For some inexplicable reason I’ve never been much of a worshipper at the feet of celebrities. I have collected only two autographs during my long and mostly happy life.
Obtaining those two was not my idea. But as most of you parents know, we’ll walk barefoot on hot coals for our children.
Recent articles noting the 100th birthday of actress Olivia de Havilland prompted this train of thought. Hers was one of the two autographs.
There is a thriving business in the sale of autographs. It can become an expensive hobby. A baseball signed by Joe DiMaggio and wife Marilyn Monroe brought $191,000 and Babe Ruth’s signature once brought $388,375.
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During a 1951 visit to Princeton University, the acknowledged genius, Albert Einstein, posed for an Associated Press photographer. But instead of smiling, Einstein mischievously stuck his tongue out at the last second. The signed photo sold for $75,000.
In the long ago, our younger daughter came home from sixth grade with the assignment to write to someone she greatly admired and to probe their philosophy of life. She had became a devotee of Miss de Havilland after reading “Gone With the Wind” and seeing the movie multiple times.
I had no idea how to contact the movie star. Back then, internet access that now enables us to track down almost anybody on earth was not available. Fortunately, by searching through our newspaper’s microfilm archives, I came across an article about Miss de Havilland’s visit with a friend who was a New York priest.
Without much hope of success, I called the priest and to my surprise was put through to him. He supplied the actress’s Paris address.
We mailed my daughter’s letter, although I cautioned her not to be disappointed if she received no reply.
After three weeks or so, she abandoned hope for a response. Then, out of the blue, came a envelope with a Paris postmark
“Dear Katherine Victoria (what a pretty name!)” Miss de Havilland wrote, explaining that her delayed response was due to being away from home.
“I am so pleased to know that ‘Gone with the Wind’ means so much to you and has become so much a part of your life,” she wrote.
“As to the experience of working in ‘Gone with the Wind,’ it was a wonderfully happy one for me. I was deeply attached to the character of Melanie, who had a rare wisdom of the heart, and I looked forward each day to living her life during the hours of filming.
“Furthermore, I surmised that ‘Gone With The Wind’ might have an unusual destiny – that it might live longer than the year or two which was the fate of most movies of that day. The thought of being part of something which would endure was very fulfilling, even exhilarating. Friends write from England that the movie has just been shown there, yet again. Is this not a good omen, Katherine Victoria?”
The framed letter hangs in my daughter’s dining room.
Obtaining the other autograph was more humiliating.
I had taken my daughter and a friend to a Carolina basketball game back when such luminaries as Michael Jordan and James Worthy led the squad.
At game’s end, my daughter pleaded, “Daddy, could you get Michael’s autograph for us?”
When I demurred, she persisted. And persisted. I began to feel guilty.
What kind of a father would deny a child something that meant so much to her? So off to the locker room I went, hoping none of our sports staff would notice me.
When I found the half-dressed hero, he graciously autographed the two girls’ programs.
Collecting autographs is a harmless hobby. It just happens that the autographs I’m most interested in are those at the bottom, right hand corner of documents inscribed “Pay to the order of A.C. Snow.”