I am not easily star struck. Having lived in both Los Angeles and New York, I’ve seen my share of celebrities (usually because I was sliding a plate of Eggs Benedict in front of them—Yes, card-carrying ex-waitress/actress here!). But whenever anyone asks what celebrity had me truly seeing stars, one experience always comes to mind.
It was 1996 and Clive Barker was on tour for his novel Sacrament and scheduled to appear at one of Barnes and Noble’s NYC locations for a signing.
Now I had always considered Mr. Barker a fascinating creative force, but it was only after I watched a feature on him and his work habits, that I fell hard for the man. He did it all! He was a fine artist, a prolific writer, he made films. He had so many ideas, so much creative energy flowing—I was in awe and quite smitten. So when I learned he was coming to sign his new novel, I got in line.
Not surprisingly, that line was LONG. (Apparently, I was not the only person to be crushing on Mr. Barker.) But since it was my first signing, I was grateful for my competition. As we all shuffled and waited, shuffled and waited, I watched my predecessors, trying to learn from their obvious expertise. I would have to have an introductory line, right? Something chatty prepared, yes? I mean, come on! I’d come all this way, for God’s sake. I wasn’t just going to stand there like a blubbering, blushing idiot, was I?
Turns out, I was. As soon as my turn arrived and I stepped up to the table, my brilliant line (you know, the one I’d had over an hour of waiting time to come up with) burst forth in all its graceless glory:
“I’ve never read one of your books but I really love your films.”
At once my skin flushed scarlet with shame. Had I really said that? At a book signing?! Idiot!
I sucked in a rueful breath and steeled myself for the condemning glare. But ever the gentleman, Mr. Barker said simply, and so pleasantly: “Well, then I think this will be a wonderful novel to introduce you to my work.”
Oh, but wait. There’s more.
He then scooped up a book from the pile beside him and opened it to the title page. Spine gently flattened, pen poised, he asked, “And who should I make this out to?”
“Erika,” I said. (Grateful it was a question I could answer.)
“Now is that Erika with a C or with a K?” he asked.
Oh, wow. Now anyone who has a name with multiple spellings will tell you that we are used to misspellings and when we say we don’t care, well, we really don’t—but that said, to be asked is always appreciated. (Especially by a man who could have written my name with a C, a K and an extra I and I’d still have come away glowing.)
So, heart pounding with pleasure and gratitude, I smiled and said, “K.”
And then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Mr. Barker looked up, leveled his gaze with mine, smiled and said in a deep, smooth voice that still sends goose bumps (the good kind) down my spine when I recall it:
“With a K. How exotic.”
Now don’t ask me what happened next. I know that I took the book from him and I know I paid for it (see above photo) and I know I somehow even managed to get myself back on the subway. But beyond that, it’s a blur.
A delicious, toe-curling blur.
So thank you, Mr. Barker, for what are perhaps the two sexiest words a man has ever said to me (with the exception of my husband, of course, who can curl my toes with half that.)
From here on out, feel free to call me Exotic Erika.
It really does have a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
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What writer would you all love to sign your book and/or curl your toes?
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