I have a pretty awesome job. It gave me the opportunity to meet Stephen King, one of– if not the–most well-known living authors. Here’s my confession though: until about a week ago, I had never read any Stephen King. Mainly because whatever I read seeps into my dreams, and my uber-Christian parents viewed him as something tantamount to Beelzebub. In any case, I can honestly say that my experience meeting one of our national treasures was not muddled by excessive starstruckedness or awe.
I found Mr. King to be a downright nice guy with a deliciously dry sense of humor. It goes without saying that he has a potty mouth, which I wholeheartedly appreciate.
Thursday evening, The Mark Twain House & Museum held a VIP reception and meet & greet for over 200 people who came from all over the country for this rare opportunity. I had the job of trying to move people along to make sure every single fan had time to ogle and get handsy with the author up close and personal. Basically, I was one of the most hated people in that reception. For his part, King was amazing with all his fans–he gave out hugs with abandon, and treated each one like they were incredibly special. Needless to say, there were a lot of interesting individuals in the group.
Once at The Bushnell, the madness truly began. About 2,800 people crammed into the poorly air conditioned building (it kicked in later–phew) to see WNPR’s Colin McEnroe interview King. The excitement in the venue was palpable. Colin kicked off by getting the audience laughing with a lovely jab at that mini d-bag, Justin Bieber, who was also in Hartford last night. (Let’s point out here that The Courant seems to have lost a few brain cells and completely omitted King’s appearance in this “so much went on in Hartford last night!” piece.)
The conversation between Colin and Steve covered everything from King’s accident several years ago and his well-known history of addiction (he told the audience that if any of them have been using oxy for 10 years while blaming it on a bad back, “that’s bullshit. You’re addicted.”) to his guitar playing, and The Rock Bottom Remainders. He even had the crowd yelling, “More cowbell!” (What every song needs…)
Colin asked some great questions (of course). He wanted to know how King approaches writing about kids and his apparent deep understanding of the younger generation–especially contemplative, intelligent kids. King shared that he writes about kids for adults, rather than about kids for kids because”Kids don’t want to be talked down to.” They also discussed “losers” with King admitting that he was definitely the “loser” running after the gang begging, “Wait up, guys!”
King also talked about what it is like to be a recognized celebrity–or rather, recognized as a celebrity. He recounted going into a fast-food restaurant where an employee’s face showed that he recognized a then-bearded King. When the worker asked if he should know King, it came out that the worker had mistaken him for Francis Ford Coppola. I especially appreciated a story about a young woman who approached King and Bruce Springsteen while the two were having dinner. The Boss was poised with a pen to give an autograph, but the young lady completely bypassed the singer to talk to King. Books win!
But if you were at The Bushnell, or heard Friday’s Colin McEnroe Show, you may know some of this already. So here’s what I learned about Stephen King during my time with him:
- His wife loves George R.R. Martin and gardening (a woman after our own hearts)
- He will accept glazed donuts from small, tired Asians
- His signature remains strangely consistent even after signing 400 books
- If a person looks cold, he will attempt to clothe them
- He can make a surprisingly speedy exit and circumvent the crazier fans with finesse
- He may be wearing a t-shirt and jeans, but he is a gentleman of the highest order
The entire conversation was engaging, humorous, candid, and everything you hope an event like this would be. Even the serious portions were punctuated with laughter. In speaking with those who attended, I discovered it was all that Mr. King’s fans hoped it would be. The audience seemed more than satisfied–they were so full from the evening’s entertainment they practically had to loosen their belts–as they exited into the hot, hot, HOT night with Riverfest’s fireworks going off overhead.