DragonCon - Autographs

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Back in 1978, I attended Star Trek Atlanta, being a big fan at the age of 14. Aside from a few memories, the only thing I have to remember it by is several autographs, those being from Walter Koenig, James Doohan (who told me I was standing too close to get a good picture with the Kodak Instamatic - he was wrong), and William Shatner, now as famous for his Priceline.com ads and for Denny Crane on "Boston Legal" as Captain Kirk.

The first two autographs were free. But for Shatner's personalized signature, I had to buy the imaginatively titled "William Shatner Live" double LP, featuring spoken word excerpts from "The War of the Worlds" and "Cyrano de Bergerac." Exciting stuff, believe you me, but an effective way to unload a warehouse of wasted vinyl. In any case, such is the desirability of a souvenir from being "in the presence" of someone you admire.

Speed forward to DragonCon 2008. A focal area of the convention is a large room filled with various film/TV celebrities (Richard Marsters, Edward James Olmos, Adam West, many others) who are quite happy to provide you with an autograph (for a fee), a a picture using your camera (for a higher fee), or a picture together taken by a professional photographer (for the highest fee). I didn't get one.

Why not? Was it the price? At $20, I could afford one. But with the other three autographs tucked away in boxes in my basement, unseen for 20 years, it's hard to imagine a fate other than just that. I mean, I could frame it, but that would only validate my daughter's standing opinion that "my parents are geeks." Sigh...

Imagine yourself in a room with 40+ celebrities, and you walk away without an autograph. It's something akin to not making the most of the opportunity.

Elsewhere in the "Con," non-personalized autographed pictures were being sold by several of the vendors, including by those far beyond the fan base of this particular group - Tony Randall, anyone? People collect all sorts of things, and autographs are one; I can respect that. But a plain signed photo, obtained by someone else is impersonal. I met Chekov, Scotty, and Kirk. Even tucked away in boxes, I have their autographs to prove it, personalized to me.

My wife is a bit more adventurous than me, I suppose. Faced with a celebrity at a table looking awkwardly alone, she has no problem walking up, saying a few complimentary words, and making a celebrity happier by having someone with which to speak. Yep, that easy. Hello Jamie Bamber; hello Kevin Sorbo. Hey, if she can do this, so can I!

In yet another nostalgic trip to 1978, hey! There's Colonel Wilma Deering, from "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," sitting right over there, looking rather unoccupied. Why not talk to her? So, I did. She was very conversational and appreciative, and very sharing with the busyness of her current life. A friend and I chatted with her several minutes before giving way when a paying fan came seeking her autograph.

As I understand it, the celebrities there were not paid to attend; they recover their expenses through autograph fees. Whether true or not, autographs for fees should be no surprise to anyone in this day and age - we must wonder only if they disclose the income to the IRS. But one thing is clear. Autograph signings such as these are not just a "purchase" transaction. However short the conversation, it's an exchange. The celebrities come to these conventions as a means of giving back to their fans.

I still don't know what to do with autographs, but, after it's all said and done, I regret not having gotten one, so I'll likely get one from Erin Gray next year. I still haven't reconciled with the "why," but I do recognize that I have a memory but no souvenir.

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