The Stars On Ice cast (minus a couple people) did an autograph session in Vancouver this week, bringing with them some of the most notable names in figure skating, and certainly iconic level names in Canadian figure skating.
The 2010 Winter Olympic Gold medalists in ice dancing, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir were in attendance. As was 2010 Winter Olympic bronze medalist in womens figure skating, as well as the Olympic emotional fan favorite the world over, Joannie Rochette was there. Former 4 time World Champion Kurt Browning made an appearance, as did former 2008 World Champion Jeffrey Buttle. Along with others like Cynthia Phaneuf, Marie France Dubrueil, Patrice Lauzon & Shawn Sawyer.
Having met Browning, Virtue & Moir in the past, I already knew what to expect of them. Class. What I did not know whas how the rest would be. I am happy to say, they too were classy. Despite the less than classy individuals the Sears Store employed to "manage" the event.
Right off the bat was Kurt Browning, who was chatty & thanking most everyone who came thru for showing up. I've met him before & he seemed no less chipper this time than he did the first time I met him, ironically in the very same store, when it was an Eatons store about 15 years earlier.
Next up was Cynthia Phaneuf. She quietly signed away. She was sort of set up at an angle that didnt make interacting with the fans too easy for her, as her back was to them being at the end of a table, as opposed to the rest who were facing them. But when engaged, she was cheerful & pleasant with those who acknowledged her being there. Most however once getting Browning looked on to the next group in the middle table. Poor space management by the promoters made Cynthia seem like a "spare part".
Next up was Marie & Patrice. Marie seemed to be more or less by herself at a table (why couldnt they wedge Cynthia in there??) as her partner Patrice seemed to move over to the table next 1 over where Jeffrey Buttle and another skater were positioned.
With the 3 male skaters all sitting at the same table, a log jam often happened. Partially with them, partially with the next table. But what often happened was these 3 guys were stuck just :hanging out" waiting for the next fans to come thru, while the fans posters scurried their way thru to the next table. Jeffrey & Patrice (along with unknown other guy) often had piles of posters completed sitting in front of them as they waited for the next table to catch up. Again, poor planning on behalf of the promoters.
Next up. Tessa & Scott. Of course everyone & their dog wanted a piece of this duo. Myself included. However, unlike myself, who has been thru autograph lines many times, most fans were unprepared for what they wanted, how to act and were clumsy & time consuming. The 1 hr autograph session clsed in on close to 2 hrs because of this time mis-managemetn on behalf of the promoters. Tessa & Scott stopped & posed for photos with fans often, chatted as if they had all day & seemed not at all in a rush. Thats GOOD. Whats NOT good, is the promoters EXPECTING them to also be done the line up of fans in an efficient manner. Because of this,
those near the end of the line (like myself) were feeling rushed by the assistants & manager who lurked over their shoulders like a vulture. But despite their extended time, the couple took care of all requests that they were allowed to take care of.
Next up was Joannie Rochette & another skater I didnt get the name of. Rochette had the manager perched behind her everytime anyone who seemed competent and experienced in autograph signings came around, myself included. Rochette was quiet, but took time to sign & pose for photos with fans.
Now, onto the staff. Namely, the vulture that lurked over top of Joannie Rochette and at times Virtue & Moir.
Its no secret I am a professional autograph hound. Yes, I intend to sell the items I get. But dont blame ME when an autograph session is going slowly...I know what I'm doing. Its often the people running it that are the problem, and the fans that are so ill prepared for the experience.
So, that aside. I find it funny when people running an autograph session opt to pick on US for being responsible for "ruining" autograph sessions, or making them take longer. We certainly arent responsible for the autograph session lasting almost twice as long as it did. Maybe 200 people tops went thru the line before they cut it off.
It was not professional autograph hounds asking for more than 1 item (which we were told was allowed, 1 poster, and 1 extra item each) that slowed up anything...yet when the vulture perched over Rochettes shoulder saw any of us, he gave us a hard time.
We are organized. We can, without question, get in, get 5 items signed by someone in less time than any fan wanting to stop & get a photo of them, a photo with them or simply in some cases, just getting their 1 autograph. Yet we are looked at as the reason things go so slow.
The vulture argued with me, as I attempted to get my 1 additional item from Rochette. Asking me if I already got an item. I said no. He asked "are you sure" which I looked at him & asked him which direction does he see the line moving? (a reference to the fact that it was clearly impossible to have gotten an additional item considering the line only goes in 1 direction) Now, instead of me getting in & out in 3 seconds. HE, the person who is supposed to make sure it moves smoothly, has caused my interaction at the table to last several seconds longer than it should. In the time he argued with me, she could have signed 3-4 more items, instead of sitting there waiting for the fans backlogged behind me getting photos with & photos of the other skaters.
Had I been left to my own accord to manage my own time & capabilities (within a reasonable amount), I could have gotten both Virtue, Moir & Rochette to sign 4-5 items each in the time that it took the person behind me and in front of me to do the task they wanted to do. It wouldnt have cost anyone there a single second. Unlike the people before and after me wanting photos with, photos of, and to chat with each skater.
The guy running the autograph session was more concerned about stopping 2 professional autograph hounds from getting more than 1 item, than he was with the constant ill prepared fans who wanted a photo with, but had the camera still firmly around their nexk when asking for said photo, then finding someone to take the photo, or asking 7 (not a joke, I saw it first hand) questions to a skater. There was NO REASON that autograph session shouldnt have been done in the hour it was scheduled for...yet, it went close to twice as long, all because the people running it opted to focus on pestering the wrong people.
A word to autograph session organizers. Dont worry about the professionals. We actually KNOW what we are doing & will do it far more efficiently than you, and any fan will do it. Focus on the fans. The ones standing there with their camera around their neck, or fumbling thru their items. You want an efficient autographing experience, focus on THEM.
To read about my previous encounter with Moir & Virtue, you can read about it here.
ADDITIONAL PHOTO- It was brought to my attention that a fan group was excited about 1 of my photos because it shows a scrapbook they gave Tessa & Scott at the signing firmly planted in Scott's hand. So I have done the rare exception of adding it here again so that the primary part of the photo is un-edited for them.