Gunn attracts a crowd in Bethany

A line wrapped around the side of Bethany Beach Books last Friday evening, with residents and visitors eager to get a word in with Tim Gunn, co-star of Bravo’s successful fashion design reality show, “Project Runway.”

Coastal Point • JONATHAN STARKEY: Bethany Beach Books drew a big crowd on Friday, July 6, as fans of ‘Project Runway’ lined up to meet the show’s co-star and author Tim Gunn.Coastal Point • JONATHAN STARKEY
Bethany Beach Books drew a big crowd on Friday, July 6, as fans of ‘Project Runway’ lined up to meet the show’s co-star and author Tim Gunn.

Gunn, whose mother has lived in Bethany year-round for 14 years and whose sister also owns a home in Bethany, visited the bookstore to sign his new book, titled “A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style.” Before the scheduled start-time of 6 p.m., residents and visitors had already formed a line down the sidewalk and behind the store, and store officials had already sold out of 170 copies of Gunn’s book. The eager book buyers ended up reserving dozens more.

Gunn called the turnout “amazing.”

“I’m totally shocked by it,” Gunn said, while signing books and cards, penning his trademark saying, “Make it happen,” on each. “I thought we’d have a nice group of 40 people.”

Joelle Wallace, a 35-year-old Lancaster native, stood near the back of the line at about 6:15 p.m. last Friday. Hesitating only briefly when she realized the store had sold out of books, Wallace said she would continue to stand in line to meet Gunn.

“It will be interesting to see if he’s the same in person,” Wallace said of Gunn, who serves as the enthusiastic coach to the competing designers on “Project Runway.” Gunn and others recently finished taping the fourth season of the hit show. “He’s fantastic,” Wallace said. “He’s sort of this fabulous presence.”

Gunn, who said he did not initially think he would get much air time on the show, has become one of its, if not its biggest, stars. The energetic Washington, D.C., native was the chairman of the Department of Fashion Design at Parsons, The New School for Design in New York City, where he worked for nearly 25 years. In March, he moved into his new position as chief creative officer of Liz Claiborne Inc.

Wearing their sharpest gear — some undoubtedly with hopes of being discovered — residents and visitors paraded in front of the fashion design guru last week, and he didn’t disappoint. Taking time to take pictures with and talk to everyone who walked in front of him, Gunn even complimented many on their outfit selections.

Julie Ryan, 18, was one of nearly 300 — by some estimations — to attend the book signing on Friday.
Coastal Point • JONATHAN STARKEY: Gunn takes time to pose with Amanda Grace of Dagsboro.Coastal Point • JONATHAN STARKEY
Gunn takes time to pose with Amanda Grace of Dagsboro.

“I think he told everybody that they looked great,” Ryan said while chipperly leaving the store. “He’s has a really elegant way of speaking.”

In the crowd of mostly women, mothers and daughters alike excitedly tossed questions at Gunn, asking when they could catch the next season or about contestants on the show. And all received answers. One visitor to the small table tucked back in a corner of the cozy bookstore even expressed relief that Gunn was friendly and jubilant, not a bitter and angry celebrity.

“He’s a horrible beast,” an amused Gunn joked Friday. “Wouldn’t that be horrible?”

Alice Toomey, 17, Jenny Herbut, 16, and Bethany Lentz, 16, were among those interspersed in the excited and eager crowd standing in line last Friday. Just before meeting Gunn and rushing back to work, Herbut simply summed up the attitude outside the Bethany store.

“It’s Tim Gunn!” she exclaimed.