What might make a great autograph? And to whom do the best autographs come from?
In the movie world the superstars shine like beacons in a sea of illusory memorabilia.
Collectors fawn over the signatures of movies stars dating back to Valentino and Chaplin; they dote over Bette & Joan, Fred & Ginger, until they meet the mass signings of today’s sought after megastars; Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Stallone & Schwarzenegger, or even more, the great ladies; Bullock, Ryan, Kidman & Moore.
Other collectors specialize; they love sci fi, cartoons, sports movies, b/w, character actors…
Yet, what are some of the things that create a warm feeling in the heart of the true collector. For some it is the hunt, for others the thrill of winning a tight auction, and for others, or all of these it is the image and the signature. For there is the inherent danger that for those who could not hunt down the actor’s signature in person, he or she is left with a leap of faith that the person they are buying from is selling (and they might not know themselves) a genuine item.
A recent change has meant that fulfilling this challenge has been made a little easier. This is by the growth of actors owning or providing access through an intermediary to a website, which allows the collector to be certain that they have purchased an authentic article.
On top of this it has also enabled the fan, who cannot reach out and touch their hero or heroine, the opportunity to be an email away from that star, and yet allow the star some sort of privacy—the chance to filter the aggressive and unfair autograph seeker; or to exchange pleasantries, and enjoy the adulation, which is often their due.
It has also provided the opportunity for the public to understand the role of the people who make the stars look great, the shows look fantastic, and many series reach cult status rather than be binned in the archives of some soulless corporation to be lost like the precious gems of yesteryear have been lost.
Such a possibility leads us to the many actors, who have made the tv we watch a wonderful and lasting pleasure. When you see an episode of any of the Star Trek series, Babylon 5, Space 1999 or any of the brilliant sci fi series of recent times, it is not just the special effects or the stars that make these shows work, but the work of the actors, whose faces you never ever see, or notice.
To enjoy a photograph of a Minbari, or a Kromag, or a Klingon, is to relive the memory of a particular episode, or the colour of a series, and yet these characters are only phantoms in our memories as they contribute to the background of a story, which may have taken weeks in the making, but may take as little as 40 minutes in the telling.
Many of these wonderful characters are played by the actor, Bill Blair. You’ve seen him dozens of times, in dozens of guises, and yet you could not recognize him on the street where you live. Yes, he’s the Lon Chaney of the hi-tech age, and yet spends most of his hours preparing for momentary scenes, as a pivot, a backdrop, a fleshing out of a distant world, if you will. He and his comrades enhance our minds and our imaginations, and take us beyond the stars to the worlds far from worry and boredom.
And Mr. Blair’s, 10x8 photos (the marquee for autograph collectors around the world) are amongst the most enjoyable and colourful available anywhere. And unlike many famous actors he cares for his fans. Unlike the Mel Gibsons and Sandra Bullocks of the world, his signature doesn’t change dramatically from one signing to another. Bill happily adds his character’s name, signs with the more appealing gold sharpie, and never near the edge, which is so often lost during framing.
What is more, Bill seems to enjoy this aspect of his career, as an integral part of the acting game, almost as much as getting into character, or reading his lines. And here in this article, Bill has been kind enough to answer a few questions about his experiences, while signing for his many fans.
David: Could you relate to me your first experience of being asked to provide an autograph and the circumstances?
Bill: MY FIRST AUTOGRAPH CAME WHEN I SOLD MY FIRST COPY OF THE BOOK I WROTE IN 1986. It was “THE PROFESSIONAL'S TALENT HANDBOOK THE GUIDE TO GETTING STARTED”. I SOLD A COPY TO A YOUNG MAN DURING THE FILMING OF “ROBOCOP” with Peter Weller down IN DALLAS, TEXAS - IT WAS A THRILL THAT SOMEBODY WANTED ME TO SIGN THE BOOK FOR THEM!
David. And what the funniest or best experience you've had when asked for an autograph?
Bill: FUNNIEST???? MORE LIKE EXHILARATING, WHEN A YOUNG VERY WELL ENDOWED YOUNG LADY ASKED ME TO SIGN HER T-SHIRT ACROSS HER CHEST WHILE SHE WAS STILL
WEARING IT. (I ENJOYED THE SENSATION A GREAT DEAL!!!!!!!) A FUNNY TIME WAS
WHEN I WAS ASKED TO SIGN SOMEONE'S FOREHEAD! IT TOOK A HEAVY PEN AND SOME
TIME AS the poor guy’s HIS FOREHEAD WAS VERY SLICK AND OILY!
David: I suppose, I should also ask you what was the most unpleasant experience that you've experienced when facing a fan? And how did you handle the encounter?
Bill: Well, MY MOST UNPLEASANT TIME WAS WHEN SOMEONE WAS VERY DRUNK, WANTED ME TO DO SOMETHING PERSONAL WITH HER IN A PHOTOGRAPH AND OFFERED TO TAKE ME AWAY TO A CLUB FOR THE EVENING TO SHOW ME AROUND AND TO SHOW ME OFF. That WAS A NEW AND STRANGE AREA for ME AND I BECAME VERY WARY AND HAD TO ASK SOMEONE FROM THE CONVENTION we were attending TO HELP ME POLITELY escape a sticky GET OUT OF THE SITUATION.
David: And what are your feelings about professional autograph seekers and any other personal experiences you've had with them, good and bad, which you would like to share?
Bill: I LOVE AUTOGRAPH SEEKERS AS LONG AS THEY ARE RESPECTFUL AND DON'T CROWD me OR GET too DEMANDING. - PROFESSIONAL DEALERS SOMETIMES WANT SUCH 'BARGAINS' ON MY AUTOGRAPH AND THEY EXPECT ME TO HELP THEM MAKE MONEY - WHICH I DON'T MIND. - BUT NOT AT LOSING MY VALUE TO DO IT. I'VE HAD SEVERAL THOUGH THAT LOVE SO MANY OF MY PHOTOS AND ACTUALLY WANT 1 OF EACH JUST FOR THEIR PERSONAL COLLECTIONS - THAT ALWAYS FEELS GOOD! ANOTHER THING I DISLIKE THOUGH IS THE E-MAIL I GET THAT YOU JUST KNOW IS SOMEBODY SEEKING WHATEVER AUTOGRAPH THEY CAN THEIR HANDS ON. THE MAILS ARE OBVIOUSLY PHONY AND YOU KNOW RIGHT OFF HOW INSINCERE THEY ARE - I TRASH THOSE RIGHT AWAY WITHout making too much of a LITTLE RESPONSE TO THEM.
David: So Bill, have you had any particularly poignant moments relating to say an ill child etc in your travels and in giving autographs, and how did this situation turn out?
Bill: WHEN I PORTRAYED A BIG LIVE COSTUMED CHARACTER ONCE FOR A COMPANY - I HAD MANY OCCASIONS TO VISIT CHILDREN'S HOSPITALS - IT WAS REWARDING TO SEE A CHILD'S FACE GLOW AND SMILE WHEN THEY SAW ME AND GOT AN AUTOGRAPH - I'D DO THAT A LOT MORE OF THE TIME IF THE OPPORTUNITY PRESENTED ITSELF MORE! THE HUGS CHILDREN GIVE TOO IS AS REWARDING AS ANYTHING WILL EVER GET IN LIFE!!!!!!!
David: Have you, yourself ever been in a position where you have met someone and asked them for an autograph, or wanted to? Who and why?
Bill: I DO LOVE GETTING AUTOGRAPHS OF THOSE I WORK WITH AND GET TO KNOW - I THINK HAVING SOMETHING PERSONAL OF SOMEONE YOU RESPECT AND ADMIRE IS A GREAT THING TO SHARE AND ALSO CHERISH. I DON'T DO IT A LOT, BUT I HAVE SOME FROM MY GOOD RELATIONSHIPS OF THE PEOPLE I'VE WORKED WITH ON BABYLON 5 AND STAR TREK! ALSO, I HAVE SOME OF WONDERFUL ACTORS AND PERSONALITIES FROM MY PAST, THOSE I GREW UP WATCHING AND LEARNING ABOUT, PEOPLE I THOUGHT believed REPRESENTED THE GOOD THINGS IN LIFE, AND WHAT LIFE SHOULD BE LIKE.
David: Are there any feelings or opinions that you would like to share regarding autograph hunters, fans etc.
Bill: ONLY THAT WE (actors) ARE PEOPLE JUST LIKE THEM, so BE HONEST, SINCERE, AND FRIENDLY I LOVE PEOPLE MYSELF AND RESPECT ANYONE THAT I THINK IS A GOOD HEART AND SOUL TO KNOW. DON'T BE AFRAID TO APPROACH ME, OR TALK TO ME, BUT UNDERSTAND SOME OF THE QUESTIONS WE GET AS ACTORS ARE THE SAME ALL THE TIME, AND WHILE WE LIKE TELLING STORIES, WE MAY PASS ON ONE NOW AND THEN, - SOMETIMES THERE'S A NEW ONE WE MIGHT LIKE TO SHARE.
So next time you are watching your favourite film, or favourite tv series, think about the characters as they move in and out of your world and ask yourself is he or she the one that makes this show something special. And then say to yourself, “aha” now this is someone who will add some colour to my collection, and won’t my friends say “wow” when they see this great image on my wall. And what will I tell them, “well, hey, this guy’s been in this series for five years. Didn’t you notice him?”
The true-blue autograph collector doesn’t miss a thing; it’s the nature of the beast.
The Search Continues…