"Bruce Campbell: the Man, the Chin, the Chainsaw"
Around 2:30 afternoon last Wednesday, a lone young man sat outside the Student Union Theater, holding a grotesque action figure and a thin book he had bought that morning.
Soon after, the space around him was filled with others carrying the same book. They were visibly anxious to get inside the theater, checking their watches and casually glancing at the loud fraternity procession downstairs.
"I wonder if this is for that ape woman who's coming tonight," mused Doug Kunai, who drove straight from engineering classes at SUNY Brockport with his friend Alex Hearoux. "This is gonna be forever. I bet he's three hours late."
"Yeah, but we had to make the pilgrimage," said Hearoux, pointing at the posters advertising Bruce Campbell, star of "Evil Dead," "Evil Dead 2," "Army of Darkness," and the TV series "Xena: Warrior Princess," speaking and signing his book, "If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor."
"I just hope to hell the car starts again," said Kunai.
A few minutes after the doors opened, those who hadn't cleared their schedules stood against the back, staring forlornly at few remaining reserved seats. Sitting with their mothers were Joseph Hacken and Brandon Tubinis, both 15, who first saw the movies at age 10 and contest who got who into Campbell.
Campbell's movies "just have that sort of thing," Hacken said, "they're ... it's hard to say, they just ..." "Cult classics," interrupted Tubinis. "You see them once, and they stick with you the rest of your life," finished Hacken. His favorite Campbell scene is in Evil Dead 2, when Campbell lops off his cursed hand, fastens a chainsaw in its place, and deems it "Groovy."
At 6:30 p.m., UUAB film coordinator Dave Rogers braved frustrated jeers to introduce the man who needed no introduction: after walking out to a standing ovation, Campbell was barraged with a steady stream of his own one-liners and catchphrases, to which he smiled and replied, "Shop S-Mart." The packed theater lit up with applause.
Campbell graciously thanked his followers with his signature baritone, especially those who "have seen 'Evil Dead' around 700 times ... and I can pick you out from here." He provided ample evidence of why his film career, which includes among other classics "Maniac Cop" and the upcoming "Bubba Ho-tep," about a 68 year-old Elvis fighting a soul-stealing mummy in a retirement hotel, bestowed on him a legion of fans who speak his dialogue as their everyday vernacular.
He spoke about the hardships of doing massive signings ("Marker just won't stick to a clammy butt if it's summertime"), filming in rural locations ("Smack in the middle of Buttcrack, Wyoming"), and fan mail, including his favorite e-mail with the subject line "Sorry about your acting career."
Campbell answered patiently the questions from the crowd, which spanned from his opinion of the "Evil Dead" videogames to rumors of his being earmarked for the next Batman movie. "Superhero roles are the worst there are; you sit and yell, 'We're off!' 'Look out!' and 'Now!'... Nobody wants to play the good guy."
"So, the question is, would I take it. ... Hell yeah, I'd take it," said Campbell.
After answering questions, Campbell left to sign books, taking with him those who had stood in line to get the first 10 of the 200 tickets. A desk set up outside by Talking Leaves bookstore sold around 150 copies of Campbell's 200-page book, at $25 each.
Inside, devoted fans waited near the stage for the showing of "Evil Dead." Among them was David Miller Jr., a psychology senior and self-proclaimed "fan boy."
"He was as amazing as I thought he'd be," said Miller. "I was not surprised at all. He poked fun but didn't do it in a mean-spirited way. ... He poked as much fun at himself as he did at the audience."
"I've been at UB four years, and I've never seen a guest speaker. Not the guy on the moon, not the movie-maker guy who's coming, but this guy, I needed to see," added Miller.
Hacken said it simply, with a flushed face. "That was amazing. He is my hero."