Saturday, February 21, 2015

MY autograph? Um, okay...

In which our Diva commits vlog with tremendous ambivalence and curiosity

I am, as you may have noticed, not even a little bit famous. Despite this fact, from time to time, I receive an email or letter asking for an autographed photo. Typically they mention a relatively recent credit from my IMDb page, tell me a little about themselves, and are generally polite and respectful.

The one currently sitting in my inbox (waiting for me to get around to printing a promo photo at Walgreens in a size that can be sent with regular letter postage, which the 8x10 headshots I actually have on hand rather decidedly can't) says he's a fan from Epitaph: Bread and Salt. Now, that has over half a million views on YouTube, increasing the odds that he's actually seen it, as compared to some other films requesters have mentioned.

One of the previous requests I've received, upon googling the name of the requester together with "autograph" (because I'm nothing if not a curious beastie), let me to this blog post by author C. Leigh Purtill. She was understandably baffled at receiving an autograph request from a Polish gentleman who seemed vanishingly unlikely to have actually read her books, and took her blog to see what her readers made of it. I'm guessing she probably never predicted that there would still be a fairly lively discussion happening in the comments nearly six years later, with all manner of obscure public figures (including myself) chiming in to relate their stories, share the names of requesters, and puzzle over why they're interested in us.

It says a lot about the state of the world, and particularly of trying to make a go of it in the entertainment or publishing industry, that the first place pretty much everyone's mind goes is "Is this some kind of scam?" The short answer, as far as I've been able to determine, is no, although currently the discussion is circling around the pros and cons of confirming that the email address they're using for you is valid. (In my case, it's the one I list on my IMDbPro page for professional purposes, so if it weren't, I'd definitely be doing this "self-managed actor" thing wrong! But that's not the source for everyone, so it's a valid question to consider.)

In my aquaintance with collectors, no matter what their area of interest, the qualitative and quantitative properties of what they collect, of what makes a particular item worth including and what doesn't, is a highly idiosyncratic thing. I can easily picture the autographs of obscure public figures having a place in the collection of someone for whom the act of collecting itself, of organizing and cataloging, is the point. There are social interactions in both contacting celebrities (or even not-so-celebrities) with requests as well as in the collector community, which, as a glance at the forum or the Google results for "my autograph collection" will tell you, is a diverse and thriving one.

So I can guess at what's going on when I get that request in my inbox. But I don't really know, and (although I briefly considered asking this latest requester if he'd mind taking some sort of survey and passing it on to fellow collectors), it seems sort of rude and weirdly presumptuous to ask directly. If someone is writing to me saying "I'm a fan," I don't want to go essentially accusing him of lying.

Instead, I spent my latest vlog ruminating on the phenomenon, and inviting insights from the people who do the requesting. Whether any of them will respond, or even see it, is a total unknown. But what the heck, right?

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