We’re off to see the Dragon, the wonderful Dragon of RD5

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Part one here
Sunday
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.
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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. 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!”
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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.

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Mad’s autograph
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.

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We’re off to see the Richard, the wonderful Richard of – um – RDC5

Part one
(Any similarities to other RDC5 accounts, i.e. by Kate and Guylty!, is entirely coincidental. Mercifully my account will diverge at various points and it won’t read so much like a version of Groundhog Day.)

Red Dragon 5 Convention? Pah! I couldn’t be seen dead there. I adore Richard Armitage’s Dolarhyde but wasn’t mad about Hannibal itself – at least not enough to attend a convention. Why had RA agreed to attend? It seemed demeaning. I wasn’t a Fannibal. I’d feel a fraud and might be uncovered and shamed in some grotesque and horrible rite. It was expensive and indulgent. But the devil [dragon?] on my shoulder started to gain the upper hand. “It’s the Armitage!”,  it muttered, “Heathrow isn’t far”. I had also unexpectedly been repaid a large bill. The Con would be a chance to get a photograph with him at last, after previous appalling attempts, and – it’s the Armitage! In person. By the time I’d decided to go, the Gold tickets had gone but there were still Regular tickets. So I bought one. Hannibal himself, Mads Mikkelsen, was announced and, for a while, Hugh Dancy, and I couldn’t wait.

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My memory isn’t good enough to relate all that RA said nor are my photography skills worth exposing. Such wonders have been archived in the RDC5 blogs of Guylty, who captured the experience so well and took wonderful photos, and Servetus who diligently harvested tweets and images. Kate also has written some great posts about RDC5.  Here are a few scattergun reminisces and thoughts of mine.

Friday
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The Con was held at the Renaissance Hotel, which was the perfect setting – the long corridors had the sinister look of those in The Shining (but then I suppose most hotel corridors do).

The first sighting of Richard was at the opening ceremony. One by one the guests came on stage, RA second before last. After some gloriously silly shadow-puppetry, foreshadowing the Red Dragon’s entrance, he appeared, not seeming as tall as expected, and, as if in character, wearing a leather jacket, black jeans and boots, with dark short hair and not too much beard (hurrah). Dolarhyde was back on stage.

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Hello Dolly!

RA was absurdly handsome – of course – and looked healthier and younger than his drawn and frail appearance in photographs last year. Maybe it was the weird situation of the Hannibal con or my excited nerves but I felt uncharacteristically emotional seeing him in the same room, more so than on a previous occasion in Leeds. Perhaps it was the warm reception of the audience cheering and responding to his friendliness and good-naturedness (on stage).

Saturday
I had volunteered to steward at the event and was luckily given a slot at both the Saturday and Sunday photo sessions. This was a privileged opportunity to spend time observing the Glorious One, although I alternated between neglecting my duties to peer surreptitiously at him and then reluctantly averting my gaze because I felt like a sinister voyeur. RA was dressed in similar dark clothes to the previous day but his manner was quite different: face set, avoiding eye contact and looking stiff and uncomfortable. On stage, addressing the Fannibals, he could play to the audience, be in character; it is not the same as meeting people individually, as himself or a version of himself.

We were told that, as stewards, we could leap in to the photo queues when we saw an opportunity. What! Not queue for ages patiently? I can’t do that! I’m British! I stubbornly joined the end of the queue for Richard Armitage. We had been warned off inappropriate touching or lifting (like that was going to happen with a 6ft+ man). When near to the object of desire we found out that Richard had asked not to be hugged. This was in stark contrast to the other side of the room where other Hannibal guests, Mads Mikkelsen and Jeremy Davies, were squeezing the life out of fans and I had been looking forward to a similar bear-hug with RA. Disappointing but I can’t blame him, whatever his reasons.

When my turn came I just couldn’t look him in the eye, due to my own shyness and awareness of the disparity between my rapture and his likely discomfort.  I lurched next to the Armitage, looked at the camera, thanked him, all of it a blur.

Just as I was leaving I felt a deep voice vibrating really close to my ear as, giraffe-like, Richard had swooped down from a great height to whisper, “You stepped off the mark!”  Small crumbs, I know, but his voice was so intimate and unexpected that it shot volts through me. What had I done? Groped him by mistake?  Was it because my sleeve had ‘accidentally’ touched his? I realised later that there were taped marks on the floor to indicate where to stand.   This wasn’t the first time I had brought out the headmaster in him: at Leeds for the Urban and the Shed Crew premier I had received an admonishment from him for not taking a selfie properly and now here was another finger-wagging.

Finger wagging

 

 

 

 

 

Finger-wagging

 

I still don’t know what the implications of not standing on the mark were – a badly composed photograph or standing too near to a guest perhaps. It was too late to do anything about it anyway.

Here is one of many replica poses by RA from the photo shoot.hhhhhhh

After the photographs there was a Richard Q&A, he seemed slightly more relaxed but still rather diffident. These are the best of my shaking photos, which is not saying much.

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I love the bit of  hair sticking up at the back of his head.

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From my position RA was quite difficult to see, because of the elaborate flower crowns, so my best view was of the enlarging screen at the side.

Most of the Q &A responses have been reported elsewhere so I won’t repeat them but one of his answers struck a chord with something I’d been contemplating over the weekend, and previously. He said that during the run of the Crucible his face changed considerably (Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde came to mind) until at the end he thought that he had aged 10 years. He said that when he met Yael Farber in New York later she didn’t recognise him (presumably his youthful looks had sprung back). Having the opportunity to gaze at his ever handsome but mellow features, I could see few vestiges of Lucas, Guy, Thornton etc, Daniel even – although of course he was still playing a role of sorts at the convention.

 

So different: John, Lucas, Guy, Daniel and John, with Richard
I know RA had different hair, lighting etc in these roles and he is older now but not to the degree of making it difficult to believe he is the same man inhabiting these roles. It shows what a truly remarkable actor he is. The many faces of Richard Armitage was further brought home later in my hotel room. Not being able to resist watching the Hobbit for the hundredth-millionth time I marvelled at the strangeness of watching the distanced, filmed, performance of a heavily made-up Armitage in New Zealand when he was in reality at the hotel that weekend.

When the Q&A ended and we were filing out, the screen curiously started showing images of Guy of Gisborne, rather than Dolarhyde, so I had stay and watch.

It’s not like working in a coal mine but these conventions must still be hard work. The Saturday involved hundreds of small interactions with fans during the photo shoots; next came the Q&As then, very soon after, Richard and Mad’s autograph session, which took nearly three hours. The guests must have been exhausted. I certainly felt tired and emotional.

Part two to follow ...