One of the things I wanted most out of Linucon was to spend some time with Wil Wheaton. When my world turned upside down and it seemed like everyone hated my guts, I'd sent him an email saying that I felt a kinship with him, since he'd been through the same thing, and I hoped to talk with him sometime. I never got a reply, and wondered just a little if I'd been too fanboyish, or too chummy, but decided that he was simply swamped.
Wil hadn't made it to the Thursday dinner, and I didn't see him around Friday until the opening ceremonies. As I mentioned in an earlier entry, I wore the TRON costume to those, and to the panel afterwards, and to Wil's reading. At the end of that, Wil had to go to the restroom pretty badly. He did say "cool!" when I approached him and said I wanted to get copies of his books. I didn't catch up with him that evening, though.
On Saturday, I was up to my neck in alligators. I passed him in the hall a couple of times, and, as previously reported, got some very good advice from him on Hollywood. He mentioned he'd had problems with some folks at Jimmy Kimmel Live. I asked him on his way out if there was anyone there he wanted to warn me about, figuring that would give him an out, or an opportunity, as he chose. He passed, and I can't say I blame him much. He headed off somewhere else again. I figured his schedule was even more crowded than mine was, but I was beginning to wonder a bit if I was coming on too strong.
Sunday morning saw me back in the Genreal Xinchub costume I'd worn for the Masquerade. I bumped into Wil and Howard Tayler almost immediately upon emerging from my room for breakfast. Howard told Wil that I was dressed as one of his characters, and that made him just a bit giggly. I told Wil I still wanted to get his books, and he said he'd have time after the poker tournament. They went to the restaurant and settled in for a meeting; I followed, but not closely, not wanting to give Wil the idea I was following him around.
I kept poking my head in the tournament to see how things were progressing and whether Wil was finished or not. The first time, they were taking a short break. Wil was focused, intense. I said, mildly surprised, "You're serious about this, aren't you?" "Yeah." I let him be, not wanting to disrupt his concentration. As the day, and the tournament progressed, he stayed focused, and I tried hard not to pester him. I did get a picture of him staring across the table. I doubt he even noticed my camera's flash.
My last panel finished, I headed back to the room. They were down to two players, Wil and one opponent. There were a bunch of folks watching. I edged my way into the room, and stood behind the other guy. Wil was nearly cleaned out a couple of times, and struggled back with some help from the cards and some good play. Finally, on the last hand of the betting level, the other guy was dealt a pair of sixes. Wil spent a long time deciding whether to bet on the hand or fold, knowing that if he did, the stakes would just go up. The room held its breath as he shoved all his chips into the pot. The other guy turned over his pair of sixes. Wil turned his cards over: Q-7. Oh crap. The dealer turned cards over. First three, discard one, another, discard one, the last card.
None were either a queen or a 7. Wil had gambled it all and lost. The tournament was over. He shook the winner's hand, chatted with him and the other players a bit, then started to leave. I reminded him that I wanted his books. He only had Dancing Barefoot left. I told him I'd settle for that. He went to his room, then met me at the registration desk. Lots of folks came up and asked him to sign stuff. He was gracious about it, even as he turned one lady down when she asked him to sign a picture of one of the ST:TNG characters choking Wesley and a Wil Wheaties box cartoon.
He signed my book:
To Jay The Tron Guy
Linucon - 2004
He headed back to his room. I had another attack of fanboy, and showed the signature gleefully to Eric Raymond, to Howard Tayler, to kinkyturtle. Man, that was cool. Wil came back out on his way to the other hotel he was staying at that evening, courtesy of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, which was running Stand By Me - admission, one signed copy of Just a Geek purchased from the theater. Damn, I would have liked to have made that, but I had other plans.
I told Wil that I'd learned a lot from him about how to deal with people, just from watching him over the weekend. I did, too. I was truly impressed with how he'd managed to not belittle or totally brush off anyone, even when he was not willing to give them what they'd asked for. I hope I'm that good at it when the need arises.
I found out on the way to dinner that Wil had had to retreat to a secret hiding place to escape one obnoxious fanboy with no social skills Friday evening. I understood better why he seemed a bit eager to get away Saturday. After all, he doesn't know me, and I can come on strong if I'm not careful.
This morning as I sat down to wait on my flight, I pulled Dancing Barefoot out of my briefcase. I looked over the incredibly cool signature again, then opened it up. The stories are engaging, and I sped through the pages.
I got to the story of how William Shatner - excuse me, WILLIAM FUCKING SHATNER (his words) - had made him feel small and unwelcome as a teenaged actor and fanboy. Whatever he may think about his ability to deal with fans, he is in absolutely no danger of making people feel how Shatner made him feel that day. Should I become successful in my quest for a career as a performer, I will choose him as a model over Shatner any time.
I also know, if I hadn't before, that Wil wasn't trying to brush me off just to get rid of me. Of the 300 or so people at Linucon, he was easily the most famous and popular. The demands on his time must have been insane. I'm sure I wasn't the only one there hoping to spend some face time with him, but I realize now that it just wasn't possible. Maybe some day, when we're both otherwise unoccupied, I'll get the chance. Who knows?
I finished the book just as the aircraft pushed back from the gate. I looked out the window as we taxied and took off, waiting to pass through 10000 feet so I could pull out the PowerBook and get my thoughts down before the words fled. It's just over an hour later. I'll upload this when I get home. I hope Wil finds it, although I doubt my LiveJournal is on his regular reading list.