Ringer Spy Ecthelion writes: After having my train break down en route from Philadelphia to New York I arrived at Penn Station around 10:30 a.m. (an hour and a half later than planned). A brisk walk got me to Eleventh Ave. where I started to look for signs of lines, etc. to help me find the gallery. When I got to the address there was no line outside, so my spirits raised. I walked in to find a small lobby with an elevator (also empty) - which I got into and rode to the 10th floor. When the elevator doors opened pandemonium erupted. The first thing I saw was a large group of fans rapidly swing around and strain their necks, etc. to see if I was Viggo... I joined the back of the queue which was large and snaked around a corner. There were rumors as to how long the line actually was... some saying it snaked through many hallways, others saying that their were two lines that merged at one point. The latter turned out to be the case as many people had taken the stairs and a queue had gone down the stairwell. Apparently there were a number of disputes as to who should go in front of who where the lines merged - some of which I witnessed myself. Needless to say I don't think the gallery had anticipated the size of the crowd at all and there was no one present in an official way to help make decisions about the line. As a result it was very pushy, very tightly packed and very, very warm. I got in line at 11 a.m. and by noon I had only moved about 25 feet at which point I made it around a corner and discovered the entrance was at the end of the hallway. Two and a half hours later I stepped into the Robert Mann Gallery.
The wait was well worth it. Once I got inside the gallery I was struck at first by how small it was. I had expected a large space - at street level no less), but once I thought about it, you really don't need too much space to display 36 photos and paintings. I purchased a hardcover copy of "Signlanguage" - mainly because I was interested in some of the Lord of the Rings related photos it contained - and found myself $50 poorer. The book is wonderful though, with a rather long (and difficult!) introductory essay about Viggo's work as a painter, photographer and poet. The softcover was only $25, but I felt if I was having something signed I wanted it to be more durable. I'm very happy with my decision, and would have liked to purchase more of his books (they also had "Coincidence of Memory", "Recent Forgeries", and "Hole in the Sun"). My book bore the Smart Art Press imprint, which seems to suggest to me that Perceval hasn't printed any copies yet (or perhaps are only doing softcover, as their site seems to suggest). There was also Viggo's partner from Perceval Press in attendence, whose name I forget. The Press seems very interesting and has a great site at www.percevalpress.com!
After buying my book I joined a final que - this one the actual line to meet Viggo. It moved just a slowly as the hallway had, but at least I had the pictures lining the wall to amuse and inspire me as the time passed. Many people in the hall had grumbled about the wait, but it seems that complaints ceased once inside. This probably had a lot to do with the fact that all the people waiting inside the gallery could see Viggo and all the time he was spending with each person. I roughly gauged that he was taking 2-3 minutes with each fan (which doesn't seem like much until you consider that most celebrities just sign and keep looking down the line). Viggo also had snacks at the table because it had gotten so late and people had been standing so long... he kept insisting everyone take chocolates!
As I stood along the wall I had a chance to look over much of the work on display, although it was mostly photography there were a few paintings:
I also took a chance while standing in line to look over a price list for all of the works. Any pictures had been done in limited print runs of 25, and the prices ranged from $400 to $5000 dollars. The most expensive pieces were the paintings (all of which were unique items). The show was essentially already completely sold according to Deborah, one of the gallery people. I did learn later on though that pieces which were in the Singlanguage book, but not on display were available for viewing to interested buyers and that originals and by request prints could be done (originals prices were to be "about $5000" and prints "could probably be arranged for $1000 depending on the size Viggo would want for them"). The most popular photograph seemed to be a self portrait of Viggo titled "Later, Blue, 2000" which is in the upper right in the photo of mine below:
Then I finally got to meet the man himself. Viggo was relaxed looking, even though it was more than an hour after the signing was supposed to have ended. He was wearing a simple greenish-sweater type shirt and a simple pair of dark grey pants with some sneakers (also in a greyish color). He was clean shaven and his hair was cut shorter than in the films, but seemed to have grown longer than in other pictures I have seen of him. He started by asking my name and then beginning his signature, mainly because I was a little tongue-tied. However I did manage to ask him if he planned to doing prints for sale of any of his photography related to Lord of the Rings, and he kindly told me that I could talk to his partner at Perceval (again I've forgotten her name) about having anything specially done. I also asked a question of him and passed on a small postcard for another member of the Fan Club who couldn't make it to see him. He was very nice and seemed genuinely interested in my question. I would have asked more, but my sudden shyness and the slight discomfort (I just wasn't sure HOW to act!) - coupled with an overeager fan behind me meant that I just sort of said "Thank you for staying so late and thanks for signing my book". He smiled and said something along the lines of you're welcome and it's no trouble to stay. I remember that he called me by name, which seems like nothing again - but you have to consider how few celebrities even ask for you name, let alone remember it a few minutes later!
As I had come by myself I didn't get a photo with Viggo - I always feel somewhat uncomfortable being photographed with celebrities because I feel that they must tire of it. Next time I won't hesitate so much though, as I noticed he was really enjoying them - and also helping with some very special requests (kisses, hugs, even taking original Viggo Mortensen photographs of people standing by his paintings, etc.) I would love to have Viggo take a picture of me and hope he will next time I meet him (I do intend to ask)! His generally happiness to fufill requests was very refreshing - and led to a funny little episode. He agreed to take a picture of one pair of fans in front of a painting, but then couldn't figure out how their camera worked (I had to chuckle after I tried to snap a photo hastily - it a little blurry but good no less). I found it so ironic that the photographer would have so much trouble with a camera that was not his own!
There isn't really much more for me to say except that Viggo was one of the most pleasant celebrities I have ever met (easily on par with Sir Ian McKellan). Conclusion: Viggo Rocks!
Now for those who wish to drool, please direct your attention to a few photos I took of Viggo chatting with and signing for fans.