The Write Thing
Written By: Randy Hall
Published: Issue 36
One aspect of going to conventions that I really enjoy is collecting autographs. Certainly, gathering signatures from actors and other stars predates Star Trek conventions by many years, but like a lot of other things, Trek fans have added their own "dimension" to the practice.
For the first several years I attended cons, I didn't see much virtue in standing in long lines and often paying extra money to get a few scribbled words from someone I'd just heard talking on stage for a whole hour. Let's face it: If most actors were paid according to their penmanship, they'd get very few quatloos for their trouble. So why did so many people go to so much trouble to get what amounted to a few drops of ink?
It's a bit embarrassing to admit this, but I'm not entirely sure which Trek actor's signature was the first I ever got. I believe it was DeForest Kelley since he was the top guest at many of the conventions I attended about 10 years ago. I also remember that I didn't have to stand in line to get his autograph because he sold pre-signed photos of himself since his arthritis made it difficult for him to write for long periods of time.
As Kirk told Saavik in the turbolift in Star Trek II, sometimes "we learn by doing." Long after that convention was over, I pulled out that photo and looked at the writing on it. Here was tangible, physical proof that I'd spent time with the actor who'd brought one of my favorite characters, Doctor Leonard H. "Bones" McCoy, to life. The extra time and money I'd spent had indeed been worth it, and as you can imagine, I'm now extremely glad that I took advantage of the opportunity to get that autograph while I still could.
Since then, I've amassed quite a stack of signatures from actors, authors, technical experts, and many others connected with Trek and other sci-fi TV shows and movies. As time rolled along, I discovered the second thing I like about collecting autographs. When you step up to the person who's writing his or her name for the thousandth time that day, you get a few moments to interact with that star. I find this a great time to say how much I enjoy that individual's work and mention something specific that's had an impact on me. Usually, the person is glad to hear that all of his or her work doesn't just fade into the ether when it's done, and I come away feeling that I've had a chance to give back some of the enjoyment I've gotten as a fan.
Now that I'd answered the "why" of collecting autographs, I faced an even more daunting dilemma: What should I have the person sign? While most people bring glossy pictures of the star that they just bought in the convention dealer's room, there are plenty of alternatives. When Playmates was still producing Trek action figures, I got signatures on many of those (while they were still in the package, of course). If the star is an author, he or she is usually happy to see that someone has purchased a book by him or her and liked it enough to get it signed.
Some folks even go so far as to try to get something signed by an entire cast. That can range from a movie poster with every actor on it to a model of a starship. To accomplish this herculean task, those fans go from one con to another, patiently adding one signature at a time until the entire line-up has put his or her "John Hancock" on it. I admire these folks' enthusiasm and determination, but even to me, that seems like a lot of work!
As I stated earlier, Trek has put its own stamp on this hobby. One of the best places to get autographs (and I mean, a lot of them) has been Bill Campbell's Fantasticon, which is held in Los Angeles every summer. Not only are some of the big stars around, but you can also collect signatures from many people who had wonderful guest-starring roles but aren't big enough of a draw to bring them to a con thousands of miles from California. The first Fantasticon was such a big hit that other conventions have been inviting lesser-known actors to add an extra bit of excitement to events for fans.
On the other hand, some stars have decided not to sign at conventions or other fan gatherings at all. I understand that writing your name over and over again is a lot of work, but come on! These are the people who help put bread on the stars' tables, after all. Aren't they worth that effort? I know that if someone paid me to write my name for people who were standing in line to get just a glimpse of me, it would take a LOT to keep me away!
So what does all of this have to do with the Bring Back Kirk movement? Not much at this point, but in our next issue, I'll share some "Tales from the Autograph Line," including the curious story of how I got my very first autograph from William Shatner!
Creation continues to put on several conventions as we move further into the new millennium. Next weekend, January 27-28 will find a con in Sacramento, California, with no Classic Trek folks as main guests, but several guest stars available for autographs. (You see, I wasn't kidding a few paragraphs ago!) Then Seattle, Washington, will be the location for a convention the weekend of February 3-4 with Jimmy Doohan (Scotty) on Sunday and Grace Lee Whitney (Janice Rand) both days!