The best things come to those who wait—especially those who wait in line. Giving up their precious time to stand in a line for hours (or days) to do or see something cool has always been a badge of honor for fans. I have many such badges, because I’ve waited in a lot of lines for a lot of things. And I have very few regrets.
Here are top 10 times I waited in line for something totally super cool. Sometimes it’s been more of a personal thing, sometimes it’s legitimately culturally significant, but each time was worth the wait.
10) Star Wars: Special Edition Premiere
Date: January 31, 1997
Amount of time in line: 30 minutes
Why it was worth it: Got to see Star Wars on the big screen for the first time, learned about lines
My first real line experience. I’ll never forget showing up to the theater about 30 minutes before showtime and seeing around 100 people waiting outside the theater. I’d been going to the movies at this theater for years and had never seen anything like that. I had a sub-par seat for that showing so, for Empire and Jedi in subsequent months, I got there much earlier. My wait wasn’t long, but it was impactful.
9) Purchase of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace tickets
Date: May 12, 1999
Amount of time in line: Seven hours
Why it was worth it: Got tickets to see first new Star Wars movie 16 years
In terms of modern fan culture, lining up for things kind of started with Episode I: The Phantom Menace. There were websites like countingdown.com that organized line-ups all over the world and it was covered as a national news event. Hence the photo above. For me, though, I saw it at a local movie theater and the day tickets went on sale, we got there about 5am for a noon sale. We played wiffle ball, got on the radio and eventually I bought tickets for first showing on opening day at 10am and a prime evening screening at 7pm. There were no midnight shows available at that time and then, a week later, the theater added a midnight show. Bastards. I wouldn’t make the same mistake for Episode II. More on that in a bit.
8) Craig Drake Solo Art Show II
Date: May 22, 2015
Amount of time in line: 11 hours
Why it was worth it: Got my favorite piece of art ever
Since moving to Los Angeles in 2009, I’ve lined up for a lot of art shows. You’ll read about a few others below but this show is interesting because I did it on a hope and a prayer. You see, the artist had casually teased on Facebook that he may do a rendering of Han Solo in Carbonite. My mind began to race that, if he did that life-size, and printed it on metal, it would be the coolest thing ever. So I lined up on the off chance he did. 11 hours later not only did Mr. Drake deliver, I bought the first one printed and it’s on my wall today.
7) Scott C’s Revenge of the Great Showdowns art show
Date: July 11, 2014
Amount of time in line: 36 hours
Why it was worth it: Got three pieces of one of a kind art based on my favorite films
The reason people line up for art is that it’s limited. And no art is more limited than an original. Well artist Scott Campbell, known as Scott C, does almost only originals. So if there’s a piece he did that you want, you have to be prepared to wait for it. So in 2014, for his Revenge of the Great Showdowns show at Gallery 1988 in L.A., not only were there several originals I wanted to buy, I’d saved up to do so. I waited a day and a half to purchase paintings based on Boogie Nights, Magnolia and The Empire Strikes Back. It was a trial, but totally worth it because the beautiful paintings sitting in my living room right now.
6) Avatar Panel at San Diego Comic-Con
Date: July 23, 2009
Amount of time in line: 14 hours
Why it was worth it: Saw the very first footage of the highest-grossing film of all time
These days, Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con and waiting in line overnight go hand in hand. But in 2009, it was still new. That was the first year Twilight came and totally changed Comic-Con. Fans lined up days in advance to see their favorite vampire stars. That was also the year James Cameron revealed the first every footage from Avatar at the panel right before Twilight. Which meant, to see Avatar, my friend Jon and I thought we’d have to line up overnight. So we did. We were the only people in line there for Avatar surrounded by swarms of Twilight fans fighting between Team Jacob and Team Edward. But it was worth it for the story.
5) Olly Moss Solo Show
Date: May 7, 2011
Amount of time in line: Nine hours
Why it was worth it: Floored by surprise, got original art, was part of above video
In my mind, there have been a handful of major milestones in pop culture art over the past seven years, and two big ones are next on the list. Moss, who at the time was quickly rising to popularity thanks to iconic works like these Star Wars posters, didn’t tell anyone what his first solo art show was. But people lined up a day in advance anyway. Personally, I lined up about nine hours in advance—meaning I spent nine hours in line without knowing what I’d lined up for. And when I walked in, it was liked being hit by a truck. Moss has taken the idea of silhouettes and turned hundreds of pop culture pieces into them. It was the moment pop culture art went legit.
4) The Lost Underground Art Show
Date: December 15, 2009
Amount of time in line: 12 hours
Why it was worth it: Kickstarted my pop culture art obsession, bought one-of-a-kind art
The moment pop culture art went mainstream was Gallery 1988’s work with the TV show Lost. For weeks before the final season, the LA gallery released posters based on the show. They each sold out so fast I couldn’t buy any. So when the event culminated in a gallery show, I got in line early to buy at least one. I was still about 20th on the line. I met some great friends that day and we set a precedent for the pop art world, that these things were collectible and you needed to wait for them. I ended up spending over $600 that night and haven’t looked back since. (Note: io9 even covered this!)
3) Star Wars Celebration III George Lucas Panel
Date: April 23, 2005
Amount of time in line: 15 hours
Why it was worth it: Saw George Lucas
It’s my 25th birthday and for the first time, the creator of Star Wars is showing up at a Star Wars convention (held that year in Indianapolis, Indiana) for an interview. I had to be there. So my friends and I decided we were going to line up overnight. Once we were there, though, there was a small problem—it was raining and we didn’t have any protection. Our solution was to buy a tarp from a drugstore and sit under it there for about 15 hours. We ended up with great seats, but when the people who sat down next to us told us they just walked in, we were pretty mad.
2) The Rock Autograph Signing
Date: Summer 1999
Amount of time in line: Eight hours
Why it was worth it: Met the Rock
Long before Dwayne Johnson was the mega star he is today, he was a WWE wrestler. And before he was an ultra popular wrester, he did a signing in West Nyack, New York, at the Palisades Center Mall. I was a huge fan of The Rock and got to the store eight hours early with two friends. By the time Rock arrived, his publicist was so impressed we were waiting for so long, she took the three of us (and the guy who beat us there) us to the back of the store and introduced us to him. “Rock, these guys waited eight hours to see you,” she said. “I don’t care about these jabronis,” he replied. It was a moment I’ll never forget. (But he came back and took the above photo.)
1) Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones Midnight Premiere
Date: May 16, 2002
Amount of time in line: 24 hours
Why it was worth it: Saw movie, became part of comedy history
Waiting in the line for Attack of the Clones is one of the best things I ever did in my life. The film premiered May 16, 2002, which also happened to be the day I graduated college. But for 24 hours over the course of the previous week, I hung out outside the Ziegfeld theater in New York City with a bunch of Star Wars nerds. And while I know now that this movie is a god-awful piece of shit, the crowd that night was one of the most excited I’ve ever seen. I walked out of the film on such a high, I didn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.
Plus this happened: