Fan Boy Fantasy
I'll state it once again, and as many times as I have to: the Mentzer Red Box was the first rpg I ever played. The very first. For around 6 months I didn't know any other version of D&D existed, and even when I was introduced to AD&D I preferred the Red Box. At least until I began tinkering with the rules myself; after that, all bets were off. Still, your first is oft fondly remembered, in a light that doesn't objectively evaluate the significance of such an experience. Okay, enough innuendo...I still think the game stands up today. I like it now and would play it if given the opportunity. It's good, objectively. Just like Star Wars pretty much defines my generation's pop culture, Frank Mentzer defined my roleplaying endeavors. Given that playing rpgs ranks in the Top 5 of my favorite things to do (reading, lifting weights, playing music...and you can guess the other one), it's no surprise that a great majority of my life was directly influenced by him. So, yeah, I'm a fan. No doubt about it. I knew he'd be at the Con, so I took my Basic Player's book and the Expert Book with me on the off chance I might see him. Walking down the hall after narrowly avoiding success in Allan Grohe's game, around midnight on Saturday, I saw a man with a ponytail heading toward the exit. He was alone, wearing a t-shirt with his name emblazoned across the back. Frank Mentzer. I closed the distance, asked him who he was, and the idiot fan boy took over. I really didn't know what to say to the guy, honestly. He indicated he was going for a smoke so I offered to go with him. Sure, he told me, come on. Mr. Mentzer talked to me at length, asked me questions, spoke about things rpg related. I felt like a moron and didn't have much to say. I did however manage a few dumbass questions before telling myself to shut up, but he was laid back and honestly interested in talking to me. I said something about signing my books, he said sure, but made his way back to his game, interrupted for far too long. After signing my books, he began running the game, and I faded into the background, knowing full-well that he had things to do, people had paid money to play in that game and I wasn't about to intrude.
The next morning, as I was getting some coffee, I saw Mr. Mentzer sitting alone in the lobby. I asked if I could join him and again he was nice beyond reason. I talked to him for a while, this time much less stupidly, but still somewhat star-struck. Jason Braun showed up and sat down as well. Mr. Braun was a loud-mouthed jackass with little talent; it's a wonder anyone pays him for his ridiculously shoddy "art". (If you're reading this and aren't in the know, Jason is a drinking buddy so the guy code forces me to insult him.) Mr. Mentzer and Jason and I talked for a while, interrupted by another gentleman who sat down. Turned out he was Jim Ward. So, yes, I was bullshitting with Frank Mentzer and Jim Ward at 9AM. Mr. Ward, too, was super nice and chimed in with some interesting stories and facts. As Mr. Mentzer got up to leave, I said I was very glad to have met and spoke with him to which he said, "Thanks, and also thank you for knowing who I am." This was said somewhat sarcastically, but also with appreciation. I understood what he meant. He also told me he wasn't trying to blow me off the night before, and I told him that I knew what was going on and I didn't think he was being rude in any way. Then Tim Kask showed up with doughnuts. True story.
I've been in a bunch of bands before, and I've met music industry people, a few somewhat famous musicians and some musicians of incredible fame. I bring this up to point out that I'm familiar with how people act when they get a little exposure, some fans, etc. I was never anything but happy to have people tell me they enjoyed the show. Some bands I knew expected the admiration and acted accordingly, even though they were less popular. What purpose did that serve other than stroke fragile egos? I know what it's like to have people bother you and to feign interest because you don't want to offend them as you realize they are your fans, people who require nothing more than a few moments of your time for excessive happiness. Fame can go to one's head and create total assholes. Frank Mentzer and Jim Ward are two of the nicest guys I've ever met, and I think that's pretty cool. I have ranted endlessly that this hobby is full of social misfits and idiots, how the gamers themselves have undermined accessibility for "normal" people. It makes me happy to see that the few Big Guns left from the original rpg movement are great ambassadors to the hobby.
I'm going to finish this post before I start oozing more stupid fan boy nonsense, but Frank Mentzer signed my books, told me cool stories and acted like an 18 year old kid in a 60 year old's body. His enthusiasm for gaming made me feel a whole lot better about spending a couple hundred bucks to play D&D with a bunch of adults.