It is absolutely mind numbing (and finger and toe numbing, for that matter) how far some people will go to get a glimpse of celebrity -- including clinging to frozen barricades lining a stiff red carpet outside Southdale Mall for hours on end in 10-degree weather. But if you're going to accept a frostbitten fate in the name of any silver-screen star, Will Smith is about as good as it gets.
Such was the scene outside the entire west end of the Southdale parking lot outside the AMC Theater on Friday, fans anticipating Smth's arrival via a black SUV sometime between 6 and 7 p.m. to attend a charity screening of his new movie, 7 Pounds, to benefit Second Harvest.
The lot looked like a merging of a driving school lot arranged by a 4th grader (and a red carpet event arranged by a saddist). Barricades made a maze around the space and police dotted every makeshift entrance they formed. A long red tapestry lined the asphalt -- at one end, a special entrance to the theater, and at the other, a small stage topped with MC for the icy evening. KDWB's Dave Ryan.
"Some people have been waiting since 1 a.m. this morning for Will," the bundled-up radio host said without a hint of shock -- as if it was the most normal thing a person would do upon hearing a movie star was in town.
After two hours of random whooping from fans to keep warm and a lot of waving and shaking of hand-drawn love posters, cheers erupted on the north end and spread like toppling dominoes.
Known for his eager interaction with fans, a dapper but casually-dressed Smith generously paid much attention to each corner of the lot, making his way on stage to say a few words with Vikings player and fellow Second Harvest donator Bernard Berrian.
"Working on this film has really opened up my mind to the idea that if you really want to be happy, the value of your life is always going to be measured by your assistance to others," Smith said on the mic. "What is the quality and the quantity of lives that you change? it is my responsibility to do something to add to this community."
"I love you, Will!" a young teen yelled from the sidelines, clutching Fresh Prince Of Bel Air DVDs (which first aired when she was probably 3).
Making his way down the homestretch of the red carpet where media (some really, really obscure outlets) were positioned, Smith stopped to talk to City Pages over loud cries of "Wiiiiill! I'm cold!" and "Over here!" chants, telling me that playing the role of a depressed IRS agent looking to change lives was difficult for him because it's hard to come from the dark place his character is in.
"This character is very different," Smith told CP. "I had a hard time even understanding the mindset. He's coming out of depression and I've never really understood (that) idea -- my mind blocks that depressed space. I fight really hard to stay up and keep my energy up so it was hard for me to get a grip on what made him tick."
And with that, the most exciting thing to ever happen to Southdale Mall walked off to greet more fans and ultimately retreat inside AMC to unfreeze his grin, leaving most feeling blissfully blitzed by their brush with the Fresh Prince of chill air.
Check the video here (Sorry it's slightly chaotic in the middle -- my hands were not in fact trembling from nervousness, I swear ):