Meeting Christopher Lee at the Lord of the Rings Promotion

by Dave Mele

EDITOR'S NOTE: On February 22, 2002, Christopher Lee appeared with director Peter Jackson, screenwriter Fran 
Walsh, and composer Howard Shore at the Barnes and Noble book store in New York City on a promotional tour for the current film "Lord of the Rings".

Friday was a day filled with errands and tying up loose ends. I called the Union Square Barnes and Noble in the morning to confirm Lee's appearance. The phone rep was noncommittal, and said that his appearance was "tentative" -- but I knew that was coded talk to dissuade too many people from showing up. Anyway, I knew I wouldn't get done with my business until later on in the afternoon, and my greatest fear was that I wouldn't arrive at Barnes and Noble in time to get a good seat. Well, that fear did come true, but it did lead to a meeting with Mr. Lee nonetheless. Unfortunately, the soonest train I was able to catch out of my town into Manhattan was the 3:45, arriving at Penn Station at 4:32. I managed to get to the Barnes and Noble just a little before 5:00, and the 4th floor (where the Q&A was being held) was packed with people. I was at least 100 feet away from the table and podium. And I had to stand on my toes to look over the bookshelves at Lee, Shore, and Jackson. 

Anyway, the Q&A lasted for an hour. Lee garnered the most applause, and was absolutely charming. The discussion solely concerned LOTR. There was no book signing, per se -- at least as far as Christopher Lee was concerned. However, being stuck all the way in the back put me at an advantage. As Christopher Lee was being led out of the store, I was right in his path. I took a few photos of him (none with me, sadly -- his bodyguard and assistant were pushing him on). He was debonair and regal. As he passed me, I shook his hand and asked him if he'd autograph the liner notes to Bernard's score to "Scars of Dracula"; he apologized and said for contractual reasons he couldn't sign anything. He started to walk away and then someone else shook his hand. When he finished with that person, I stuck my hand out again and said: "Mr. Lee, your tribute to Peter Cushing and Vincent Price on your 'Many Faces of Christopher Lee' DVD was beautiful." I've got to tell you that it looked as if I startled him (mind you, I'm not just saying that to add melodrama to the moment -- he seemed stunned that their names were mentioned). He maintained direct eye contact and said: "Why, thank you." He released my hand and turned away. As he did so, he said, "I miss them very much." My first reaction was to say: "So do I," but Mr. Lee had continued on. I was struck by the way he said "I miss them very much." It was forlorn and distant, as if he were lost in a private reminiscence. And my opinion of Lee changed immediately. I don't know about you, but I never thought about Lee in quite the gentle, sensitive terms I associated with Peter Cushing, yet in that moment I did. 

His reaction stayed with me the entire evening. Afterwards I ate at a restaurant downtown, and over a gin-and-tonic all I could think about was that moment. I never expected to meet Christopher Lee -- or shake his hand, for that matter. I'm very happy that I was able to express my feelings to him about Peter Cushing. Although I never met the "Gentle Man," (the closest was his gracious response to my letter back in '94), it felt as if I got one step closer to him by meeting Christopher Lee, and for that I was very thankful.

COPYRIGHT DAVE MELE, 2002

(Click on thumbnails below for the full picture)

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Special thanks for Dave Mele and Carl Morano for the pictures