He's the original Willy Wonka, the reluctant Dr. Frankenstein, and the sassy, drunk "Waco Kid." Gene Wilder, on a tour to promote the release of his newest book (What Is This Thing Called Love?), made an appearance at the Borders bookstore on Rancho Carmel Drive on March 30.
The turnout wasn't very big. When Wilder sat down to sign books, he seemed friendly and in good spirits. I had been looking forward to this event for over a month and planned to ask him to sign my old VHS copy of Young Frankenstein. To my dismay, the experience began to go south before I reached the table.
A female assistant took my book from me, handed it to Wilder, and tersely informed me that he would not be signing my tape. I handed my camera to another woman and turned around to greet Wilder. As soon as I opened my mouth to speak, she barked from behind me, "Do you want a picture or not?" Startled, I turned around, prompting her to tell me to stop blocking him — and did I want him in the picture at all?
I was so befuddled I moved to the side, smiled awkwardly, and was then shuttled away. I didn't get the chance to say "Hello" or "Thank You," let alone get 30 seconds of meet-and-greet time.
Even though the assistants soured the experience, Wilder was fantastic, patient, and a little bit sassy. As I was leaving, I heard the woman taking pictures inform my friend that he could get closer, that Wilder wouldn't bite, to which he responded, "Oh, I don't know about that...I might."