Tuesday, 26 April 2011

V is for the Value of a Vader

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?


Unknown said...

I'm sorry, I don't care who the person is who's telling me how great Pepsi is. I'm still not going to drink the stuff. If a restaurant doesn't have Diet Coke but has Pepsi products, I drink water instead (which is better for me anyway). ;)

Beverly Diehl said...

I have a few books signed by the author that are meaningful to me since they are people whose work I've long admired. Ray Bradbury, on a hardback of Fahrenheit 451, and Ursula Le Guin on The Lathe of Heaven. I think I have a few others, some of which I've hung onto, some not.

If I go to an "event" at which an author is speaking, and the queue isn't too long, I'll join it, not so much to have the book signed (though that's the dealie) but to have an opportunity to briefly thank him/her for his time and wish her well.

F said...

I like signed books. And albums, for that matter. And signed prints of artwork (I am too poor to afford originals).

I like that it's physical, says that the creator has handled this object, this replica of their work. I don't think it's about celebrity; I like it just the same whether it's a self-published POD title by somebody nobody's ever heard of, as when it's by someone everyone has heard of.

F said...

Also, I sort of wish that you'd kept the autograph of the fictional character in your notebook. It appeals to something in me.

mooderino said...

@Stina - finally some real controversy!

@Beverly - I wonder how the author would respond if you said you didn't want the signature, you just wanted to say thanks for writing the book.

@Frankie - I think what it appeals to is your sense of kitsch. Plus it's no mean feat to write someone else's name while wearing thick leather motorcycle gloves.

Unknown said...

An exact opposite story for you:

My brother played the character Shredder in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" the movie, but he played the part where Shredder didn't have the mask and all. He played the part when that master rat was thinking back in time to a young Shredder with no mask. Yea, that was my brother. He got paid all of 75 bucks per day to film that one scene and I think it didn't take more than a day or two.

Anyway, sitting in the movie theatre the first day of the showing in his hometown he felt great! When the movie was over, a bunch of little kids ran up to him and go, "Oh my God, it's Shredder!" and he signed autographs! lol

That's priceless. :D

Unknown said...

Great topic! I just attended a sci-fi convention where there were many "Vaders" so your story really resonated. I cherish signed books from authors that I admire and now I am experiencing what it feels like to be the "autographer", and I have to say it's pretty neat. On the other hand, my husband spends money on signed posters and merch from "famous" actors and such and I don't get it. To each his own, I suppose. :)

Reflections on Writing

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I have Terry Brooks' signature, and several records with the band's signature. But I agree that drinking or eating something just because a star does it is nuts.

Linda Leszczuk said...

I think to get an autograph in person can be special because it ties to the memory of when you got to see/meet that person. Otherwise, not so much.

I'd like to say I'm immune to celebrity endorsements but I've got to admit to being tickled when I happened to see Patrick Stewart on the street in New York and noticed he was wearing New Balance running shoes...and so was I.

Ryan Sullivan said...

I don't have any autographed items...except a signed clipboard from some Australian artist I don't even remember who'd come to my primary school. It was more of a "why not?" sort of thing.

Unknown said...

Your just lucky he didn't use the 'Force Choke' on you! lol

I'm a collector of things, so an autograph can be a cool piece of memorabilia I suppose. I don't think a signature would mean much to me unless I truly knew the person and they signed it with intent, if that makes sense?


Alleged Author said...

I actually have quite a few autographs from famous people (my mother helped with the Olympics and Special Olympics; my uncle is a director). The reason I hold on to them is because the people achieved something. Though their achievements may not be literary or prize-winning, they represent an achievement of dreams. People who accomplish goals will always be held in high esteem with me. I teach my students to believe in their dreams and to hope--one day--they will come true. All the people who sign autographs--from the lowly costume wearer to the famous star--had these dreams at one point. Why would you deny them this because you don't think it worthy to have their scrawl on something of yours? I may be alone in this...but if you were a famous author and signing books, would you want someone throwing your book in the trash because they believed your signature to be insignificant or a derivative? Dear child, everyone has a dream. Even if you deem that dream to be beneath you (i.e. a costume wearer for Darth Vader), it makes it no less real to that person. You may delete me as a blog follower or comment negatively, but I hold to this belief: many lowly people do not ask of you to drink "their beverage" or to "join their fan club." However, it is no less real to them when you admire their stunts or enjoy their special effects. Always are there greater and lesser persons that yourself. It's what you do to help them that makes the difference.

Author Joshua Hoyt said...

Your not alone. I am not a signature kind of person. On another note I bet the darth vador guy just rented a limo and costume and showed up :)

Laoch of Chicago said...

I guess that things are worth what people willpay for them. From my perspective a book has value but a signature, none.

Laura Josephsen said...

I like things that are personalized by the person who made them--I think for me it's that I realize how much of a person's time, effort, and self has gone into the project, and there's something special about having them put their name to that. I guess I find it rewarding for them and for me.

mooderino said...

@Diane - cool story. Better than being one of the anonymous guys in the turtle suits.

@Melissa - there's a big market for this stuff on ebay, he may end up making money (or he may not).

@Alex J - unless it's Meg Ryan, in which case I'll have what she's having.

@Linda - it's often weird ssing stars dressed as civilians, often not how you expect.

@Ryan - if it was Rolf Harris it could be worth a lot of money.

@EJ - If he'd been able to perform a force choke I definitely would have kept his autograph.

@Alleged Author - I certainly wouldn't kick you out for a contrary view to mine. I welcome debate and discussion, in whatever tone you choose. Feel free to say it as you see it, although the occasional paragraph break wouldn't go amiss (hell of a wall of words you got there).

@Josh - Rogue Vader? George Lucas wouldn't stand for it!

@Laoch - the way ebooks prices are going not sure books have that much value either.

@Laura - I think if the person made the thing specifically for me then I would value it. If it's something I just bought, then not so much.

cheers for all the comments guys,

the writing pad said...

I'm very proud of my signed programmes from David Essex concerts, partly because they symbolise my ability to run fast, in those days, in 4 inch heels, to the Stage Door, and my elbow dexterity in dealing with the competition. You missed a trick with your autograph book though. You're supposed to write things in it, yourself, e.g. 2 y's u r 2 y's u b, I c u r 2 y's 4 me ... Oh, and By Hook or By Crook, I'll Be Last in this Book. Now you know :-)

scribbleandedit.blogspot.co.uk said...

LOL! I collected autographed photos of my fav Tv perosnalities when I was younger and now I can't see the point of getting a celeb's autograph. The photos are lovely to have, but I don't have the same urge to collect them anymore. :O)

Hart Johnson said...

*giggles* I love the random Darth signature--too funny. Autographs are a funny thing. I really LIKE them in a book--I have books I have kept even though I don't really care about the book just because the author has signed. I am with you on a blank piece of paper--that's a little weird, but on a 'piece of art' (like a book or a CD cover) I think it's fun to show you met the artist.

Talli Roland said...

I have a few books that are signed, but nothing else! I'm not really big into celeb stuff.

Heather Henry said...

I have to say, I am completely with you on this one. I've never understood the appeal to having a name of someone I don't know and probably never will know, in my book or album. I have a few children's books signed by the illustrator, but that's because we're friends and they were written to me. Honestly, the type of writing I like in a book, is when I buy a used book and it says, this book is for so and so, with love...or the person underlined passages and wrote notes in the margins. I probably would've kept Darth's signature, mostly because he's cool.
Art is another matter, I want the artist to sign their work.

Gail M Baugniet - Author said...

As an aspiring author, I always viewed a signed novel as a success story ... the author's signature was the whipped cream atop the completed project of writing a story.

Recently I self-published my first mystery novel and several family members and friends requested that I sign their copies. I considered this a huge compliment. So, in some cases, I suppose collecting an autograph is a way of giving the author a pat on the back.

Halli Gomez said...

I am putting this out there - if anyone sees me sitting at a book signing table by myself, PLEASE come by for a pity signature! I will even slip you some money under the table :)

As for signatures, I have a bunch because I used to volunteer at a big book festival in Miami, FL. Some are pity signatures but others are special (because I enjoy the author's writing so much) like Stephen King, Carl Hiaasen, Tananarive Due. and the signed "eyeball" from Anne Rice.

Elizabeth Mueller said...

I love collecting books with author's signatures. I'm not sure why, but I do! I loved this post, thanks for sharing your thoughts!


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