During their 22-year touring career, and later, the Ramones signed many, many autographs, and they even once autographed a human skull. Lead singer Joey Ramone remembers what was perhaps the most unusual object they signed, “In Europe, one fan pulled off his artificial leg and had us sign the prosthesis.” While the Ramones were at an airport in Argentina, the guards stopped them as they were going through the metal detectors, in order to get their autographs. After the band finally broke up, guitarist Johnny Ramone became a huge collector of celebrities’ autographs. He used to write celebrities and say, “I am Johnny Ramone—can you please send me an autograph? I would like to add it to my collection.” The celebs responded favorably.
Before World War II, Lucy Carrington Wertheimer ran an art gallery that championed the work of then-modern artists. Many famous people visited the gallery and signed the guestbook. One day, Ms. Wertheimer looked at the guestbook and told her employee, “I see you have had Mr. Shaw in, Biddy.” A nearby visitor looked at the guestbook and saw that George Bernard Shaw had signed it. Amazed, he said, “Yes, and you’re jolly lucky to have his autograph. How did you manage to get it?” Biddy, an Irish lass, replied, “Oi just said to him, ‘Put your name in the visitors’ book, Mr. Shaw,’ and he put it in.” Mrs. Wertheimer suspects that when Biddy said this to Mr. Shaw, “Biddy’s tone was so authoritative that Mr. Shaw did not dare say her nay.”
In June of 1952, Le Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas danced in Rio de Janeiro. Some ballet fans went backstage, where they quickly stole as many small souvenirs as possible, including many, many photographs that George Zoritch kept of himself in his dressing room. These fans brought the photographs around to Mr. Zoritch, who of course recognized where they had come from, but who signed them anyway. Soon, Mr. Zoritch noticed that the same people kept asking him to sign his photograph. He pointed out that he had already given them an autograph, but they said, “Yes, we already have two or three, but would you autograph one more?”
Enrico Caruso could be very generous. One day he needed a pen to sign autographs, so an electrician lent him a $5 pen he was very proud of—$5 was a lot of money back then. Unfortunately, after signing some autographs Mr. Caruso absent-mindedly put the pen in his pocket and walked off with it. Because Mr. Caruso was a VIP, the electrician didn’t say anything, and he thought that he had seen the last of his pen. But the very next day, the electrician received a package from Mr. Caruso. Inside the package was his $5 pen, and wrapped around the pen was a $20 bill.
Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine knows a good way to tell how popular a particular player is: simply ask a kid—after all, kids tend to be honest. One day, Mr. Erskine was signing autographs for kids, and he noticed that a particular boy came back for a second autograph, and then a third autograph. He asked the boy why he wanted three autographs, and the boy said, “Actually, I would like to have six. If I can get six of yours, I can trade them for one of Jackie Robinson.”
Opera singer Luciano Pavarotti comes from Modeno, Italy, where people make sure not to give celebrities special treatment. Paul Newman visited Modeno twice, where he ate in public restaurants twice. Both times, no one asked him for his autograph. He marvelled, “What a polite city—no one bothered me.” However, he couldn’t help but wonder, “To interest the people of Modeno, who do you have to be?”
Athletes sign lots of autographs, and some athletes’ signatures are written more carefully—and legibly—than other athletes’ signatures. Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine’s signature was especially legible because his teachers had taught him that he should take pride in his name. One fan remarked on the legibility of his signature, and Mr. Erskine told her that he had learned to do that from his teachers. Beaming, the fan replied, “I’m a teacher.”
Comedian Bill Hicks was backstage during the intermission of a concert by Ray Charles, where he witnessed a woman trying to get Mr. Charles’ autograph although members of Mr. Charles’ staff said that he did not sign autographs. Finally, a member of the staff said, “I sign autographs for Mr. Charles.” The woman said, “You do! Oh, thank you!” Mr. Hicks said, “Hey, I can get you John Lennon’s autograph.”
Irish tenor John McCormack adored Italian tenor Enrico Caruso, and early in his career be bought a photograph of Mr. Caruso and forged on it an inscription from Mr. Caruso to himself. Later, he met Mr. Caruso and told him about the forgery. Amused, Mr. Caruso produced another photograph of himself and wrote this real inscription on it: “To McCormack, very friendly, Enrico Caruso.”
Science fiction author Anne McCaffrey wanted to dedicate her novel Decision at Doona to her middle child, Todd Johnson McCaffrey. She wanted the dedication to read, “To my darling son, Todd,” but at age 12 he worried that such a dedication would result in taunts at school, so she compromised and changed the dedication: “To Todd Johnson—of course!”
French humorist and writer Alphonse Allais was very proud of his library, and especially proud of a volume of Voltaire’s work in which appeared this inscription: “To Alphonse Allais, with regrets for not having known him. Voltaire.” However, the inscription was not written by Voltaire, who had died a century before Mr. Allais was born.
After J.K. Rowling published the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, in the United Kingdom, she went to a bookstore in Edinburgh to see copies of the book displayed. She was tempted to sign the copies, but she decided not to in case she got in trouble with the bookseller.
Albert Einstein gave autographs, but he charged $1 for each one. All the money he raised that way went to charity.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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