As I'd guess is normal for introverts, I'm also easily star-struck. It doesn't really matter how famous the person is, either; I've been struck dumb and noodle-limbed by a photo op with Darth Vader. Last year.
Despite this, I have met a few actual celebrities in my life, almost all of whom were Star Trek actors. (I may not have much, but I do have my priorities. Heheh.)
Like everyone, I go into an autograph room telling myself that these are just people, no different than anyone else, and there's no rational excuse for my knees to be doing a drum solo. Then I get to the head of the line and lose all ability to behave like a biped. ("Miss? You ok down there?")
One of my main problems is that I never think of anything to say beforehand - I'm too focused on standing and breathing at the same time - so I end up staring blank-faced with terror at Brent Spiner or Nichelle Nichols like some kind of startled whippet. Usually I squeak out a "hi," and let loose a bit of nervous laughter. (Which is unfortunate, since my "nervous laughter" sounds more like "possessed donkey," and has been known to frighten small children.) Then I grab my prize - the autographed photo - and rush from the room, simultaneously relieved that the ordeal is over and disappointed that I didn't have more of a "moment" with whoever it was.
I'm not really sure what that "moment" is supposed to be: Denise Crosby declaring me her new best friend? John De Lancie asking for my phone number? (Actually, I did have Robert Beltran wink at me from across the room once. Though, in his defense, I was 18 and one of the very few females there.)
Koenig, the original Chekov, back in 2006. The little autograph room was nearly empty at the time, so John and I and our friend Tim waltzed in and had our pick of celebrities. The guys went to see Denise Crosby, leaving me to approach Koenig alone. No line, no assistant. Just Mr. Koenig, sitting alone behind a table.
He seemed...weary. Almost sad. And there I was, terrified of even talking to him.
Fast forward a few years, and I was sitting down behind my own table while a large crowd queued up to get my autograph. Now, I'm certainly no celebrity, but this was the closest to the feeling I've ever been. At the time, of course, I was so overwhelmed I could hardly see straight, much less relish the role reversal. Instead I could only focus on each new face, each new smile, each new conversation.
And you know what? It was glorious. Fantastic, funny people, lots of laughter, and so much kindness I almost felt guilty sopping it all up. Soon I couldn't wait for each presentation to be over, just so I could sit down and talk to everyone, one on one.
Over the two legs of our book tour, John and I met nearly 4,000 fans. Many of these encounters were like my meeting Koenig: a quick smile, a hello, a signature, a goodbye. Most were sweet, or goofy, or touching, or even bizarre. (Ask me about the Easter bunny sometime.) A few, however, stood out because I could tell the person in question was nervous, just like me.
At my very first signing, a pretty girl with porcelain skin whispered that crowds made her panic, but she'd braved this one anyway to come out and meet me. It was a hugely pivotal moment. Suddenly, I saw myself in her place, and I realized maybe I wasn't the only one terrified to be there. Rather than making me feel famous, though, it made me feel humble and unprepared. How do you put a complete stranger at ease? Should I act cool, like I did this every day? Would she think me insincere if I admitted *I* was nervous, too? And most importantly, if we both fainted at the same time, would we bonk heads Three Stooges style and end up with matching bruises?
Eventually I learned that everyone deals with nerves differently. There were the gushers, talking a mile a minute, and those too flustered to get out a complete sentence. Some were shy, others loud and giddy. A few were so earnest with their praise that it felt deeply personal, like a secret they were trusting me to keep. There were even a few tears, as a small handful suffered anxiety attacks - one right at the table. (She ran sobbing from the room, much to my dismay, but later e-mailed to assure me all was well.)
I also realized that, while I'll never be a celebrity, I do know what it feels like to have people go out of their way just to meet you, and just to tell you that what you do makes them smile. And that feels pretty darn amazing. I can only hope my own fan girl ravings will repay even a tiny portion of that feeling to the folks I admire - knees, nerves, and donkey laugh notwithstanding.
Oh, and for the record: I've since been to another convention, and I can confidently say that I am absolutely no less nervous meeting famous people. I still want to faint/throw up/bray incoherently. (My apologies, Brent.) So, the next time you're in an autograph room and hear someone calling for a donkey exorcist, come say hello, won't you? I'll be the one crawling towards the doorway.