'Twilight' actor Facinelli draws big crowd at Charleston mall

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "I couldn't breathe, I was hyperventilating," Kelsey Walker said.

By Veronica Nett
Staff writer

Walker, 12, was one of hundreds of fans of the wildly popular "Twilight" movie and book series that attended a meet-and-greet at the Charleston Town Center Mall Saturday with one of the movie's stars -- Peter Facinelli.

Teenagers, parents and adult fans started lining up to see Facinelli, who plays vampire patriarch Dr. Carlisle Cullen in the "Twilight" movie, as early as 5 a.m. for his scheduled noon appearance.

Lines to meet the star circled around the Center Court of the mall and extended down both corridors. Fans also hung over the balconies of the second and third floors.

Walker and her mom, Kelly Walker, lined up around 7:30 a.m. to have their pictures taken with the "Twilight" star.

"I'm here for [my daughter], but I'm just as excited to meet him," Kelly Walker said.

Parents cheered and snapped photos of Facinelli next to their younger counterparts. Some even took part in the ear splitting screams when he appeared around 12:30 p.m. and walked down the escalators to the mall's Center Court.

Fans were charged $40 for a picture with Facinelli, and $25 for an autograph. A portion of the fee will go to City of Joy, a program to help the abused and displaced women of the Congo.

"It's definitely worth it," Danielle Pauley, 23, said. "And it's for a good cause."

Pauley and her boyfriend, Shawn Harmon, 23, lined up around 6:30 a.m. Harmon said he was there to support his girlfriend, but admitted he enjoyed the books too.

"There's nothing wrong with them," he said.

Pauley wanted a picture with Facinelli, instead of an autograph. "It's more proof that I actually met him," she said.

Fans stood in two lines, one to have a picture taken with the star, and another to get his autograph. Those who wanted an autograph and photo had to wait in one line to have their pictures taken, and then get back in line to get an autograph. Most didn't seem to mind the wait and the fees.

"It's worth every penny," Kelly Walker said. "[Kelsey] would pay more if they charged more."

Brittany Doff, 14, says she has read the Twilight books about 10 times and has seen the movie at least a 100 times. She lined up to have her picture taken with Facinelli at 6 a.m. But she wasn't the first in the line. At least 20 people stood ahead of her. Doff said she loves the book mainly for the love story between Edward and Bella, the main characters in the series.

"You can relate to Bella, and picture yourself falling in love with Edward," Doff said. It helps that Robert Pattinson, who plays Edward in the movie, is "hot," she said.

Fans were not allowed to use their own cameras to take a picture of themselves with Facinelli. Instead, a member of his staff took photos, and 8-by-10 glossy photos were printed out from three printers set up in the Center Court. The pictures took longer than expected to print, and fans were asked to come back in about 15 to 30 minutes to pick up their photos. This caused some congestion in the area, and riled fans that had already waited in line for hours.

"[The event has] exceeded our expectations, and we had big expectations," said Lisa McCracken, the marketing director for Charleston Town Center Mall. "It shows the power of a good book. This has been the biggest day for us this year." McCracken is also a big fan of the vampire series.

"It changed my life," she said. "You need to read the books, that's all I can say."

Facinelli signed autographs and took pictures with fans for about two hours. He also addressed the crowd for a few minutes about his charity, City of Joy, and the new movie in the "Twilight" series, "New Moon" that is scheduled to come out November. Facinelli promised fans a great movie with more special effects that will compliment the introduction of werewolves to the vampire saga.

"I think you guys are going to like it," he said.