Even if Lou Ferrigno weren't Lou Ferrigno, the guy probably still would be subjected to a life of double-takes and random strangers walking up to ask him questions.
Ferrigno, even at 62, is a remarkable physical specimen. His muscular physique won him International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness Mr. Universe bodybuilding titles in the 1970s and later landed him his most famous role: the title character in The Incredible Hulk television series in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
As an icon of the fitness industry and a fanboy favorite for portraying Marvel Comics' big green rage monster, Ferrigno is a big draw when he appears at events such as the Lexington Comic & Toy Convention. He said staying fit gives the fans something extra.
"When they come see me and see I'm in great shape, they think they're meeting a real superhero," Ferrigno said. "Especially the kids. The kids get excited because it's a connection with power."
Ferrigno, like his fans, has a lot of fondness for the Hulk. He helped bring the character into America's living rooms through his television portrayal, and as the character became computer-generated and made the jump to the big screen in 2003's The Hulk, 2008's The Incredible Hulk and as a member of The Avengers in 2012, Ferrigno lent his voice to each Hulk incarnation.
"If it wasn't for the (TV) series and myself, the Hulk wouldn't be around today," he said. "I'm still alive and I still lend my voice, which I'm very proud of."
Ferrigno said one of the main reasons people gravitate towards the Hulk is the connection with the character's power and wanting to unleash it.
"Everyone has a little Hulk inside of us," he said. "That's why worldwide, it's such a hit."
He could easily draw a crowd solely on his Hulk portrayal, but Ferrigno has become an international star by connecting to his own power.
His physical gifts allowed for him to have continued success beyond The Incredible Hulk, starring as the title role in both 1983's Hercules and 1989's Sinbad of the Seven Seas. But Ferrigno said more and more fans come to these conventions come for his roles when he didn't take himself so seriously, as when he played himself on the sitcom King of Queens and in the film I Love You, Man.
"It showed more sides of me doing a comedy," he said. "I love making people laugh."
He also loves making people take action. Ferrigno has become a popular motivational speaker, spokesman and entrepreneur. He advocates physical fitness through his company Ferrigno Fit. Having suffered hearing impairment at a young age from an ear infection, he became a spokesman for the Better Hearing Institute and has been a long-time advocate and supporter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
When Ferrigno joined the cast of 2012's The Celebrity Apprentice to play for MDA, he met Star Trek's George Takei, a fellow advocate and featured guest of the Lexington Comic-Con.
"I love George and I think he's a fabulous guy and I've admired what he's done," he said.
Ferrigno continues to work while making regular convention appearances. He recently starred in the web series Star Trek Continues and in the upcoming video release of The Scorpion King: The Lost Throne. But whenever he meets his fans, he says, he hopes that despite playing larger-than-life roles, he can help them tap into their own potential.
"Every day I wake up, I always say give 110 percent," he said. "I've proved and convinced people and I've motivated people that you can do whatever you want as long as you can take action and be the best that you can be."
Blake Hannon is a Mount Sterling-based writer.