Geekdom

Published on January 5th, 2016 | by Craig Silliphant

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The Etiquette of Photo Ops — For the Stars

After a disappointing brush with William Shatner, we explore the concept of buying photo ops at cons — should stars be nice to their fans?

A month or so back, I had the pleasure of once again attending the Saskatoon Comic and Entertainment Expo. This year, they had a pretty big marquee guest in William Shatner, Captain Kirk himself. Naturally, being a huge Star Trek fan since I was a kid, I had to meet Shatner. My birthday falls on Expo weekend, so it’s become a tradition for me to buy myself a photo op with my favourite guest as a present to myself. I started last year with a photo with one of my b-movie heroes, Lance Henriksen (so, it’s been a short tradition so far).

They say you should never meet your idols, and I can attest to that after my fleeting brush with Shatner. A lot of the news focused on how amazing he was, but I’ve also noticed a few people talking about the fact that he was actually kind of a dick. Now, it’s hard for me to say ‘he’s a dick’ when I only met him for a second, but my experience did ring true with what others were saying. Mostly, that he was standoffish about having anything resembling small talk and even eschewed eye contact with people. I’m not naïve enough to be surprised by any of this, but I have to say, it tainted my photo op somewhat. This got me thinking about photo ops and how those moments together can affect the photograph and your fanship of that person. Like any photo, you’re capturing all the feelings of that one moment in time, only, in this case, with someone you really admire. Shatner sort of, well, shat all over that.

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Let’s back up to last year, when I met Lance Henriksen. I’ve met a few celebs and had my photos taken with them in the course of being an entertainment writer, but I’d never done the con photo experience, so I didn’t know what to really expect. I waited in line and when my turn came up, they sent me into a back area, where Henriksen greeted me with a warm smile and a handshake. I said something stupid like, “Thanks for coming to our little city!” He was wonderful. He put an arm around me and they snapped the photo. He kept talking to me as I pulled away, all too aware that the photographers were ready to move on to the next photo and that there was a line of people behind me. I almost felt like I had to tell him, “I have to go. I’m not supposed to monopolize your time.” Henriksen was a great guy.

Fast-forward to Shatner. I was actually the first in line for photos. I walked into the room where Shatner sat on a stool. Considering all the jokes people used to make about his waistline and hairpiece, he’s looking pretty good for 83. I was going to be cooler this time, so I opened with, “Hello, Mr. Shatner.” He sort of snort grunted at me and kept facing the camera. I stepped up to the spot, got ready to smile and suddenly we were done. Thankfully, my eyes were open and I was at half smile in the photo. He motioned rudely for me to move on, and as I walked away, I heard him chastise the photographers (who did a great job, by the way), saying, “Now, that’s exactly how I don’t want that to happen.” I wasn’t sure exactly what he was referring to, but my guess is he wanted them to have guided me in a faster and more uniform manner. I know it wasn’t really about me, but it’s still not what you want to hear as you walk away from anyone in any situation, let alone one of your idols.

I got my photo and went back to the con itself, showing a few people as I beamed with pride. But then a funny thing happened. The more I looked at the photo, the less I got pleasure from it. Even though it literally lasted seconds, my experience with William Shatner the man had tainted the photo itself. I can see the photo right now, as I write this, and when I look at it, all I can think of is the memory of how rude Shatner was.

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Now, you might be thinking, ‘Dude, relax. He’s a rich old famous guy. He’s not under any obligation to give you some experience.’ And you’d be right. When I stood next to Shatner, we entered into a strange social pact. On the more cynical end of it, we used each other. I used him as an icon that could be my pose monkey so I could have a photo of myself with this famous person. He used me as a warm bodied mouth-breather that would stand in line to pay money to stand on that spot for a few seconds. But shouldn’t there be more to the pact than just that? I don’t need him to be my best friend, but if he’s going to go meet the fans, then he could at least offer a friendly, “Hello,” or “Thanks for coming.”

Look, if Shatner is 83 years old and he doesn’t want to waste the remaining time that he has sitting bored on a stool meeting the unwashed masses while a photographer steals his soul, then he shouldn’t do it. He’s had a decent career resurgence in the last 20 years. He doesn’t need con photo money like some more fledging or fading stars. It’s not that I can’t relate to Mr. Shatner. I’m a shy guy sometimes. I wouldn’t want to sit on a chair for an hour or two having my photo taken with strangers like a mall Santa Claus. So I wouldn’t do it. But, if I did, I would give those fans at least the decency of politeness.

Shatner was once put on the spot for a Saturday Night Live skit where he told his fans to “get a life.” I always defended that as being a joke, but it kind of felt real to me after meeting him. It’s like he detests the very people who made him who he is.

In saying that, I’m projecting things onto Bill, er, Mr. Shatner (let’s face it, we’re not on a first name basis like Lance and I). He may not hate the fans at all. He may have just not had enough Oat Bran that day. Maybe I’m being a butthurt baby, but that feeling he left me with is what’s festering inside that photograph every time I look at it. Conversely, I get warm fuzzies when I look at the photo of Lance and myself. To see what real stars do, Shat, Google ‘Nathan Fillon photo op’ and you’ll see him sharing amazing moments with his fans. It’s five seconds for Fillon, but it’s a lifetime of smile-inducing memory for them. I’ve met more than a few celebs through my work, and the really nice ones are truly special.

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This hasn’t turned me off the idea of photo ops or even Star Trek and Captain Kirk. It’s just kind of turned me off William Shatner as a person (and the specific photo that features both of us together). There are plenty of people that think it’s crazy to pay to have your photo taken with a celebrity and there is no end to the think pieces on the net about the dark side of photo ops. But I’m not subscribing to all that. This isn’t a damnation of photo ops — it’s telling Mr. Shatner and other stars that do photo ops (they read this site, right?) that how they act when they meet a fan in this situation affects the end product. It’s about more than that moment. It’s about more than the money that the fan paid for the photo. And it’s more than the photo itself. It’s about the years of adoration that one has given to an idol, and doing the right thing with that power. It’s about taking pride in your fans and in your work, or at least realizing your own limitations and not putting yourself into situations that you can’t handle.

I know, I know. I should just get a life.

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About the Author

is a D-level celebrity with delusions of grandeur. A writer, critic, creative director, editor, broadcaster, and occasional filmmaker, his thoughts have appeared on radio, television, in print, and on the web. He is a juror on the Polaris Music Prize and the Juno Awards. He loves Saskatoon. He has horrible night terrors and apocalyptic dreams.



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