Before the advent of iPhones and selfies, people collected celebrity autographs. I have a few myself. Nowadays, we ask for a picture when we meet someone famous unless you are a book collector, you want the author to sign your book.
Today, there are websites where you can pay lots of money for authentic celebrity autographs. There are autograph shows where celebrities appear and will sign items and take pictures with you, for a price. Forty years ago, it was a bit different. People would write letters to the celebrity and request a signed picture or autograph. It took time, and the anticipation was part of the fun.
A good friend told me the story of her autograph adventure on behalf of her grandparents’ 60th anniversary. What began as a well-executed anniversary gift became a magnificent collection of celebrity autographs.
In 1983, Kathryn wanted to give her grandparents a special surprise gift for their anniversary. Robert and Fay were both life-long Floridians and very dear to Kathryn. She searched for the appropriate gift for their anniversary when inspiration struck while shopping in a bookstore. The celebrity address book gave her the inspiration for a unique gift. She would collect autographs from her grandparents’ favorite movie and television stars. This would not be an easy mission, especially with only two months to make it happen. After many hours of research (this was all before the internet existed). It was time to get the letters prepared to request the autographs.
One hundred and twenty handwritten letters were prepared with specific reference to the celebrity’s favorite movie or television show. The letters were addressed, and she crossed her fingers that the responses would arrive by the deadline. The first responses to arrive were from former President Jimmy and First Lady Rosalynn Carter and Johnny and June Cash. These were quickly followed by seventy-three more.
At the anniversary party, Kathryn’s grandmother opened each envelope. Fay was initially curious and perhaps a bit critical, but when she got an autograph from Burt Reynolds, she was genuinely impressed. All seventy-five autographed cards were personally signed, and some were personalized for the occasion.
Some of the autographs include Jimmy Stewart, Katherine Hepburn, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Helen Hays, Roy Acuff, George Burns, Ed Asner, Mike Wallace, President Gerald Ford, Julia Child, Loretta Lynn, Mary Tyler Moore, Doris Day, Harry Reasoner, Neil Simon, Bette Davis, Robert Redford, Lauren Bacall, Bob Hope, Morley Safer, Nanette Fabray, Lady Bird Johnson, Mildred Natwick, Rock Hudson, Dr. Joyce Brothers, President George H.W. Bush, Morey Amsterdam, William Conrad, Senator Barry Goldwater, Joe DiMaggio, Walter Matthau, Ed Bradley, Ann Landers, Jim Backus, Danny Thomas, Phyllis Diller, Robert Preston, Dick Van Dyke, Charlton Heston, Jean Stapleton, Beverly Sills, Art Buchwald, Rosemary Clooney, Carol Burnett, Paul Harvey, Ark Linkletter, Bob Newhart, Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin, James Cagney, President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan, Billy Graham.
What a hog pog of celebrities, many of whom are no longer with us.
Kathryn related that she had always wanted to complete the collection. She was missing one signature, Barbara Bain. Barbara starred in Mission: Impossible in the 60s. Kathryn was finally able to add Barbara’s signature to the collection after meeting her in 2012.
Forty years after the collection was presented, Kathryn maintains it as a tribute to her grandparents, Robert, who passed away in December 1983, and Fay, in 1992. This unique tribute to her grandparents is an unusual and timeless story of celebrity autographs.