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Fan Recaps and Comments:
The quiet world premier of Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns) occurred on a rainy Sunday evening in a converted theater at the Austin Convention Center. The following Tuesday afternoon a second public exhibition was scheduled at the historic Paramount Theatre, a former vaudeville and silent movie house. In his question and answer session after the film Sunday night, director A.J. Schnack promised the appearance of "two special guests" at the Tuesday showing.
That year's South by Southwest Film Festival coincided with spring break which meant that the city's population of intoxicated freshman was temporarily replaced by intoxicated producers and A&R reps. Ethanol and sunlight conspired to make a light Tuesdy afternoon crowd. An hour before the show, a short line of perhaps six moviemen formed on the curb outside the theater. A short time later, a cab pulled up alongside the curb and out popped John Linnell with friends. Representatives from the theater rushed to shake the hand of the honored guest and escort him inside. Linnell motioned with his free hand southward down the street, and the attendants apparently understood this gesture, leaving him alone on the sidewalk. He stood for a minute surveying the shops and cafes. He squinted in the direction of a storefront down the street, then looked at his watch.
The fact that he wasn't mobbed suggested to me that I was the only bona fide fan outside the theater. I decided to request a moment of Mr. Linnell's time. He noticed me as I shyly edged his way and motioned me into close conference. "Thanks for coming," he whispered, "I . . . I don't really want to sign autographs right now."
"Understood," I said.
He glanced at the small group sitting on the curb, suggesting ominously with his eyes that this tame group might awaken at recognition of his celebrity. He wanted to avoid a scene. I nodded and smiled as he gazed down the street. "There's a coffee shop down there," he said. I nodded again. "I think I'm going to get something to drink. But after the show, if you want to come find me, I'll be happy to talk." We agreed, and I reclaimed my position in line. As he passed, several asked who that was and I hesitated for a minute as he made his way further down the street. "That's one of the musicians."
At that moment, a second cab pulled up curbside and John Flansburgh hopped out. He immediately attracted theater attendants, ticket-holders and random passers-by no doubt conditioned to be on alert for celebrities after the surprise appearance of Russell Crowe the previous evening. The crowd moved concurrently with and around Flansburgh as he shuffled his way toward the lobby. He entered after satisfying the mass with autographs and assurances that he wasn't an actor.
Twenty minutes later the theater began admitting ticket-holders. I was surprised, as were others, that patrons were well outnumbered in the theater by media, They Might Be Giants and entourage. Paying customers were the last to be admitted, only after the large central section of seats had filled. I picked out an area on the thin strip of seats along the right-hand wall and parked a moment before John Flansburgh took his own seat across the isle.
The film began promptly, the crowd laughed in all the right places, and after the promotional attachment for the birthplace of James K. Polk flashed from the screen, the house lights returned. There was stirring, stretching and applause. The media, never wanting to appear partial, withheld audible approval. Schnack, Linnell and Flansburgh made their way to the front of the house and a representative of the theater insisted that the trio would be happy to answer questions. As the majority of the crowd was associated with the musicians, heads turned in the directions of the isles where fans, journalists and trade folk were seated.
"Did you enjoy the film," one woman asked.
"Yes, but I noticed that I say â€˜like' and â€˜you know' entirely too much," Flansburgh said.
"What did you think about the testimonials -- what other people said about you?"
"I liked that -- I think it was Sarah Vowell -- compared me to Emily Dickinson," Linnell said. Then he paused, as if expecting an ovation for a century-dead poet the way a crowd would applaud the name of a filmmaker or rock star. Somewhere one socially awkward English major did applaud. The audience laughed.
"Are you comfortable with the nice things you said about each other in the movie?"
The interview concluded shortly after a young woman identified herself as a disk jockey from the local corporate alternative rock station. Her presence was greeted with hisses and boos, but Flansburgh played peace-maker, urging courtesy and future airplay. It was a fine note upon which to adjourn.
Both musicians were mobbed on their way out. They planned dinner, waved off an awaiting van and, at last sight, were followed like messiahs down the street toward a destination unknown.
-- Sydney C. (April 2006)