Medina, Ohio is a located 30 miles south of Cleveland. It’s a pretty typical town of about 25,000 people and not much out of the ordinary happens there. But today, Gary Vaynerchuk, one of the Web’s biggest celebrities, is streaming his popular show around the globe from the living room of a rabid fan that resides in Medina.

It’s not a publicity stunt nor is it unusual for Gary to hang out with anyone in his growing army of followers. They proudly call themselves Vayniaks and more than 80,000 of them tune in online every day to watch Gary talk about wine.

Gary signs books at the Learned Owl, Hudson Ohio

Gary is in the Cleveland area as part of a national book tour to promote his book “101 wines you should taste”. Cleveland isn’t exactly the wine capital of the world. It’s also not a hub for Internet geeks and online marketers, a crowd where Gary is also very well known. Still, the night of the book signing excited Vayniaks form a long line that winds around the building – many sporting their WineLibrary T-shirts and “Bringing the Thunder” wristbands.

Everyone who approaches Gary at the signing is treated like a friend. He’s cordial, funny, and very welcoming. He’s got a huge personality and tirelessly works the room for hours - signing books, posing for photographs and socializing with a gigantic group of people.

He really seems to enjoy hanging out with these folks, almost relishing being a regular guy. His enthusiasm doesn’t seem forced or fake or manufactured to sell more copies of his book. This is just Gary being Gary. And it’s what has made him successful. This is Gary at his best.

Vayniaks get interviewed after meeting Gary

He’s your best buddy, your pal, and the crazy New York Jets fan that doesn't care about talking smack to a room full of Cleveland Browns fans that all just coughed up $20 to buy his book. These folks will spend even more money that evening sitting in the fancy restaurant sipping on wines he recommended.

And while Gary is a marketing genius using Twitter and other social media platforms to sell his product – which is mostly himself – his is also a genuinely nice person. He’s the real deal – someone that makes everyone around him feel special – and that attitude inspires a huge amount of love and adoration from his fans.

After the book signing, there is a smaller gathering with 100 Vayniaks. Gary, who is known for his loud, in your face, whip the crowd into a frenzy energy, enters the room quietly with no introduction. For a moment the room goes silent with awe like Mic Jagger just walked in. Then the crowd acknowledges their admiration for Gary with a rousing round of applause. He truly seems humbled and grateful.

Following Gary around for a day is exhausting. He’s a bundle of endless enthusiasm, energy and inspiration. And his passion is not only for wine but for also football - more specifically his beloved New York Jets. While in Cleveland, a Vayniak with season tickets in million-dollar luxury suite has offered to let Gary tape an episode of WineLibraryTV from Cleveland Browns Stadium and provide a guided tour. This fits well with Gary’s mission to shoot his show from every major stadium in the NFL.

Prior to going into the stadium, Gary is sitting in the grass in the shade with his laptop. He’s streaming himself to hundreds of people via and inviting people in the area to come down and participate in the fun. One woman is watching Gary live online and decides to jump into her car and head to the stadium. Even though Gary’s never met her before, this woman arrives to a warm greeting, like they were old friends. She was immediately welcomed into growing group and now part of the infectious fun.

Live taping of the "thunder show"

The live streaming continues as the group makes its way into stadium. Security guards and other stadium workers aren’t sure what to make of the crowd as they walk by with the open laptop streaming the footage and Gary yelling angrily at the New England Patriots logo helmet on the wall.

The show-behind-the-show continues to be streamed live as the cameramen discuss angles, set up equipment and the wines for the show are brought into the luxury box. Now, it’s time for the official show. There isn’t a script but has a format. Gary says hello. Gary tastes wine. Gary gives wine commentary. Show over. But even when the show is over, it’s not really over. Gary continues to stream live. And Gary is always on.

During the 30-minute drive to grab some lunch, Gary is on the phone the entire time while his friend, Noah St. John, acts as his driver for the day. Gary is constantly on his iPhone and checking email. However, when you get 1,000+ emails a day and have a reputation for responding right away, you don't have the luxury of dealing with it later. And when the wife calls, you answer it, no matter what.

This is a full-time job that takes him away from his family for large chunks of time. He says he’s been on more than 50 flights since the start of the year (2008). He’s also Twittering and answering emails at all hours of the day and night, in addition to interacting with his fans every chance he has. Each day spends more time responding to emails than he does sleeping.

Spending time with Gary

A grilled cheese sandwich and a few hours later, the lunch is over and everyone is reminded once again that Gary never stops. He's in the area for another night to host a private wine tasting at someone's home that evening with a group of people that he’s never met before. And he does all of this without a limo to wisk him away after dessert or a handler or an entourage. It's just Gary.

There’s been criticism of Gary from some that don't believe he’s sincere. Instead, they want to believe that he’s just some guy from New Jersey seek celebrity via the Web. Some say he’s only interested in lining his own pockets by selling you something.

If any of those naysayers spent just one day with him, they would probably be converted to Vayniaks or collapse in a heap of exhaustion.

At lunch Gary jokes with the group that he has a special gene that allows him to like people more than he likes himself. Of course, no such gene exists, but for just a second everyone in the group wants to be buying whatever he is selling.



Here's a video from the first time I met Gary from November 2007
at a party in Las Vegas at the Wynn.

Visit Gary's Sites

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Gary on Twitter

Gary's Books

2009 All rights reserved. Jim

Thank you to Lisa Picarille for editing. Thank to Gary for the fun day.