Crushing update (July 31, 2015; 3 p.m.): Sean Astin has canceled his appearance at Wizard World Richmond.
Between the tickets and hotel, I've already spent hundreds of dollars to attend Wizard World Comic Con Richmond on July 31-Aug. 2. I've also paid $50 for a photo op with Sean Astin, whom you might know from "The Lord of the Rings," "Goonies," "Rudy," and my favorite, "Memphis Belle."
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One of my colleagues said he wouldn't pay $50 for a photo with anyone. But for this particular celebrity, it's worth every penny. Why? I explain in this letter to Astin, which I plan on handing him at the convention (hopefully there aren't any weird security rules).
This lackluster photo is one of the few possessions I would grab if my house was on fire.
And it's one of the reasons I've traveled from Roanoke to Richmond, because I'd like to get a photo with the other half of your head.
I'm also at Wizard World to thank you, as I believe that serendipitous moment is responsible for my beloved career in journalism.
You probably don't remember that November day in 1993, which was about a month after "Rudy" premiered in theaters.
I was just another 16-year-old fan who tapped you on the shoulder in front of the Muppet show at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando.
"Excuse me, sir, but are you Sean Astin?"
When you responded with a familiar grin and a joking "Sometimes," it was the only time I've ever gone weak in the knees. I thought this was just expression, but no, it actually happens.
And it happened because you were the one famous person in the world I wanted to meet. What are the odds we would cross paths at Walt Disney World, where dreams are supposed to come true?
My friends and family knew this obsession well: About your heart-framed photo on my nightstand. About how I sent you an invitation to my birthday party years before (*cringe*).
You met my parents and two younger sisters that day, too.
You seemed genuinely surprised when my dad, who greeted you as "Rascal" (thanks, dad), confirmed the number of times I had seen "Memphis Belle." It was 51 times, and we weren't exaggerating.
Looking back, I know my fascination with you and this movie had a lot to do with teenage hormones. I'm sure my parents were relieved when I channeled that pubescent passion into an intensive study of World War II, which inspired a lifelong appreciation of the era and its Big Band music.
I spent evenings at the library flipping through wartime Life magazines and hours building a model B-17 airplane.
I actually wore a bomber jacket and a snood hairnet to middle school!
My best friend, Dana, shared the same love for "Memphis Belle," and we jitterbugged at the Hidden Valley Middle School dance, long before Gap commercials made swing dancing cool again.
Over one spring break, my mom carted Dana, my sisters and I to nearby Danville to see the B-17 used in the movie. The air show closed due to rain that day, but the staff took pity on us and gave us a private tour inside the plane. I didn't think that experience could be topped.
Until that soggy November day in Florida, when lightning struck.
Up until then, I was pretty shy. So shy, in fact, that I feared calling for pizza delivery.
After I had the courage to approach you — and after my mother told your female companion that my knees knocked upon meeting (thanks, mom) — I could talk to ANYONE.
I drew on that courage as a high school journalist, when I approached comedian Jeff Foxworthy in the Roanoke Marriott lobby to ask for an interview (is that redneck?). It propelled me through college, where I worked my way up to editor-in-chief of George Mason University's student newspaper.
I liken that confidence surge to rocket boosters helping a shuttle get into orbit. Or, to bring it back to Hollywood, you were my Sam years before starring in "The Lord of the Rings."
As a father of three girls, I'm sure you can appreciate that kind of empowerment, especially during those critical teen years. I can only hope my own 2-year-old daughter will find a similar spark, whether it be through a special teacher, coach or her own teen idol.
Now I write for my hometown newspaper, The Roanoke Times/roanoke.com, where I approach strangers daily — and where thousands of folks read my words and personal stories. This is my favorite so far, the backstory I've waited 21 years to tell.
So, thank you. Thank you for your movies and that confidence booster. And most of all, thanks for helping me believe in real magic.
Now let's get a better photo!
Contact Stephanie Ogilvie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 981-3352. Follow her on Twitter: @smogilvie.