|Daily Dose Of Summer Glau | Philly Comic Con | One Fan’s Experience|
Thanks to @Joker5974 for this exclusive first hand experience of meeting Summer Glau at Philly Comic Con.
I was nervous.
I’ve been scared before in my life, but not like this. It was a different kind of trepidation that hung low in my stomach, forming a coiled mass of icy tendrils that slowly expanded and contracted as I waited patiently in line. I’d never met a celebrity before in my life, certainly not in front of a hundred-or-more wide-eyed sci-fi nerds and comic book geeks who were standing in line with me to meet with a lovely and talented actress named Summer Glau. I don’t know if any of the others were as nervous as I was, but my nervousness was compounded by another, dreadfully-emerging fact: I was transforming into a fanboy.
Like any fanboy or fangirl and you’re under fifty, you know who she is: the dangerously unstable River Tam on Firefly and Serenity, the dangerously lethal female cyborg assassin Cameron on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Skylar on Alphas, Bennett on Dollhouse, and a dozen other notable guest appearances on shows like Hawaii Five-O and Grey’s Anatomy. She has a reputation (deservedly so) for bringing an unpredictable element of mystery to her roles, spicing up the plot of the film or TV show with her petite sensuality or balls-to-the-wall displays of controlled fury that cement her status as a clandestine badass. She also has a reputation (undeservedly so) as a “show killer,” whose regular appearances have curiously coincided with the cancellations of many of the above-named programs. It’s a stigma that has unfortunately dogged Summer Glau through the bulk of her acting career, despite the fact that her performances have always been praised by critics even though the shows suffered low ratings for various reasons (that have absolutely nothing to do with her).
Summer was a gifted dancer and trained as a ballerina before pursuing an acting career, after an unfortunate accident resulted in a broken ankle and made ballet training too painful to continue. Undaunted, she moved to Los Angeles and before long was cutting her teeth on early roles in Angel (as a ballerina) and films like The Initiation of Sarah before Joss Whedon cast her as River in Firefly. That role put her firmly in the geek culture’s spotlight, pretty much forever, as her onscreen persona juxtaposed her image as a sweet, innocent girl in the middle of galactic intrigue against a terrifyingly violent hidden alter-ego that killed without remorse and was fiercely protective of her quirky shipmates. It was a fascinating Jekyll-and-Hyde balance well-played out among the stars that instantly made Summer a minor celebrity. Her performance as Cameron on TSCC following Firefly’s quick demise made her a sci-fi demigoddess worshiped by happy geeks the world over.
I don’t fly a huge geek flag, as anyone who really knows me can tell you, but I also don’t go around burning geek flags down. I don’t cosplay my favorite fantasy characters nor watch a lot of geekporn. I’m not officially a member of their ranks (I’m a shameless hipster…I revel in my halfassed anonymity in plain sight) but I respect the geek culture immensely. They reflect my personal values. On occasion find myself making deep excursions into their territory, like I did this past weekend in Philadelphia, where Wizard World’s 2013 Comic Convention was held. And it was in the middle of a line of giddy, lovable geeks on a scorching hot Saturday morning that I found myself on a date with destiny to meet a fanboy idol.
I wanted to meet Summer Glau because I needed to thank her.
I’d gotten VIP access for all four days of the convention through the excellent graces of one of my best friends who helped me obtain my ticket. The VIP pass enabled me to enter the convention half an hour before the regular ticket holders could get in and it also specifically included one autograph and one photo op with Summer Glau, which helped me immensely, as I had very little cash on me to purchase much of anything. I’d already been there on Friday and mainly spent most of the morning and early afternoon wandering aimlessly among the crowded vendor and artist tables. I met my pals who ran Wayward Raven studios and ran into one of my Twitter friends, Shannon, who rolled into town that morning. Many geek celebrities were scheduled to make appearances on Friday, including Stan Lee, William Shatner, Dean Cain, and Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker of The Walking Dead fame. I made no attempt to join the crowds to see them, being they were thoroughly mobbed, and I had no extra money for autographs.
(I did meet Henry Winkler, the Fonz of Happy Days. I shook his hand and thanked him for making my childhood cool. He smiled, thanked me in return, and that was that. He had to get to a photo op and was quickly ushered away by his handler. It’s a cold, sad fact of life of being a media celebrity on any level, whether you’re A-list or B-list, as your public life is strictly regulated by other forces dedicated to making sure you’re keeping up with appearances. But for a moment, I saw one of my childhood idols as he truly was, an ordinary guy like me, and Henry Winkler is a really sweet guy.)
The clock on my iPhone read 10:30am, which was Summer’s scheduled time to appear. I looked up and no sooner had I checked the time when suddenly she came walking up to the autograph booth with her convention manager and assistant. Summer was dressed casually in a navy camisole tank and long black-and-white skirt. Her long brown hair was combed straight on top and cascaded loosely over her shoulders. Her lightly-tanned face bore hardly any makeup. She’s amazingly lithe and petite. She smiled with perfect white teeth (yes, the southern Cali stereotype is real, folks) and waved to her fans.
Wide-eyed, I blurted out, “Hi Summer!”
She looked at me, smiled, replied, “Hi.” My fanboy transformation was complete.
Time seemed to dilate even as the line moved surprisingly fast. Summer constantly smiled and engaged jovially with her fans as they took their turns approaching her table and I was immediately put at ease. She genuinely enjoys meeting her fans and interacting with them, her body language relaxed and her eyes sparkling with appreciation. She had over a dozen sets of glossy prints of herself in various poses and states of dress from her onscreen roles or modeling shoots. I got close to her table and chose one of her looking off-camera, dressed in a military-style jacket, her face serenely resolute. The print was free, included in my VIP package. She got done with the gentleman in front of me and her assistant ushered me to the front. My ribcage was like a tank of compressed air being strained to the critical point of rupture.
Summer Glau smiled sweetly, offered her hand and said, “Hi!”
I smiled back and lightly shook her hand. Her grip was small but firm. “Good morning, Summer,” I said, almost stammering. I took a deep breath and said, “My name is Drew and we’ve never met, but please let me take this opportunity to tell you that you’re a very lovely and talented actress and I enjoy watching your work.” Flattery will get you nowhere, Mr. Golden, but it sure beats the hell out of standing there with your jaw open and your eyes quivering…
She flashed her perfect grin and said, “Aww, thank you! That’s sweet of you!” I chuckled and immediately felt better. Good going getting nervous over nothing, I thought to myself. Why the hell did I even? A memory sparked from The Lord of the Rings: Gimli the Dwarf awkwardly flattering the Lady Galadriel before the Fellowship departed Lothlorien, she asking him what gift he would like, and he fumbling with his request: a single strand of her perfect golden hair to remember her by. She gave him three.
I wasn’t about to ask Summer for a strand of her hair, but I did need to say what needed to be said, do what I set out to do, and I only had a few moments. It was the real reason why I drove the nearly 300 miles from Virginia Beach to Philadelphia.
“Summer,” I began, feeling the rest of my body go on autopilot, “I’m a fan of yours, and I regard you highly, but there’s another reason why I wanted to meet you. I need to thank you from the bottom of my heart for something you did for a friend of mine last October. SyFy Channel hosted a live Twitter Q and A session for your work on Alphas, and when my friends and I who made up a fan group on Twitter heard about it, we decided to petition SyFy to inform you about a friend of ours who was then diagnosed with lung cancer. We wanted to ask you to say a prayer or blessing for her fight.”
I took a breath and continued, amazed that I wasn’t stuttering: “Her name is Karen, and she’s one of your biggest fans in the world. You should see her Facebook page, I’m not kidding. We all love Karen very much and we were so devastated when we learned of her diagnosis. So we decided to do that for her. And when you went on Twitter for the first time…” I felt my voice catch and I had to pause before continuing, “…the very first thing you tweeted was a prayer for Karen to get well again. And so on behalf of all my friends, and especially for Karen, I want to say thank you.”
Summer Glau’s mocha-brown eyes widened and her mouth hung open. “Oh my God!” she exclaimed, “I remember Karen! How is she doing? Is she any better?”
I started to reply but my voice caught again and my chest heaved. I felt tears welling in my bottom eyelids and I tried hard to suppress them. I couldn’t. When I found my voice again, euphoria filled every space of me. “Karen’s going to make it,” I said. “When we forwarded your tweet to her family, they showed it to her and she was so overjoyed that her favorite actress reached out to her to wish her well, and that gave her the strength to undergo surgery to treat her cancer. She’s cancer-free now. We got the news a few months ago.”
My knees were weakening when I said, “Today is her birthday, Summer, and Karen lived to see another birthday, because of you. You were her miracle. And I thank you. We all thank you.”
Summer put her hand to her mouth and uttered, “Oh, my…” She abruptly left her seat and ran around the table, holding her arms out. “Come here,” she said, and I nearly collapsed in her arms, numbed. We stood there hugging each other in front of everyone gathered. I let out a sob and I whispered in her ear, “Thank you.”
She let me go and said, smiling, “You’re welcome, Drew.” She went back around her table and she said, “That is so inspiring. You’re a great friend to her.” She took my print and picked up a silver marker.
I wiped my eyes and nodded. “Karen isn’t the only one you helped get through a bad time, Summer. You helped a few of my friends…Kai, Leah, Kali, Russ…we all have a fan community and a lot of people love you.”
“I know Kai!” she said suddenly, her eyes lighting. “How’s he doing?”
“He’s doing great. He says hello. He’d love to meet you again.”
“Tell Kai I said hello,” she said sweetly. I nodded and said, “I will.” Summer wrote a beautiful birthday message for Karen on the photo. I impulsively picked out another and handed her assistant forty dollars for an additional autograph. “Please,” I said, “just one more for me.”
“Of course,” said Summer and signed the second. I made small talk as she was signing it, asking her if she keeps in touch with her former TSCC castmates. She nodded.
“I talk to Thomas Dekker a lot,” she acknowledged. “He’s about the only one I stay in touch with on a regular basis. I ran into Lena Headey at a supermarket out in L.A. not long ago. We spoke for a few minutes. Other than that, I haven’t really heard from anybody else for a while.”
I smiled and nodded. “Cool. Well, I do want to thank you for being Cameron. You made her human. ‘Born to Run’ broke my heart. Broke a lot of hearts.”
“I miss her,” Summer said sadly. “I’d love to see how she’s doing someday. Playing her was great.”
She finished signing and I activated the camera on my iPhone, handing it to her assistant. Summer and I stood together for our photo and I got numb again. But it was a good numbness. She even struck a superhero pose.
And like that, my time with Summer was over. I collected my iPhone, the pictures, and my backpack containing some other convention souvenirs and I said, “God bless you, Summer,” in parting. She smiled and waved goodbye, then set herself to meeting the rest of her fans, which had grown to a huge but orderly mob waiting in line. A few people gawked at me, a few smiled. I was still numb. I walked a short distance and obsessively checked my stuff, making sure I hadn’t forgotten anything back at her table (I nearly left one of the pictures there until one of the ushers alerted me). I had everything.
I waited a few minutes until the numbness faded and I looked back at her table, catching a glimpse of her as she moved back and forth working the crowd. Summer is clearly an expert in dealing with her fan base, and when I wandered near her table later that day, she was still at it, tirelessly signing and taking photos. I shook my head in amazement. I don’t know how celebrities do it, especially the larger-than-life luminaries who occupy spaces on billboards and magazine pages, and I really don’t want to know. I’m sure many of them go nuts after a full day of doing it. Some even try to shun the limelight entirely only to be stalked by paparazzi or other invasive media hounds.
Summer Glau is one of the few who see what they do at these gatherings not as a contractual obligation to their studios but as a privilege to thank their fans and show them how much they appreciate how much they’re regarded. She has such a devoted group of followers who, I’m very sure, have a lot of personal moments of being inspired by her that they can’t wait to share.
Meeting Summer was one of the most amazing and unforgettable moments of my life, and that moment was also filled with a special knowledge that, not only does she love her fans very much, she also remembers the ones that make her life special and appreciated. The fact that she remembered Karen and Kai and wishing them well made sharing those few incredible moments with her will be timelocked in my memory forever.
Thank you, Summer.
|by ogy86 in June 07 - 5:21 pm|
yes, thank you Summer. Amen!
|by Kai in June 11 - 9:58 am|
Great story Drew! And thanks for publishing it Kali.
|by chrisdvanne in June 13 - 12:07 am|
Thanks for the great report and moving story of Karen. We miss her enthousiasm.
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