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Raider of the Lost Autograph - CinemaDave

Sep. 15th, 2005 09:30 pm Raider of the Lost Autograph

On October First, 1992, Kirk Douglas was presiding over a book signing in Virginia. I was unemployed at the time and broke, but I attended the book signing. I purchased his autobiography, "The Ragman's Son," the cheap paperback version. When he asked me to whom he should make the inscription out to, I gave him a slip of paper with my last name spelled out. Douglas asked me, "That's Italian?" "Yep, Scilian-Italian, that's why "The Brotherhood" is one of our favorite family films!" Considering that "The Brotherhood" was a movie about the mafia, I thought I was being funny; given that no Costra Nostra Scilian would break omerta or the code of silence. However Douglas rather froze, took my slip of paper, signed my books and sent me on my way.

It was a disappointing experience meeting one of my childhood heroes. On my way home, I was listening to the G.Gordon Liddy radio program and drove by his radio station. I picked up a copy of his paperback autobiography "Will" and waited for the end of his broadcast. Liddy turned out to be one of the most cordial celebrities I had ever met. He grabbed hand and really seemed to take an interest in me and what I had to say. That night I went home and read Liddy's book into the wee small hours in the morning. This little adventure on October First, 1992 made me realize that I enjoy the treasure hunt of an autograph.

During the Summer of 77, I chased Lily Tomlin to a closed liquor store. Tomlin graciously provided this four-eyed 14 year old an autograph. Nowadays celebrity autographs are accessible for a fee, but to me that seems like cheating.

Well, I did cheat, Richard Kiel had published his autobiography "Making it BIG in the Movies." Kiel is a favorite character actor who is most well known for portraying "Jaws" in the James Bond movies. Kiel had suffered an accident which I learned on his website (http://www.richardkiel.com). The 7'2" sized actor had lived an interesting life beyond the movies and is currently writing a biography called "Cassius Clay," which details an alternative perspective on 19th century slavery and the Republican political party. When I read this information on the website and I saw that I could read Kiel's autobiography with a free autographed picture, I could not resist the temptation and ordered his book.

"Surviving Teenage Werewolves, Puppet People and Hollywood" is Kenny Miller's sunny reflections of being a teen idol in the late 1950's. There is humor in Miller's reflections about working with Cecil B. DeMille, Orson Welles, Michael Landon and entertaining the late Shah of Iran. The son of an Ohioan minister, Kenny Miller takes the high rode in describing the intimate lives of his friends in such a classy and conversational way. Much like the man when you get to meet him in person.

One of my autographed treasures is a little book with very little market value. "Astride the Wind" was a series of poems written before, during and after World War II by the late Thomas Beck. Beck was a contract player under 20th Century Fox and often clashed with his boss, Darryl Zanuck. Nonetheless, Beck continued to work for the studio in four Charlie Chan movies, two Mr. Moto movies and was Pastor Schultz in Shirley Temple's "Heidi." Despite his financial success in theatre, film, advertising and real estate; Beck told me that "Astride the Wind" is the culmination of his life's work. Beck had this book self published and would distribute copies to people he liked for free.

Paul Newman does not give autographs because of a pushy autograph seeker in a restroom and that's understandable. I have seen some celebrities at autograph shows that refuse to talk to their fans until they get paid first. In my humble opinion, those celebrities can keep their signatures. However when I think of the kindness that was extended to me by Lily Tomlin, Thomas Beck, G.Gordon Liddy and Kenny Miller, I treasure the pursuit of a good memory.

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