A work-in-progress chronicle of the some of the other things I've received in response to my signature requests—from notes of encouragement and signatures from celebrity staffers and family members to autographed 8x10" glossies.
An autographed headshot from the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations (1997–2006).
Regrets in laser-printed collage form from one of my favorite authors and, fittingly, the inventor of the remote-autograph technology, the LongPen.
The famed dancer/choreographer (or someone in his employ) declined my request, with a polite response that was four syllables longer than my name.
If I squint, I can convince myself, for a minute, that the Godfather of Soul signed my name.
One benefit of working at an art museum: access to some of the most interesting artists alive. I met one, Chuck Close, on the occasion of a show of his self-portraits in 2005. Through a curator, I approached him—with no small amount of embarrassment—and explained my project. He agreed that he'd sign a copy of the exhibition catalogue with my name, but he'd had to do it later. The next day, I got the catalogue back. I excitedly opened it... to find he'd signed his own name. Strange to be crestfallen at getting a world-renowned artist to inscribe his monograph for me.
If anyone would appreciate the humor of deflating the puffery of celebrity, it'd be Stephen Colbert. RIGHT, STEPHEN?! No way, no how. I've mailed several requests, getting only this response.
One degree of separation. Thanks, Betty!
By the dozens.
My letter to the Georgia congressman and Civil Rights legend, returned with a signature and an aide's signing instructions.
After hearing Ian MacKaye—the musician (Minor Threat, Fugazi) and record label cofounder (Dischord)—speak at the 2016 Creative Time Summit (but finding no opportunity to fanboy the man in person), I dropped him a note. Excited and honored to get a reply, I was dumbfounded to open his return envelope to find not only his signature but a small artwork—a Polaroid bearing the image of a retina, along with a message: "2/26/17 Hello Paul. It was strangely difficult to come up with an autograph that felt 'authentic.' I had to practice! However, when it was time to put pen to paper, it was smooth. Thanks for the challenge and the experience. And the kind words. Much appreciated. Yours, Ian"
Then the head of the NAACP, the former Maryland congressman also included a kind note.
After I interviewed Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian in early 2014, he signed a copy of his book: "Sorry I signed my own name."
A generous response from a Mr. Rogers producer, Hedda Sharapan, who was also kind enough to send a photocopy of the cover story on Fred from the May 1999 issue of Autograph Times.
The celebrated photographer's signature came in an envelope bearing distinct sings of Bieber Fever.
It wasn't easy getting return postage to ensure that Canada's new prime minister had a SASE to return a signature, but thanks to a relative in Toronto, I got everything I needed. What came back: a signed, color 8x10 with a government postmark.
Utne Reader magazine was pretty influential to me as a small-town Wisconsin kid first exposed to radical ideas via its pages in the late 1980s. My request to its founder, Eric, must've arrived the same day as a scheduled Utne family dinner. At Minneapolis's Loring Pasta bar, the whole crew signed: Eric, Nina, Leif, Sam, Oliver, and Eric.
Not only did the nation's fiercest liberal senator sign my name, but he addded this note of encouragement, which—given his tragic death a few years later—remains bittersweet to me today.