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Seeing Stars at Comic-Con

Written By: Abel Pinedo - "Honest Abe"

July 10th, 2013

Hello friends and fans, I'm back with a few personal tales from the trenches of San Diego Comic Con. The Con provides many opportunities to get up close with some of your favorite artists, creators and celebrities. Sometimes it’s just being lucky enough to get a ticket to a particular autograph session or meet and greet. Sometimes it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Still other times you may find yourself out on the streets of the Gaslamp District in front of the convention center when you happen to come across a celeb. I’d like to share a few of my many encounters with you.

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One time I’m walking past the Sony Pictures booth on the main convention room floor when I see a small sign that mentions Robert Englund and a few others with be doing a signing. I knew that Mr. Freddy Krueger himself was to be at the Con so I brought my Nightmare on Elm Street DVD box set with on the chance I’d get to meet him. At 11:30, the line formed quickly and then started to move. I’ll admit to being a bit nervous, having grown up a child of the 80’s and a big fan of the Nightmare series. I’ll tell you, he couldn’t have been a nicer guy! I had him sign the set across the spine of all the DVD’s. He got a kick out of that! Robert was very gracious and patient with all of us, posing for pictures and never losing that smile. I was fortunate to meet him a few years later at a much more intimate signing for his autobiography. I highly recommend picking it up as he’s got some great stories to tell.

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Shortly before the premiere of the TV series Reaper, (if you remember that show) there was a signing with Ray Wise who played the devil on that show. Ray is one of those character actors who you may not know his name but you’d know that face. I know him primarily from a favorite flick called Dead End but mostly because in the original Robocop, he had the gumption to kick Robocop in the crotch. You don’t get much more badass than that! My timing was off on this particular meet and greet as I got there just as the signing was ending. I got in the line just as he was leaving but I mentioned “I loved you in Dead End!” He stopped, turned and gave me a huge smile. “Oh I loved that film, we had a blast making it”, he replied. I knew he had to go so I asked for a quick photo and got it. I didn’t mention his going toe to toe with Robocop. I’ll save that for next time.

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Once more, I find myself wandering around the floor when I come across a booth where several Star Trek actors were doing a signing. I took a few pics and moved on. Then out of the corner of my eye, I spot someone. If you’re a Star Trek TNG fan, then perhaps you remember the episode from Season 3, “The Most Toys”. The character of Kivas Fajo from that episode was portrayed by Saul Rubinek. He is also currently on the series Warehouse 13. He’s had a long and diverse career but I know him mainly from one of my favorite films, True Romance. In the film he plays a film producer named Lee Donowitz. (Forgive me as I’m about to geek out!) Anyways, there he is sitting off to the side just idly chatting with one of the handlers in the booth. So I walk up to him, big smile and say “You know what I’d really like to see right now? Dr. Zhivago”. He looked me dead in the eye and replied, “I’d really like to see that too.” Then we both started cracking up! I also asked him when was Coming Home in a Bodybag 2 coming out. Alright, these are lines from True Romance but one thing I’ve learned is that some actors get a kick if you can recall an older film reference to them. Plus, since he was at a Star Trek booth, I’m sure he wasn’t expecting me to recite those lines to him.

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One morning, local radio station KROQ was doing a live broadcast in front of Petco Park which is about two blocks from the convention. The broadcast was EARLY in the morning but my wife and I went to check it out and were surprised to find maybe fifteen other people there. We got there just as Kevin Smith was being interviewed. We watched, enraptured as he shared stories with the morning crew. We were standing maybe ten feet away so we had a perfectly unobstructed view. When the interview wrapped up, he stepped off the stage and posed for a few pics with the KROQ crew. Then I made my move. I asked if I could take a photo with him and he happily obliged. He was incredibly happy to pose for pictures for the next twenty minutes as we all took our turns talking with him. One thing I will say is that Kevin seems truly grateful to his fans. No one was turned away and everyone was given his full attention.

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One thing I’ve learned over the years is to keep your eyes peeled if you find yourself walking the streets of the Gaslamp District. You never know what surprises are right around the corner. As you look around at the various shops and restaurants, you may find an occasional pop up/temporary store. In this particular instance was a store for Cryptozoic which is a gaming company. On the door was a sign announcing featured appearances by Steven Yuen and Lauren Cohan from The Walking Dead at 1pm. I’m a huge fan of the show so I checked the time and next thing I knew, I found myself in a line of about fifty people. It was only a little after 11am so I plopped myself on the floor and started reading some comics I had picked up the night before. Next thing I knew, I’m standing face to face with the lovely Lauren. She took her time with each fan and thanked them for coming out to see her. As I stated above with my tale of Saul Rubinek, I took this opportunity to ask Lauren about working on Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj. She laughed as I asked her about the fencing scenes. I was surprised to find out that there were no stunt doubles for this scene. She actually took part in fencing training for two weeks prior to filming. See what you learn when you just ask?

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Speaking of The Walking Dead, I had the good fortune to run into Frank Darabont on the convention floor two years in a row. Both times, I just walked up to him, asked for a picture and before you knew it we were all talking our heads off. (This was before The Walking Dead premiered.) Both times he was by himself walking around and checking out the Con as a regular fan. The first year I saw him, he was carrying a stack of comic books he had picked up for himself. My friend and I spent the hour just chatting away with him about everything from movie making to what comics we were all reading at the time. No one else recognized him. I had no idea how much time had passed but he was in no hurry and was happy to talk to us fan to fan.

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Here’s a perfect example of ‘right place, right time’: I am a huge fan of Beavis and Butthead. When MTV brought creator Mike Judge to Con to preview an all new season of the show, I just HAD to be there in my full on Beavis costume. During the Q&A, when I got up to the microphone, Judge and moderator Johnny Knoxville saw me and started laughing. I asked my question (in a Beavis voice) and took my seat but was unable to meet Judge after the panel. Oh well. Later that night, my friends and I are walking through our hotel lobby to head up for the night. We walk past the hotel bar and who do we spot but Mike Judge having a beer. I walk up to him and ask for a picture, when I go to put on my Beavis wig, he starts laughing. “Oh man, we were talking about you at dinner! You cracked us up!” he told me. He was really cool; I still smile when I recall that story.

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Okay, one more story. I’m roaming the floor when I see a crudely made sign that says “Ask about the Boondock Saints focus group”. My wife and I are huge fans of the film and were looking forward to the panel later that day promoting the upcoming sequel. Well, this person at the booth tells me that they are looking for people to take part in a focus group to view the trailer for the new film, view some poster concept artwork and talk about what we liked/disliked about the first film and what we hoped for in the sequel. It conflicted with the time of the actual panel but there was an added incentive. Those who participated would also be invited to a hush hush meet and greet with the cast! Before you could say boo, I signed us both up. Long story short, that night we found ourselves in the back room of the Tilted Kilt restaurant where we got to meet Sean Patrick Flannery, Norman Reedus, David Della Rocco, Troy Duffy (director of the film) and several others. When the meet and greet was done my wife, my friend and myself were shooting some pool and having beers. All the while, we were wondering where another friend of ours had wandered off to. Suddenly, I get a text from her asking if we are still at the Kilt. I tell her yes. She tells me that she’s two blocks over at an Irish pub called The Field having beers with Rocco and to come on over. Next thing you know, we’re knocking back cold ones with Rocco himself for the next 90 minutes. We all just sat around like old friends telling stories.

The lesson of the day is to pay attention to your surroundings at Comic Con. I know it can get overwhelming but you never know who you just might meet around the corner. I’m looking forward to Comic Con later this month and curious to know what new celebrity memories I’ll create. See you in San Diego!