Tag Archives: autographs

Confessions of a Computer Junkie

I am an internet addict.  I once used the internet as a tool, but now spending time on the computer visiting the same sites repeatedly has become my primary form of entertainment.  Frankly, it’s not very entertaining.  I’m not reading books or watching movies the way I did before.  So, in order to break out of this bad habit, I’ve made a Lenten vow to cut the time I spend on the internet in half.  I’m not counting my work in photoshop, because that’s usually creative.  I’m also not reducing the time I spend writing, whether it’s for posts here or messages to friends.  These are too important and too satisfying.  It’s just not productive to check my visitor stats three times an hour, or twitter or facebook or email or ebay or YouTube.  So far, it’s working out okay.  I’ve read half a book in the last two days, and I’m even enjoying my time on the computer more than before.  I’m hoping that the time I spend away will result in more interesting blog posts, since the quality of what entertains me is reflected here.

I have another confession to make.  I spend way too much time on the internet correcting mistakes and submitting complaints.  I’m constantly removing my hands from the keyboard and telling myself, “You are not the internet police.  This is not your job!”  Here’s a good example.  Tonight my book club is discussing Willa Cather’s Death Comes For The Archbishop.  I got the book out of the library over the summer, kept it for nine weeks, and never got past page fifty.  We have a very good rule at book club—you can come if you haven’t read the book, but you can’t join in the discussion.  If I don’t go to enjoy the company, not to mention all the wine and snacks, then I’ll just sit at home browsing the internet again.  This morning I went to cliffsnotes.com (oh, the horror!) to read the summary in order to follow tonight’s discussion. There was a sloppy error in the synopsis, obvious even to someone who hasn’t read the book, so of course I had to submit a correction to the site.  Yesterday I complained to iTunes because I had to enter my credit card number and mailing address just to use the “like” button on an album page.  It’s bad enough that you have to waste time downloading an entire software package just to browse their store.  Spending less time on the computer will not reduce my urge to correct and complain, but I won’t have as much time to follow through.

I know I need to stay off ebay, but at least I rarely spend money there.  I have become fascinated by the selling of cancelled checks as “authenticated autographs.”  Seriously.  People are auctioning bank checks, either written to or by celebrities.  When they’re written to a celebrity, it’s the endorsement on the back that is the valued autograph.  Woe to any collector whose favorite celebrity had an accountant that used a rubber stamp!  My favorite so far is a check written by Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched) to a Hollywood grocery store in 1974.  It is the amount that intrigues me.  Back in 1974, you could buy an awful lot of groceries for $560.  Was she having a party?  Somebody has already purchased this gem, but not to worry.  There are two other checks written by Montgomery that are still for sale.  I can’t help wondering about the more recent checks, with account numbers, addresses, and driver’s license numbers on them.  They haven’t been blacked out and can be seen clearly in the images posted on the internet.  There really isn’t any privacy anymore.  Of course, with paypal and online banking, handwritten checks themselves will soon become antiques from another age.

The other night, I tweeted my intention to spend less time on the internet.  I woke up to find a whole bunch of new people following me on twitter.  Is this supposed to be an affirmation or a temptation?!

Update:  I got a friendly note from the webmaster at cliffsnotes.com thanking me for my correction.  ITunes sent a customer service survey asking me for my opinion of the response I never received about my complaint!

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Filed under Complaints, Literature, The Internet

Katherine Heigl

Katherine Heigl at Macy's for Roswell signingOne of my friends went to opening night of One for the Money with Katherine Heigl.   We have both read the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich, but I’m just not brave enough to see a movie that wasn’t even previewed for critics.  In honor of my friend, here are some photos I took of Katherine Heigl in early 2000.

I was a big fan of the first season of Roswell, the television series about teenage space aliens in New Mexico.  I wasn’t one of the viewers who mailed tabasco sauce to the WB network, a unique campaign to save the show from cancellation.  Still, I was really pleased when it got picked up for a second season.  My joy turned to anguish when the show changed directions in season two, and I stopped watching.  I still break out the first season on DVD every now and again, when I need a little dose of teenage romance.  Given the choice between Roswell and the Twilight films, I’ll take Roswell every time!  Roswell added a good dose of humor to the teenage angst and featured an appealing group of young actors.

Katherine Heigl played one of the alien teens, and I went to Macy’s to get her autograph at a guest appearance.  She was relaxed and friendly, and I was impressed with the way she interacted with fans.  Two girls brought the Roswell dolls they’d made from Barbies to show her, and she was delighted with them.   Not only did I get my Roswell book autographed, I got a free tee shirt and denim bag.

I still find Heigl an appealing actress, but I sure hope she starts finding some better scripts!

Katherine Heigl with Roswell dolls and fans

Katherine Heigl with Roswell dolls and fans (click on photo for sharper version)

Roswell memorabilia

Roswell denim bag, autographed book, and tee shirt

I’m sure my friend will give us her impressions of Katherine Heigl’s latest film in the comments here. (How’s that for pressure?!)

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Filed under Actors, Television

Celebrity Encounters at Borders Books

I worked at the largest Borders Books in San Francisco from 2002 to 2006. I started as a Christmas temp, hoping to be offered a permanent bookseller position. I moved into store security instead, and I was simply the worst. I never caught a single shoplifter. Fortunately, before my self-esteem was completely shot, a bookseller position opened up. I was assigned to the children and teen section, my favorite, and I was finally where I belonged.

Through the course of a working shift, we would be rotated around the store every hour. The store took up four floors, so we did an awful lot of running up and down the escalators. We’d staff the cash registers, the various information desks, and then organize our own sections. There were frequent book signings and special in-store performances, and I was often recruited to assist the special events coordinator. Because the store was located in Union Square, surrounded by big hotels and expensive department stores, we often had celebrity shoppers. Word would spread quickly through the store when one arrived, especially in my last year, when we all wore radio headsets. Authors would come in to sign their books, even if they had no scheduled book event at the store  When we were at an information desk and somebody walked up, we’d never know if they were a reader or a writer. It kept us on our toes!

Eddie Izzard DVD Dress to KillThe first big celebrity store event I experienced was a visit from Eddie Izzard, who came to sign his Dress to Kill DVD.  I was very excited to meet him. All the employees on break or starting their shifts got to spend a little time with him in the basement employee area, before he went upstairs to do his signing. He was very cool, and I got an autographed DVD. Just before I left Borders four years later, Eddie Izzard came back for another signing. He was obviously more tired this time, probably at the end of a long public appearance tour. He was just as cool, though, and even more famous. I enjoyed meeting singers Dar Williams and Joan Baez. When Jane Fonda came for a book signing, I helped to mind her dog. There were a few times when the events coordinator was busy at another store, so I was put in charge of events with author Laurell K. Hamilton and Blue Dog artist George Rodrigue.

It was fine for us to get autographs when a celebrity came in for a signing, but it was not cool to ask for one from celebrities who were there as customers. Too bad, because my collection would be awesome. I was still working store security when Alex Rodriguez came in to browse  I was at my usual position by the door, where he stopped and looked outside, clearly annoyed at the rabid baseball fans who were waiting with their binders full of memorabilia to sign. I only knew who he was because of the store grapevine, since I don’t know much about baseball. Still, I nodded at him and tried to appear sympathetic. He was handsome, he seemed a little arrogant, and I could tell his watch was very expensive. That’s all I had time to observe before he walked out to be mobbed.

One of the nicest people I helped as a bookseller was actor F. Murray Abraham. He was energetic and friendly, and I was determined to find something for him. I took him to three different floors, trying to find a book in stock that he’d find interesting. It was one of those days when we seemed to be sold out of every title I looked up. Still, he was full of good humor, and I may have surprised him when I said I enjoyed his performance in the miniseries Dead Man’s Walk. Maybe he gets tired of hearing about Amadeus. I had good luck with actors. I was delighted to find Bill Irwin in the children’s section one day, and we had a quick chat. I’d worked with him in 1985 at the La Jolla Playhouse, and I’d recently met him again at the stage door after a performance of his stage show Fool Moon. He’s got to be one of the sweetest people in show business.

The Pursuit of Happyness was filmed in San Francisco, and lots of locals had encounters with the Smith family. Will Smith came in one evening with an entourage and bodyguards. I walked right up and asked him if I could help him find a book. We wandered around two floors, where I made some recommendations and he asked to see some titles. In the end, he chose The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene as a gift for a relative. Will Smith was very extroverted, and I could tell he was used to being the center of his universe. That’s not criticism, just an observation. A few days later, Jada Pinkett Smith came in to shop, and I brought a book down to the ground floor for her. Our contact was very brief. I didn’t get to meet Jaden Smith, but my brother watched him film a scene for the movie. The author of the book, Chris Gardner, dropped by the store more than once, and I have an autographed copy of his book. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I still haven’t read the book or seen the movie!

Simon Cowell was in San Francisco for American Idol auditions, and when I heard he was in the store, I rushed to the ground floor to say hello. I told him I enjoyed his book I Don’t Mean To Be Rude, But…  He thanked me politely, and I repeated myself, saying I really enjoyed it. Then he really smiled and told me I’d made his day. Standing next to him felt strange, until I realized it was because we’re used to seeing him seated behind a table or desk.

British actor Damian Lewis came to the information desk, and I mentioned his miniseries Warriors.  I went on to gush about his co-star, Ioan Gruffudd. I don’t think that impressed him very much. Of course, he’s got a wry face, so it was hard to tell. When David Sedaris was at the desk signing a stack of his books, I told him I was sorry I couldn’t make it to the event he was doing at a local theatre. He just smirked and said the event was sold out. At least his personality matches his writing style! Then there was the author of new-age spirituality books who refused to ride the elevator with us lowly store employees, so she’s now banned from my reading list.

I often ate lunch at a fifties-themed diner across the street from the store, and one time at the counter, I sat next to actor Chad Lowe.  I tried not to stare, but once I finished my meal, I said hello. He was friendly and didn’t seem to mind the intrusion. Of course, I had to tell him how great he was in Life Goes On. Lowe told me he was in San Francisco to option a story from author Ethan Canin. That explained why he had a copy of The Palace Thief on the counter. I mentioned that I worked at Borders and encouraged him to drop by. He said he would try. I warned everyone back at the store to watch for him, and my co-workers reported that he came in, but it was after I’d gone home. Chad Lowe’s meeting must have gone well, because he produced and directed Beautiful Ohio (2006) based on the short story Batorsag and Szerelem, with Ethan Canin as screenwriter. (My roommate lived on the same block as Canin growing up, but that’s her story to tell!)

Many of our celebrity sightings were just that. We’d see them in passing, but that was all. This was the case for me with Matthew Perry, Nicole Richie, and Rachael Ray. I walked up and said hello to actor Paul Dooley and he shook my hand, but that’s all there is to tell. I met Darren Hayes of Savage Garden a second time, as he passed me on his way to the music floor. (My first encounter with Hayes is included in my previous post.)

Some of the authors I met include Neil Gaiman, Chuck Palahniuk, Temple Grandin, Bret Easton Ellis, Walter Mosely, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Phillipa Gregory, Robin Cook, Cara Black, James Patterson, Tom Wolfe, Gregory Maguire, Peter Robinson, Lawrence Block, Nuala O’Faolain, and Yann Martel. Martel was there to sign his book, but also to insert a small strip of paper at page 317, containing some sentences that had been left out of the first edition paperback. I’m sure he was relieved when his book went into another printing! We discussed the different ways Life of Pi could be interpreted, and he wrote in my book, “May you always believe the better story.”

I left Borders when I could no longer cope with the physical demands of the job, and now the store is closed  It’s sad that the big bookstores killed the small independents, and now the big stores are mostly gone. Kindles and ipods are great, but I can’t help wondering, how do you get a kindle edition or an mp3 download autographed? I guess you just take a photo with your cell phone.

Update: Wow, ask the universe a question, and sometimes you get an answer. Now there is the kindlegraph, modern technology’s answer to the autograph.

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Filed under Actors, Literature, Movies, Real Life, Television

All Things Bright and Beautiful

I adored James Herriot’s books as a kid.  My love for animals, especially dogs, has only grown as I’ve gotten older.  I’ve always enjoyed a good story, and Herriot made me laugh, cry, and wonder what it’s like to have your arm up a cow.  I wrote James Herriot a fan letter, and I got back a form letter from his secretary.  Inside the letter was a small slip of paper with Herriot’s autograph.  It is one of my treasures.

 Fifteen years later, I visited the Yorkshire Dales for the first time.  My memories of the books had faded, but something mysterious happened when we drove into Swaledale.  It’s difficult to describe the feeling I experienced, and I know I run the risk of sounding like a New Age type.  I’m hardly that!  I felt like crying, full of the combination of joy and grief you feel when returning home after too long away.  It’s a feeling that hits me every time I go back to the Dales or even see those green fields and stone walls on film.  If past lives are real, I must have had one in North Yorkshire.  Even my favorite cheese is from the Dales, and I’ve never been able to find it in San Francisco.  Wensleydale is my Holy Grail of cheeses!

Here are some of my favorite images of Swaledale. 

James Herriot letter and autograph
James Herriot letter and autograph

Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales

Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales

Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales

Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales

Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales

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Filed under Literature, Photography, Travel

Stage Door (7): Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan

Another in a series of stage door encounters with favorite actors.

Last month, I discussed the BBC America website’s “Anglo Fan Favorite” competition.  Well, Alan Rickman won. The man has a powerful fan base! This is kind of late, but I’m saluting his win by sharing this stage door encounter.

In October 2001, I was lucky enough to see Alan Rickman perform in a West End production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives with Lindsay Duncan. It was a delightful romp. Having just seen Hamlet at Statford-upon-Avon, the Coward play seemed so short! We went to the stage door to meet the cast, naturally. Rickman and Duncan were perfectly friendly, but we could see that they were tired from the performance. They posed for a photograph, and Rickman signed the cover of my Harry Potter book. It may sound tacky have him sign a Harry Potter book at a stage door, but this was just a couple of weeks before the first movie opened in cinemas, when nobody knew how huge it was all going to be. Anyway, Rickman didn’t seem to mind!

alan-rickman-photo-and-autograph copy

Americans will notice that my Harry Potter book is a UK edition, so it’s “Philosopher’s Stone” and not “Sorcerer’s Stone.”  I could launch into my rant about how stupid it was to change the American title to “Sorcerer’s Stone” (which isn’t an actual historical reference to anything), but it’s a lost cause.

Other Stage Door Encounters:  1   2   3   4   5   6

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Filed under Actors, Theatre