Remember when the news broke that 50 Cent would be signing bottles of vodka at the Oak Creek Woodman’s? Of course you do. Remember when everyone asked, “Why is 50 Cent signing bottles of vodka at the Oak Creek Woodman’s?” Yes. Remember when that question was answered days later when 50 Cent declared bankruptcy? Yep. Well, 50 Cent showed up at the Oak Creek Woodman’s yesterday to sign bottles of vodka. Milwaukee Record co-founder/editor Matt Wild was there—along with approximately 1,000 other people—to bring you this grueling minute-by-minute report.
3 p.m. – I arrive two hours ahead of the 5 p.m. start time. Roughly 100 people are already camped outside the Oak Creek Woodman’s, all dreaming of having a bottle of EFFEN vodka signed by rapper, actor, and professional vodka-signer 50 Cent. It’s a refreshingly diverse swath of humanity—black, white, Hispanic, an old lady with a walker, a guy in a Milwaukee Home t-shirt—and everyone seems to be in good spirits. It’s 90 degrees outside, but I’m thankfully in the shade. Two Jimmy John’s guys are working the line and passing out free samples. I take a ham and cheese mini-sub and hunker down for the long wait ahead.
3:10 p.m. – A Woodman’s employee informs us that 50 Cent will be late. Apparently, he still hasn’t finished up his vodka signing in Sun Prairie. Yes, 50 Cent is currently signing bottles of vodka in Sun Prairie. I ponder this fact as people ahead of me ponder the very existence of a city in Wisconsin named Sun Prairie.
3:17 p.m. – Two women are handing out complimentary Associated Bank water bottles. Because this is Milwaukee (or, to be more precise, the surrounding Milwaukee area), everyone goes nuts.
3:21 p.m. – Really? Someone brought a newborn baby to this thing? Why?
3:28 p.m. – “I hope I don’t faint when I meet him!” “Don’t worry, he’s only five feet tall!”
3:33 p.m. – A Woodman’s employee is handing out free bottled water from a grocery cart. The shade from the building has been keeping me cool, but the ever-growing line (roughly 500 people now) reaches into the blistering sun. Good on Woodman’s for making sure no one succumbs to heat exhaustion while waiting for the star of Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ to sign a bottle of some “ultra-premium” vodka.
3:49 p.m. – A woman walking out of Woodman’s is screaming at her kid. “I SAID FINE!” she yells over and over. The line erupts in laughter. “Punk-ass bitch!” someone calls out.
3:54 p.m. – It’s as good a time as any to review the rules for today’s event, which are helpfully posted on Woodman’s Facebook page:
The line for the signing will start forming at noon on the day of the event. Tents, chairs, blankets etc. will not be permitted. Only individuals purchasing a bottle of EFFEN vodka will be able to meet 50 Cent. EFFEN Vodka intended to be signed by 50 must be purchased at the event, NO other items will be allowed for signing. With the purchase of a bottle of EFFEN Vodka you will meet 50, get your bottle signed, and a picture taken, which will be available to download and print off the EFFEN Vodka website. No personal photography will be allowed such as digital cameras and cell phones. We would like to get as many people in as possible in the two hour allotted time frame.
Wait a minute: no personal photography allowed? I begin to panic.
4:10 p.m. – Eavesdropping on the conversations around me, I realize I’m standing next to the owner of PJ’s Pub, Grub & Billiards. She’s talking a lot about boxing for some reason, and what kind of vodka her Asian clientele prefer (raspberry). PJ’s less-than-stellar Yelp reviews don’t come up.
4:17 p.m. – “I wish he was Usher.”
4:21 p.m. – Another Jimmy John’s car pulls into the parking lot blasting “In Da Club.” Strangely, while this is ostensibly an event featuring 50 Cent, this is the only 50 Cent music I will hear all day.
4:44 p.m. – The people ahead of me have gone rogue and procured Buffalo Wild Wings takeout. I swallow my second Jimmy John’s mini-sub and dream of greener, wing-filled pastures.
4:49 p.m. – Okay, here’s the situation. Small groups of people are being let into Woodman’s where they can purchase a bottle of EFFEN ahead of time. Then they take their receipt (no alcohol allowed outside) and go back in line. A bottle costs $20. If you buy an entire case of the stuff, you can take a personal picture with 50. I do the math: $120 for a picture of you and 50 Cent. I begin to sweat.
4:57 p.m. – I finally get into the store and buy a bottle of plain vodka. Other options include raspberry, cucumber, salted caramel, and black cherry. The owner of PJ’s and her son buy an entire case. As I’m herded back outside I see Chopper 4 (with or without Power Zoom) hovering overhead, and CBS 58 interviewing folks in line. This guy’s expression says it all:
5:03 p.m. – There are suddenly tons of police vehicles outside. Could 50 Cent finally be here? No, there’s no sign of 50 Cent. I’ve been waiting two hours.
5:27 p.m. – If Milwaukee is ever looking to organize a Real Talk discussion on race, just have 50 Cent sign bottles of vodka at the Oak Creek Woodman’s. The conversations and connections being made in line are fascinating, ranging from frank and touching (“I was called the n-word in high school.” “Man, that’s awful. I’m sorry.”) to vaguely uncomfortable (“Do you like Biggie?” “No. Too ghetto for me.”)
5:34 p.m. – There’s a rumor that 50 Cent is 15 minutes away. Goodie. Oh, did I mention the line is now approximately 1,000 people long? It stretches from the entrance, along the side of the building, around a corner, down into a loading dock, back around the edge of the parking lot, and down the driveway. People are busting out chairs, umbrellas, and more children.
5:48 p.m. – Still no 50 Cent. A garbage can on wheels blows across the parking lot. Everyone laughs. Jesus.
5:55 p.m. – 50 Cent has arrived! He’s sitting in the backseat of an SUV, filming the line with his iPhone. People start screaming. Let’s do this!
6:11 p.m. – Random Woodman’s customer: “What’s up with this line?” Random dude in line: “There’s a deal on lettuce!”
6:23 p.m. – 50 Cent has been here for 30 minutes and there’s still nothing happening. A guy walks up to me. “Hey, thanks for holding my spot in line.” He flashes a $20 bill. Nice try, pal.
6:47 p.m. – Still nothing. A freelance water guy is selling bottles to thirsty and increasingly tired folks in line. “How much is it?” “50 cents!”
7 p.m. – “When he sees you he’s leaving! He saw that picture of you trying to get in those jeans. Putting butter on your thighs!”
7:02 p.m. – We’re moving! At 7 o’clock. When the thing was supposed to end. I’ve been waiting in line for four hours.
7:03 p.m. – A guy is handing out business cards for his youth ministry. “Try to get these to 50.” Lady in front of me: “I ain’t giving 50 shit!”
7:07 p.m. – The first people in line finally emerge with their signed bottles. Turns out that the bottles have been pre-signed, and that you simply hold yours while someone takes a picture of you and 50. A picture that won’t be available for a week or so. What am I doing with my life?
7:08 p.m. – We’re moving again, slowly. The Jimmy John’s drivers are playing rock-paper-scissors with folks in line. Things are getting desperate.
7:22 p.m. – I’m almost at the door. What I assume is 50 Cent’s posse is hanging out by the SUV, listening to music and looking bored. A girl ahead of me gingerly touches the vehicle and squeals in delight.
7:32 p.m. – And I’m in! The air conditioning in Woodman’s is a godsend. There’s a bit of a line left to go, but I spot a backdrop where 50 Cent is posing for pictures. Holy shit.
7:38 p.m. – I show my receipt and get my bottle from an EFFEN rep. “Watch the signature!” he says. Yep, there’s 50 Cent’s signature all right. And not a bad one, too. Whoever signed it did a nice job.
7:40 p.m. – It all comes down to this. I’m next in line. Suddenly, I’m hustled in front of the backdrop. There he is. 50 Cent. At the Oak Creek Woodman’s. He looks tired and bored. He looks like 50 Cent. I stand next to him with my bottle. I struggle for something to say. “Thanks for coming to Oak Creek!” is all I can muster. He says something—well, “mutters something” might be more accurate. “Hey.” A woman takes a picture. A man leads me away. My encounter with 50 Cent—an encounter I’ve been waiting almost five hours for—is over in no more than three seconds.
7:41 p.m. – I walk out of Woodman’s, dazed. I feel dirty. What just happened? What have I done? Did I just wait all afternoon to buy a pre-signed bottle of vodka? From 50 Cent? Did I take a joke too far? What’s become of me?
7:45 p.m. – I drive home. I’m legitimately depressed. I miss my wife and child. I feel like I haven’t seen them in years. I forget their names, what they look like. Ugh.
But later that night, something happens. I meet up with Dan and Isa of The Scarring Party at Foundation for an interview. The first show of Breadfest is happening there, too, and the place is packed. Myles Coyne shows up and gives me a cassette copy of Group Of The Altos’ R U Person Or Not. Milwaukee Record contributor Cal Roach shows up. We have a nice time. They ask me about my encounter with 50 Cent. I find that I can suddenly laugh it off. I feel better about myself.
“Thanks for doing that,” someone says, “so we didn’t have to.” I take that as a compliment.