What the fuck is the deal with autographs? Seriously, I don’t get it. First of all I have to come clean about something, which may destroy my credibility before I even start. I went to a convention. Yes, one of those conventions. I have no defense so no attacks are necessary. I concede in advance. That said, what the fuck is the deal with autographs? People were lining up for hours to get a signature. Why?
A little elucidation. At these conventions, the stars come up on stage and recount stories and/or take questions from the audience. This is the part of it for which I attended. And I defend it thus: Would there be anything wrong with an avid fan of, say, The Godfather attending a Q & A session with the cast of that film? Clearly no. Watching Michael and Sonny share experiences and funny anecdotes of their time working on the film would be fascinating. By the same token, fans of Sci-Fi Show X would enjoy hearing stories of what went on during the filming of said show. I will purposely avoid the topic of those fans that ask the mind-blowingly inane questions and seem unable to separate the actor from the character. I have no defense for these people and would be the first in line to smack them in the head. But the others who, like me, just want to hear the actors speak and ask questions? With that I have no problem. And if that was all there was to conventions then no one would be snickering.
At this time I should also mention that I am not going to deal with the dressing-up factor that many find so peculiar. Because it is.
But the autographs! I really don’t get why having a person’s name scrawled on a photo is so wonderful. Especially since after several hundred of these autographs it must indeed look like just that, a scrawl. Or what my 3-year old calls “scribble-scrabble” when he is displeased with his own artwork. And to wait over an hour for it! And what gets me even more, people in huge numbers go and line up for these autographs while another actor has taken to the stage. So to a great number of these people the autograph is more important than the Q & A’s with the actors. An hour in line to get a scribble on a photo rather than an hour spent watching and listening to the actor for whose scribble they will be lining up next, no doubt then missing the next actor. And I haven’t even pointed out that they pay for these things. A lot. Some signatures, for the bigger stars, are worth $70 or so a pop. Inconceivable.
For a moment I found myself feeling sad for those giving the autographs. But then the math of this made my brain explode and I’m not sure what I’m missing. To clarify, the main stars command $50 to $70 per “scribble-scrabble.” On one day of the convention I witnessed people with the numbers 1 to 500 on their tickets being invited to go and get their autographs. 500 x $70 = $35,000!!!!!! Can this be right? It can’t. Can it? $35,000. In three or four hours. For “scribble-scrabble.” Holy Crap! What the Hell is going on here? Now as far as I could tell the big-name celebrities only did this for one day. But had they opted for another there is little doubt that another 500 would have forked out the money. There were 5000 in the room at the time! Regardless, there’s always another convention just around the corner to go sign some more. And I should mention here that I have absolutely no problem with the actors making as much as they can. If people are willing to part with their money for a name on a piece of paper then so be it. If I could get 500 people to give me $35,000 a day for my toenail clippings I would have the clippers out before you could say “scribble-scrabble.” This has taken me off on a tangent. I hadn't worked out the numbers as I started to write and I was literally stunned at what the actors make for signing their name. I’m not even going to touch the fact that I just looked up the prices to make sure I didn’t make any factual errors, and saw that one actor was charging $169 per signature. Apparently he had “graciously agreed to sign a limited number,” but at those prices he’d only need 150 to go over 25 grand. Not bad for an hour or so's work.
But like I said, I’ve gone off on a tangent. And since that’s the case I’m going to head down another one. Earlier I glossed over the mind-blowingly inane questions that people ask the actors on stage. It occurs to me that those who have never attended such an event may not realize what I’m talking about, so I have a couple of examples for you. One example of a sad person and one of a slightly desperate person. This will win me no friends in the sci-fi fan community, but I can live without them. Example 1, the “sad, can’t separate TV from reality” fan: “Don’t you think, if the show hadn’t been cancelled, that you could have become captain?” The actor didn’t really know how to answer that one. Example 2, now that I’ve read my notes again I shall call this the “completely desperate and not-just-a-little-scary person”: (the scenario - an actress who played a strong female character has taken the stage and our scary fan is female) “I just wanted to tell you that I love you. You’re my hero. You’re my role model. I look forward to coming here every year to hear your words of wisdom. I’m sorry, my voice is breaking, but I’m just so emotional when I’m around you.” I’m not making this shit up. She spoke those words to an actress who played a character on a TV show 5 years earlier.
As it turns out, that very night I had a couple of drinks with the actor who fielded the sad question from my first example. And once I was alone with him away from the mad throng, safely enclosed in an elevator, I asked him how he handled these absurd questions again and again. His response was that this may be his last convention for quite some time. He is more patient than I. My response after a few of these questions was to wish I could cut off my head and kick it in front of a speeding bus. You would think that one could just sit there and see the funny side of it. But I found myself wondering when evolution had stopped working. I don’t know what it is, but as every year passes I find myself having less and less time for stupidity. Oh, one more thing speaking of stupidity. One couple came up to the mic with two poodles which they had named after some character or other…mercifully I didn’t hear as I was punching myself in the ears at the time.
A few years back I got drunk with an actor at the hotel bar where another of these conventions was taking place. Yes, ok, so I went to another one once. I just busted myself. See paragraph above about it being ok if you’re just going for the Q & A’s. And then add the coolness quotient of getting drunk with the member of the cast who played the rugged security guy, kinda like Bruce Willis in Die Hard. That makes it ok, doesn’t it? I won’t do it again, I promise. Anyway, as I was saying, I was getting really quite drunk with one of the stars and as such I can’t absolutely vouch for the figure I’m going to quote. I remember he likes to fish. I remember that when I went to the convention early the next morning my eyes were bleeding and he looked fresh as a daisy, which made him seem all the more rugged and me feel like a little girl. But I can’t remember with certainty the amount he said he got paid to come to these conventions. I think it was $5000, along with flights and hotel. And what I now know must have been a crapload more in autograph money. And he wasn’t even the lead of the show, so extrapolate for yourself how much the main stars of the biggest shows might receive between attendance fees, autographs, photographs and the rest. Funny thing, celebrity. That night remains in my mind as one of the cooler evenings I have spent. For my drinking partner, however, there is no recollection of that one night among a horde of similar nights with people just like me. Well, not just like me. I mean, they probably lined up for hours for autographs and wore silly outfits and make-up all day. Not me. No sir, I looked down my nose at them, safe in my seat right next to them.
As I write this I still don’t know if I’m going to submit it somewhere as an essay, keep it for myself, or post it on a blog which I’m planning to start. If it’s on a blog that it's now being read, I guess I can prepare myself for unpleasant comments from the fans - or at least I would if anyone were ever to read this. I’m not meaning to insult anyone. I think anyone should be allowed to do whatever they want with their own money. Other than buying ingredients for dirty bombs that is. And I see nothing wrong with conventions. With fans getting together to discuss a show or a genre that they love with other fans, and listening to the stars of these shows. But nothing is going make me understand the whole autograph thing. It is simply beyond me. And yes, I know that they can become valuable and then be sold on eBay to other like-minded folks. But that just opens a whole other can of
weirdos worms - people who spend their money on eBay for autographs which they have no way of knowing are genuine. Indeed, apparently 75% of autographs sold on eBay are fake. But there would be no market for it at all if everyone just stopped being like-minded about what is, after all, just “scribble–scrabble.”
Actually, I think that maybe I do mean to insult the people with the poodles.