There are a lot of offbeat (some might even say, bizarre) conventions out there, where dozens of like-minded people gather to discuss, promote or just flat out celebrate what they hold dear. But there are few things that are more personal, more deeply entwined in a person’s day-to-day life, than their own name.
Which helps to explain why New York writer Phil Campbell–who will be played in the upcoming movie Grassroots by actor Jason Biggs–was inspired to organize the Phil Campbell Convention on June 17 and 18th in Phil Campbell, Alabama (yes, it’s a real place).
After hearing of the town, Campbell visited it in the ’90s and decided then and there to hold a Phil Campbell Convention in’95. All sorts of Phil and Phyllis Campbells from around the U.S. showed up to celebrate their name. Now, 16 years later, Campbell is hoping to use the power of the internet to hold another, bigger, international convention.
(More on TIME.com: See what’s it like at other conventions like Comic-Con)
Campbell spoke with NewsFeed about his name, the convention and the greatest Phil Campbell of all time.
So if you had to guess, how many Phil Campbells would you say there are in the world? Ball park?
If I had to estimate all Phil Campbells in the world, I’d say between 500 to 600.
That’s a surprisingly precise estimate.
The Phil Campbell in Australia said that there are about 30 in the phone book there. But there are about 400 in the United States. So I’m guessing 500 to 600. It’s as close as I can get. It’s a pretty good guess.
And how many of those Phils will be attending?
I don’t really know! And that’s kind of the weird thing, I feel more pressure on me now, because we’re not only doing an international convention, but we’re also doing a more formal event. Only so many people have committed at this point but we’re not done trying to get everyone on board.
The last one was in the ’90s and it’s now 2011. Why now?
Last year I was looking at Wikipedia and I looked up the Phil Campbell, Alabama citation and I noticed there was a reference to the convention and it talked about how the town saw us come and go. So they started their [own] HoeDown in the aftermath of our convention. So now they have a festival that we can join and that makes it a lot more fun.
(More on TIME.com: See pictures from the 2010 automobile convention)
And there’s the fact that Facebook is out there now and it’s a lot easier to connect with people now. I looked up Phil Campbells on Facebook and they were just from all over the world. So I just started friending them, down the line. Facebook kept warning me not to spam people because I was actually behaving like a spammer.
And it’s actually a pure coincidence but it’s the year of the 100th anniversary of Phil Campbell as it incorporated into a town. So they are celebrating their 100th anniversary. So it’s sort of perfect.
That’s pretty serendipitous.
Yeah, it’s brilliant.
What sort of things do you have planned for the convention?
I think a lot of it will be town festivities that we’ll be joining though we’ll have a separate lunch and dinner and photo shoots.
But the town will be providing music, a mechanical bull, there’s a 5K run that they are doing, there’s a model car contest that they do. We’re just going to have a fun time no matter what.
If you had to pick, who do you think is the greatest Phil Campbell of all time?
[laughs] Um. Geez. You’re really putting me in a corner here.
You can say yourself if you’d like.
[laughs] Well, um, no. Well, the Hollywood actor Jason Biggs has been invited to the convention as an honorary Phil Campbell, because he plays me in a movie about my first book. So he said he’s coming and I’m hoping.
Then there’s the Phil Campbell who’s the lead guitarist of Motorhead. And that’s a weird conundrum for me because I really want that guy to come but he needs to understand that he’s just one Phil Campbell among many when he shows up.