Big crowd turns out as Carlson signs books

Tucker Carlson signs a copy of “Ship of Fools; How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution.”

Almost an hour before Tucker Carlson was due at Barnes and Noble in Lake Sumter Landing to sign his new book, “Ship of Fools; How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution,” the store was filling up and excitement was running high. One of the store’s managers, Jarrad Cole, stood in the front of the store directing people to either of two lines that were long and still growing.

The longest of the two lines, for those who purchased the book in advance, snaked around rows of shelved books. This group sported bright yellow wristbands with a handwritten number designating their place in line.

The other line — Cole described it as the “maybe” line — rivaled the first in length. It was for people hoping Carlson would bring more copies of the book for the 2:30 p.m. signing.

“We sold out every copy we had last night, ordered more and those were sold out this morning,” Cole said.

At the head of the “Maybe” line was Julie Beltz, who is down from Ohio visiting friends in the Village of Sabal Chase. Beltz hoped more books would be forthcoming. Although she watches Carlson every day, her ambitions were selfless. She wanted to get a copy autographed as a Christmas gift for her son, a staunch Carlson fan. Even though their possibilities were not promising, the atmosphere was upbeat as many were willing to accept a glimpse of the Fox News star in lieu of an autographed book.

“We were told they’re going to have more books when he arrives, but they don’t know how many,” Beltz said. “We just want him to have enough for me and these five people here. They’re friends I’ve made while waiting.”

To be first in the line for those who purchased a book in advance required an early start.

Ryan Devlin and Shelly Smith, residents of Ocala, rose early and made the 45-minute drive, arriving at 6:45 a.m.

Soon the wait was over and the “maybe” line moved to the checkout line.

As Carlson arrived in a huge black Class A motor coach with a wrap of the book’s cover on the side, a cheer rose up in the store and those not in a line formed a wall with cellphone cameras thrust in the air.

Carlson entered, smiling, waving and headed for a cup of coffee as the crowd circled closer.

As he took a sip of the coffee, he bantered with people in the crowd about the number of golf courses in The Villages and asked if anyone present had played them all. He appeared to be impressed with several hands that went up.

 Like a well-oiled machine, his handlers gave him a few minutes while they set up the podium and camera; then the signing began in earnest. The two early risers, Devlin and Smith, were ushered to the podium with huge grins on their faces, and in a matter of seconds their moment with the star was over.

“Oh, it was worth every minute of the wait,” Devlin said. “All eight hours.”

Carole Bonebrake found her place in line at 9:30 a.m. and left with a big smile accompanying her autographed book. She was headed home to her recliner in the Village of Pennecamp.

“I’m glad I was able to stand in line that long, but it was all these 80-year-old bones can stand,” she said. “Now I’m lying down to rest and maybe read a bit.”

Frank Ross is a staff writer with The Villages Daily Sun. He can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5367 or frank.ross@thevillagesmedia.com.