Fans waited in line as long as 10 hours with Kevin Smith books, films and artwork to be signed by their hero. Below, actor Jason Mewes, trailed by a video crew. (Photos by Stacie Fanelli. Click to enlarge.)
By STACIE FANELLI
North on Broad Street, around the bend at Mechanic, sharp right into an alley, past the “end of line” sign and back around again. That’s the route hundreds of fans took Sunday, inches at a time, as they waited in line to meet director Kevin Smith.
Some came from down the block, others from up to five hours away – all to spend maybe 60 seconds with the Highlands native and owner of Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash in downtown Red Bank. The store is such a haven for comic book fans that it is the focal point of AMC’s reality show “Comic Book Men,” for which Smith’s appearance was a part.
The meet-and-greet and autograph signing, planned to promote Smith’s recent book, “Tough Sh*t: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good,” was more meaningful to many attendees than any old celebrity sighting.
“That’s my idol,” Rich Fitzgerald, of Keansburg, said of Smith. “He’s one of the reasons I want to go to film school, especially being a small-town kid from the same area.”
Fitzgerald carried an action figure to be signed. Others brought artwork and manuscripts to give Smith.
“He shared his; I’m going to share mine,” said Madeline Saggiomo, of Pennsylvania., who held two large paintings inspired by various scenes from Smith’s films. She created them for her senior thesis.
“It’s really inspiring as a recent grad just to keep going as an artist,” she said.
Grey Raymond and Laz Matech, both of north Jersey, co-authored “Kinetic: the First Alliance,” a sci-fi novel that they bound in leather with their business cards for Smith, who they said inspired them to write.
“He proves that even if you don’t have a lot of money, you can still make it big,” Matech said. “We’ve been following him since the first ‘Clerks.’”
Raymond added, “Who hasn’t? But we’re here to crush the competition.”
The line burst into shrieks when Jay – actor Jason Mewes – walked down Mechanic Street in a mock security uniform, followed by a film crew, to announce that 20 people would be allowed in at a time.
“Don’t touch Mr. Smith. Don’t breathe on him,” he joked.
The event reprised a similar one in 2006, when Smith stayed nearly until dawn the following day, making sure he met everyone in line.
For some out Sunday, the experience was a long time coming. Kurt Mansfield brought his 6-year-old son, Landon, from Connecticut for a weekend of fandom. Landon went to his first Smith appearance as an infant and was raised on the comic genre ever since.
“Yesterday we were in the store, and Jay came up, and I got to meet him,” the younger Mansfield said excitedly.
Nick Nasatka of Waretown is a veteran at the waiting game. He’s been to all of Smith’s Red Bank appearances, the first nearly 10 years ago.
“I consider him a hero for all of New Jersey. He kind of shows that there’s more to us than the Jersey Shore,” said Nasatka, who recalled Smith waiting to leave until every last fan had an autograph.
An hour into the event, even those who had been in line five hours prior to its start were still outside. It was scheduled to end at 5 p.m., but an official said he expected to be there well into the evening. He said a few fans were parked in their car outside the Secret Stash at 4 a.m. to be the first in line.
William Olmo and Will Torres, illustrators from Newark and North Plainfield who brought art for Smith, said they would stay as long they had to.
“He’s like a local hero for us,” Olmo said. Torres added, “If he can make it, anyone can make it.”