Penmanship of the stars: The autographs you cherish

Sarahjessicaparker_lToday 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…"

addCredit(“Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick: Eugene Gologursky/WireImage.com”)

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?

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  • RightNextToMars

    John Travolta and Uma Thurman signed my copy of Pulp Fiction (independently of one another) and I have it displayed. I was very eager to show it to my dad, as well, since it’s a movie we shared together when I was probably way too young to be watching such a thing.

  • Meredith

    The only autograph I have is Donny Osmond. When I was 8 my mother and grandmother took me to see him in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and it was love at first sight. My grandmother wrote him a letter saying how much I loved him, and he wrote back. I still have it today, though now I treasure it because of my grandmother, not because of Mr. Osmond.

  • Sara

    I got John Elway and Stephen Stills autographs at political fund raisers. I didn’t expect to see anyone famous so I asked them to sign whatever random piece of paper I had on me

  • Dana

    I got Hayden Pannettierre’s (sic) at a sci fi convention I was volunteering at. She was charging twenty five dollars an autograph, but because I was volunteer I got one for free.
    I also got Stephen Colbert to sign a copy of his book, which was pretty awesome.

  • Jake

    I have an old Monty Python record signed by Michael Palin.

  • Emma

    I sent a letter to One Tree Hill star Sophia Bush and she sent me back an autographed picture.

  • Media Prom and Wolf

    First of all, props to Christine for such a cool gift idea! Watch me steal it. As for my autograph moment, as a young newspaper intern, I got to tag along with the rest of the bureau to the White House Correspondents Association’s annual Dinner which is like the prom for geeky journalists. While there were some notable celebrities there – Jerry Seinfeld and Heather Locklear – I spent my even hunting down my favorite TV anchors. My biggest (and now upon reflection, my lamest) get – CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

  • Kirby

    When I was in Jr High, I got letters back from Sasha Cohen, Daniel Radcliffe, Vanessa Carlton, and Ben McKenzie. I sent out more but didn’t get replies.

  • Devin

    That’s so crazy that you put up this post today since Kate Walsh from “Private Practice” and “Grey’s Anatomy” visited my school (Arizona State) today to promote Obama. I actually skipped class to see her. We got a picture together and she gave me her autograph on an Obama sign. It’s pretty much the only autograph I have at the moment. But this experience was pretty much the highlight of my day… and I don’t even watch either of her shows!

  • Daniel

    I’ve got J.K. Rowling’s, B.J. Novak’s, and Ha Jin’s, all of whom I met in person (I actually got to have a 75 minute chat with B.J.!).

  • Zod

    I got Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) to sign the cover of one of my original Marvel Star Wars comics at a comic book convention. He signed it with a black sharpie so you can barely see it but it’s totally there.
    I got Venus Flytrap’s when I was a kid and Ice-T’s when I was older but I’ve lost them both.

  • katie g

    my high school offered a drama trip to dublin for the city’s theatre festival. one of the play’s we saw was starring geoffrey rush.
    i barely sat through the whole thing i was so excited, and after the show our teacher approached the stage manager about maybe meeting him.
    he actually came back out on stage and talked to us for a good 30 minutes, personalizing and autographing everyone’s program.
    it was one of the greatest days of my life, and i still have that program tucked away.

  • LP

    I once wrote a long letter to John Williams and got back an autographed photo where he had hand written a musical staff and the first several notes to the Star Wars theme. Doesn’t get any more awesome than that.

  • Janie

    My favorite actor has been Hugh Jackman for about 7 years- since I was 13 years old. He was on Broadway a couple years ago in The Boy from Oz. I got my first summer job, bought myself a ticket to one of his last performances and took a plane to New York just for the show. After it was over, I jumped out of my seat and sprinted to the stage door so that I was in front when he came out. There were hundreds of people waiting, but I was lucky enough to be one of the people to get my program signed. I said “Thank you,” he said “Pleasure,” and I flew home knowing that it would be one of the happiest days of my entire life.

  • Little Lamb

    My husband actually did something very similar for my birthday 5 or 6 years ago, writing to celebrities and asking them for birthday wishes for me. He collected them all and had them made into a nicely hardbound book, and gave it to me along with the original photos. A number of people wrote a short message along with their names, which was nice of them. I can’t tell you how much of a kick it is that I have birthday wishes from Mr. Rogers and Dick Van Dyke, two people I grew up watching on TV, among many others. It was quite the time-consuming project for my husband, too, and involved the renting of a PO box and months of secrecy on the part of him and our friends who knew about his little mission. Really cool thing for someone to do!

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