When I was somewhere between 8 and 9 years old, my family got cable TV for the first time. My brother and I gravitated to Nickelodeon, and thus I was introduced to The Monkees thanks to the magic of syndicated reruns.
Peter Tork rapidly became my favorite of the four, partly because he was the clown of the group and partly because I utterly failed to realize that fact. I'm still not very good at spotting satire unless I know to be actively looking for it, and even some hyperbole gets past me. Back then, I witnessed what were probably intended to be yet more "jokes" and "gags" for the show (maybe I'd recognize them as such if I watched the show again now), and my heart went out to the guy who'd been stuck in the role of Guy Who Gets Dumped On For Laughs.
(I was never so deluded as to think the show was reality. But at the same time, it *was* real in the sense of "these are the things happening to the characters, and we're supposed to think it's funny even though one of them is crying, because it's overexaggerated crying".)
A couple of months ago, my husband forwarded me an email alert that Peter Tork was currently making a solo tour and would be coming to the Granada Theater. It happened to be during the weekend of A-Kon, where I often volunteer with the programming staff, but I simply told my "recruiting officer" that I'd not be available that Saturday after 6 pm, no exceptions, and then I immediately bought myself a front-row ticket.
The first thing I did after getting my ticket and wristband was open a tab at the bar with a Coke and three of the brisket tacos which were the only food being sold on site. They rivaled the State Fair of Texas in terms of quality and price, but I wanted to support the venue and I wanted to not miss the opening act. The first thing I did after *that* was scope the merchandise table, where I learned that buying one or more of the "Peter Tork and Shoe Suede Blues" albums would get me a spot in the autograph line after the show. I would *like* to think that I would have bought at least one of the CDs even if I hadn't just found out about an autograph line, but that cinched it for me and I picked up both.
(I do have to remark on the opening act - Jason Elmore is a pretty damned amazing blues guitarist. I will have to check with my bass instructor tonight about whether this is possible or if it was special effects, but I am pretty sure I heard him throw out chords composed entirely of overtones.)
Tork's show was a retrospective of his musical life leading up to his career with the Monkees, and one of the things he talks about in the show is just how fabricated the band was (and how that frustrated him as an actual musician), so it was really appropriate that only three of the eight or so songs he played to punctuate his stories were Monkees tunes. Though my inner twelve-year-old did start jumping up and down a BUNCH when I figured out one of those songs was one which I had always really liked from the show but never been able to find on tape. My inner twelve-year-old also felt very smug as she and I found out together that Peter really is every bit the sweet and witty guy she had always believed him to be.
I think fewer than a dozen people left after the show - the rest of us were queueing up for autographs. That was an experience in and of itself, especially the part where I encountered a young lady who owned a banjo and DIDN'T know how to play any of the phrases from "Dueling Banjos". Eventually, a (to me) clarification filtered down the line - people who had bought things off the merchandise table got a spot at the *front* of the autograph line. So I dutifully jumped to the front to be placed correctly in the queue.
There were several things I thought I wanted to say to him while he was writing his name on a couple of cardboard covers, but on top of my rampant self-censor (OMG how could he possibly care about something like that?), I was very tired, and I had to focus everything I had on the one thing that I felt I needed to say to him:
"If you're willing, I would take a hug instead of the autographs."
And if you remember a couple of paragraphs ago where I mentioned how much of a sweetheart he is, you'll not be surprised that his answer was that he could do both. Or that he did. It's probably for the best that my inner twelve-year-old went into glee-induced cardiac arrest at that moment, so that my grown-up self could appreciate the moment for us.
I don't have any delusion that there is a great and deep and abiding connection between myself and this famous guy who didn't know my name and probably already doesn't remember this particular moment. But there *was* a connection for those few seconds. He was there and engaged, and it really felt like hugging a friend. It wasn't until afterward, when I was telling other people that I'd gotten to hug him, that I even started to build up those thoughts of "OMG OMG OMG I actually got to hug him!".
Though I have done one thing I don't normally do. I'm not washing the shirt I was wearing when I got that hug. Not retiring it forever, mind you; I intend to pack and take it with me when I go to Oregon next month, and be wearing it at my mom's house so I can hug her with it on and she can enjoy the residual hug still on it.
On a mostly unrelated note, my having come to the show right from having worked A-Kon led me to think "God damn, the people in charge of line-wrangling here are a bunch of n00bs compared to my peeps".