Some people wanted to thank him for making them smile. Some people just thought he would be fun to hang out with. All of them wanted to see Tristan Lambright in the flesh.
Saturday evening, about 300 people attended Touchdown for Tristan, a charity benefit at Expo Market featuring Buffalo Bills game streaker Tristan Lambright. Originally designed to help Lambright defray legal costs, the event raised about $1,200 for Crisis Services in honor of his late aunt, who died by suicide. It also gathered mounds of warm clothing donations for the Hope Project.
Many attendees popped in on their way to the World's Largest Disco or stopped by after seeing "The Nutcracker" at Shea's. Some people came in costume, including an Elvis impersonator who is a fixture at Bills games. Lambright posed for photos, shook hands, gave hugs and autographs, and turned down many free drinks.
The event was originally going to be held at the Gypsy Parlor on Grant Street but, as RSVPs piled up, it quickly outgrew the space.
Anthony Sebastian heard the story of Lambright's aunt and admired his joie de vivre in the face of adversity.
"I knew they all needed to laugh, and he made everyone in Buffalo laugh," Sebastian said. "He seems like a great guy."
The attention Lambright has received has irked some, with critics disapproving of his antics on the field Nov. 12 when the Bills were pounded by the New Orleans Saints, 47-10, and accusing others of glorifying it.
Lambright himself has since called the stunt a "bad decision," and the name of Saturday's event was toned down from the original "Pants-Off Dance Off," so as not to glorify the streaking. Lambright has been charged with public lewdness, criminal trespass and exposure of a person.
Even so, fans said they were uplifted by the exuberant silliness Lambright displayed at the football game and wanted to return some positive support.
"It made sense to throw a party because that's what we do in Buffalo," said Gabrielle Mattina, owner of Gypsy Bohemian Grove Bar in the Expo Market.
Friends said Lambright does not have a place to live and does not have a phone or car. He is a tree surgeon's apprentice and is saving every penny with the goal of buying into a friend's arborist business. He received the ticket to the Bills game as a gift, to cheer him up after he had been through a series of hardships, including two deaths in his family.
Instead, he cheered up thousands of Bills fans watching a dreary, losing football game, and millions more after video, pictures and memes of the act went viral, friends said.
"He is trying to use his fame or notoriety to help a good cause," said Charles Weber, an attendee who met Lambright through the Queen City roller derby, where Lambright has coached and refereed. "He is a kind-hearted, goofy soul and, in my mind, he did and is still doing a hilariously inspiring thing."
Kelly DiDomenico, who organized Saturday's event, said Lambright was more nervous meeting fans than he was streaking down the field in the buff. After receiving negative backlash, he was afraid some of the attendees would "be mad at him," she said. But the reception from the crowd was overwhelmingly positive.
"He's just such a lovable guy. Kids love him. Guys love him. The women love him, obviously," she said, referring to the legions of ladies who have swooned over his physique on social media. "He lived the chance of a lifetime, but he's learned his lesson, that's for sure."