So I had a bit of time on my hands while waiting for my turn to have books signed by Neil Gaiman. This is what I wrote, mostly on my iPhone, from the Majestic Theatre on Elm Street in Dallas, Texas.
I think I may be a bit starstruck. Tonight is the night of the Neil Gaiman reading and book signing and can I just say…wow…everything.
This morning everything went smoothly. My plane was on time, I picked up my car without a hitch, and I even found my hotel with a minimum of fuss. (You don’t know this yet, but I get lost…a lot. )
Oh my, the hotel! I’m staying at The Adolphus, and it is phenomenal! (Please enjoy this photo of the lobby, I know my skills as a photographer haven’t gotten any better, but my enthusiasm is exquisite.) My room even had a walk in closet. I’ve never stayed in a hotel that had a walk in closet before. It made me wish I had more to hang in it, but I’m only here for the one night so….I don’t think even a perpetual over packer could fill this closet.
The doorman also told me that Stephen King stays here fairly often when he comes to town and that John Grisham has stayed here as well. Grisham actually missed his flight to stay and sign autographs for fans in the lobby. When my favorite doorman, Jimmy, tried to help him extricate himself, John Grisham said he’d rather stay. That he loved being able to interact with his fans….I wonder where Neil Gaiman’s staying. I’m not a stalker, but running into him in the lobby would be pretty freaking awesome.
Apparently, this hotel has a reputation for being haunted. I found this out after I arrived safely home. That’s probably a good thing, otherwise my imagination would have gotten carried away with me. This probably explains Stephen King’s frequent stays. However, there were no sightings of the supernatural during my stay, and I didn’t hear anything weirder than what you normally hear in a hotel. (Trust me, I’ve heard some really odd/disturbing things, too.)
This is where my plans begin to…unravel a bit, but not horribly. My plan was to walk around the Dallas Museum of Art before everything kicked off tonight. I forgot about Monday’s and museums. They’re closed. However, there was a back up plan, sort of…well, I created a Plan B when I discovered my little snafu. A client told me that Half Priced Books has their headquarters here, and there is a fantastic coffee shop attached that serves a German Chocolate Brownie that is amazing. Then I basically found a comfy spot to read until it was time to leave. The brownie was a bit heavy on the icing, but otherwise excellent.
All would have been well, except…GPS hates me. Not mine in particular, but all of them. It got me lost, twice, before trying to make me exit on a closed ramp. I did find it though, eventually. However, I was not there when they opened the doors, which was the goal. I did arrive about thirty minutes later, an hour before the show was scheduled to begin. That’s when I saw it. The Will Call line. (dun-dun-duuuuuunh!)
The Will Call line, oh holy cow, it wrapped all the way around to the back of the building. This did not include the line for people who just needed to pick up their books, that wrapped around the side of the building in the other direction. What time did people get here to stand in line? Is this normal? No, seriously. This is the first book signing I’ve ever been to. It was fun. I plan to go to more of them. Do I need to camp out or something? (Let’s go with the “or something” because I am SO not the type to camp out to get into a theater for an event in which I’ve already purchased tickets…or to buy tickets….or for Black Friday deals. Spending the night in a line on the sidewalk is SO not my thing!) How early do you need to arrive to ensure you don’t spend an hour+ standing in line to get in?
Once I walked through those doors though…The Majestic Theatre is gorgeous! I mean seriously beautiful in the way that modern theaters typically aren’t. The design details are so exquisite and the chandelier in the lobby is pure luxury. Red velvet covers the seats and matches the big curtain on the stage, and the carvings above the stage and on the ceiling are intricate in the way that I’ve seen so often in Europe and not nearly often enough in the US. I love ornate ceilings and I should have taken a picture of this one. It was fantastic.
By the time I get inside the building the ushers are turning people away from the Orchestra and Mezzanine seating. The only seats left are in the balcony, so up the stairs I tread. While, I wait for the event to begin, I’m flipping through Facebook, Twitter, email. Whatever, I can do to keep myself occupied. Then I notice that the ushers are beginning to call out to people coming in the door. “There’s one here,” someone shouts. “No there aren’t any seats with four together, but there are still single seats available,” someone else tells a group. When it is all said and done there is not an empty seat in the house, and this is Dallas, Texas at the end of June. The doors have been open for more than two hours, and as the bodies fill the seats, the temperature, honey, it is a-rising! People start to fan themselves with the program, and my inner Sheldon Cooper tries to come out. I know kinetic energy is only going to raise the temperature in here, but I can’t stop myself from joining in because the cool wafting air across my face does feel pretty good.
Given the number of people waiting outside when I came through the doors at 6:50, I am seriously impressed that we started only 15 minutes behind schedule. An introduction was made by Will Clarke, the author of The Worthy and Lord Vishnu’s Love Handles. Then Neil Gaiman takes the stage. (Sorry my only picture of the stage is of an empty stage. They asked for no pictures or recordings, and I listened. I was good….it was hard.)
Of course, he is dressed in solid black from the top of his curly mop of hair to the toes of his shoes. As he begins to speak, he clasps his hands behind his back and swings his shoulders back and forth, and the motion is so very childlike and a bit unexpected from this rather seriously dressed man. This is when it finally dawns on me that this is really happening. This isn’t some video online or a DVD, this is live and real and when it is over, I’ll be standing in front of Neil Gaiman and he’ll be signing my books.
He talking about writing the opening pages of The Ocean at the End of the Lane while sitting in a coffee shop here in Dallaswhile his wife, Amanda Palmer, is in Melbourne making an album. (Seriously, she is an amazing musician and that album, Theatre is Evil is freaking awesome! They all are, but Theatre is Evil is the one that she made while he wrote this book.) Then he’s talking about typing it, and I realize that I’ve read the tweets and blog posts they both wrote during this process. Before he says it, I know that he read whatever he’d done that day to her every night. No lie, I feel a bit like an insider now, even though I’m nothing of the sort.
Neil starts the reading, what will be the first of two readings tonight. This isn’t the plan, but this theater is just so beautiful and he wants to take advantage of it. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is compelling from the first lines Mr. Gaiman reads, and the protagonist is so authentic. I can’t wait to read this book, and damn the crappy lighting above my seat that makes it impossible to read while I wait for my books to be signed.
Then comes the question and answer session. The crowd had a chance to write questions as they waited to begin, and that is even better because there are questions about Doctor Who, his body of work, and connections between pieces. Some of them are written by kids that are in the audience, which is fantastic. One question asked if he could do an Oprah type giveaway, what would he give us. He said his pilot fountain pen because it hadn’t skipped in more than 27,000 books signed and some ridiculously named ink he uses because it looks like blood.
The second reading he did was from his children’s book, Fortunately, the Milk that will be released in September. Now, this is a book that I’ve gotten to read a bit about online, I’ve seen some of the gorgeous illustrations, and I have a basic idea of the plot line. The reading though, oh, it was great! It felt like a bedtime story told to a bunch of kids. (It is almost midnight now, and truthfully, my bedtime passed me by a while ago.) I didn’t want him to stop reading, but I also knew he couldn’t read forever.
There are a boatload, several dozen boatloads, of people to have books signed and it will take hours as it is. Seriously, it is a hell of a wait. They figured 1,500 people were here tonight, and at least 90% of them have stayed for the signing. They keep asking if people would like to trade their unsigned copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane for a pre-signed copy, and no one is taking them up on their offer. Well, I think I saw a handful trade in their copies for pre-signed and leave. Thank you for your feedback! Fragile Things is now personalized and signed by Mr. Neil Gaiman!
As we wait to have our books signed, I try to think of something witty and memorable to say when I finally get to the front of the line. I’ll give you three guesses to figure out if I accomplished this…the first two don’t count. In my defense, who is mentally on their toes at 1:30 in the morning? About midnight, I started to really feel bad for him. I mean, he’d been signing books since like 8:45. His hand had to be ready to fall off, or he was almost ready to wish it would just go completely numb at the very least! What did I end up saying, you ask? I ended up thanking him for hanging in there with us so late into the night. He said that he could say the same for us and I took my books and left. Of course, this morning I awoke with the perfect thing on the tip of my tongue, and a story plot swimming in my mind. (No, I’m not telling you what they were. On only about three hours of sleep, I may have been delusional and they suck.) Maybe, the evening just sparked the creative juices.
I made some new friends last night. When you’re waiting for five hours and you can’t see to read, you have to pass the time. It is a bonus to know, for a fact, that you have at least one thing in common. Most of the wait, I talked with Kate. She works in a comic book store and is working to go to college to go into film writing. Kate has done quite a bit of stage work as well. She’s going into rehearsals this week for a musical version of Carrie and she’s playing the lead. She also has a first edition of Good Omens. I was suitably impressed. I have no first editions. Well, I have first editions of ….nope, that is in my imaginary, if-i-was-a-rich-girl library. Kate gave me some great recommendations for books and comic books to check out, so they went on the list. I’ll be sure to let you know what I find.
If you could meet any author, alive or…not who would you like to talk with? Wait, have you already gotten to meet them? How did that go?
‘Til Next Time,
4 thoughts on ““Fright Hair on Elm Street”: An Evening with Mr. Neil Gaiman…in Dallas, Texas”
Thanks for including photos with your blog. The hotel looks amazing. Your writing makes me feel like I’m right there with you! How do you find book signings by the way?
Thanks! I’m no photographer, so I try to make sure I throw out the really bad pictures. This book signing I found because I follow Neil Gaiman on Twitter. I’ve seen other writers post about events there and on their Facebook pages, blogs, and websites. Unfortunately, so far everything has been out of town. I’m searching for a good source to find signings and readings in my own city. You know, in a my spare time.
Well keep writing. It’s great.