When I heard Chelsea Handler would doing a personal in store signing of her book Uganda Be Kidding Me at Tampa’s indie book store Inkwood Books on May 9, I thought, “Wow. That’s really cool of her. Inkwood Books, for those of you who don’t know, is a darling little enclave of literature that boldly stands against Amazon.com the brick and mortar monolith that is Barnes & Noble. The fact Chelsea Handler doing a personal appearance there, for me, raised her street cred.
The Inkwood signing was from 2 to 4 p.m. on Tickets (which included a mandatory purchase of the hardcover of Uganda be Kidding), ran for about $30. The crowd was intimate; I'd guess around 50 people tops. Handler arrived 30 minutes early.
I waited in the queue with other fans (some of whom had bought four or five copies of the book) and the staff of Inkwood were more than accommodating to us; in fact, they offered us free beer and water with lemon, as we waited in line outside. I repeat: They offered us free beer and water with lemon.
Eventually, Handler's manager steps out and tells all of us that we should have our books opened to where we wanted signatures and that if we wanted personalized signatures we needed our names written visibly on post it notes which he handed out.
We also learned Handler would not be doing any pictures with fans as she was signing their books. This news was treated with crestfallen sighs. I made the suggestion to the folks around me that we all photograph the person ahead of us getting their book signed. Everyone agreed that was a good plan.
Those plans fell apart when the doors opened up. Chelsea’s interaction with every fan was as follows:
“Hi. What’s your name? Thank you for coming.”
After watching her shoot through fan after fan with lightning speed, I found myself irritated when I approached her. I handed her my book.
“Hi. What’s your name?” Chelsea asked.
“Oh, that’s not really necessary," I replied.
She looked confused. I smiled.
"When I meet famous people, I like to to sign “Hello, My Name is” cards.” I pointed to the sticker I placed on the inside cover of the book. “Sign there please.
Handler looked at my quizzically, signed my book. I thanked her before she could thank me, and walked away. I then stood back and immediately began shooting shots for other fans. Many of them asked me if I might email them the photos. Naturally, I said yes all of them.
Now I dig Chelsea as a writer and as a comic persona. I would even recommend reading Uganda Be Kidding Me (once it goes into paperback).
However, how she treated the small number of devoted fans and Inkwood Books was, to me, unacceptable. The fans I met were lovely people and they deserved more than they got.