Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The truth about Adam Baldwin.

[EDITED TO ADD: Re: GamerGate...please note the date this was posted and see my edit at the end of this post.]

When I mentioned the opportunity I had to get Adam Baldwin's autograph at Dragon Con in my Saturday post, I left out one significant detail:

I didn't pay for it.

Adam Baldwin GAVE me his autograph!

I made it through the rest of Dragon Con without spilling the whole story to random strangers (though I did rave about how nice he was when I met him), because I didn't want to cheat him out of his signing fee by inadvertently causing others to expect a free autograph out of him.  There's still a little part of me that's worried I'm breaking some celebrity-encounter etiquette rule by sharing the full story here, but I'm hoping that my story will encourage others to seek interaction with him and support him, because he truly deserves it.

When I came home that night, I jotted down everything I could remember of the encounter and conversation, without sensationalism or embellishment, so I can confidently tell you that the story below is exactly what happened (or as close to it as it is humanly possible to remember):

This year, my second Dragon Con, I went into the Mariott’s “Walk of Fame” with a mission: to get Adam Baldwin’s autograph.  It didn’t take me long to find the snaking line in front of his table, and I eagerly joined the end.  As we inched forward, I caught the eye of a fellow con-goer in line ahead of me.  “Do you happen know how much he’s charging?” I asked.
“He’s charging fifty,” the guy responded.
Fifty.  My heart plummeted.  I’d heard last year that the going rate was thirty, which seemed high to me (a newbie to conventions, though I understand, with so many people, why celebrities have to charge so much for their time), but worth it for the hero of Canton.  But fifty?  I wavered as the line progressed, wondering if I should simply step aside awkwardly and forgo this high-priced piece of paper, and, along with it, the chance to meet him.
Fifty dollars might not seem like much to anyone who’s paid the high price tag that goes along with attending a convention like this, but for me, it is—my husband works for a non-profit missions organization and I stay at home with our two kids, and the only reason we can afford Dragon Con is that we live locally (so no airfare or hotel bill of nearly a grand) and we bought our memberships early at a discounted rate (mine cost $60, a full year in advance).  We’re blessed with enough that we’ve never had to live paycheck-to-paycheck, but our budget is tight enough that fifty seems a big number to me.
The couple directly ahead of me had missed the exchange, and I overheard them wondering aloud about the price a moment later.  “I hear he’s charging fifty,” I told them, cringing outwardly.
“Fifty?” they echoed, wincing a little along with me.  “Wow.”
“Yeah,” I continued nervously.  “I’m debating whether or not to stay in line.”
They seemed like veterans at this whole autographing procedure, though, so I tentatively ventured a question as we took a few steps forward.  “I’m new to this whole autograph thing—do you think it would be okay if I just stayed in line and asked to shake his hand, without buying an autograph?”
“Oh, yeah,” they replied, quickly and with confidence.  “I’m sure that would be fine; he’s really cool.”
Oh, good, I thought.  Maybe I would be breaking some rule of con etiquette I hadn’t learned yet, but maybe not.  Maybe I could still at least shake his hand.  Or maybe I’d cave and fork over more money than my tight budget had room for; or maybe I’d still chicken out and walk away.
Still indecisive, but wanting to be prepared if I did keep my nerve, I began mentally preparing a speech as the line inched forward.  I’m too poor for an autograph, but I was wondering if I could just shake your hand, just to say I did?  I think you’re amazing. I promise I’ll be out of your way again quickly.  I neared the front, and watched as Adam paused to talk to the woman whose photo he was signing, looking her in the eye and nodding while she answered a question he’d asked.  The couple ahead of me stepped up to the table just beside her, and counted out twenties and a ten to hand to the man standing beside Adam.  I steeled myself, adapting a short version for the man taking money, as the couple stepped aside and unrolled a Serenity poster for Adam to sign.
“I’m sorry, I’m too poor for an autograph,” I told him apologetically, biting my lip and cringing nervously.  “I was wondering if it would be okay if I just shook his hand?  I promise I’ll move out of the way quickly.”
With a quick smile, he assured me that that would be just fine, and I anxiously moved over a few inches for the next paying customer.  I watched Adam ask the couple with the poster how they would like him to sign it, and he scribbled “Let’s be bad guys” under their names and signed just above his character.
And then came my turn.
“I’m sorry, I’m too poor for an autograph, but I was wondering if I could just shake your hand, because I think you’re amazing.”  I bit my lip again, nervous, but glad I’d at least gotten it all out in a complete sentence that I was pretty sure came out coherently.
“Of course,” Adam answered, but he didn’t offer me his hand.  He kept them both folded in front of him as he leaned on the table, and he looked at me intently as if expecting more.
“I love the show,” I offered timidly.  “Both my kids are named after characters: Kaylie Eowyn, and William Malcolm—we went with the middle name for him.”  Oh, no, I’m rambling.  I nervously tucked my hair behind my ears and began inching sideways just a bit, anxious to get out of his way so he could move on to someone who was actually paying.
“And how old are your kids?” he asked.
“Three and one,” I answered.
He smiled genuinely and nodded.  “Oh, so you’re right in the middle of it, then.”
“Yeah,” I replied, smiling nervously back.
“And what do you do?” he asked, still holding my gaze like he had all the time in the world.
“I’m a stay-at-home mom right now,” I told him.
“That’s great,” he said, and finally broke eye contact as he glanced at the stacks of photos arrayed on the table between him and the money-taking guy.  “If I gave you an autograph, which one would you pick?” he asked, gesturing to the photos and looking back at me.
I froze for a second, completely taken aback.  I’d barely even glanced at the photos, since I wasn’t getting one.  “I—one with Vera?” I managed to get out, my fingers unconsciously hovering near my mouth, an old nervous habit from my nail-biting days.
He grabbed a photo of himself holding Vera and pulled a silver Sharpie from his pile of markers.  “What’s your name?” he asked, pulling the cap off of the pen.
“Sara?” I answered, still not quite believing what was happening.  “S-A-R-A.”
“No ‘H’,” he verified as he wrote a quick note.  To Sara, Stay shiny, he scribbled.  He signed it, and slid it across the table to me.
“Thank you so much,” I choked out, stammering slightly as I forced my fingers not to cover my mouth in shock.  “Thank you.”  I picked the paper up gently, and Adam finally reached his hand across the table to me.
“Thank you so much for coming,” he told me sincerely, shaking my hand.
“Thank you so much for coming,” I replied, beaming timidly.  “You’re wonderful.  It’s such an honor to meet you.”
He smiled back, and I stepped away, reverently clutching this gift from the hero of Canton as I fought the tears welling in my eyes.  Walking away, I immediately felt like I hadn’t thanked him enough, but surely he knew what he was doing would mean the world to me.
Best con moment ever.

It was awesome.  I was on my own when it happened, so I sent my husband this text after I'd left the table:

My text to my husband after meeting Adam.

I spent the rest of the day grinning ear to ear, and carrying the photo around reverently in a gallon-sized Ziploc I'd happened to pack in my little bag (just in case it rained and we needed it for electronics...who does that?).  It was the absolute highlight of my weekend!

Adam Baldwin at a panel at Dragon Con 2014.

If you'd like to stop reading here, the story's done, but I am going to take a minute to explain why I ended up deciding to post about my encounter, since, as I mentioned, I was worried it might cause some people to try not paying him his signing fee, and after his incredible kindness to me, I truly want to do right by him.

Adam's response to my husband's question, "Do fans often sing 'The Man They Call Jayne' to you?" during a panel, was this look and a low grunt.

On the last day of the con, I mentioned to someone how nice Adam Baldwin was, and they replied, “Oh, he’s a jackass.”

Needless to say, I was a bit shocked to hear a comment like that, given how far from that my own experience with him was, but they didn’t divulge the details of their reasoning.  So I Googled “Adam Baldwin in real life” when I got home.

I’ll admit that I didn’t spend hours digging up every personal encounter detailed online, but in the half an hour I did spend browsing various message boards, blog posts, and online articles, do you know what I found?  With the exception of one person (who, by their own account, instigated a heated political discussion with Baldwin), every single hateful comment centered solely around the fact that Baldwin is a vocal conservative on Twitter...and that’s it.  (Interestingly, I did find multiple firsthand accounts of some “Firefly” con being canceled so last-minute that many attendees didn’t even find out until they landed at the airport; Adam Baldwin was apparently the first of the cast to arrive at the hotel bar anyway, where he sat, beer in hand, and chatted with fans for hours.)

I’m on Twitter, though I don’t check it often.  In those first few days after creating my account, I clicked-to-follow various actors and artists whose work I admired, but I quickly realized that, for many, Twitter is a vehicle for condescendingly echoing one’s own political views (no matter which side they’re on—it’s just not a forum equipped for constructive dialogue over differing viewpoints; honestly, there just isn’t room to engage diplomatically about what you share while maintaining the integrity of your stance, so everyone comes across as condescending when it comes to politics on Twitter).  I wasn’t a huge fan of what my feed was being flooded with, so do you know what I did?  I unfollowed people who posted views radically different than my own multiple times a day and nothing else.  And you know what?  I don’t hate those people.  Distancing myself from their personal views allowed me to continue to appreciate their work.

But, apparently, Adam Baldwin is a jackass, because he dares to voice his conservative views on Twitter.  God, the nerve. [That would be in sarcastic font, if there was one.]

I’m not sure when it became okay-to-the-point-that-no-one-even-bats-an-eye-anymore to assign labels like “jackass” or “horrible person” based on whether or not someone agrees with you, instead of on how they treat you.  Even if you can’t respect someone’s views because you think they’re wrong, do you still at least make an effort to respect the person?  Do you even try to treat them respectfully--much less, kindly?  Or do you write them off as being on the wrong side, and therefore, not mattering?  Do politics really determine someone’s worth or value to you?  Because that seems to be the trend today, and I don't just mean toward Adam Baldwin.

I was no one to Adam Baldwin.  I didn’t bring him a gift, or offer him good press; I am fighting no tragic battles like cancer to pull at his heartstrings.  I’m just a fan.  To most people, I’m nobody.  But for two whole minutes longer than anyone could claim that he owed me, he treated me like I mattered.  For those two minutes, I felt like I had value to him.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is precisely the opposite of being a jackass.

I don’t care what Adam Baldwin’s political views are.  He’s entitled to hold whatever views he wants.  The truth about Adam Baldwin is that he was incredibly gracious and unbelievably kind to me, and if you can’t see value in him as a person for that, then that reflects far more poorly on you than it does on him.

Should you ever have the opportunity to buy his autograph, do it.  He's worth every penny, and he'll make it a moment worth remembering for you.  And if you can't afford it, then even if he doesn't go so far as to give you an autograph, I'm confident, after watching him with other fans and then having my own experience, that I can assure you that he'll still be gracious and intentional in creating a memorable encounter with you anyway (though maybe don't bring up politics, if you disagree with him).  He's just that kind of person.  That's the truth about Adam Baldwin.

[EDITED TO ADD: If you note the date this was originally posted, my encounter and subsequent Googling took place before GamerGate was a thing, or at least before it had gained the momentum to come up in my searches (so literally the only complaints about him at the time were of his conservative Tweets).  As a non-gamer, I'm not educated enough on the details to have a strong opinion on GamerGate; but I will admit that as I've become more active on Twitter, I've been disappointed by Baldwin's Twitter persona, and his failure to make any attempt to rein in his often rabid "posse" of followers at times.  Again, I hate Twitter, and Baldwin is a perfect example of why--people are complex, not all good or all bad, and you can't see that on a vehicle that leaves too little space to speak with both diplomacy and integrity.  Perhaps we should not consider Twitter enough to judge a person by? :-P ]


  1. This was an awesome story! What a great memory! And its so cool to meet an actor and they are as great (or better!) as you picture them.

    1. It was so great! Jayne was always one of my favorites, but I think my experience actually meeting Adam Baldwin has officially made him my very favorite character on the show. :-)

  2. Wonderful story about a great actor!!!

  3. Thank you for sharing that. He is my favorite character on Serenity too, and a bunch of other movies. So glad you got to meet him.....and that is in "slightly jealous" font! Also, I love the messenger bags you make. Heading over to easy for the pattern.

    1. He's such a great guy! He made it such a wonderful experience!! :-)

      Thanks for purchasing my pattern! I hope you enjoy making your own mini messenger bags--I'd love to see pictures if you upload any online! :-)

  4. I read your comment on epbot and followed the link over here.

    I don't want to start a big kerfuffle - I'm glad that he was kind to you, and I'm glad that he is kind to his fans. A lot of people can be loudmouth jerks online but would never act that way to people in front of them.

    But from what I've seen he's far more than just loudly conservative online - he's basically responsible for naming and spreading the GamerGate movement, which is actively awful. You could easily spend hours reading about GG, so I won't rehash it all here, but please believe this random stranger on the internet that the Baldwin backlash is about far more than him just being conservative.

    1. I don't disbelieve you. :-) My encounter with him took place before the GamerGate thing had started, or at least had any traction, I think, so I understand why he's grown a bigger crowd of haters since then...and, truthfully, as someone who's read a little on both sides of GG, I'm not sure what to think about the whole GG thing, and as a non-gamer, it's hard to follow what both sides are claiming.... :-P Also, I've seen his Twitter posse go pretty rabid, with no reining in from him, so even *I* have come to dislike his Twitter persona....But at the time of my post, the only complaints I could find against Baldwin were his conservative views on Twitter; everyone seemed to love him in person.

      Honestly, I just hate Twitter. I think the world would be a better place without it, and Adam Baldwin is a perfect example of why. NO ONE can actually fully engage on an issue while still remaining diplomatic and/or tactful--it's just not possible in so few characters...so either you come off as an arrogant jackass, or you compromise the integrity of your stance with more disclaimers than substance. I see it constantly on both sides. :-/

      Thanks for your input! It just goes to show how complex every person is, and how little we often go off of to make judgments of them, for better or for worse! People are seldom ever all good or all bad. Still, I think the world needs more compassion and respect all around! :-)