I recently had one of the most disappointing experiences in my adult life: meeting “Weird Al” Yankovic. This is the kind of moment that I had been waiting for since I was six. My siblings and I don’t agree on everything, but Al is something we all have in common. Well, we had a little bit of difficulty getting to the event. Once there, the people in charge of the lines were acting like bullies. I got less out of this encounter than I have in all of my previous celebrity meetings. Technically, I got what I came for, but the event left a bad taste in my mouth.
The first time I heard a “Weird Al” song was in first grade. Our grade school had an annual “talent show”. A lot of the kids that year would put on a little skit where they would act out the song “Hey Ricky”, which was a parody of the popular (?) song “Hey Mickey”. I thought the parody was a real song for a long time! Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate all of the quirks of Al’s style. Every parody perfectly emulates the original. In some cases, his song is actually superior from a musical standpoint. His lyrics capture every single aspect of something like eBay.
About two weeks ago, I sent a link to my sister through MSN messenger. Al had a new video: White and Nerdy. For the next 3 minutes, we watched and laughed together from three thousand miles apart. It reminded me of the first time my older brother came home with a “Weird Al” album. It was 1986. I was in junior high. The album, “Polka Party” was enclosed in this huge cardboard square. It was perfect for all of us to make copies, because we had a stereo with a record player and a tape recorder. I think we all got cassette playing walkmans for Christmas that year.
After we finished watching the video, I noticed something on Al’s Myspace page: He was attending a signing in Hollywood the day the new album was coming out! This was perfect. Hollywood is a forty-five minute drive from my parents’ house. I called my brothers: Danny was free to go. Chris was busy, but wanted a copy if we could get it. My sister Jennifer’s birthday was September 21st, so this would make a great surprise birthday present. I called the Virgin Records store for details on the event. They would be selling about 200 wristbands with every album, and you could get up to two per person.
The day arrived quickly. I picked up Danny, stopped for gas and food, and off we went. I was so engrossed in conversation I missed the first freeway interchange. Twice. Ah, well, that didn’t matter. I know my way around, and this is going to be cool. We got off the freeway, and drove down the road for a bit. We noticed the Ripley’s museum right away, with it’s plaster T-Rex smashing through the roof. After about ten minutes, I had to call the store, because we had no idea where to go. It turns out Virgin Records is adjacent to the dinosaur building. Whoops…oh, well, minor setback. We bought our CDs, and received our wristbands without incident.
It was time to stand in line. The store started playing the new videos from the DVD portion of Al’s dualdisk CD. While waiting, I noticed that Superman was standing in line behind us. Hollywood is kind of a weird town. As we neared our objective, the Virgin employees started laying down the law. “Only one item per person!”, “Have your one item ready!” I told Danny that it would be ok. Just get the booklets out of your CDs, we should be fine since we each have two wristbands. I got to the front of the line and presented my wrist, and they told me only one item again. “I know you have two wristbands,” she said, “but you can only use one at a time. And I’m going to enforce that by taking away one of your booklets…and you will get it back when you’re done.” She grabbed the booklet from my hand. I was too shocked too react. Inwardly, I sighed, and decided to move on. I gave Danny my camera. I went up to Al, shook his hand and said my name was Mike. I’ve been a fan since I was six. He laughed a bit and started signing. Danny came up because he couldn’t figure out how my camera worked. I tried to explain quickly, but a Virgin employee broke it up. “We have to get the next guy NOW.” They rushed me out. I was livid. I could not believe what had just occurred. It turns out Danny had his autograph spelled “Denny” because Al couldn’t hear him. The Virgin employees told us they treated us like this because they were hearing complaints about how long it was taking. We were in line a total of 90 minutes. That was the shortest line for a celebrity I’d ever been in. At this point we were pondering just leaving then and there. The line was about the same length, so we went back. We could try the picture again. Well, we got some ok pictures, but nothing worth printing out.
I get frustrated just thinking about these events. I don’t care who these minimum wage employees think they are, or what kind of power trip they are on. Nobody takes my property from me, or touches me. That’s illegal. I won’t stand for it, and I will make a scene if it happens again. I thought I knew how to handle this celebrity signing thing. I’ve attended science fiction and comic book conventions many times in the past. I’d met Bruce Boxleitner (another childhood idol) twice, and gotten a nice picture with him. I did the same thing when I met Eliza Dushku and Scott Bakula. Never have I had a more unpleasant signing.
I suppose I got everything I came for. We left with four autographed copies of Al’s newest album. We have some ok pictures. You can at least tell who is in them, although you can’t see my face. It just seems that what we got from this event was not commensurate to what we put into it. After the way we were treated, I don’t know if I can ever get myself excited about meeting another celebrity again. Considering we did this for a person that made so many of us happy for so long, that just seems wrong. I hope the rest of my family enjoys the fruits of our labor. I have very mixed feelings about the entire thing.