In my earlier post about the Tucson Festival of Books, I promised to tell you about the ticket process at the Festival and my time at the panel, “Longmire and Me.” Here is the low down:
During previous years (when there were no tickets), we had observed the long lines of people waiting to see famous authors speaking in the largest venue at the Festival, the Student Union Ballroom. We just shook our heads and said,
“That will never be us. No one could be worth waiting to see in that long line.”
But when we heard there would be tickets available for the largest venues this year, our interest was piqued. Maybe, just maybe, we could see a famous author or two.
When we heard that Craig Johnson would be there with Walt (Robert Taylor) and Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips), we were ready to log onto the Festival website and reserve the tickets as soon as they were available. While we were at it, we also reserved tickets to see a panel featuring Lisa See, Jean Kwok, and Amy Tan.
So Saturday arrived and we were excited to try out the new powerful tickets. These magical tickets surely meant that we could bypass the never-ending line of misery…
We arrived to the Lisa See, Jean Kwok, and Amy Tan panel twenty minutes before the start, just like the tickets had prescribed. We saw the line stretched down the hallway and sighed. Then we started to follow it.
It just kept going and going and going and going.
The line snaked in and out of rooms and down hallways. By the time we reached the end, they had already merged the ticket line with the non-ticket line (25% of the seats were reserved for walk-ins) and we just gave up. Instead, we decided to attend a different panel of two animators turned illustrators, Molly Idle and John Rocco. It was excellent and no tickets were required.
Newbies No More!
With this experience in mind, we decided more drastic measures were required for Sunday’s Longmire session.
We arrived at 10:15 (even though the panel was not set to begin until 11:30). There were already about fifty people in line! We were surprised, but pleased that we were at least assured a good seat. We had brought sandwiches with us and chowed down on a nice brunch while waiting.
(Side note: The lines for food at the vendors for lunch are SO long during the peak lunch hours (11-1). It takes at least an hour out of your day if you buy your lunch. The breaks between panels are only half an hour. We bought our lunches our first year attending the festival, and have brought our lunches every year since.)
The time went by pretty quickly because we had our phones. Whenever you have your phone, you will never be bored. The Internet was practically invented to cure boredom. I spent most of my time on StumbleUpon. My favorite stumble was a post: “15 Before-And-After Photos Of Cats Growing Up.” Click it! You know you need some more cute cats in your life right now!
At about 11:15, they opened the doors and we began to file into the ballroom. The first three rows in the middle section were reserved, but we snagged seats in the sixth row, which were not too shabby (especially since the tickets were FREE!) On the whole, the ticketing system was a brilliant idea by the organizers of the Festival. The process was extremely smooth and all the volunteers were kind and informative.
Walt, Henry, and The Creator
We settled into our seats and waited for the hundreds of others behind us in line to do the same. There was a gentle buzz of excited conversation filling the ballroom. (We are here to see a famous writer AND actors! How lucky are we?) A couple people proudly sported “The Red Pony Bar & Grill” shirts, which we admired with envy. We found them later as being available for purchase on Craig Johnson’s website.
Here is a picture of their empty seats.
Finally, they arrived and the crowd erupted.
We have not read a single Longmire book. Pretty terrible, right? We have however, seen every single episode of the Longmire television show. We own the first book by Craig Johnson, The Cold Dish: A Longmire Mystery, but just have not found the time to read it yet… but hopefully that will change soon.
The show is absolutely fantastic! We happened onto it during the second season on A&E. They were playing a marathon before the new episode that evening.
The first scene we saw was of a black horse running free, mane ripping through the wind, nostrils flared as the beautiful creature drew in each ragged breath. The sky was so pure blue, like lapis lazuli, and the ground was golden brown, dust flying in a haze behind the horse. Then this rugged cowboy appeared on screen, raising a lasso above his head. It was like a painting!
I mean, COME ON!
How could you not be hooked? This show captures the very essence of the romance of the West. I could next go on a rant about how ridiculous it was of A&E to cancel Longmire, but no matter. We will definitely be watching season 4 on Netflix. And you should too! It is an AMAZING show.
Highlights of the Panel
Lou Diamond Phillips (Henry Standing Bear) is a very engaging and funny man! He was excited to be back in Tucson because the last time he had visited was for filming Young Guns II, released in 1990.
- Prior to auditioning, Mr. Phillips read all the Longmire books to get a sense of his character. He knows Henry so well that he has pointed out to the writers that Henry Standing Bear doesn’t (does not) use contractions.
- When Mr. Phillips joined Longmire’s cast, he visited with Cheyenne elders in Montana. He had played Native Americans before, but never a Cheyenne. He wanted to go the extra step to really make sure he was faithfully representing the Cheyenne Nation.
Robert Taylor (who plays Walt Longmire) is a man of few words. He didn’t have much of an Australian accent that day, but he did give a little sample for the audience.
- He admitted he was a bit nervous as he looked out across the hoard of fans. (We must confess that this surprised us. He seems so calm and collected, on TV and in person.)
- He told us a bit about how he got into acting in Australia: He saw an ad for an acting school in the newspaper. When asked how his character, Walt, has developed over the seasons, he remarked in an understated way, “Not much.” He really is just like Walt!
- On a separate note, we recently saw Mr. Taylor on PBS on an Australian show, Mr. and Mrs. Murder (specific episode: “A Flare for Murder”). It was great to hear his Australian accent in all its glory. Also, did you know he was in The Matrix?
Craig Johnson is a well-spoken and down-to-earth guy. He talked about how he used to be precious about his writing time. He had to be at his desk, sitting in his chair, drinking from his coffee cup. But in the past year, he spent more than two hundred days on the road on a global book tour. Now he writes wherever he is, be that in his hotel or waiting at a train station. He commented that no matter where he writes, whenever he writes Longmire, he feels like he is home.
We shall close with an excellent story about Craig Johnson and Lou Diamond Phillips.
Recently, Mr. Johnson was invited to give a graduation speech for a high school on a local Native American reservation in Wyoming. However, he found out he was scheduled for a book tour stop elsewhere on that day. He was really bummed that he couldn’t give the speech. Then he mentioned it in passing to Lou Diamond Phillips, who promptly offered to give the speech for him. Craig Johnson accepted, Lou Diamond Phillips did as promised, and the high school had the biggest turnout ever for a graduation ceremony. What a heart-warming story!
If that doesn’t make you want to support the Longmire franchise, what will? Plus, there is a wonderful community of Longmire fans on Twitter, lead by the supreme Longmire Posse. You should follow them! While you’re at it, follow Craig Johnson and Lou Diamond Phillips!
Happy Saturday everyone!