Halloween With The King

Only about a week in advance, I learned that Bruce Campbell was coming to a book signing at the local mall on Halloween of 2002. I had already met him at a small scifi convention in November of 2000, but I thought I might as well pop in and see him again. So on Halloween afternoon, I headed off to the mall, semi-costumed in my best slightly spectral blue dress and gothic jewelry—little knowing that I’d have to do more than just "pop in" to see Bruce.

The comic-book store where he was to appear was just below the upstairs food court… and not hard to find, considering the few hundred people crowded in front of it. The attention at first was focused on a stage outside, where shortly after my arrival a store employee explained that in order to get a signing with Bruce, one had to own his book "If Chins Could Kill"—or if not already own it, then put in an order for it from them, since they were of course sold out. I did not know about this little prerequisite…

Naturally, there was a long line to order the book, a process which involved getting a numbered ticket. The tickets would determine the order in which people were taken for signings—and mine was well over #500. Later I would learn they capped off the signings at 700, having vastly underestimated the number of fans who showed up.

While I was waiting in line, Bruce emerged from the back of the store and walked past an arm’s length from me, on his way to the stage for a brief Q&A session at 4pm. He was dressed in a sharp-looking black outfit with a gray shirt, and looked terrific.

I finally got the bleedin’ book ticket and, a short person in search of a decent view for what was left of the Q&A, went up to the food court’s balcony. All vantage points not obscured by the (usually attractive, but suddenly very annoying) palm trees were taken. I ended up squeezed into a corner by a pillar, almost literally on top of Bruce, and spent the next 15 minutes or so staring down at him. The sound quality of the microphone was pretty bad, so I couldn’t make out much from up there. I’ll paraphrase what I can recall:

Q: Do you have any plans to play Ash again? (This despite the huge poster out front, which explicitly stated that there are no plans for a fourth Evil Dead movie.)
A: (looking dumbfounded) I’m hesitating because I’ve never heard that question before…

Q: What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?
A: …Coming here. (Another dumbfounded look when the audience applauded!)

Q: (yelled out by the guy standing next to me topside) What do you want out of life?
A: …What Orlando has to offer. (More applause.)

Q: Do you want to go out for a beer?
A: Sure, let’s go!

Bruce was also handed up a cellphone, and evidently launched into some kind of anecdote for the person on the other end of the line, which was highly entertaining.

After the Q&A, Bruce went off to take a break before the signing began. Ticket numbers were being called in groups of 30 and 40, so I was going to have a long time to wait. I had dinner and tried to get in a bit of mall browsing—but there was one more thing I hadn’t realized. Fashion Square is one of those malls that invites children to trick-or-treat from store to store. Within an hour, the place was swarming with little gremlins.

Mermaids and witches were the happening thing for girls. For boys there were plenty of ninjas and Star Wars characters, but I think what I saw the most by far was, ironically, little Spidermen. However, my favorite had to be the Jawa, complete with the glowing eyes.

Suffice it to say I did quite a few laps of the mall, periodically checking back in to see what numbers they were on. At first it was a complete and total zoo outside the store, especially when they were doing a raffle-type giveaway of movie posters. Nothing Bruce-related, mind you; it was more like they were getting rid of stuff nobody wanted to buy. In fact, after a while, they stopped calling out ticket numbers and simply began poster-tossing. The mall was due to close at 9pm. The trick-or-treaters and freaks slowly started thinning out, and the stores that had any candy left started passing around the buckets to anyone still present (bringing new meaning to the phrase "Give me some sugar, baby"). With closing time near, they were just reaching the 300 numbers for the signing. It was finally announced that they would be open and Bruce, bless the man, would stay until at least 11pm. The organizers gaffed in not preparing very well for this event or realizing the turnout they would have, but I have to give them a lot of credit for going the extra mile for everyone they could, and Bruce even more so.

It was after 10pm when the early 500 numbers were called in, and after six hours, I finally took my place in line to see Bruce.

He had to have been exhausted by this time, but he was still typical, wonderful, hilarious Bruce. A couple of familes with children were sent to the head of the line so they could take their kids home, and after signing for them, Bruce piped up to ask if there were any more children waiting. Of course he did a well-calculated eye roll when half of the adults in the store raised their hands.

Shortly before my turn, he took a brief break (only the second I had heard of him taking since the signings had begun). While he was absent, an employee came to take down two of the posters promoting the event. "Bruce wants them…"

Things moved quickly once he returned, including my signing, but it was delightful.

As I was stepping forward, he remarked, "And in honor of you, I’m switching pens"—whereupon his black sharpie went bouncing across the table, and he picked up a silver marker instead.

Take that as you will!

When I met Bruce in 2000, he acknowledged my website, and again much later in conversation with another person. Now I told him hello on behalf of his fans at Governor Croque’s Study. I’m not sure whether he was too tired or not to recognize the reference or my name, but as far as I know, he may have.

Now, I completely forgot that I had a "Jack of All Trades" cover issue of a British scifi magazine. What I did bring to have signed was the cover of one of my few video games, "Pitfall 3D" for Playstation. (Actually, it was the first thing I ever saw, or rather heard him in, as the voice of the hero Pitfall Harry. If you’re a Bruce fan and haven’t checked the game out, by all means do. Harry’s taunting "Looo-ser!" is one of my favorite Bruce lines to this day.)

He signed it, as usual adding his character’s name under the squiggle he calls a signature. Unlike Vulkon, this time he made it out to my name. Then I got to do something else not permitted at the con: I sat down beside the table, he leaned his elbow on my shoulder, and we had a few pictures taken together. He was a ham for everyone who posed with him, and the person holding my camera kept laughing. I was told Bruce stuck his tongue out in one of the shots.

Short and sweet, I then shook his hand, paid him a few more praises, and made my way out of the store at a quarter to 11pm. Bruce had been going for nearly seven hours with only a few brief breaks, and he was still at it when I left. He is truly wonderful to his fans.

Well, there you have it—my early birthday present, a Halloween visit with The King.

Bruce speaks to the crowd in the middle of the mall.

Bruce and… Bruce. Note the Jack photo on the door behind him.

Taking the oath of the next signee?

Bruce looks thoughtful, or: "It’s 10:30pm and I have 150 signings to go."

A moment of levity for the commander of the pens.

"Next, please!"

Busy signing away!

The infamous pen switch.

"You little monkey!" Bruce cuts up while posing with me.

ABOVE LEFT: a flier advertising Bruce’s appearance. ABOVE RIGHT: The signed cover to "Pitfall 3D".

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