I was thinking about this subject the other day and realized that it would make for a good blog post. I’ve been collecting autographs ever since I first met several members of the Utah Jazz at a mall in downtown Salt Lake City in the 80’s. The team was trying to drum up interest in fans and they had several of the players at a table signing autographs for anyone who happened to be there. I was able to get four of the five players who were present (the fifth had just run out of photos to sign). I still have memories of going through the mall to that chance encounter. It was one of the many of my teenage times when I would just go wandering off on my own not knowing what I would find while exploring.
As I started going to Star Trek conventions I had the opportunity to meet several different actors. Some I’ve been able to get photos with that I’ve added to my Star Trek Actor’s Photo Gallery. From these conventions I’ve been able to get autographs from several of the actors that I’ve seen on television and movies. To get an autograph, especially when you can see them sign it yourself, is to have something that they have interacted with. I will never forget meeting with James Doohan. Especially since he was staying in the hotel I was working in at the time. I was able to interact with him on the phone after the convention.
Not all encounters were pleasant ones. Sometimes you have to plan to attend conventions out-of-state, make arrangements to get something to sign, think about what you are going to say to the celebrity since you only get a few seconds with them (if you are lucky it could be a few minutes). At a convention in Los Angels I had the opportunity to get an autograph from Dwight Schultz. While he is famous for his role as Howling Mad Man Murdock in the 1980’s television series, The A-Team. I wanted to get a signed photo of Lt. Barclay from Star Trek: The Next Generation. I went by his table before he arrived and noticed all of the A-Team photos, but there were no Trek photos. I enjoyed watching the A-Team. But I knew what I wanted. In the dealers room I found a vendor who had a stack of Lt. Barclay photos for sale and snatched one up. I remember being in the first dozen people in line at the appropriate time for autograph signings. Several people had commented that they liked my Barclay picture. When you get to the table, you hand the assistant your money along with the photo. My photo was the first Star Trek picture of the day for Mr. Schultz to sign and he said “oh” and reached down with his pen to sign the photo. Suddenly from behind him, a hand reached out and yanked the picture away from him. Shocked I looked up to see some woman shaking the picture at me and screaming “Where did you get this picture? This is an illegal picture!” As I started arguing with the woman that I had already paid my money and that I was owed an autograph on the item I selected, Mr. Schultz’s face went back and forth between me and the woman as we yelled at each other. I think she was his agent or something and she wouldn’t budge. I wouldn’t budge either as I had already paid for my product and stated so. Suddenly she whirled around and grabbed one of his photos, slapped it down in front of him and yelled “Sign it!” The poor actor quickly made it out to me an not wanting to fight any more, I thanked him for the autograph. Then the woman grabbed me and stated “You’re going to show me where you got this in the dealers room.” As I was being dragged past the line, I noticed how many other fans with the same photo I had quickly hiding them. I knew that while she was away, they would be trying to get them signed as quickly as possible. Not wanting to get the dealer mad at me, the moment we got into the room, I waived my hand in the general direction and said “he’s down that way.” and I walked in the opposite direction. I couldn’t have been more than a minute later before I heard the harpy scream of this person yelling at the vendor. Every time I see the photo below, I think about that encounter. To this day, I wonder what Mr Schultz thought of what happened. I don’t blame him for it, but I could tell that he was embarrassed by it.
I wish I could say that I’ve met everyone that I’ve got an autograph from. I’ve had several friends, knowing of my hobby to collect and of my interests, provide me with autographs that they have come across on their own. I’ve enjoyed several “Weird Al” Yankovick concerts, but I’ve never had a chance to meet the artist in person. Two different friends procured an autograph for me at different meet-and-greets that they participated in. I am very thankful to these friends. And yes, someday I’ll get a chance to meet Weird Al in person. Until then I’ll continue to enjoy his music and his sense of humor.
I’ve got a quite a few autographs. Not just photos in an album but on artwork, books, action figures, hats, comics, games and other collectibles. And while some have gone up in value, especially with the celebrity passing on from this life, I’ve never thought about selling these items. These are memories for me. Memories of efforts to collect the autograph. Memories from meeting these human beings who have done extraordinary things. Memories of friends who have gone out of their way to help me with my collection. I’m sad that large scale events and online auctions have pushed autograph prices higher and higher. But I am also grateful for the opportunities to meet these people. I still get a smile on my face when I look over my autographed items.