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The Terrible Day I Met Bruce Campbell

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First of all, Bruce Campbell shares no blame for the wretched events which I am about to relate to you. I still associate him with feelings of frustration, dread, chills, and self-loathing, but those are my issues.

Bruce at his best

Bruce at his best

Bruce Campbell is best known (whether he likes it or not) as the character Ash in the Evil Dead and Army of Darkness movies. He is the author of a couple of books and has been in a lot of other films besides his popular ones.

This mournful tale starts on a sunny day in Salt Lake City, several years ago. By the time the day ended, I had learned the profound depths of my own lameness and become a firm believer in out-of-body experiences.

Bruce Campbell had a new book out: Make Love The Bruce Campbell Way! He would be in Salt Lake City for a book signing. That night, he would also be promoting his new sci-fi original film, The Man With The Screaming Brain.

I have no interest in celebrities, but I was excited to meet Bruce

I’d never met anyone famous, other than the time that the manager of our local Wal-Mart walked through the garden center. He has his own poster by the door. The greeters speak of him in reverent tones usually reserved for the Yeti or the smoke monster on Lost. Some believe he is only a myth–but I saw him.

There aren’t any celebrities I’m interested in meeting. Magazines pretend that celebrities have all the answers and are especially worthy of our worship, but I just can’t do it.

I find that most magazines and entertainment news programs either:

  • Answer questions that nobody is asking
  • Or worse…answer inane questions that people are asking, which is another story

But you don’t see Bruce Campbell on those magazines, which lends him some credibility, in my opinion.

I was a short-lived book collector

I was going through a phase as an amateur book collector. I had a copy of Caramelo autographed by Sandra Cisneros. She signed it:

Hombre Gringo y Guapo, ahora y siempre escribo por ti solo

(My handsome white guy, now and forever, I only write for you)

Yes, I begged her to write it, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t sincere.

I also have several books autographed by Margaret Atwood, whom I am madly in love with. When she signed my books, I said: “You are the only woman who has ever made me say If only I were 40 years older.”

She laughed and then refused to sign anything other than her name. I still love you, Margaret.

Bruce Campbell, on the other hand, would be a B-level autograph, but that was the way he would want it, operating in the shadowlands of the B-movie as he does…


I got to the movie theater about three hours earlier than I needed to and proceeded to shuffle my feet and blink for the rest of afternoon. I was overdressed, meaning I was wearing pants. The crowd was about what you would expect: fanboys and some homeless people who wondered what was going on. You couldn’t take a breath without bumping into someone with a black T-shirt who was quoting Army of Darkness. After hearing “Give me some sugar, Baby,” once too often, I sat on the ground and tried to read.

Sadly, the only book I had was my to-be-signed copy of Make Love The Bruce Campbell Way! It wasn’t very good and I just wound up sitting there, trying not to stare into the sun.

Finally we were put into lines by irritated-looking ushers. They marched around us sticking their frail chests out, mad with power and knowing they had something we wanted: an audience with Bruce.

They gave us each a sticky note. That note would go on the inner cover of the book. We were to write “Your name, and only your name!” on the sticky note. “Mr. Campbell will sign your name, and only your name.”

Fine by me. And what luck! I was third in line as they marched us into the dark building.

The Beginning of the End

We lined up along a velvet rope and paced and bounced. Everyone checked and rechecked their sticky note, lest they make a mistake and be expelled into the street.

The first guy (if memory serves, the male to female ratio was approximately 250:1) went around the corner with an usher. I realized that Bruce was on the other side of the stone pillar…only four or five feet away. In fact, I could hear his voice.

Suddenly an usher prompted me to start walking. I rounded the pillar and came face to face with Bruce Campbell. He was sitting at a desk in a Hawaiian T-shirt, wearing sandals, a choker, and some snappy glasses.

“Hi,” he said.

I handed him my book.

Things Fall Apart

“So what do you do, Josh?”

Josh? Who’s Josh? All I could do was wonder how he knew my name. Ah! The sticky note!

“So what do you do, Josh?” he repeated.

What happened next was my first and only out-of-body experience. From somewhere far, far away, I heard the fool say…

But first, here is what my job was at the time:

I worked as a job coach. I helped people with mental illnesses find work. Once they found work, it was my job to bully their supervisors into making appropriate accommodations and ensuring that my clients were treated well.

It was hands-down the only job I’ve ever had that might actually be considered “noble.” Much more important than restocking the clay pigeons at the Trap N Skeet in Elko or sleeping on the roof of the warehouse out at the Gold Mine.

I could have said it. I could have said it.


Speaking of answering questions that nobody is asking: from my perch outside of my body, I watched this tall, bookish loser say the words: “I have Tourette’s Syndrome. I don’t do anything.”

I have no idea what that means. I do have Tourette’s, but I’ve tormented myself for years now as to why I chose to mention it. And why would it mean I didn’t do anything? And why would I say I didn’t do anything?

Why not just say, “I help the mentally ill find gainful employment?” It is truly the perfect mystery… one I will be trying to solve decades from now on my deathbed.

Bruce furrowed his brow and said, “Oh.”

“Yes,” I said.

He signed the book quickly. Without looking up, he said, “I wouldn’t have noticed.”

It’s true. He wouldn’t have. At the time, my symptoms were manageable and I rarely had to tell people I even had Tourette’s.

I wanted so badly to make this right. Out-of-body Josh must have been wringing his spectral hands and screaming, “Stop you fool! Shut up!,” but I was unreachable.

So I said…

“My wife loves you. She really wanted to come. She’s a much bigger fan than I am.” I tapped the book he had just autographed (to Josh) and said “She’s going to love this.” And I smiled my most winning smile.


In actuality, my wife made it through five minutes of Army of Darkness before saying “This is stupid” and going to bed. The last thing she said to me while dropping me off at the theater was to sigh and say, “Have fun.”

Bruce looked confused, as he should have. Now, not only was I the weird Tourette’s non sequitur guy, I wasn’t even a real fan anymore.

I started walking backwards with my mouth open, desperate to remedy this foolishness. An usher held open a makeshift curtain for me. My mouth opened and closed soundlessly. Bruce squinted and–perhaps I am imagining this–shook his head slowly.

“You’re the man Bruce!” I yelled suddenly, offering my fist. Bruce raised his hand, thought better of it, and looked at the next guest walking up to him.

For the record, I don’t do the fist bump and I don’t tell people that they are The Man.

Most days.

The aftermath

I stumbled back out onto 300 South into the blinding sunlight, my mouth still trying to form the words…the right words…any words but the ones I had actually spoken.

I called my wife and stammered for her to come and get me. Minutes later I climbed into the truck and let my forehead slump onto the dashboard.

“Are you okay?” she said.

I closed my eyes. “I don’t know.”

I don’t like to be confused. Arrogance is not a good thing, but I am smart enough to know that I am intelligent. I can out-research just about anyone I know, and I read lots of books. Doesn’t that mean I am smart?

And yet…for all my mental powers, I have no idea what happened that day. People talk about not knowing what to say when they happen to bump into Johnny Depp or George Clooney. If you love celebrities, I guess I can see how being starstruck could freeze your brain up for a moment.

But I was stumbling and trying to be so careful with my words that you’d have thought I had bumped into Jesus on the street. “Hey! I didn’t know you were back!” I might not know what to say in that situation.

But it was just Bruce. And again, I want to be clear that Mr. Campbell shares no blame in this fiasco. I am still a fan and bear him no ill will, even though I can no longer see his face without hearing a distant idiot saying:

  • I have Tourette’s. I don’t do anything.
  • My wife loves you
  • You’re the man Bruce!

Someday I will forgive myself. For now, I remain your humble fool–the gibbering, Tourettic librarian.

Someone please give me a compliment in the comments section. Even if you lie and tell me that I’m handsome, it will help. Reliving that inglorious tragedy has taken it out of me.

One day I’m going to hope he trips up while signing my book.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Anja Merret June 2, 2009, 8:06 am

    LOL. Those words are seared into your brain. Never to be forgotten! I know what it’s like…

    • Josh Hanagarne June 2, 2009, 8:09 am

      You know what it’s like? Then you have to give an example! I like your blog, by the way. Serious, necessary material. Now, what’s burned into your own brain?

  • Tiffany June 2, 2009, 9:10 am

    Ha, Josh, this is great! It reminds me of that scene from A Christmas Story! You’re the man Bruce! For the record, I feel like a bumbling idiot almost every day but especially any time I talk on the phone. I don’t know why, it’s like my brain stops functioning. 🙂

    • Josh Hanagarne June 2, 2009, 9:20 am

      Hey Tiffany. I can’t deny that I heard A Christmas Story in my head while I was writing this. For what it’s worth, not too long ago I accidentally put my electric razor in my mouth, thinking it was a toothbrush. Find another role model — I will only lead you to madness.

  • David Cain June 2, 2009, 12:07 pm

    If it’s any meaningful consolation, I really enjoyed this story. I have a whole collection of idiotic dialogues in my history, and one day I decided I would no longer fantasize about having said something smart.

    This kind of stuff is in everybody’s past. Fifteen awful seconds don’t need to contaminate the rest of a person’s life, and for me it was a matter of refraining from imagining what I should have said instead. It’s easy to want to get it right in our heads after the fact, but it’s only self-torture, because then we remember how it really.

    Whenever I think “I should have said THIS,” I remember the hapless George Costanza, driving home and cursing himself for making a dumb joke earlier. “THAT’S what I should have said!” *swings car around*

    I hope the sting has worn off for the most part. At least it makes a great story.

    Great post. You’re the man, Josh!

    • Josh Hanagarne June 2, 2009, 1:03 pm

      Thanks David. I hope it’s clear that I’m not at all torn up about it. Always better to have a great story than to rue the day–any day. I can’t pretend I don’t love telling this story. It always gets the same response. I like to act pitiful and am virtually incapable of self-pity. It’s too exhausting to take yourself very seriously. It’s just too time consuming and tiring.

  • Kami Lee June 2, 2009, 6:42 pm

    You’re handsome.

  • Kami Lee June 2, 2009, 7:15 pm

    Did it help?

  • Megan Horton June 2, 2009, 7:44 pm

    You’re very handsome, and I remember this. I can’t believe that you were at a loss for words. You always know what to say. I bet you were the most memorable fan of the night though.

  • Kelly Diels June 11, 2009, 7:09 pm

    I was going to say ‘you’re handsome’ but someone already stole my thunder.

    This story is so excellent, you are so excellent, and your blog is so excellent.

    I really cannot get over the fact that I am so immediately obsessed by your blog and so totally fascinated by your bizarre obsession with kettleballs. I don’t even know what kettleballs are. Thank god for Google.

    And – MARGARET ATWOOD? REALLY? I am now officially your biggest fan. After family members, of course.

    • Josh Hanagarne June 11, 2009, 8:22 pm

      Thanks Kelly. You’re making me blush even more than Bruce did. You can be my biggest fan. My family thinks I’m illiterate and can’t read or write–they don’t know this blog exists.

  • Just Some Guy...You Probably Don't Know Me... June 23, 2009, 9:06 pm

    Don’t feel bad. I bumped into Johnny Depp at Disneyworld once when I was working there and accidentally said “Holy shit!!! You’re Donny Jepp!!!!”, costing me not only my pride as someone who can regularly pronounce two syllable words without fucking up, but also my job due to the fact that we weren’t supposed to acknowledge celebrities when they walk around the park.
    It could always be worse.
    Love the story though. Just wondering, did Bruce seem like an asshole at all? I always wondered how he would be around fans but I’ve never had the chance to ever go to any conventions he’s been at. I was kind of living it out vicariously through your story until the whole “I don’t do anything” part. Either way, it seems to me like that would have been more of a nice change of pace for him than a complete fiasco, what with all the pimply teens who have never really seen anything he’s in just begging him to say “hail to the king” or some shit like that.

    • Josh Hanagarne June 23, 2009, 9:09 pm

      Bruce actually seemed pretty cool. He did a Q&A that night before the movie and he was funny and pretty down-to-earth. I hope you’re right. I wonder if he’s ever told the story, and what it might sound like coming from him:)

  • Leslie Dyann July 25, 2009, 12:07 pm

    Um, I happened upon your blog doing a search for Bruce Campbell images to post on FB with an article from Comic Con 2009.

    You made me a fan with ONE post!

    Josh, you are amazing!

    • Josh Hanagarne July 25, 2009, 12:10 pm

      @Leslie. Thanks! Even though it was such a dumb day, it’s always worth going through something if you can come out of it with a good story. And it is a good story:) See you around. Come back often. I figured out how to travel through time this week.

  • Dallan Baumgarten August 4, 2009, 2:04 am

    Great recounting, Josh! Wonderful story. I attended the same book signing/movie screening tour, but in Phoenix, AZ. My wife actually went with me because it was “what I wanted to do for my birthday,” and she obliged. How cool is that! Anyway, I had a perfectly normal and satisfying exchange with the great Bruce Campbell, of whom I’m a big, big fan. I’m not telling you this to rub it in. In fact, I’m telling you this to let you know that my pleasurable experience was probably just dumb luck. I’ve had plenty of other run-ins/meetings with “celebrities” (people whom I greatly admire) that went even more horribly wrong than your B.C. encounter. During one such incident, with noted King’s X guitarist Ty Tabor, I came off sounding so incoherent, that I would be surprised if he hadn’t taken me for having Tourette’s. An affliction from which I do not suffer. Be well, good sir.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 4, 2009, 7:29 am

      Dallan, that’s awesome. I have a concert/celebrity story that went fine. I was at a Slayer show when I bumped into Tom Araya and Kerry King in the parking lot. I did fine, and that was something I would have expected to fumble, being as big a fan as I was. Thanks for the pep talk. Bruce is still a stud.

  • Dallan Baumgarten August 7, 2009, 3:11 am

    Josh, I love it! I, too, have met Kerry King (backstage at a Mudvayne show) and I’m fairly confident that he doesn’t remember me. Translation: I didn’t come off as a big idiot! That’s fantastic that we have that in common. That was several years ago, before I’d ever seen Slayer live. I’ve since seen them twice in the last two years. Holy Shiite, are they amazing live, or what?!? I could tell right away that you were a man of discriminating taste. Keep on keepin’ on. And keep on blogging. You pretty much rule.

    P.S. (It had just occurred to me to check back in with your site because I’m currently watching Burn Notice featuring… wait for it… BRUCE CAMPBELL!)

    • Josh Hanagarne August 7, 2009, 8:48 am

      Dallan, when I saw Slayer at at Ozzfest way back when, I had a friend with me who didn’t really like them but hadn’t heard them live. When it was over, I asked him what he thought. “That’s what the end of the world will sound like,” he said. The coolest thing that day was that Tom Araya came out and played a song with Primus. Good stuff.

  • Michael September 15, 2009, 12:00 am

    Hey Josh don’t sweat it. I had a similar experience with Bruce.
    My friends and I were in a line at a book store to get his autograph before the release of ARMY OF DARKNESS. There were various movie posters made for the film and one of them featured Ash with both arms raised in the air.

    My friend who was in line just ahead of me was nervous as he approached Bruce. I was behind him standing next to a small tv loudly playing a loop of the trailer.
    I heard (through the noise of the tv) my friend asking Bruce about how muscular he appears on that poster.
    And here..I was sure ..my friend was melting down… he was asking Bruce to take his shirt off!

    I reached over and grabbed my friends arm, effectively interrupting their conversation. They looked at me like I was a zombie, and I realized I was, of course, wrong.

    I apologized and stepped up for my turn to meet Bruce.

    He asked me what my name was and (while writing “GROOVY!” in a speech balloon coming from his mouth) what did I want him to write on my free one-sheet poster.
    I couldn’t think of anything so I asked him to write his favorite line from this new movie. He scribbled something and I thanked him and left.

    As I got outside I saw that Bruce wrote
    “TO MIKE, DROP DEAD!” on my poster.

    He never says that in the movie.

    • Josh Hanagarne September 15, 2009, 7:04 am

      Michael, good to know. That’s a great story, but not very cool of B.

    • JL August 24, 2010, 10:31 am

      This is hilarious…. “he never says that in the movie” I think his sense of humor is quite dry in person and I am sure he was joking around with you, but hilarious nevertheless.

      • Josh Hanagarne August 24, 2010, 10:32 am

        Thanks JL. It was totally worth the indignity. It’s a good story. I can’t imagine how old it gets to be pestered by fanboys.

  • jonathan urbalonis October 1, 2009, 7:41 pm

    i don’t have any formal actor training, but id have to say if i came in contact with someone as bumbling as you id be humbled. good read man… probably something you wouldn’t have said to him… count it.

    • Josh Hanagarne October 1, 2009, 8:21 pm

      Jonathan, good to know. I’m usually pretty slick. Usually…

  • JL October 13, 2009, 1:35 pm

    This was like , laughout loud funny…. I love Bruce Campbell too and can just picture this whole thing going down. Ya know, I have always said, if I met a celebrity that I truly admired ( Like CLint Walker for example, or Bruce Campbell) I too would have nothing to say to them. I would be too afraid I would come off wierd or whatever, so I would say nothing… I feel your pain Josh! 🙂

    • Josh Hanagarne October 13, 2009, 1:46 pm

      @JL: I wish I’d said nothing. Well, no I don’t. It’s a good story. I wouldn’t trade it.

  • JL October 13, 2009, 1:53 pm

    There are so many people out there with similar stories when they finally meet someone they admire. I live in North Hollywood, we see celebrities from time to time, but I never approach them, until I saw Randy Guss, the drummer for Toad the West Sprocket, one of my favorite bands of all time. I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t say anything silly, but I did sort of interrupt his Halloween night with his son and startled the hell out of him. I kept it brief though. Bruce would find this article hysterical, he seems to have a good sense of humor.

  • Justina April 28, 2010, 7:14 pm

    Haha, really funny post. I’ve actually never ran into any celebrities, and I practically live in New York City. This was a very clever post, cheers!

    • Josh Hanagarne April 28, 2010, 8:23 pm

      Thanks Justina. I’m sure your day will come:)

  • Keith Bricker August 24, 2010, 12:32 am

    I’m going to say this, not because I think it but because I feel “peer-pressured” into it, but you’re handsome. I stumbled across this as I was looking for zombie things and I have to say, you’re very witty and this made me chuckle fairly so. Maybe someday I can read your book, go to your signing, and say I have some disorders amongst Tourette’s, Schizophrenia, and/or chlamydia.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 24, 2010, 8:02 am

      Keith, that seems to be how most people stumble onto this post. Zombies are big business right now. May all your dreams come true, especially telling Bruce that you have Chlamydia.

      • Keith Bricker August 24, 2010, 8:23 am

        Oh but Josh, you have mistaken me. I plan on meeting you at your signing as you have mentioned in your article, for Bruce is a B-lister and I assume you can achieve ranks of A-list possibly S-list. As for the Chlamydia, I do not have it as of now, but time can pass from now till your signing, and I assume since a high percentage of women have Chlamydia, I may obtain it from now till then and then say, (I have Chlamydia.) Sorry for the run on sentence.

        Thank you for a future meeting,


  • AmyO September 15, 2010, 1:37 am

    Would you consider selling the book?…..

    • Josh Hanagarne September 15, 2010, 8:57 am

      The signed book? I don’t know, but it’s inscribed to me, just so you know. It says “Hey Josh.”

      • AmyO September 17, 2010, 12:21 am

        Lol yeah, I figured that. Soooo… how much? There’s a fairly cheap, signed one on eBay. The Chins one. Lol but I already have that one.

  • Stavros October 8, 2010, 6:20 am

    Awesome story. Great imagery! Thanks for sharing!!!

  • Michelle April 27, 2011, 1:14 pm

    I was looking up Bruce Campbell Day on Google, and this blog popped up. It was the second result. The title provoked me- how can somebody have a terrible day if on that day, he met Bruce Campbell? Well, of course now I know. I began reading your blog, and it kept my interest. That’s saying something; I love to read, but I can’t say that stories grab my interest in the first two sentences. Other than Thomas Pynchon, I can’t quickly think of anybody contemporary who does. On top of it, I’m not much of a blog reader, not because I don’t want to be; I just bought a computer for the first time in years.
    Anyway, I love the story. It’s great. It’s not only funny and self-depricating; it’s managed to give me a snapshot of Bruce Campbell, stumped by a fan. I love awkward situations. Especially when I’m fan of somebody in the situation. I can’t say I don’t wish that Bruce would’ve been a little quicker on the draw. “I wouldn’t have noticed” is better than nothing, I guess, and his thinking the better of the fist bump is thrilling. I also love the ending wrap up, “…I can no longer see his face without hearing a distant idiot saying…” etc.
    The thing is, you could’ve written about anything. I just like how you write. You manage to describe a scene so that I can fully picture it -and not be… oh what is that called, “purple?” Is that the word? Well, you know, you don’t get all flowery about it. The matter-of-fact style doesn’t want for description, though. Your balance is right up there in the voice of the story. I just really like it, okay?
    I don’t know your writing. I don’t know you. I never saw your blogs. So I’m off to read more. Thanks.

    • Josh Hanagarne April 27, 2011, 2:05 pm

      Michelle, you made my day, thanks.

      • your bitchin sister April 27, 2011, 3:04 pm

        Geez that was nice! What a compliment to you Josh! I liked your ballerina post today Josh. Mom said Ellies dance was the best. The rest sounds kind of weird 🙂

  • Michelle April 27, 2011, 1:23 pm

    I just re-read this, out loud, to my boyfriend. We love it. My boyfriend has these moments often; so we were giggling in solidarity. If I ever meet Bruce, I will likely say the same thing. I do think it’s hilarious that you blurted out “I have Tourette’s Syndrome, I don’t do anything.” Two totally unrelated statements. And only one of them true. And not because you were star struck. Because you were thrown off that he knew your name. I’m certain that’s the reason. Definitely.

  • Derek June 1, 2011, 10:33 am

    You’re the man!

  • TerryO December 28, 2011, 4:14 pm

    i found this blog during my informal research of “people who have meet?” . i couldn’t stop laughing, not at your pain of course. your a great writer… i can imagine being right there with you. my great meeting was with Tom Savini and i adore him. i felt like the biggest idiot on earth. how does this happen? who is the celebrity, us or them? but we end up center ring standing before them like we have to entertain them or our heads will roll. i would love to see a short indie film of fans entertaining their favorite celebrities…lol