Bruce Campbell vs. Army of Fanboys (director's cut)

"Groovy"

OCTOBER 30th, 2002

I had a great opportunity to attend a Bruce Campbell appearance at the University of South Florida along with fellow webmastah EvilBill and his pal Jose just in time for Halloween. What follows is a documentation of that day's events:

First off, some backstory. Bill told me about this event a while back and I immeadiately made plans to go. Those of you who know me (basically anyone bothering to read this) are aware of my being hesitant to commute to places I've never been to. It's not that I'm afraid I'll get lost, but I just hate highway crap (merging, looking for exits, etc.). It's driving itself that I can't stand, and that's due to the other drivers. But I don't mind these conditions so much as long as I either know EXACTLY where I am going beforehand, or have an additional passenger to act as navigator. Well, I mentioned this trip I was planning to take to coworker and fellow high-ranking KRANG member Mark who wanted to come along (to meet Sir Bruce and pester Bill). Everything was going fine until the DAY BEFORE the event, when Mark got word of a funeral he had to attend. So I pressed on alone (so alone....).

The drive turned out to be excellent, due in no small part to Bill's kick-ass directions to the campus. I started the drive down listening to some talk radio and soon popped in my Jet Set Radio burned CD game soundtrack which ended just as I pulled into the USF student parking space Bill directed me to (shhhh.... don't tell security!). Jumping ahead, on the drive home I listened to my self-assembled Fight Club and FLCL (second volume) discs back-to-back on the way home which ALSO played until the end JUST as I was parking at my house. It turned out to be a three-hour round trip with equal time spent both ways. I'm still kinda confused by this since I averaged 80 miles per hour down to Tampa (due to sporadic traffic), and stuck to 70 mph on the way back (due to highway patrol). Whatever. Oh, and the whole trip sucked down less than half of my Buick's gas tank, so go figure.

Once I was on the USF campus, I saw Bill waiting for me (I left later than I'd planned since I wasn't picking anyone up). I got there at 6 p.m. and the show started at 7. So, since Bill was wearing the same damn Invader Zim shirt I was, we went to his room for him to change while I met Jose (definite KRANG material). Hungry, we picked up Bill's ladyfriend (23, was it?) and packed into Bill's ride which was already crammed w/crap (including the creepy nutcracker face you can see on the WAL-MART roadtrip page). We went to the drive-through at Boston Market, Bill's treat (awwww....) and headed back to campus. Then, food in hand, Bill, Jose, and I (pressing studies made this a guy-only event, in our case) walked briskly to the auditorium-thingie with only a few moments to get there (I ate my macaroni on the way). We were there a bit late, but it hadn't started yet. The place was crowded and we sat down in the back section (as close as we could get). More folks shuffled in and the show began:

Hail to the king, baby

After some guy introduced him, Bruce Campbell walked on stage. For those of you who grew up deprived (as opposed to depraved), Bruce is the star of, among other things, director Sam Raimi's early (pre-Spiderman) work, the Evil Dead trilogy. These films progess from really scary to really silly, and I think they are the finest examples of "Splatstick" in the film world only after Peter Jackson's early (pre-Lord of the Rings) work. Truly inspired stuff. Bruce opened with some comments, hosted a little Q&A, and prepared us for the flick we were to see, Army of Darkness. Although I prefer Evil Dead 2 (as does Bruce, when someone later asked him), it was a great experience watching it with a group of fans despite the small screen (as seen in the above pic) and poor sound. But despite how crappy the picture looked (the film even BROKE towards the end just as the first wave of arrows would've hit the advancing Deadite army), it still wasn't nearly as bad as the "restored" footage on my DVD of the "Official Bootleg" version (a joke, mostly).

But, of course, Bill was eating his Boston Market chicken (at least I HOPE it was chicken) while the movie was playing.

After the flick ended, they announced that there was a limited number of tickets for signatures (I'll get to that later), and people went down to get 'em (Bill and Jose already had, and, again, I'll get to my situation later). Soon, Bruce came back to give a great, lengthy speech. He started out talking about Florida, screwy Tampa laws (every town's got 'em!), and USF's mascot (a bull?!). It was all pretty funny, even to me as an outsider.

And through all this, Bill was eating (not nonstop, I'm not making a crack here). He had cornbread or something and the bags they were in were horrendously, abrasively loud. But then again, any time some odd topic came up or some strange comment was made, Bill and I would voice our approval rather vehemently. For instance, when wrestling was mentioned oh-so-briefly, I yelled out "Oh, YEAHHHHHH!!!" in my not-so-best Randy Savage voice (hey, he was Bonesaw in Spiderman with Bruce when he played the ring announcer so gimme a break). I also reached the highest decibel level I think my voicebox can handle (my throat hurts just thinking about this) when he mentioned his doomed, yet great, show The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and I screamed "BRIS-COOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" as loud as I possibly could (and it visibly threw him). Now others in the audience had been doing similar things, some even more obnoxious and drawn out, so we were not alone (and we didn't really do it that much). It gave me a chance to be an audience dick for a change and it was all in good fun (but some poor girl nearby complained to her companion that Bill's screamin' voice "hurts, so much!").

Bruce talked about problems in the media (news and those who cover it as well as television shows and movies) and I wish for the life of me that I could remember some of it, but all I remember was Bill's damn biscuit-bag krinkling up a storm (ok, now I'm joking.... kinda). Actually, one anecdote I found particularly amusing was when, discussing the sorry state of films recently, he started out playing the part of the trailer voiceover guy,

'Take the plunge. Feel the Rush. Blue Crush'

....What the fuck does THAT mean?!

He was overall quite intelligent and very humorous during this part of the program. He then continued to live up to that standard with an extended Q&A session. He only once called on someone near our position, but he really ripped on some poor schlub who ended up asking my would-be smartass question. The question, or rather, request, was for Bruce to say "Toolshed", as Kurt Russell had asked him to do in reference to Bruce's badly looped line in Evil Dead 2. My favorite Bruce-fan exchange (which took place when Bill was foolishly out of the room searching for a napkin) was when some guy (there didn't seem to be too many ladies there voluntarily, but I'm sure a number of them were) asked him why he had no nude scenes in Army of Darkness, to which he replied, "You stupid gay bastard." Come to think of it, maybe that was asked in the first session. Oh well.

Then came signing time. Bruce was doing this thing mostly because he was promoting the new version of his book If Chins Could Kill, which I plan to get when my cash flow allows. At first it was said that he'd only be signing if you had his book, so I didn't get a ticket to get in line like Bill and Jose had. Bill's group was eventually called and we walked alongside the line up to a point and I gave him something for him to get signed for me.

It didn't quite work out (the thing of mine Bill took up there is circled). Bill freaked Bruce out by trying to explain his whole "fist-shaking-as-a-friendly-greeting" thing, got his book signed, and that was that. Or so I thought. Before Jose could get through the line, it was announced that we'd have to clear out of the place by midnight and that they'd relocate nearby in some study or something. So we rushed over there while most folks went home to happier things. I got Bill's ticket, got in line behind Jose and probably fewer than fifty people in all ended up in there before Mr. Campbell arrived (again). Soon it was announced that those with half a ticket would go first, as they had been at the cutoff point from before (why everyone then didn't just rip their tickets in half, I don't know). Then those with books were repositioned in front of myself and others without tickets, as it was pointed out that "only those who had books were given tickets" and that some people who had "just shown up with a Necronomicon or something" (a direct reference to myself, as I saw it) would have to wait. This queue-manager guy, it later turned out, had attended the Megacon this year (and probably earlier) dressed as Daredevil, and Bill and I discussed with him briefly the other costumed freaks that had been there (including the Marios). Bill and Jose waited with me in line and I eventually coerced them to each go through again behind me with another thing of mine to get signed (suckers). It had never been specifically stated that stragglers (we were near the very end) would even be seen (it had been said that those with books and tickets could get only one thing signed, with some getting action figures and movie posters signed as their choices), but the true fans seemed to expect it. I read recently on Aint-It-Cool-News (from an IMDB review link, I don't really like AICN) the following comment on another recent Campbell signing appearance:

....the organizers of the event were either unprepared for the huge turn-out of Bruce Campbell fans, or they were just unprepared in general. The signing was a complete clusterfuck with no one knowing what was going on....

Combined with my experience on the 30th, I'm leaning toward "unprepared in general".

But who cares? It eventually worked out, and I got to meet the King himself. He even played off my patented "point-to-focus-the-attention-on-someone-other-than-yourself" common photograph stance. I also spent my short time there getting him to expand on his explanation given earlier that evening of his role in a film that has yet to see distribution called Bubba Ho-tep. Hoo-boy. I'm only semi-paraphrasing here (and nothing important) because I remember his entire plot summary from the Q&A:

The story revolves around Elvis, who I play, who lives in an east Texas retirement home after switching places with one of his many impersonators. He's 68 years old.... and he has penis cancer. Also in the home is a black man who believes himself to be JFK. He thinks that someone in the government conspired to dye his skin and that a part of his brain is being kept alive in a jar under the Pentagon. He also thinks that there's a mummy who keeps coming into the home and stealing the souls of the old people there.... because they're such easy targets. And it turns out... that he's right! And so he and Elvis must team up and save the day.
When I asked him again about this plot (I was going to record it with the camera's movie mode until I finally realized there was no microphone on it), he repeated his earlier summation, ommiting one detail. He again explained to me what things were wrong with his character, after which I added, "with penis cancer", just to clarify since that was the part Bill and I went absolutely apeshit over (causing no small amount of displeasure in the surrounding crowd). Man, oh man. He also mentions that in this film, which I obviously MUST somehow see, Elvis "dies as he should've died - as a HERO!". To this I added some lame-ass postage stamp comment and then excused myself from his presence.

But that wasn't the end of it! Jose went next to get something signed for me and they let me take the picture. I snapped this one too early and Bruce told me to take a proper one, but I love his expression in this one. Priceless.

And posting this one is partly to make up for not taking a picture the first time Jose went through, since this time was for my benefit, but it's mostly because Bruce really does kick that much ass.

And here's Bill taking one to the chops (he deserved it). It looks like he's enjoying it a bit too much, but I'd understand if I were in his position. So that was it for the event.

Since it was just after 1 a.m. (HALLOWEEN!!), we decided to hang out a little bit more. I say 'a little bit' because it probably wasn't all of 20 minutes that Bill spent playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

Bill does his best (over the shoulder) 'what-the-fuck?' stance as the game freezes up (that'll teach him to use too many cheat codes in videogames). Soon after, he and I were kicked out. We went to a corner store and talked about our jobs and everyday shit. Good times. I left at 2 and got home at 3:30, slept through most of Halloween and never looked back.

It was all SO worth it. A great trip, only made better by having more than just pictures (as much as I love them) to show for it. Above are the signed covers of my DVDs for Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness (with the EXCELLENT addition of "Stay Groovy!" scrawled above the signature). And below.... is the greatest thing of all time, which I'll let Bruce himself describe:

Necronomicon ex Mortis, the Book of the Dead. Bound in human flesh and inked in blood, this ancient Sumarrian text contained bizarre burial rites, funerary incantations and demon resurrection passages. That, and it's also signed by me: Brucie-boy.

It was never meant for the world of the living. It was never meant to be placed next to calanders and pink highlighting markers. The book awoke something dark in the woods. It took Linda, and then it came.... for me. It got into my hand and it went bad, so I lopped it off at the wrist. But that didn't stop it. It came back.

Big time.

You must speak aloud the proper spell to return you to your (my) world:

Klaatu.... Barrada.... n.... Necktie.... Nickel.... It's an "N" word, it's definitely an "N" word!

Klaatu.... Barrada.... Nikto!

I know your damn words, all right?