June 12, 2010
“What the fuck you motherfuckas doin’ out here?”
A glassy-eyed Charles Barkley slammed the door of an Escalade and headed straight (well, somewhat straight) for us.
Another collector had informed me that Barkley and Bill Walton had attended the night’s Eagles/Keith Urban/Dixie Chicks concert in Foxborough, and I had been tracking their moves on Twitter via fan sightings. (Incidentally, Barkley had a front row seat and received a song dedication from the Chicks.)
Barkley returned to the Intercontinental Hotel in Boston about midnight and met a small welcoming committee of six collectors. A rumor was floating that he wouldn’t sign items showing his face—unfortunately, I had an 8×10—so my buddy Garett fronted me an extra basketball he had in his car. Even better.
Earlier in the day I neglected to charge my camera battery which died after filming Walton’s signing spree earlier (a rookie mistake if there even was one). My iPhone didn’t have a flash so Garett primed his Blackberry for a photo opp.
“’Sup guys,” Barkley said, grabbing my silver Deco.
I asked Charles if we could get a picture when he was done signing but his handler—an older, bearded black man—interjected before he could answer.
“Nah, you did good. You got your ball signed, you did good tonight.”
Chuck finished signing, wished us well and headed into the hotel. We ran our items back to the car and pondered our next move. There was a good chance the lobby bar would draw him in for one last round before he called it a night. We spun through the Intercontinental’s revolving door and followed our instincts to RumBa where we found the NBA legend perched silently on a stool, shooting a glazed gaze toward the bar counter. His handler monitored the scene only a step away.
While we planned our approach from a safe distance, patrons approached Charles and engaged him in conversation. He was gracious with his attention and posed for pictures when asked (particularly with the young women). Though the handler didn’t interfere with these requests, we had an unmistakable feeling the rules were different for us. After nearly a half hour of consideration, we decided we’d make our move the next time the handler was distracted. But we were frozen. Every guy knows the longer you wait to talk to a girl in a bar, the more difficult and awkward the experience. Same rules applied here. We watched Barkley pass his tab to the handler, collect himself, and head back toward the lobby. Then, I broke one of my rules of autograph etiquette. I gave chase.
We trailed Barkley and his guy by only a few yards and knew our only shot was just before he reached the elevator bank.
“Mr. Barkley, we’re huge fans. May I please take a picture with you?” I asked in the most courteous voice I could muster.
His handler wasn’t having it. “Guys, what did I say? No pictures. You did good tonight.”
But Charles spun around, threw a meaty arm around me and flashed a grin at the cell phone in my friend’s hand.
A blurry picture of a vivid memory, thanks to an assist from Sir Charles.