"Have you ever met a hero/idol/major influence? How did it go?"
I pick these questions every month and yet I've somehow picked a question that I find quite difficult to answer. Idolising people is not something I tend to do, which I think is sad.
I'm actually jealous of those people who can find ecstasy in something like that. I'm also jealous of the people being idolised, but that's a psychological analysis for another day.
I can think of two situations when I've had contact with someone whose work I really admire. The first came in about 2010 when I want to a talk by the man who's by FAR my favourite author, Matthew Reilly. The story of Reilly's first novel is well-known among his fans. Rejected by every publisher in Sydney, Reilly decided to self-publish it. Then, a short time later, most of the copies were stolen from the back of his car. These days, if you find a first-edition copy of Contest that book will be worth hundreds of dollars.
During his talk, Reilly mentioned that he had three copies of the book left to his name. It gave me an idea. After the talk, when Reilly was outside doing book signings, I asked him for a favour.
'Mr Reilly, I'm raising money for Movember.'
"Thanks! But I was wondering if I could buy one of your remaining original copies of Contest so I can auction it off and donate the profits to the cause?' There was more to it than that - I was certainly going to do what I said, but I also wanted to be able to say that - at least for a little while - I owned a first edition copy of Contest. Reilly smiled at the question.
'That's a very gutsy question and I admire that, but I'll have to say no. One I plan to keep forever and the other two will have to go to very important people. But again, well done for asking. That's very gutsy.'
'Thanks,' I chuckled. 'It was a pleasure to meet you.' I started walking away, then turned back around and with a host of fans and attendants still watching, I asked 'Would you like to make a cash donation?'
The surrounding people laughed as Reilly sighed and fished out his wallet from his jeans pocket. He slammed a $20 note down on the table with an annoyed but amused "Here."
'Thanks, would you like a receipt?' I asked, being way too bold under the circumstances.
'No, that's fine,' said Reilly turning back to the line.
I kind of wish I'd kept the note he gave me and replaced it with a 20 of my own. I'd love to have it framed and put on my desk - the cash that I bugged a celebrity into giving me. But that contradicts my I don't idolise people" claim.
The other person I can think of whose work I really admire is Wil Anderson. He's an Australian comedian who's known for being a rebel and a voice for the progressive side of politics. He's intelligently provocative and forever evolving. And he's also achieved the amazingly difficult task of being at the top of mainstream media while also retaining indie credibility. The only other person I can think of that sat in both extremes so completely was Kurt Cobain.
I had two very small but embarrassing encounters with him. The first came shortly after I got Twitter for the first time. I realised that Twitter may be a way to reach celebrities and had a go at Tweeting a few of them. When I got to Wil Anderson, I said this:
"Hey Wil, I'm about to see a Batman Dark Knight triple-feature. It'll be a nine-hour love-in. Jealous?"
This was a day before the release of Dark Knight Rises in Australian cinemas and one cinema had arranged to show all three Batmans in a row, finishing with the premier of the the third one at midnight. I knew from listening to Wil's podcast that he absolutely loves the Christian Bale Batman movies, so I figured that would be a good in.
The movies we watched the movies and I forgot about the tweet. Then the next day I met my old friend Rusty.
'Hey, I saw you got a Tweet from Wil Anderson. Good job,' he said.
'I did?' I asked. I hadn't been notified. I had to do some searching, but I eventually found that he had indeed sent me back a reply.
"I saw it already at an exclusive viewing at iMax. Jealous?"
"Really? You saw it before it came out?" I tweeted back. I was jealous - the iMax in Sydney I believe is the biggest theater screen in the world and it's curved to give you a more immersive experience. It also has the best sound technology available.
"Yep," was all he tweeted back.
"Did you notice that you and Charlie were almost spot-on about a back-story for Robin?" I ventured. On an earlier podcast, he and his co-host had speculated that if Robin were to be introduced to the series, there would have to be a certain way it was handled. They came up with an origin story that ended up being remarkably similar to what Joseph Gordon-Levitt did in the film. They would have been ecstatic about that.
"Look, I don't want to spoil anything now," said Wil. "But we'll definitely talk about it on the podcast."
That's when I made my mistake - I tried to be funny.
"Go on, tell them how he kills Alfred!" I said. The next time I looked back to see if he'd replied, I couldn't find the conversation. He must have deleted it. Woops.
A few years later, I bumped into him in person. I was looking after the front desk at a community radio station called Fresh 92.7. It was during the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the second biggest arts festival in the world after Edinburgh. Fresh had been getting acts to come in for interviews during the festival and on this day in particular I learned that Wil was coming in. I stuck around for an extra half-hour after the front desk closed so I could meet him in person and say hi. He came in with his manager and humbly, even somewhat nervously said
'Hi, I'm here for an interview. My name's Wil.'
'Oh really?' I said in a confrontingly sarcastic way, implying that I of course knew exactly who he was. There was me trying to be funny again.
He gave a fake laugh and I took him through to the studio. I tried to tell him I was a big fan of the podcast, but he seemed quite uninterested. Either he was very tired or he decided he didn't like me after that sarcastic comment. Either way, it ended with an awkward "Well... enjoy." And I left to go home.
If you want to join us on this Question of the Month campaign, there's a list you can join below. Next month happens to be the A-Z challenge, so I thought I'd make the next question a weird one that ties in with it. You can participate in both at the same time.
"What's your favourite thing that begins with the letter C?"