17 Apr

Ok.  I am finally to a point in my existence where I will admit this.  It’s a long passed phase but I found this stuff the other day and I decided it is blog-worthy.  As a kid, I collected autographs.  Since I lived in New Mexico and was 12, I had little access to real life celebrities, so I wrote them fan mail and asked for their signatures.

I was already an internet fiend by then, so I became a member of a few autograph collecting message boards (remember those?) and even a Usenet group.  I learned some tactics from those groups that actually…really worked.  I built a random but cool collection.

My choices of who I wrote to were narrowed down by these parameters in my 12 – 15 year old mind:

1. I liked country music
2. I liked songwriters
3. I liked Alfred Hitchcock movies

I know.  I was THAT kid.  So anyway, my collection veered heavily toward these categories with some random other celebrities thrown in.  I present a tiny window into what I collected, broken down by tactic of obtaining them.  You’d be surprised what worked and what didn’t…sending a fan letter to the agent or fan club was usually a waste of time.  Read on:

Hand Tracing

I got a lot of famous people to trace their hands and sign them for me.  It might have been the thing that made my hobby so successful.  ANYONE can beg for a signed photo.  Who asks for a hand tracing?  It also might have had something to do with my charming ways of 13-year old fan letter writing, but I like to think the odd request got people’s attention.

Kenny Chesney Signature

Kenny Chesney – who was the chart king back then.

Gloria Estefan Signature

Gloria Estefan…who was my first concert ever.

Martina McBride Signature

Martina McBride and her tiny hand.

Joan Baez Signature

Joan Baez – folkie.  Check!

Venue Mail

This trick entails looking at the artist’s tour schedule, picking a venue, and sending your autograph request there.  The theory is instead of piling up on the agent’s desk, the mail will be handed to the artist/their entourage at the venue, and it won’t be in a giant mass of mail because…this was a little known tactic except to collectors.  It worked for some doozies.

Dixie Chicks Signatures
The Dixie Chicks

Sting Signature

Natalie Merchant Drawing

Natalie Merchant delivered by far the most interesting signature.  She was playing in Portland, and I got my letter back not with a hand tracing but with a doodle…and a Taxi business card from Portland…and a leaf.  Yep, Natalie Merchant sent me a leaf.

Have Weird Things Signed

The last technique was to send something cool to get signed.  I got this First Day Cover (stamp collector nerd alert!) back from Janet Leigh.  Cue Psycho shower scene music here.

Janet Leigh Signature

Nowadays I don’t even really collect autographs.  Sometimes I get a CD signed at a show, usually not.  I think I burned out all my fascination for celebrity ink on paper by age 16.  But the Natalie Merchant leaf is still cool.

6 Responses to Autographs



April 17th, 2012 at 3:23 pm

This fascinated me for two reasons. First I have never gotten the autograph bug, my brain does not understand value in my own scrawl, but I can abstractly file away the fact that lots of people do seem to be into this collectable.

First, that I have been asked to sign my own autograph on prints, which I reluctantly do but feel my face making that bean-eyed expression of “not computing why someone wants my cruddy signature”. My tag name, decorated artistically -yeah (a piece of art), I get that, but my stupid street name? wack.

Consequently the only autographs I have, from other people, were forced on me. Not that Ann Richards or Ellen, or any other celeb typos, held me down and wrote on my chest or anything, but they assumed I wanted some scrawling of theirs and just gave it to me, unasked.

I have mostly pitched any I received in the trash except for those two, and a letter from Raymond Nasher; precious in that he was a top-200 collector of art in the world, when he wrote me the thank you note for the small portrait I presented to him, of him, after our meeting… one of my most amazing experiences.

And Ann Richards wrote on the flysheet of her autobiography, so that was cool in an author way, and I loved the book and that she gave it to me so I didn’t/wont pitch that one. Ellen gave me; a coffee cup she drank out of on the show I attended (yuk!) and a card that said some shit about it I ever have a talk show she will be a guest… yeah right.

I use the ellen coffee cup as a toothbrush holder, and the notecard I have almost pitched several times, but she is considered a collector, however remote her insulated island, so I keep it stashed hidden in the collector information file. I actually feel like burning that one.

All this (sorry!) said; I would totally fall for the “trace your hand” pitch, and I probably would not even make a scrunchy face. In fact I would go the Natalie Merchant route and draw something and send something… The leaf though… now THAT is original and the most awesome thing I have heard in gifting… wow.

You were right, I enjoyed and laughed my way through this posting and it made me think about my autograph-phobia and what it could possibly mean. Maybe I need to think more like ms Merchant.



April 17th, 2012 at 5:23 pm

I can’t WAIT to frame all of those hands and hang them on the wall of your new office!



April 17th, 2012 at 8:38 pm


RawfeyL – I was hoping you’d eye this one with your usual sense of humor and perspective. I have shifted into your line of thinking…I have a hard time computing the value. I know when I see the artists I work with at shows sign, I think people are looking more for the chance at a connection and a built in momento. I get that. The mail thing, except when I got a letter or something back (Joan Baez’s mom wrote me a letter 🙂 — it’s a lot less personal. And I lost interest.

but they will look awesome on the wall, Katie!



April 17th, 2012 at 8:38 pm

PS: Ellen’s mug is an AWESOME thing to have. Now, let’s get a guest spot on Portia’s new comedy. 🙂



April 17th, 2012 at 9:23 pm

I would only ask how do you feel about handing out your handwriting now, as an entertainer? With the open ended title “Autographs” the perimeter is wide open. You were beggin’ for an askin’ -the circle of life.



April 19th, 2012 at 5:11 pm

I don’t mind at all – it’s a flattery rush. I never write anything cool, though. I need some cool catchphrase to sign with 🙂

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