As most likely everyone knows at this point. R. Lee Ermey passed away on April 15th at the age of 74. I was lucky enough to meet R. Lee once and arguably, it was the greatest experience I’ve ever had meeting a celebrity.
It was 2005 and I was at Monster Mania in Cherry Hill, NJ. Now, while I am a fan of Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket, my favorite film of all time was the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And though the original was my all-time favorite, I enjoyed the 2003 remake and R. Lee’s performance in it. For that reason, and the fact that I had a poster from the remake already, I decided to get it signed that day. So I rolled the poster up, placed it in a poster tube, got in my car, and made the hour and a half trip to the convention.
When I got there the line for R. Lee wasn’t terribly long compared to some standards. Long enough that it would deter some people, but not me. I drove all this way, I was going to get my Texas Chainsaw Massacre poster signed. As I got closer to the front and I could see R. Lee signing at the table, I noticed pretty much everyone was bring up Full Metal Jacket items to sign. I actually saw someone wearing camouflage pants put his leg up on the table and had him sign his pants. That was quite unique to say the least. But looking around, I didn’t see any Texas Chainsaw Massacre related items getting signed.
Finally I reached the front of the line. It was my turn. I walked up to R. Lee and he said hello in a normal everyday voice. I said, “I know I’m in the minority here, but would you please sign my Texas Chainsaw Massacre poster?” He then goes into his full Gunnery Sergeant Hartman character.
“Do you know where you are?”.
At this point I’m getting a little scared, but I was able to get off an answer with a little stutter. ‘Um, Monster Mania?”.
“Monster Mania, what?” ‘Hartman’ replied with a little smile. At this point I now know what was going on and got to go along with it.
“Sir, Monster Mania, sir.” As I straightened my back.
“Good, now why do you think at Monster Mania I wouldn’t want to sign a Texas Chainsaw Massacre poster?
“Sir, I don’t know. Sir. I just didn’t see anyone bringing up Texas Chainsaw stuff to sign…” ‘Hartman’ then stared at me like I forgot something. I then realized and said “Sir!”
At that point, R. Lee broke character. I’m glad he said that, because as I’ve been hunching over my entire life, even the 30 seconds I was standing straight was killing me. In the back of my mind, the whole time I was standing there, I was just hoping he didn’t tell me to ‘drop and give him 20’. 10 I might have been able to do, but 20 probably wasn’t going to happen. We talked for a minute about the Texas Chainsaw remake and then I was about to leave. R. Lee shook my hand and thanked me for “playing along earlier”. I couldn’t have had a more shocked look on my face. He was thanking me for playing along? No, no. Thank you Mr. Ermey for letting me play along with you.
After, R. Lee Ermey’s passing, Monster Mania posted this on their Facebook page:
We are very saddened to learn of the passing of R. LEE ERMEY today. R. LEE was a guest of ours back at MONSTER-MANIA…
After reading this line: “Unknown to fans at the show, R. LEE was feeling ill and also had no sleep for over 24 hours when he arrived at the show.” – just thinking about the few minutes I had to talk with him and everything that happened, it made me smile even more.
Unfortunately, the picture I took with a disposable camera has long been lost and the poster is no longer in my collection, but I will always have the memory of being thrown into Basic Training with Gunnery Sergeant Hartman.