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Tarts Take Manhattan

Category: Beowulf & Grendel News
Article Date: July 12, 2006 | Publication: New York Observer | Author: Jason Horowitz

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On Friday evening, David Ruiz, an usher at the Quad Cinema on 13th Street, marched over to a crowd of giddy women sipping Cokes and munching popcorn in the lobby to reprimand them for speaking too loudly.

“Ladies, please,” said Mr. Ruiz. “There are other movies playing in the other theaters.”

It was the fourth time Mr. Ruiz had hushed the women, who were waiting on line to see the New York premiere of Beowulf & Grendel, a low-budget Icelandic picture with a cast full of people with names like Bryjar Ágústsson, Helgi Björnsson, Pröstur Leó Gunnarsson and, somehow fittingly, Sarah Polley (she of The Sweet Hereafter and, more lately, Dawn of the Dead.) The women had come from Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, Florida and even Canada to see the movie, though few if any of them cared much for Thanes or Geats or the fact that only one manuscript exists of this Old English epic, circa A.D. 1000, which is housed in the British Library in London. In fact, they didn’t much care for the details of the story of the hero and the vanquished monster. The only hero these women had come to worship was Gerard Butler.

Mr. Butler’s prior screen performances, as Attila, Dracula and the Phantom of the Opera, may not be recognized by the Academy, but they have inspired more than 10,000 women to form a committed fan club called “Gerry’s Tarts.” On Friday night, while they waited for Mr. Ruiz to unhook the velvet rope, roughly 125 Tarts—and a few Tartans, as the men are called—discussed Mr. Butler’s appeal.

“He’s extremely personable, generous, intelligent, very funny, charismatic and smart. He graduated with a law degree from Glasgow University,” said Patti Freeman, 48, a personal trainer from Maryland. She wore glasses and a black T-shirt with the Beowulf & Grendel movie poster emblazoned across her chest.

“And he’s hot,” chimed in Marian Bailey, a feisty 45-year-old who had driven up from Virginia with some other women from the Mid Atlantic Gerry Tarts chapter. They wore homemade buttons featuring Mr. Butler, wrapped in furs, as a scruffy but sensual Beowulf. Closer to the front of the line, and the concession stand, Amy Villalba, a 56-year-old legal secretary from Canada, modeled her own “Butler Babes: We’re Taking It Off With Gerry” button.

“I’ve lost 40 pounds,” said Ms. Villalba, a member of the Butler Babes weight-loss group. “All together, the gals have lost 425.”

Many of the women in line had seen the movie many, many times. Linda MacFarlane, a secretary from Toronto, buzzed with anticipation for her 15th viewing.

“There is this enormous groundswell, and it’s all just because they are horny for this guy,” said Gary Springer, the movie’s publicist, after personally welcoming many of the Tarts. “They want to see this guy be a superstar.”

Virgin Island Tarts, carrying bibs and drool bags in case of any Gerry sightings, flew over to see Mr. Butler as Beowulf at the Sarasota Film Festival. Japanese Tarts appeared in droves for a showing in Busan, Korea. Beowulf & Grendel would never have received a theatrical release in the United States if the Tarts hadn’t flooded into Canada and sent tickets to Canadian professors of Old English. According to Mr. Springer, the tarts accounted for about $500,000 in ticket sales in Canada alone.

“It was going straight to DVD from Canada, but then there was a lobbying effort from the U.S. Tarts,” said Ms. Bailey, jumping up on a chair to get a better look at any potential movement at the front of the line. Mr. Ruiz walked over and asked her to please step down. She popped up again when the film’s director, Sturla Gunnarsson, showed up wearing black jeans and a black T-shirt with Nordic white waves on it. The Tarts greeted him with adoring cheers, and he replied with earnest appreciation.

“You can’t help but like it. There is a genuine affection,” said Mr. Gunnarsson. “I can’t understand it, but it’s cool.”

Finally, Mr. Ruiz opened up the theater and the Tarts filed in, occupying every seat. While Tarts raffled off photographs of Mr. Butler in the aisle, Mr. Gunnarsson stood in the back of the theater, holding a red shopping bag.

“Is that the Gerry bag?” a Tart came up to him and asked.

“It is the Gerry bag,” he answered.

She handed him a yellow envelope with “Gerry” written in script across it. He dropped it into the bag, where it joined a book (Earth Angels: A Pocket Guide for Incanted Angels, Elementals, Starpeople, Walk-ins, and Wizards), a box of Ho Hos and a carton of Marlboro Reds.

“Gerry has been trying to quit for a year now,” said Mr. Gunnarsson. “Before Beowulf, we sent him off to smoking camp for two weeks.”


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