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…

Arrival

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.

Instead….

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.

WHAT?

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.

Josh