say something about all his work with Sam Raimi but knew Campbell had heard it a million times. Finally, it hit me.

            “Got a crazy question for you, Bruce.”

            “Hit me.”

            “Okay, you are fantastic with your fans and quite frankly, much nicer than several authors I’ve met but I got to ask, how does it feel when you meet a fan who has Ash tattooed on their body?  I mean you have become a permanent fixture of that person.”

            Campbell began drying his hands and pondering.

 He smiled and answered, “Honest answer? It scares the hell out of me.”

We both laughed for a second and he went on,” Sam and I did some crazy movies that we both love dearly and it thrills me to see others share in our love. Yet it’s just wild to me that someone would want to put my mug on their arm or elsewhere for good. Don’t think I don’t appreciate it but it’s a bit unnerving at times.”

We began the trek back to signing table. As we walked out the restroom door, Campbell slapped me on the back and said,” That’s a great question.”

The next couple of hours were a blur with more of the previous. Me saying no to a fan while Campbell played up to his fans. It was impressive. I began to realize this guy may never hit Tom Cruise status but he was quite comfortable in this element. Bruce Campbell meet with folks from all walks of life to the little kids with his dad who just watched Army of Darkness to the stereotypical overweight guy who fashioned a homemade chainsaw to wear over his hand. Campbell signed everything from DVDs, posters to a few arms that were headed to the tattoo parlor to be permanently inked. Campbell looked at me on those and we both smiled at our private joke.

It looks like GAULS but Bruce really signed ELVIS
Bruce was kind enough to sign my 50,000,000 Elvis fans action figure and chuckled as he did right before the signing ended and his screening began. He invited all of the volunteers to watch for free and I wanted to but unfortunately, it was already approaching 9pm and I had school the next day. Sandy stayed and said it was awesome especially when Bruce did a Q&A with the crowd afterward.  

I did hate that I missed that as well as a free movie with the writer/director/star but I had learned early on how it never pays to go into school. In retrospect, I’m glad it went this way. I had several opportunities afforded to me that day. I spent several hours working alongside with Bruce Campbell, got something signed and even a picture together. I am guessing there are several people who can say but not everyone has the distinction of claiming they got to pee with Bruce Campbell.
Lousy shot of me. Awesome Star to work with

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