7 Sep

Woeful tales of the fanboy circuit: Bruce Campbell

Posted by Bryan White | Friday September 7, 2007 | Woeful Tales

Bruce CampbellIt’s time for another installment of Woeful Tales wherein I relay personal stories of anguish and defeat at the hands of well-known genre movie icons. While my encounter with Bruce Cambell was a far cry from the heart breaking meeting with Tom Savini, it still marks another moment of disappointment and the sudden realization that maybe Fango was wrong and that these high profile personalities aren’t as fan friendly as they make them seem. I suppose you have to keep in mind that when a periodical or website interviews people like Tom and Bruce, they’re often doing it to promote a project or themselves, so there is something to be gained from being a nice guy, posing for photos and palling around with writers. Apparently, the rules of the game change when you’re facing your public.

In Bruce’s case, we could all get fucked.

If you’ve ever checked out my About page one of the movies that I credit to shaping the person that I am today is Evil Dead 2. That’s no big deal. My mom has probably seen Evil Dead 2. Everyone who is into horror movies likes it. It’s completely silly, bloody as all get out and is a one man show carried entirely on the presence and charisma of its star, Bruce Campbell. Thanks to Evil Dead, Bruce has carved a considerable niche for himself and the fans fall all over themselves to one up each other in terms of who is the bigger Bruce fan.

The opportunity arose back in 2004 to see Bruce do a talking show over at the University of New Hampshire. The topic of his discussion was a mysterious one. Bruce didn’t have anything coming out at the time, it wasn’t any kind of anniversary for one of his bigger roles, it was just Bruce, on tour, picking up some duckets, I guess. Tickets cost $10, which I was more than happy to hand over. On the night of the show, I walked up with my friend Wes. I had been preparing for this night. I hit up some interwebs friends for questions to ask Bruce in the impending Q&A section.

I’m a huge fan of Phantasm and in the wake of Bubba Ho-Tep several websites reported that the final Phantasm movie, Phantasm’s End was in preproduction with Bruce Campbell to play a major character. The IMDB entry for the movie even featured Bruce’s name. Sure, it’s the internet but when your sources are Ain’t It Cool News and Creature Corner (now Dread Central), it’s a reasonable bet that there is at least some substance to it.

Bruce was late getting to the show. He looked different when he hit the stage. Many of these people do. They never look like they do in person like they do in the movies (Michael Rooker is my favorite example of this). He looked, I don’t know, heavy. Once on the mic, Bruce did the usual opening rap. Thank’s for coming out, how’s everyone doing tonight? That sort of thing. He then produced a binder, presumably with some notes in it and announced that he would be reading to us from the book of Durham town ordinances. For forty five minutes, Bruce stood on the mic and read about town law. When that was over, he put the book away and proceeded to rant and rave about how modern television and movies suck. His primary points of reference were sequels and the remake machine which was still going strong in 2004. Finally, spit and vitriol depleted, Bruce took a deep breath and announced that he would now be taking questions from the audience.

I never get called on for this sort of thing, but I was excited about the Phantasm prospect so I figured there would be no harm in raising my hand. Bruce was a nice guy about the worst questions. For nearly 90 minutes he had bombarded us with the depths of boredom and then pointless anger about the state of modern entertainment but now he was answering questions like:

“If you were forced to choose toppings on a pizza, what would you pick?”

“Who would win in a fight? You or Ted Raimi?”

and from a very confused, very stoned kid, “What was it like working with Steven Spielberg?”

For another 45 minutes, Bruce answered all of these questions calmly, with a smile, like it was no big deal. Yet in the middle of it, he found it in himself to call on me, and deny me the courtesy that he gave to the guy asking about his favorite pizza toppings. My hand was up, Bruce called on me. I stood up.

“There are rumors going around that you’re involved in the next Phantasm movie. Is this true?”

This was not an unreasonable question to ask. Bruce had just worked with Don Coscarelli who had been talking about following up Bubba Ho-Tep with another Phantasm movie. Roger Avery’s draft of the script had long been known to have a part written for Bruce. I thought I had some ground to stand on. Bruce didn’t.

“This wouldn’t happen to be an internet rumor, would it?” He asked, looking over the rims of his glasses at me.

I immediately became nervous, as if I knew what was coming next, “Well I, I read it on the internet.”

“Sit down.”

Before sitting down and riding the shame, I took stock of the situation. A quick look around the room revealed that, yes, all 500 of the people in attendance were looking at me and every one of them had seen me get burned. I swallowed hard and planted my ass back into the metal folder chair, still feeling their eyes on me. Silently, I seethed with rage. I considered grabbing my shit and leaving, but I figured that was really infantile plus I had that ticket that entitled me to one free Bruce Campbell signature on the article of my choosing. Once the talk had ended, they sat Bruce down at a table and the lengthy autograph process began. I had resolved to have him sign my copy of If Chins Could Kill and once that was in place, I was going to give him what for. It was a stupid question, but that was a shitty thing to do. Lessons had been learned from prior encounters. I watched Bruce make nice with all the fans that he had just stolen ten bucks from. He posed, smiled, shook hands and all that shit. He signed their stuff with a variety of greetings. To so and so, avoid the clap, Bruce Campbell. When I got there he reeled back as if he remembered me as that guy and waved me over as if to say “Let’s get this over with.” I put the book down and he simply put his name in it. Nothing else. Then I leaned in and told him that my sources were solid and he replied that they were still wrong. I was about to let him have it how everyone paid ten bucks to see him and all we got was this lousy encounter but I chickened out, angrily threw the book in my bag and left.

I have nothing but bad luck with these people. Things would eventually turn up and I’d find some celebrity types that knew how to play the game. Whether or not they wanted to be there, these people were always good with the fans, but Bruce was the second time a respected horror icon had given it to me, so to speak.

Later on, I’d tell this story to Reggie Bannister, star of the Phantasm series and he would tell me that he didn’t understand why Bruce would say such a thing because the last script he had read contained a major character written with Bruce in mind and that he had seen the script and there had been talks about being in the movie. That movie still has yet to surface and it looks like there will be another Bubba sequel before there’s a Phantasm sequel, but still… What the hell?

9 Comments 

  1. September 8, 2007 4:35 am

    creamcitian

    Sorry about your poor encounter with him. His characters are usually so cheese-tastic and I often thought meeting him would be groovy (of course) but hearing him speak on a talk show or two and now your encounter, I’m not so sure anymore. He does seem to go on weird rants about the industry and take off on fan questions. It makes me want to stop looking up interviews and articles about him so I can keep suspending my disbelief.

  2. September 8, 2007 5:59 am

    Bryan White

    If I were Bruce, I would embrace this cult status that he has achieved. This is a guy that even people who aren’t into horror movies know. He’s one of the biggest, if the not THE biggest cult star in the world. His fans love him unconditionally. The impression that I’ve gotten over the years, though, is that he’s a little bitter about being pigeonholed as Ash and never being able to really break into Hollywood. I think a prime example is Darkman. It was a chance for both Raimi and Campbell to break through as you can tell Darkman was written with Bruce in mind, yet he only gets a cameo at the end. Throughout his experience in mainstream Hollywood, Bruce has been a cameo guy and only headlines these low budget flicks and I think he’s frustrated by that.

    It’s not our fault he’s completely awesome in Army of Darkness, but he should really ditch the fan-hate and capitalize on his status.

  3. September 9, 2007 1:28 pm

    Retroman DC

    Bryan,

    Wow. Bruce came to East Lansing for the film festival quite a few years back to promote Bubba-Ho-Tep. He was hilarious but yeah he was very condescending to some of the questions posed by the audience and seemed to give some answers just to get reactions from the crowd. One younger guy was pretty shaken up whe he got lambasted about his questions over there being an evil dead 3 and that he was wondering if Bruce would read his proposed screenplay for him.Bruce chewed him out for that one telling him to “sit the “”” down!” But what I heard is that Bruce invited him back after the show and talked with him for a bit and signed a bunch of stuff with him and was very nice to the guy. Go figure. It’s almost like he has created a character of himself that he plays at the fan event shows and in his books he’s pretty open about not being fans of his fans. So hard to tell who the real Bruce Campbell is. But I think he puts on a show and if you just were talking with him on a street corner he wouldn’t have been so rude. Or I’d at least hope so. Sorry you had such a bad experience with him on that. Maybe drop him an email and see if you’d get a response. I doubt it.
    I loved his book “if Chins could kill.”
    Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way” was kinda lame. I’m curious to see his next movie where he plays himself in a town that gets overtaken by demons and can’t operate a chainsaw to save his life:)

    Retroman DC
    http://www.dchighway.com

  4. September 11, 2007 2:30 am

    Dan

    My only encounter with Campbell was overwhelmingly positive. He had been brought in for a double feature showing of the first two EVIL DEAD flicks as well as a Q&A and autograph session. The show didn’t get started till late but Campbell hung around till almost sunrise, answering questions and staying until he’d signed for every person that wanted something signed. Sorry your encounter was such a bummer. I’ve been interviewing fringe celebrities for years and it’s occasionally a disappointment when you discover that they’re not quite as fun, pleasant, charming or polite as you’d hoped. I did a phone interview with Reggie Bannister and later met him at a show and the guy could not have been any nicer, appreciative or more gracious. Same with John Waters. There have been others, though…

  5. September 11, 2007 5:46 am

    Bryan White

    Ehh… I’m over it. I just needed something to write about. This is the second Woeful Tales article I’ve written and I have fun with them. There’s a degree of nerdy self-deprecation in recounting tales of being burned by the people seated at the back of the horror show while seeking autographs. The Savini encounter sucked, genuinely, but by the time I made my way to Bruce Campbell, I’d been through this a few times so it’s not really that big of a deal it’s just fun to write about.

    I’m an admitted autograph hound. My article of choice are my DVDs. I have a signature on about 50% of my collection and the vast majority of those “celebrity encounters” were extremely pleasant or downright awesome.

    Reggie Bannister is at the top of heap. He seemed really nervous when I spoke to him, but he also didn’t seem to want me to leave. The guy just kept talking and that was fine with me. Joe Pilato from Day of the Dead is also a winner. He was wasted when I met him, but a pleasant kind of wasted. He and his wife assured me that my impression of Tom Savini was an accurate one and they get the Savini attitude all the time. Betsy Palmer of Friday the 13th was like my grandmother and if I could have spent the day hanging out at her table, I would have.

  6. September 11, 2007 9:01 am

    Retroman DC

    I’d love to meet Reggie. I missed the big horror-con in Chicago this past summer there were a ton of people there I would have liked to meet including Alice from Nightmare on Elms St. 4. Oh well I had family obligations. you’ll learn this as well soon:)

  7. February 24, 2008 3:42 pm

    Cinema Suicide - My Name Is Bruce Trailer |

    [...] may have talked some trash about Bruce a while back in one of my Woeful Tales posts but I have to admit, I’m still a fan. The one [...]

  8. May 19, 2011 2:09 pm

    Jorgito

    I know I’m a little late posting but WOW…your story is eerily similar to mine.

    Came to a book signing of ‘Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way’ along with a screening of his yet unaired SyFy movie ‘Man With The Screaming Brain’ (so a cool 2 for 1 if I ever saw it) at the Tampa Theater in Tampa (duh!). He had the signing first, followed by a Q&A & finally the movie (which was a blast minaly because of the crowd’s insane/rowdy reactions).

    I asked him the EXACT question about his involvement in ‘Phantasm’s End’…he asks me “where did you hear that kid?” and I’m like, “well, on the internet..” (IMDB) and before I can go on, he cuts me off and replys “you believe everything you read on the internet kid?”…que audience laughter…I was a bit embarassed, but IMO he was ripping on EVERYONE a little bit…giving everyone his usual Bruce Campbell “sass”.

    Planning on attending the Spooky empire show in Orlando Memorial Day weekend & getting his autograph (again), here’s hoping he doesn’t rip me a new A-hole as I’ll have my son in tow this time.

  9. February 24, 2013 6:00 pm

    Jenna

    I to had an odd encounter with Bruce at the Comicon in Portland. I specifically went there to meet him and after being blown away by other nice celebs who went out of their way to greet fans, I found that tickets for meet an greets were sold out. As I was in line for another celebrity afterwords. I was looking down watching after my daughter when I looked up to see Bruce’s entourage were passing me. After I realized who I was looking at and I recovered from the shock I quietly whispered to him hello Mr. Campbell so as not to attract people’s attention. He promptly averted eye contact. I believe this is why they say don’t meet your idols. They are not as happy to meet you as you are to meet them. It’s work.


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