You’d have thought a world leader had shown up to Barnes and Noble in downtown Washington at lunchtime Tuesday.
It was megachurch pastor Joel Osteen with his megawatt smile and serious security team in tow. He was there to promote and sign his new book, Break Out! 5 Keys to Go Beyond Your Barriers And Live. Some 200 Washingtonians came out to brave his two security guards and get their books signed.
One was more a body man, schlumpy with lamb-chop sideburns. He stood close to Osteen at all times. The other, tall, bald and mustachioed, more of a Daddy Warbucks kick-your-godforsaken-ass-if-you-even-look-like-you’re-going-to-be-weird kind of guy.
He checked bags. He instituted rules: Pictures to a certain point of the line and then no more. He eyed each of Osteen’s alleged fans, looking for anything funky in the crowd. He spoke into a chest mic, making sure everything was kosher around the store.
Much like the Secret Service, come to think of it.
Before Osteen arrived, the line was already thick with hardcore fans. But at some point store managers decided to shift the dynamics of the line, smushing people closer together. “It’s nice to know you, but not to smell you,” one woman cracked to someone beside her.
They waited and waited. It was 12:17 p.m. and Osteen still hadn’t arrived. D.C. traffic haunts even pastors, it appears. It seemed fitting somehow that Osteen was showing up to a Barnes and Noble with a ton of homeless people waiting outside wrapped in thick blankets and camped out on warm Metro vents.
Inside, an employee was scolding Osteen’s disciples, admonishing them for taking so many pictures as Osteen began clear at the back of the line and walked all the way through to the front. “Don’t blind him!” she said. Osteen, meanwhile, was full of “God bless yuh-oo!” and “God bless y’all” as he made his way to the signing desk.
A reporter from Washington Channel 9 was there with a film crew. She got a few moments with him.
“I’ve known you for 10 years now, and the books just keep getting better,” she cooed, showing no sign whatsoever that this was going to be a real interview. “Everyone is looking for help. Everyone has a story.”
Osteen was low-talking so it was hard to hear him. But you could see him. And that unforgettable frozen but sincere smile.
“Just watch him on TV and it always seems like he talkin’ to me,” said Ervin Pettaway, who was getting his book signed before going to work.
Asked if he uses Osteen’s methods for living and if they work, Pettaway told The Mirror, “Sometimes they work. Didn’t make it to the Stadium so I wanted to come here.”
“Joel is very inspirational and motivational, especially during these moments of stress we need a positive influence and that’s what he is for me,” explained Danielle Townsend, who arrived at 9:30 this morning for the noon book signing. She was the first one in line at 10:30 a.m.
The only thing that pissed Danielle off? That damned Daddy Warbucks security guard, who kept blocking her shots as she held up what looked to be a Samsung Galaxy cell phone. Asked if she got one, she said, “The body guard was in the way.”
That’s right. And he wasn’t moving.
“Can I look in your bag?” he asked a woman with a large black backpack. She rummaged through and showed him all her contents. “Here you go sweetie,” he said, asking if she wanted him to hold onto her bag while she got her book signed.