Saturday, May 8, 2010

An Afternoon with Nicky

So it’s Friday, April 30, twenty-four hours before the kick off of Free Comic Book Day 2010 at Packrat Comics with a special guest appearance by Nicholas Brendon. I’ve prepared for months, working behind the scenes making arrangements for his visit, working with over 15 artists that will participate in our ‘artist alley’ section, traveling to promote the day in several states. Organizing the store to make sure we had plenty of merchandise and basically freaking out because Xander Harris is coming to my comic shop. I don’t want to meet the guy who played my favorite BTVS character and find out he’s a total jerk. Nicky’s character in BTVS was fun to watch, but what of the man.

At this point, 24 hours before kick off, I think to myself, what’s the worst thing that could happen now? Thinking an afternoon of autographs without photos would be about the worst thing possible, I contact Nicky’s agent to verify the photos were on their way. Sure enough Nicky had picked them up Thursday afternoon and the agent said they looked great! I’d been nervous for weeks, couldn’t sleep well, stressed out thinking, what have I gotten myself into. I’d spent a lot of time, money and energy preparing for what I thought would be a once in a lifetime opportunity for Nicky’s fans in Ohio. But what if no one showed up? Twenty-four hours before the arrival, there is no turning back now.

Twenty-hours before the event and only ten hours before Nicky is supposed to land in Columbus I get a call from his office, his flight out of LA had ‘mechanical’ problems, they’re not sure if there is another flight for him to Columbus. AGH! We all know those Hollywood types are dying to get to Ohio, that’s why there’s no direct flight here. An hour later they call back, Nicky found a flight, but it’s a red eye and he’ll be in Ohio at 9:00am the next morning, with his meet and greet scheduled at 10:30 that didn’t give him much time for any other delays or disasters.

Eighteen hours before the event, I spend the next 4 hours rescheduling cars, hotels and flights. Eight hours before the event, we still have an 80% chance of thunderstorms throughout the day. But at that point, rain was the least of my problems. I grabbed a few quick hours of rest before it was back to the comic shop for final preparations, signage, line control, lights, etc.

I’m off to the hotel to meet Nicky at 9:30. That’s when I get a call on my cell phone, never in my life did I think I’d have a celebrity calling me on my cell phone. Very weird moment passed as I thought about it for a second. He needs something, Nicholas Brendon is calling me because he needs me for something. The something he called for was not something I wanted to hear. He’s in Columbus, but his luggage is in Philadelphia he tells me. But I said, “You’ve got the pictures, right?” No, they were in his luggage. He proceeds to tell me how he verified with the airline that his luggage was headed to Columbus at the same time he was at 7:30 before he boarded, even receiving the ‘thumbs’ up from the baggage handlers.

But, they didn’t arrive when he did. So now my concern from the day before has really happened. Nicky assured me that the airline guaranteed his luggage on the next flight in at 11am, but he needed clean under-ware and was headed off to the mall before meeting us at the hotel. Not wanting to be without photos, I had a plan. His agent had already sent me a digital photo of Nicky a while back for promotional material, so I called the comic shop and sent someone out to get copies. Thank goodness Office Max was open! We’d have something if the luggage didn’t show.

It’s 10:00am and the beautiful banner I’d made was not fitting in the stand, we struggled for a bit until finally agreeing that tape was our only solution. Guests for the meet and greet were starting to come in and the ‘brunch’ wasn’t a brunch after all. There was fruit, yogurt, doughnuts, coffee and water. What kind of breakfast was that? But it was too late for anything to be done about that now. I head to the check in desk at the hotel to get Nicky’s room key and inquire about the breakfast, when he strides thru the door. Nicky was here and he made it. I handed him the room key and he was off for a quick shower before meeting his guests. At this point Nicky had been up for over 24 hours and looked a bit tired, but enthusiastically looking forward to the afternoon of events. After a quick shower and change of, well you know, Nicky comes down stairs and assures me things will be fine, I think he could tell I was beyond stressed. We headed outside for a quick smoke and discussed a few financial matters in private and returned to the ‘brunch’.

Fifteen gracious fans enjoyed over an hour of talk from Nicky. He was surprised that no one discussed his recent legal issues, but shared a bit anyway. His recent trouble didn’t detract from his fans at the meet and greet and didn’t detract from the fans at the shop. After the Q & A and photos, Nicky and I were headed to the shop, with a quick detour to a local Starbucks. He was surprised that Ohio had a Starbucks. I don’t recall what he got to drink other then there were multiple shots of espresso, that may have really been the only thing in there with the ice.

By 1pm we’re at the comic shop and the line is around the building with fans eagerly anticipating his arrival. For the next 4 hours Nicky tells fans stories, signs autographs, gets his picture taken, hugs and kisses to all and was nothing but a pleasure to have as a guest. Finally grabbing a quick bite to eat during the autograph session he autographed his sandwich, we tried to sell it for charity but no takers. There was a quick panel session where questions were asked and the snoopy dance was performed. At this point I was ready to pass out from exhaustion so I wasn’t really paying much attention to what happened here. I’m sure video of it will be on youtube soon.

He was originally scheduled to leave Columbus at 7pm Saturday night and participate in our charity poker game for a bit, but with the delay the day before it was changed to Sunday morning. So with a quick see you all later, I took Nicky back to the hotel for a few hours of rest before he returned to play poker during our charity poker tournament.

Returning to the comic shop at 8pm and with a stack of comics as poker chips, Nicky played ‘comic poker’ for the next hour and a half. I missed a bit of it, but did catch the ‘that’s a pussy bet’ remark he made to one of our good friends. He was a great sport during the game and did take someone’s pizza. After realizing there was chicken pizza available he had me order it for dinner, loved it but complained about the lack of cilantro. Okay it wasn’t a complaint so much as a suggestion that’s what the pizza needed. So we agreed that since it wasn’t in his contract this time around, we’ll definitely include it on his next.

I was not prepared to be his ‘driver’ for the event, but that’s just how it turned out. Again, I was very nervous during each of the long drives as here is a guy who played my favorite character from BTVS, I didn’t want him to ruin it for me. But he was like a big kid, a big kid with ADHD. He was funny and sweet and amazingly thoughtful. I was completely surprised.

He treated all of his fans with the most gratitude and appreciation we couldn’t have dreamed for. Thank you Nicky. It would be a pleasure to host an appearance by you again. I was not disappointed in the man we brought from Hollywood.