Friday, April 9, 2010

What's in a sig?

Yesterday I realized this about myself: I'm a whore for autographs. This revelation came after I purchased the book pictured to the left. As I plunked down cold, hard credit card, I said to myself, "Damn! Wish I could get it signed."

Later that day is when my wondering took a plunge into deep and random serious consideration. Why am I such a whore for signed copies of books? Will a signature make the story better? Would the scrawl verify that for two lousy seconds, I breathed within the same four feet as the author?

Recently Sara Palin came to town pimping her book, and admirers camped overnight at the book store just to get her damn signature. Why? Is she a rock star?
Is Mark Terry? (Compared to Sara Palin, I think the answer is obvious.)

My reason for wanting Mark's scrawl is that I sort of "know" as well as admire him via the blessed blog-o-sphere. It's why I bought his book, not to mention, I'm in love with the cover. I might not read it for months and months, but it'll be on my shelf with the others of those I've bought written by people I "know" and admire via the blessed blog-o-sphere. None have a signature. Not a single one. Does it matter?

Well, I don't know. And now that I've been giving it deep thought I can't let go of wondering why people stand in line for hours, hurdle rope barriers and start stampedes just to get a signature. I'm sure those sport's memorabilia shops at the malls would wither and die if not for the displays of balls, bats, cards and other signed what-nots. I hear that some people spend thousands of dollars for one lousy signed what-not.

I'm one of them, although I didn't spend thousands, just a few hundred for a baseball signed by Mickey Mantel. It was a gift for the man who has everything except a ball signed by The Mick. We keep it in a special shiny container that sits on a shelf where no one notices. Sort of an invisible shrine.

What makes having a signed what-not special? I have a cowboy hat signed by this dude and this dude. I have no idea where that hat is, but whenever I stumble across it I touch the faded ink. It's not like taking a dip into the waters at Lourdes. That ink isn't going to cure my eye if I hold it close enough to my face. They are just two faded autographs.

But they remind me of the time and place when I stampeded...uh, politely asked for them. It's nice to have memories, sort of an immersion into that past as if time stands still.

Speaking of stampedes, a few years ago a popular morning television show did a piece on the Romance Writers of America convention. I saw it on YouTube. The double doors to a large convention room burst open and a hungry mob of women, some screaming, others crying, filled the room. It resembled the first time the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan. Scads of romance authors sat at tables with stacks of their books, pens ready for the signing. I have never seen anything quite like it. I mean, seriously, some of these women needed smelling salts after meeting their favorite romance author in person.

All for a signed paperback novel.

Authors are rock stars to readers. And to some writers. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it considering I stood in a line, my heart pounding as I waited my turn for this poet to sign one of his poetry books that I just bought. Had I known he would have signed whatever what-not I produced, I might have skipped the purchase. My friend, who was too broke at the time to buy his book, stood in line, too. She handed him a pack of Marlboros. He signed it. Did I mention that she's young and gorgeous?

Pity the fool standing in line with nary a what-not.

Movie stars, rock stars, athletes and reality t.v. celebs. They are the gods, we are the Titans. When did they stop being Titans, too?

So what theories do you have on the obsession for signatures? Any ideas as to when, where and why the phenomena ever started?

P.S. Buy Mark's book! Even unsigned, it's a keeper.


Edie Ramer said...

Too funny about the pack of Marlboros. Enjoy your book!

Kath Calarco said...

Edie, the "Marlboro" moment will always make me laugh. (My friend has finally quit the habit, but she has a fond memento without the cough.)

Robin said...

Great post! I've been guilty of going ga-ga over certain celebrities and athletes, mostly in my younger days. Now I quietly go ga-ga. :) I think an autograph just makes the item a bit more special - makes you more attached to it.

Kath Calarco said...

Thanks, Binx!

You're so right. An autograph makes it special, unless it's Tiger Woods', then it's just something to burn. :)

Kate S said...

Interesting and fun post. :)

No idea where the first autograph hounds may have come from, but I do like my autographed thingies. Just somehow makes them more special, and makes me feel more connected somehow to the person who signed them.

Kath Calarco said...

Kate, I completely agree. Somehow the thingies look a lot cooler, too, when they've been scrawled upon.

P.S. Great pic!