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FIFTY SHADES OF STUPIDITY (What It Takes To Go To An E.L. James Signing)

October 13, 2012 by in category Archives tagged as , , ,

By Bobbie Cimo
What made me think I could just wander over to Barnes and Noble, like a cowboy moseying over to the local saloon, for my wristband to meet E.L. James and be back at work in ten…twenty minutes the most? Stupidity, that’s what!

Until the night before, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to meet her. Was it really worth my time and effort to meet someone who wasn’t my favorite author? It wasn’t like I loved “Fifty Shades Of Grey”, as much as I love the fact that her writing (regardless if you want to call it good or bad) had reintroduced the world to romance again. A love story (a little kinky at times) but still a love story.

People I knew who never read a “romance” in their lives couldn’t put down the book, and once finished with the series, were anxious to read more romance novels. Not necessarily with all the erotic stuff in it–just a good romantic novel. So for that, I wanted to meet the woman who had people wanting to read more.

On a Friday morning, after being at work for about half an hour, I decided to take a walk over to “The Grove”, which is right next door to where I work. There was no need to announce to my office where I was going, as I was sure I’d be back in no time at all. When I rounded the corner and saw that there was a line outside of the “American Girl Store”…a block or so away from the front door of the book store, my heart didn’t want to believe what my head was telling it. This was the line to get the wristbands. But like a fool, I still had to ask the security guard, “What’s this line for?”. His answer was simple, “For Barnes and Noble, and the book signing tonight at 7PM”. It was now 9:40AM. “You’re kidding”, I said. Wearing his “Dudley Do-Right” hat, he looked me squarely in the eye and said, “No Ma’am.” He then offered, “They’re moving about forty people every ten minutes, and there’s about a hundred and thirty of you”. I thought to myself, this is ridiculous. I stepped outside of line to assess the situation for myself. The line wasn’t as long as I had thought it was. It didn’t take away that there were a hundred and twenty-nine people ahead of me. If I went by his calculations, this shouldn’t take much more than half an hour or so. I got back in line and called my supervisor. She giggled when I told her where I was. Luckily, she was one of those who had zipped through all three of the “Fifty Shades’” books. By the way, “Dudley Do-Right” wasn’t too far off the mark. It took me about fifty minutes to get my little silver band with a “G” on it. Later I found out that they section the groups off by alphabet, stopping after the letter “I”. All others would be considered as stand-bys and not guaranteed a spot.

While in line I met a young woman named LuAnn, who worked as a chef in one of the Disneyland Restaurants. Not only did LuAnn have in mind who should play every character in the up-coming movie, including the minor roles, but she had photos of each of them on her cell phone–which she happily displayed for me. Behind us in line was a begrudging male nurse who was only there to please his wife who couldn‘t get away from work. The more we talked to him, the mellower he became, until he finally confessed that this was pay-back for the time she stood in line for Bruce Springsteen tickets for him.

When I got to the cashier’s counter, I was given a list of guidelines. Here are a few: * “A limited number of RED wristbands will be reserved for “B&N” members and will designate priority placement in line”. They didn’t bother to mention there were only about twenty-five to thirty of these RED wristbands to be distributed. Needless to say, even though I am a member, they were out by the time they got to me. But since I wasn’t one of those who had been camped out since 4AM, I didn’t protest (too much). * We could come back as late as 6:45PM once we had our bands and our new books which we had to buy from “B&N”. No electronic books were welcomed. * “No personalization for signing, and no posed pictures”. The only pictures that were allowed had to be taken while standing in line. In other words, no close-ups.

Because I didn’t trust we could get in line at 6:45PM and still be safe, I got in line at 5:30PM like the rest of the people. And to my surprise I met up with my Disney chef friend, who now had her friend Esther with her. We shared more stories on “Fifty Shades” and made more new friends in line. Like the forty some-thing year old social worker who let us use her husband as our own personal scout to check out the action inside the store, while we stood outside. He kept us informed of every in-house move by phone. There were some acts of kindness, too. A woman who had traveled two and an a half hours to get to the event was sadly disappointed when she found out there were no more wristbands left. But coming to her rescue was a young girl who had an extra one. She willingly gave it to the woman who didn’t have one. However, not everyone was so generous. A woman who saw an opportunity to make some money, offered to sell her special “Red” band for the right price. I’m happy to say there were no takers.

I met many people, each one with an opinion on who should play who in the leading roles, which book they liked the best of the series, and what other authors they considered their favorites. Each one of these people were different, each with a different take. But the one thing they all seemed to have in common was their love of reading this book and the love story in it. E.L. James may not be the best writer in the world, but she did manage to bring a lot of people together. And along with this block party atmosphere, there were camera crews covering the story for the news. And of course, they sent out the cutest reporter to cover the story, which just added to the festivities. I later learned from the news that there were between seven hundred and fifty to a thousand people who showed up for the signing. Not everyone got in.

By the time I got to meet E.L. James it was around 8:30PM. When she said hello, she called me by my name, which she had learned from one of her handlers, who had asked what it was, moments before. In her British accent, it came out sounding charming. My meeting with the famed author must have lasted all of ten seconds. They moved us along like “Lucy Ricardo” on the candy assembly line. And after waiting so long to see her, the most hard hitting question I could come up with was, “Have they cast Christian, yet?” That was it? It had to be the same question that hundreds before me had asked. Obviously, a Barbara Walters or Diane Sawyer, I am not. By the way, her answer was, “Not yet. It’s too early. And there’s a lot of rumors out there.” As far as her autograph…trust me, no one would ever know whose it is, because it looks like chicken scratch.

Would I ever do this again, wait in a line three hours for an author’s autograph? Probably not. Am I glad that I did? Definitely. I had fun meeting some nice people and talking hours about books and writing.

As I got ready to hit the escalator heading down, I was stopped by a photographer and a young woman, who asked if I would pose for a picture, holding the “Fifty Shades” trilogy CD. When I asked what it was for, the lady introduced herself as the narrator on the “Fifty Shades” audio books. Her name was Becca Battoe. She said she wanted a picture of me to post on her website. I’m not sure if she’ll use it or not. But, of course, I couldn’t resist the opportunity of telling her about OCC and asking if she’d ever consider visiting with us and perhaps even sharing what it’s like to be the voice of “Fifty Shades”. She said she would love to.

And to borrow a phrase from E.L James’ novel, “Fifty Shades Of Gray”,
“Laters, Baby”.

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