When somebody gets famous for something, sports or movies or whatever, they become admired and respected. Sometimes adored. People want to see them, write to them, stare at photographs of them. If they appear in an advert saying how refreshing they find Pepsi, people who have tried Pepsi before and found it sweet and sickly, will suddenly decide it’s their favourite beverage.
It’s a strange thing, but fine. We as people influence each other and affect each other’s view of the world, and some people have a greater influence than others. But the one area I find most perplexing is the collecting of autographs. What does it mean to have someone sign their name on a piece of paper and give it to you?
In my whole life there was only one time I got a famous person to write their signature for me. That person was Darth Vader.
It was around the time of Return of the Jedi and I was very young, and ‘Darth’ was appearing at a local toy store. There was a huge queue and you were expected to buy something before meeting the great Sith Lord. I bought an autograph book (seemed appropriate).
He arrived in a limousine (what were you expecting?) with two storm troopers. It wasn’t the actual actor, just a guy in a pretty accurate replica of the outfit, and he didn’t speak (for obvious reasons) but he had the heavy breathing sound on full blast. He signed autographs and occasionally shoved a kid to the ground and pointed at them menacingly, or at least I think that’s what he was doing. I got my signature but I didn’t really know what I was supposed to do with it.
Many years later I found the book while sorting out some stuff, and there was Darth’s signature. A very free-flowing cursive in case you were wondering. The book had never been used after that, so just a bunch of blank pages. The fake signature of a fictional character impersonated by some random actor who fit the suit. How much was that worth. I tore out the first page and threw it away, and used it as a notebook.
Now, I realise when it comes to book signings or getting a musician to sign an album (when those used to exist), it may have some more obvious relevance, but I don’t really think so. If the author knows me and is writing a personal message specifically to me, that’s great, but just randomly scrawling their name inside the jacket, one stranger to another?
In fact, if I was buying a book and the author was in the store doing a signing I would never bother to get them to sign it. Unless they were all alone and no one was asking for their signature, in which case I would do it out of pity (and if any of you ever see me in that situation I hope you'll do likewise, I’ll accept your pity gladly). Otherwise, I know who wrote the book, why have them deface it like a six year old would?
I imagine I’m alone in this view, but would be interested to know. Do you have anyone famous’ John Hancock? Does it mean anything to you?