Part one here
The day began with a terrible panic as I had lost my steward’s card and didn’t think that I could do my stint at the photo shoot. Luckily someone had handed it to one of the staff (which didn’t surprise me as the attendees were proving to be generous kind people).
The queues for photos with the guests started to form. I should have mentioned before that there were signs showing the guests’ names, indicating where people should queue. Seeing ‘Richard Armitage’ on the sign increased the anticipation, before he appeared, and I made sure to hover in his area of the room for my stewarding duties. Richard arrived, dressed similarly to before, apart from substituting his hoodie for a thin grey jumper, and took his position. But, WHAT!!!! He was now giving hugs (or arm contact anyway) to everyone he was posing with. I waved to Guylty, who was in the queue, and we then spoke excitedly about her impending hug but I still felt bitterly disappointed. What a difference a day makes. Then thought, sod it. I’ve spent so much money already, what would £45 matter. Luckily we weren’t busy so I abandoned my stewarding post and flew (I’m over 50 and over-weight, but I flew) to the other side of the hotel to buy another photograph and was just in time. Red-faced and puffing I joined the queue.
We were still told not to touch him, which contradicted his behaviour. This time I made eye-contact with a gimlet stare, so that I’d remember his expression (of resignation, no doubt), obediently stayed on my mark and my dream came true: my arm briefly round his pleather-clad , I think, waist (he felt surprisingly slight) and his hand lightly on my back. Afterwards I was tearful again. Ridiculous. What is it with this man? It was a glorious moment, a memory that will stay with me for a long time. His change of mind/heart made me wonder what more he would have given if there had been a third day of photo shoots, a tango-style clinch or even a North & South-style snog perhaps.
Arm dream come true
I have mixed feelings about my consuming desire to touch and be touched by Richard Armitage, which overrode any consideration for his feelings – and much has been written already about Hug-Gate. Yes he is an experienced professional. He chose to do the Con, and presumably was well paid, but that doesn’t stop me feeling uneasy about participating in a paid transaction that he wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about – the beautiful reluctant ‘gigolo’ [Joke, joke, this is a joke. I’m not seriously comparing being paid to be photographed with fans to an act of prostitution, but then again – no stop.]
Richard gave another Q&A in the afternoon and he seemed more at ease. I had a couple of questions I wanted to ask and, as the queue wasn’t long, I joined it – without a qualm. This was an astonishing thing for me to do as I can be crippled by shyness and dread public-speaking. That I felt confident enough speaks volumes for the non-judgmental, liberating, atmosphere at the Fannibal con, and it helped that no one knew me. The first question I considered seemed so convoluted (about RA getting into character of Dolarhyde during the Hobbit promo in China) that I knew I’d make a mess of it. It turns out that I’m quite capable of making a mess of a simple question too. When my time came, I made eye-contact and asked him why, as Dolarhyde, he had signed the name John Crane in the Brooklyn Museum register. A question Guylty and I had been discussing beforehand. Was it his idea because he had played so many Johns before? For a moment he looked nonplussed and then said. “It was in the book, wasn’t it?”. Someone in the audience shouted out that it was. Then RA chided, “I’ve read the book!”
Oh no, not another finger wagging!
Well I’ve read Red Dragon too and didn’t think it was John Crane, but couldn’t remember. I felt a right idiot. A wasted opportunity. When I spoke to Guylty afterwards, she said that it was Paul Crane in the book and she had been shouting this in the audience.
No rest for the Richard. After the Q&A, he and Mads had another autograph-signing session. It is obvious from comments RA has made in the past, that he believes in a strong work ethic. This was evident at the Con, in his patient, [stoical!], non-chatty, conscientious application of his duties and considered responses to questions.
I had two items to be signed by RA: the staggeringly sexy promotional photograph, sold at the Con, of Dolarhyde in his zipped-up black leather jacket and then Guylty’s creation, the Flat Ritchie log book, part of a wonderful fan project instigated by her, which is travelling the world.
Queuing up for his signature, we were given pens to write our names on our autograph cards so that the guests presumably wouldn’t have difficulty spelling names etc. I toyed with the idea of writing ‘I love you’ after my name, in the hope that Richard would write it automatically without noticing (perhaps I should have written Paul Crane, ho ho). He did anyway write an approximation of ‘Love’ for many of his autographs that weekend – it looks like ‘Lol.’ (Laugh out loud?). Presumably it’s illegible to avoid him being sued multiple times for breach of marriage promise.
Richard’s signature in the log-book seems to end in an ice-cream flourish
Beforehand, Kate and Guylty and I had discussed the best place for RA to sign the log. Kate sensibly suggested asking him to sign the back page as it was flat. I’ve just noticed that he signed the opposite page, avoiding the pretty patterned page.
I have alluded to the Wizard of Oz in the heading but I did feel like the Cowardly Lion approaching Oz, except that this wizard was a 6ft+ hunk not a wee man. I still tugged my forelock afterwards.
When my turned came, I passed the photo and log-book to RA’s minder for approval, expecting him to whip out a thick black marker pen and redact certain passages in the log. He passed the photo of Dolarhyde to Richard and I blurted out, “Please don’t write on your face,” my stupid sense of humour, which he sensibly but thrillingly (masochist me) ignored. The following account was included in Guylty’s blog but, for the sake of completion, this is what happened when I asked RA to sign the log:
I wish I could recount an articulate and fascinating conversation with him. The truth is that, flustered as usual, I garbled something incoherent like “This is Flat Ritchie, he’s travelling round the world in a box. He’s been to the States twice and round Europe and we’re putting gifts in and taking them out’. He said “Ah, impressive” and then asked if he should address it to an individual or in general and I stammered, “An individual – no, in general”. I wish I had been collected enough to suggest a message. He was poker-faced, eyes down, but when I said “It would mean the world to us if you signed it” (which he was doing anyway) he looked up and my heart stopped.
I was a bogus Fannibal at the Con. My reason for attending was solely to meet Richard so I didn’t seek out photo opportunities with the other Hannibal guests or attend many Q&As, but I did get Mads Mikkelsen’s autograph. He is a fine actor, fabulous as Hannibal, and I now admire him as a person. Watching him interacting with fans, his eyes and smile would stay on a person – even after they were walking away – and didn’t switch quickly to the next in line. The affection he showed to attendees was truly touching and he was such a good sport. When he was autographing my card, I was flustered with him too and muttered something like “You are so lovely and warm with the fans” (this wasn’t a jibe at RA’s reserve) and Mads misheard and said “Yes, they are great” and shook my hand.
My last sighting of Richard was at the closing ceremony. He was sitting, a picture of awkward handsomeness, not apart on a stage but at a table with the other guests, in a very crowded but happy room of Fannibals and Armitage-loving Hannibal imposters. Each guest gave a brief farewell speech. RA spoke of people coming together from all over the world, of the camaraderie, and how he was also a misfit. He gave a shout-out to an attendee dressed as the Vicar of Dibley and two jokers who had used hotel sheets to dress as ghosts, on his suggestion for a costume. Jeremy Knight had also praised the lateral-nature of the Fannibals. And he was right. They are a lovely, inclusive, warm and generous group. I never for a moment felt too old, too awkward, too self-conscious (except in His presence). I met two lovely fellow fans Guylty and Kate, the latter I was able to witness literally walking on air after presenting a delighted RA with Jill’s Gymkhana to sign, and I made a new friend, Debbie, a fellow steward, bogus Fannibal, and long-time Armitage fan.
Whatever RA’s reasons for attending, he gave a wonderful generous gift of closer contact with fans (which I doubt was his most relaxing experience) and I’m so grateful. If this is a facetious, even carping, account of three memorable days in February, it is because I am unable to master or channel my intense feelings, on seeing him in the flesh, and put them into sensible words. If Richard does appear at more conventions and you are tempted to go, can afford it and are able to travel there, don’t hesitate – and I highly recommend volunteering as a steward. It was an amazing experience, a rare opportunity to be near to and observe an Object of Desire for a prolonged time. I don’t regret a second of the adventure and am still in a state of bliss.