It all started with a random conversation on the subway.
I am a part-time New Yorker. Lady Trader, on the other hand, is a true New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn, now living on Long Island. The two of us try to meet almost every time I am in the city over some yummy dessert and tea at Veniero’s and chat for a few hours. Then we take the subway together: Lady Trader gets off at Penn Station to take the LIRR home and I continue uptown.
On one of my spring visits in 2016, on a subway ride home, I asked Lady Trader how she “discovered” Damian. When she told me her story, and it was hilarious, I told her she should really write a blog post about it. And as soon as she drafted her story, a NEW idea was born! Wouldn’t it be FUN if we invited all fans to write their own stories about how they became Damian Lewis fans?
We kicked off our Fan Stories campaign with these words:
We are launching a brand new project on Fan Fun with Damian Lewis and we would LOVE you to be a part of it!
How did you become a Damian Lewis fan? THAT IS the question 🙂
We believe each fan has a special and personal story of how she or he found out about Damian and ultimately became afan. For early fans, it was about Damian’s fantastic portrayal of Dick Winters. For some of us, it was Brody, and for others, it was Charlie Crews or Soames Forsyte or another character Damian brought to life on screen or on stage. It may well be that you have a story that we cannot even imagine!”
We did not know what to expect since it is not easy, in general, to get people voluntarily sit down and do homework. But guess what! We have got an amazing response to our call and published each and every one of the stories we received over the course of a year. We were right that while some “discovered” Damian in the usual suspects like Band of Brothers and Homeland, some others “discovered” him in less likely places – a play on Broadway, a news quiz show on TV, an interview in the Daily Mail or thanks to his better half. And what all stories had it common was that they were all written from the heart and extremely personal. They demonstrated how Damian’s art inspired us, moved us, and even sometimes helped us cope with what we call life.
When I saw Damian at stage door after his brilliant performance in The Goat last May, I told him about our “Fan Stories” project and gave him one story as an example. This was Agnes’ story because first, the story is beautiful, second, Agnes planned to travel to London see The Goat but had to cancel due to illness and so I wanted to have her and Damian “meet” in a different way. And, more importantly, Lewisto added, the story attested to how Damian’s art touches other people’s lives. Well, I will NEVER forget Damian’s reaction. He did not say much more than he was humbled every time he heard something like this but you know you sometimes do not need words to understand. His eyes told it all.
And another NEW idea was born at that very moment. Wouldn’t it be FUN if we collected all fan stories in a book and surprised Damian with it when the opportunity arose?
I was lucky to find a wonderful “blog to book” service that I did not even know existed: Blookup. The company basically pulls the posts you want to have in the book from your website and publishes a personalized book for you. You also get to title the book and design the book cover. I highly recommend them for any “blog to book” project you may have. Their customer service is exemplary.
Say hi to the outcome of our collective effort. We created this book together: It is 265 pages and every fan story we published on the blog is in it!
I was thrilled to have the book in my hands in a few weeks. The new challenge was to track down Damian before he was done with Billions shoot in New York and left for London. I was sort of hoping for a Billions event in the city exactly like the one at Paley Center last year to present the gift in person. Alas, it did not happen. And as much as I admit that tracking down Damian is one of my specialties, even I cannot get much done if there exists no event scheduled with our favorite guy. And because this project has been such a wonderful and a personal journey for many of us it was important for me to present it in person and say a few words about how I felt about it.
Now, all credits go to Gingersnap for giving me the idea! When we found out that Damian would appear on Today Show, Gingersnap asked if the show was live or pre-recorded. I did not think about it much at that very moment, but then I revisited her question: “Wait! What if the show is live?” And it turned out that it was live! And while I never get to watch morning shows live because they are really early in the morning, even I know about the Today Show studio at the Rockefeller Center! And this short You Tube video from nine years ago helped me to locate the door visitors get in.
Now massive thanks go to Lewisto for the logistics! What man would get up at 5am only to go and wait in front of Today Show studios entrance for an hour or more at freezing temperatures? No man but my man! We were the first people to be positioned at the door and it was sort of refreshing to see big crowds lined up to be a part of the Today Show. You know, when you are waiting in the dark at 32F feeling like 22F, it feels good to know you are not the only odd one out there 😀
Damian’s publicist Stephanie arrived a bit later and I cannot thank her enough for her warm welcome. She ROCKS! Stephanie went in but then came out and we chatted a bit while we waited for Damian to arrive. And it was lovely to say “good morning!” to Damian who got out of a car in a big black coat! It was a cold morning, I am telling you! And I think this is the coat Damian wears between takes on Billions set when it is freezing cold.
I knew Damian had to go in and prepare for his segment on the show, so even though I REALLY wanted to see him open the package, I did not think we would have time for that. I would just give him the gift at the door, explain what it was, and we would leave.
I was WRONG! Damian invited us inside! So here we were in Rockefeller Center and I was able to remind him of our Fan Stories project and tell him how he inspired me to turn them into a book for him. Here is the part of the conversation that has stayed with me after Damian opened the package and thanked me. He was touched.
Damianista: “There are 55 stories from 21 countries. It means this fandom has no borders. We may be from different generations, geographies, cultures and languages, but we all speak the same language when it comes to you.”
Damian: “You are very sweet.”
Damianista: (extremely humble) “I am.” 😀 😀 😀
Damian: “We have to take a picture of this. Damianista (he says my real first name here) here you are again wearing your purple coat.”
Damianista: “I have other coats but this is my lucky coat. And I like my 6 year old look.”
Damian turns to Lewisto: “Buy her a new coat. I’m worried about her.”
We are still laughing about this. I mean, can anyone get more hilarious than that?
There is an on-going joke among us, Fan Fun girls, that if we found ourselves in Damian’s walk-in closet, we would feel very much at home since we probably know all his shirts, jackets and coats (it may sound scary, I know!) But I had no idea Damian was paying attention to mine! 😀 Well, message received, Damian! As much as I adore my 6 year old look, I will wear one of my stylish coats next time! Still, I do not look so bad for someone who got up at 5am, do I?
Damian had to go to make up so he would not miss his slot in the show. As we said our goodbyes, he thanked again for the book, and told me he was checking the website and reading the blog and that they were great. Maybe he reads more now BECAUSE Damian is now following Fan Fun on Twitter!
And the two of us were home in 15 minutes, ready to turn on the TV to see Damian bring down the house live on the Today Show from “Who knew Bobby Axelrod had anger issues?” to his incredible Michael Caine impression! In case you missed it, or want to see it again, Damian’s segment is here.
THANK YOU, Damian, for your kindness and generosity. Thank you for your trust in us, and above all, thank you for the constant inspiration that keeps us get going! We are proud to be Team Damian!