I struggled in vain to get my team hat signed by a star player; oh, the indignity of being squeezed out by little shavers and hovering grannies who obviously were ‘veteran warriors’ at this ‘contact sport’ of autograph seeking.
Autograph seekers can be aggressive, pugnacious and rude. They don’t give ground easily, as I learned during my brief moment as an interloper into the arena of idol worshippers.
Why do we seek autographs, anyway? Well, to start, it’s gratifying to have a celebrity pay momentary attention to us and it’s fun to brag about who we saw, and who saw us. And some autographs actually become valuable over time. A rare baseball card recently sold for more than $3,000,000.
The pushing and shoving to reach the celebrity is one way to get an autograph, or shake a hand. However, sometimes the moment comes when you least expect it. So, be prepared and don’t be shy about engaging the target.
A former middleweight boxing champ gave me an autograph when I approached him in a restaurant. Carmen Basilio, a one time great, was alone at the bar, and a long time removed from the boxing spotlight. Hence, he was ‘low hanging fruit’.
President GW Bush (#46) gave me a handshake following a speech, his not mine. A large Secret Service agent focused on me, laser like, as I stopped the President in-place and offered a suggestion, something that ordinary citizens can do in America.
I ran down former Chicago Bears coach and football Hall of Famer, Mike Ditka, at O’Hare Airport for his autograph, but just shook his hand and a offered a nice word on behalf of my father-in-law, a huge fan of anything ‘Chicago’. Ditka was intimidating.
One of the earliest and most enjoyable autographs I got was from the queen of Mouseketeers, herself, Annette Funnicello, during a Mickey Mouse Club ‘meet and greet’ at a local K-Mart parking lot. I was crazy about her, every 10 year old boy was, and now we were face to face, across an autograph table, my naturally big ears lined up opposite her costume ears. As she handed me the signed black & white glossy photograph, my knees went weak and my voice cracked. I mumbled something forgettable before being shoved along to keep the line moving. Nothing has changed, it’s every man for himself for the autograph seekers. Nevertheless, I think she looked at me. Yes, she did, I’m certain of it.
I don’t have the autographs but the memories remain. It’s not important. Today, I’m collecting footprints and ‘signatures’ from two new special people in my life, my grandchildren. Stars come and go, but the ones who count the most crawl into your life and stay forever.