Today is National Handwriting Day (I think I’ve got not-too-shabby cursive, so, um… congratulations, hand!), which got me thinking about celebrity handwriting. Except for book readings, I can’t recall a single instance when I’ve gone up to a famous person and asked for their autograph. I work at EW’s New York City office, and in this town, if you enjoy being spared the label “rube,” you don’t trail the Parker-Brodericks (pictured) down the sidewalk with a pen. I guess we feel cool ignoring how cool they are when we see them.
However, for a month or so in the 1990s, I had a very specific autograph-related obsession (no, not forging checks): mailing celebrities whom my father liked, to ask for an autograph. About six months before my dear old Dad retired, I hatched a plan to make a scrapbook of photos and letters congratulating him on working hard for 35 years, American dream, all that good stuff. I was calling in mementos from relatives and friends when it dawned on me to make the gift funnier (glitzier? stranger? more eBay-able? the original motive escapes me now). Soon I was spending all my primetime TV hours lounging and writing letters to famous people. Dear Carol Burnett! Dear Ed Asner! Dear Mike Wallace, Dave Brubeck, Tiger Woods, President Clinton, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mary Tyler Moore, Ray Bradbury, even the Weather Channel lady my dad watched every day. When I channel-surfed past Danny DeVito, he and Rhea Perlman joined the list. When I ate a Baby Ruth, Hank Aaron joined the list. There was some research involved, but not much (surely contact info is more locked down now, but at the time, expert autograph collectors shared tips over the Internet with fan-mail address intel, emphasizing the increased odds of a reply if you hand-wrote a personal letter.) On cheap blue stationery with a book of stamps at my side, I wrote over and over, “My dad’s a huge fan of yours, and he’s about to retire, so I’m writing to ask…”
Results-wise, I estimate I contacted 100 people and got a 30 percentreturn rate, and those letters and headshots sprang out of my mailboxday after day and into the scrapbook, putting my gift over the top asI’d hoped. (When writing to some stars, I even included aself-addressed, stamped greeting card, making it easy for them to justsign and mail it back; I’ll never forget receiving the “Best Wishes onYour Retirement” golf-themed card with Dan Rather’s signature andactual best wishes inside.)
Uncool as it may be to say, there is something oddlythrilling about a handwritten souvenir from a talented person youadmire. I can’t be the only one with an autograph story, PopWatchers.Do you own any celebrity signatures, and if so, what do they mean toyou?