Maintaining sanity, manners important when rubbing elbows with stars

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Cindy Murphy
For the Salisbury Post
I admit it. I was at the depot Wednesday morning. And, yes, I was mainly there to catch a glimpse of George Clooney. (Seeing Renee Zellweger was just a really great bonus.)
I did get to see and get autographs from each of them. I did have one other reason for being there: people-watching. I love to watch crowds, and this was an interesting group, containing people from almost every possible demographic group. There was something surreal about seeing so many of us gathered behind the barricades with a common purpose. As the scheduled arrival drew closer, the crowd swelled and excitement mounted.
I have to say, I expected the circus-like atmosphere, but I didn’t expect the experience to be so educational.
– Lesson 1: Be early. I thought I was, showing up around 8:45 a.m., but the front row behind the barricade was already packed. Some people told me they had been there since 5:30!
Others had brought their own chairs. I guess if you’re willing to wait for hours on end, comfort is essential.
Getting there early also makes you eligible for freebies. The promotions staff started tossing posters, T-shirts and hats to the crowd long before the train arrived. While I have to admit the yellow Leatherheads T-shirt was not exactly the color I wanted to wear to meet George, I was more than willing to put it on over my carefully selected blue shirt.
– Lesson 2: Bring something for the stars to sign. While I had been careful to grab my camera and notebook, I never thought about bringing anything for them to autograph. So they had to sign my notes for this article.
I was impressed by the variety of items that other people brought ó DVDs, magazines, photos, etc. But some of the items made me wonder a bit about their owners. For example, I saw more than one Sexiest Man Alive issue of People magazine in pristine condition. I envisioned the owner carefully preserving it in a plastic case in a cool, dark place. In contrast, my magazines hit the recycling bin as soon as I finish reading them.
– Lesson 3: Talk to your neighbors in the crowd. It really does make the time pass faster, and you might meet some interesting people. One woman that I spoke with seemed to be a Clooney stalker. She had numerous photos she had taken of him at various events around the country. She had driven from Atlanta for this event. While she did seem a little strange and possibly scary, she was definitely interesting.
You also never know when you may need your neighbor’s help. If you’re too far away to get a good picture or an autograph, a newfound friend on one of the front rows can help. Most of us toward the front passed things up for those in the back.
– Lesson 4: Be polite. Chances are I will never see George or Renée again, but I probably will run into many of the people from the crowd around town. I will remember the woman who kept elbowing me in the head while trying to take pictures. I’ll also remember the woman who kept pulling my hair as she leaned over me repeatedly to take pictures. I would have gladly ducked if she had asked.
Overall, the crowd was well-behaved. Many of us even said “please” and “thank you” to the staff and stars. The only rudeness appeared when the celebrities neared the barricades. At one point, some women started to get pushy, and I feared a shoving match might break out right next to me. I was shoved so far forward I couldn’t turn around. When George was just a few feet away, it seemed as if some people’s brains just flew out of their heads. As soon as he left, the crowd went back to normal. Then Renée Zellweger got near us, and the chaos began again on a slightly smaller level.
– Lesson 5: There’s a good chance that you know at least one person in the crowd. It seemed like everybody knew at least one other person. (This makes Lesson 4 even more important.) It was a great time for old friends to catch up. A lot of people exchanged e-mail addresses to share photos of the stars. There was a strong sense of community within the crowd. As time passed, the crowd seemed to bond, and little clusters of friends formed.
– Lesson 6: Don’t believe rumors that will fly through the crowd. It seemed like everyone had different information about the event, and many people felt obligated to share their information. When the crowd was small, you could watch a rumor make its way up and down the rows. Most of the rumors focused on when the stars would arrive or how close they would get.
I really enjoyed my very brief brush with the stars. With my newfound knowledge, I am prepared to stalk and gawk at celebrities again. Now I just need a chance to try out all of those hard-earned lessons.
So when can we expect some more stars in Salisbury? Next time, I’ll be ready.
Cynthia Murphy writes occasional columns for the Salisbury Post.

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