Monday, February 17, 2014

Comic KHAN!!!

The Wizard World Comic Con of 2014 recently breezed through Portland, Oregon and I have become aware of an increasing press blackout when it comes to speaking with the "celebrities" who routinely haunt these type of events. I was able to do an interview recently about this topic. Thanks to a frequent collaborator of mine, Eric Sloane, who was able to get a press pass to Comic Con, we can have a bit of an inside look at the machinations of $80 a pop signed photos and how speaking to any celebrity, big or small, is impossible.

Hello, Eric. Could you please give me your overview of Comic Con?
The Wizard World Comic Con is a highly successful show biz merchandising phenomenon. It promotes movies, comics, celebrity actors, writers and graphic artists and their products; movies, posters, comics, toys, games and costumes. It's a Halloween party plumped up like a Ball Park Frank that tours all year long in big cities across the country.
Interesting, but not surprising. When it comes to the matters of press and interviewing not only actors, but creators as well (e.g., Stan Lee), what were your observations and feelings?
Seeking celebrity interviews at the Comic Con was like walking into a chocolate shop and being told that you can look, but you can't have any. I contacted the Comic Con PR guy ahead of time, requesting three interviews: Stan Lee, William Shatner and Adam West. The PR guy assured me that I would not be given access to them as a reporter, nor would I be able to interview any of the other big name players in attendance, including Ron Pearlman, Sara Underwood, Bruce Campbell and Michael Rooker. However, I was welcome to pay to have a photo op with them, plus paying another fee if I wanted to get their autograph.
Of course, why not? Forgive my little burst of sarcasm. Well, Eric, it's not like you are a neophyte when it comes to interviewing not only newsmakers, but celebrities as well, as you've had long career of doing both. Your interview with Ernest Borgnine springs to mind because you waited patiently in a large group situation until he had finished greetings guests and the like. I bring that up because when celebrities appear at events such as these, they may think of it as a bother to have some press guy flitting about. How did Comic Con compare?
The performers had assistants who kept me away from asking questions, unless I got in line and opened up my wallet like everyone else. I am chagrined to admit that, on behalf of a friend who really wanted it, I paid good money to have Adam West scrawl his name on a Batman ball cap. How much? $80 USD. Would they accept a credit card for that? No, cash only, the clerk said – and there's an ATM machine right over there. (Adam West was cordial for a brief moment and even gave me a fist bump.)
Now, I realize that when there's a large convention center crammed full of eager fans, the last thing promoters need is to have reporters barging in to the front of the line to ask questions and interrupt the proceedings. Understood. But how about having some of the stars available at a news conference? Maybe there was one, but I wasn't notified about it.
I have interviewed other stars of stage and screen who were quite generous with their time. William Hurt spent 40 minutes answering questions for my radio show, and Ernest Borgnine was equally forthcoming. To be fair, though, those interviews were one-on-one under very different circumstances.
True, but again I stress that your interview with Mr. Borgnine was similar in surroundings as a convention. In fact, here is a photo of you with Mr. Borgnine.

(Ernest Borgnine and Eric Sloane. Reprinted under Fair Use.)
Do you have any final thoughts regarding Comic Con in general and how you felt as a reporter specifically?
Unfortunately, this merchandising machine works just fine the way it is – there's no need to allow reporters to have access to the stars. Why change the formula if fans beat a path to your door – and they do, by the thousands. Don't get me wrong – for geeks and fans it was a thrill to walk up and say hi to movie celebrities and TV actors, and to hear some of them speak at seminars and panel discussions. People had a blast dressing up for cosplay – costume play – as their favorite super heroes. 
But for this reporter it was three days of frustration. As Stan Lee came off stage, I spoke to a security guard, telling him I was a reporter seeking a few comments. While he was telling me 'no', Stan Lee was whisked away and left the auditorium. With him went my last chance to score a good quote or get an interesting story for my radio station. Just another brick in the wall called Comic Con.
Thanks again, Eric Sloane, for your contributions to this blog article. It's my 100th posting by the way - see, even I can do a bit of self promotion.

1 comment:

dbeldin said...

gee, I got to chat with the late ernest borgnine a long time ago. I ran into him and his lovely wife and son at the LA auto show. and had a quick chat with him. Nice guy.