NY Times film critic Manohla Dargis went to the mother of all autograph conventions, The Hollywood Show. She thought it would be intense. It turned out to be "surreal, fascinating, unsettling." (And yes, that's Cher with a very excited fan.)
An autograph and collectibles convention, the Hollywood Show takes place four times a year at the Marriott across from the Bob Hope Airport, some 10 miles from downtown Los Angeles. (The most recent ran Oct. 9 to 11.) For three days the show fills an L-shaped foyer and adjacent ballroom, 15,000 square feet of the hotel's convention center. As the event's title suggests, collectibles - vintage movie posters, lobby cards and the ephemeral like - are part of the draw.
And, of course there are the stars, from Debbie Reynolds to Deep Roy (Dargis' husband is right, he was indeed in Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) in full costume, to former child stars, to Twilight Zone cast members. One of the bigger stars was Mickey Rooney.
Deep Roy was in one of the busiest corners because he was near Sean Astin, who tagged after Frodo through the "Lord of the Rings" movies. A second-generation Hollywood actor, Mr. Astin is the son of Patty Duke. William Schallert, who played her father on "The Patty Duke Show," was in the foyer.
To someone like me, who doesn't even want to find out actors' real ages on IMDB lest it impact on my suspension of disbelief, this sounds like about the most unappealing thing imaginable. But, hey, if people enjoy it, get a thrill out of seeing a familiar face, and an older star can receive some accolades and make a little money, why not? And people's reasons must vary; someone who grew up on Andy Hardy probably is reminded of his youth when he meets Mickey. And a rabid Lord of the Rings fan, even if he's not there to meet Sam himself, is still talking to someone who lived the film experience, was directed by the master, can explain the technicalities of the shoot. At least, in theory.
The truth is that movie love is itself a form of collecting, and to live with the movies, to write and watch and read about them day after day, year after year, is a form of intense worship. The word fan is thought to come from the word fanatic, which derives from the Latin word fanaticus, "of a temple." Hollywood was built on such adoration, with ornate movie palaces that were shrines, and stars whose ethereal beauty made them virtual gods and goddesses.
The contrast with today's celebrity culture - between respectful studio portraits and paparazzi crotch shots - is striking. In a world that's increasingly torn between deifying and degrading our stars, something as straightforward as paying for a picture seems almost quaint. A little weird, perhaps. But it's a safe space - and how often can you say that?
A Fan's Signature Moment [NY Times]