I was once talking to someone I know who had the opportunity to meet Johnny Cash. This person and his wife went back stage and Mr Cash came out and said hello. The person said “Hello mister Cash, nice to meet you, looking forward to the show,” and then went out into the crowd and enjoyed the show, trying to bother Mr. Cash as little as possible.
This is a pretty good example of how to meet someone famous. The shorter the better.
You might feel like you know the famous person because, in the case of a musician, they’ve been there via their songs during so much of your life. You’ve bought all their albums, or at least, you did back when people bought albums. But you must remember that they weren’t really there. They do not know you, and you do not know them.
If you must meet them, just walk up, say hello and then leave them alone.
I cultivated this opinion during a span in my life when I was from time to time confronted with famous people. I’ve seen a lot of fans do it the wrong way, only embarrassing themselves in the process.
Nowadays I’m a jaded, washed-up old never-was — I never managed to get famous enough to now lay claim to the term “has-been” — who barely leaves the house to go to a show. There are only a few acts I would lift a finger to go see. I can think of three.
But, as luck would have it, one of these artists played a festival not a mile from my house a few weeks ago. I know the guys who put the festival on from when I was an artist playing it myself, so I got to hang around back stage and had a chance to meet this artist that I’ve been a fan of for nearly 15 years.
Like me, one of the guys who runs the festival has been a fan of this artist for many years. Instead of growing up and playing instruments like me, he grew up and started booking bands. He and I have conversed many times over the years, once we discovered that we share an interest in this particular artist, about how great it would be to book him some time. My friend has tried a few times, but it never quite worked out.
Well, finally it worked out. He sent me a message a week beforehand to let me know the good news. Unnamed Artist was playing my neighborhood. I was unbelievably excited.
Not only have I bought this artist’s records, I pre-ordered them… even the ones that were much more easily available on iTunes, or, dare I say it, for free in the unmentionable corners of the Internet. But no, I supported this artist. In fact, the last record I pre-ordered came with a tee shirt that read “Unnamed Artist Digs Me” as a prize for pre-ordering. I didn’t wear it to meet him, of course. I don’t want to be that guy.
Not that it matters, in fact, because he doesn’t dig me. I didn’t even get to finish my one-sentence prepared statement, crafted especially to be brief. In fact, he saw me coming and turned to walk off, but I said his name and he was trapped. He turned, barely shook my hand, and walked away.
I even tried quickly to express that I’m a friend of the folks who put this festival on, hoping to make the point that I know how these things go and don’t intend to be awkward, but I realized I was really only talking to myself and just walked away, already awkward.
It felt really crappy. Not only do I not want to be in that situation, I don’t want to put anyone in that situation.
As I have mentioned here many times, I may be a buffoon. Perhaps this artist was able to recognize someone without the control over his actions that a normal person might have, and attempted to nip the situation in the bud. I still can’t help feeling deflated.
I think about all the times I smiled and nodded at people who were obviously morons just because they liked a band I was in. I think about all the times I told people how awesome Unnamed Artist is, even though he never really managed any real commercial success. When people ask me who my favorite artists are, I list this person, and hardly anyone ever knows who he is.
It’s not even like there was a throng of people swarming to meet him either, unless you count me as a throng. I was the only one. No one else back stage knew who he was or cared except my friend who booked him. I know because I know all of them from when I was in that circle.
Of course, his side of the story is probably like “Man, this big dumb buffoon of a man came lurching over to talk to me before the show, I thought I was gonna hurl. I swear if I have to meet another assneck like that before I play a show I will smash a guitar and stab him to death with a resulting sharp piece of wood.”
Admittedly I also don’t know what kind of day he had beforehand. Maybe his pet rabbit ate his pet gerbil and then had a heart attack. Maybe his grandmother was exposed as a vampire and then lynched by angry townsfolk. He may have been in a terrible mood for a million different reasons.
All I know is, I’m now down to only two bands I’d lift a finger to go see.