David Bruce: Autographs & Inscriptions Anecdotes

Morris “Moe” Feinberg was the brother of Larry Fine, one of the Three Stooges. Mr. Feinberg went to a nightclub in Atlantic City, where an entertainer recognized him and introduced him to the audience, talking about the Three Stooges and saying, “I see Larry’s brother, Moe Fine, a good friend and a fellow performer. Moe, would you stand up and take a bow?” Afterward, a woman came up and asked for Mr. Feinberg’s autograph. He explained that he was only a small-time performer and not famous, but the woman smiled and said, “You can’t fool me with that ‘brother’ stuff. You’re Larry, all right.” Mr. Feinberg signed the autograph, “With warm regards, Larry ‘Stooge’ Fine.”

For a while, black major league baseball players ate in their rooms rather than in the dining rooms of the hotels they stayed in — even when the hotels were located in the northern states. Jackie Robinson decided one day that he and his wife would eat in the dining room of the Netherlands-Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio. He and his wife walked into the dining room, and the maitre’d seated them, then left for a short time. The maitre’d came back with a baseball and a pen, and he told Mr. Robinson that he had been waiting all season for him to come to the dining room so he could ask for his autograph.

A young fan asked Vanderbilt football great Roy Huggins for an autograph, which he graciously gave. Mr. Huggins then handed the autograph book to another member of the Vanderbilt team, saying, “You want this fellow’s autograph, too.” The young fan asked who the other player was, and Mr. Huggins told him, “He’s a freshman — in two or three years, he’ll be All-America.” The young fan grabbed the autograph book out of the future All-America player’s hand, saying, “I’ll wait.”

Nineteenth-century cartoonist Eugene “Zim” Zimmerman once made a special trip to get the autograph of John L. Sullivan at the boxing great’s saloon, but unfortunately, Mr. Sullivan was not there that day. However, Mr. Sullivan’s valet offered to give him a photograph of the great boxer. When Mr. Zimmerman mentioned that he had hoped to get Mr. Sullivan’s autograph, the valet said, “That’s all right. I’ll write his autograph on it. I often do.”

When Dorothy Hamill was almost eleven years old, she trained at Lake Placid, New York, where one day a famous skater watched her with great concentration. After the practice was over, young Dorothy recognized the skater and asked him to write in her autograph book. He wrote: “To dear Dorothy/I’m sure you will be great one day./Toller Cranston.” In 1976, she won an Olympic gold medal in ladies’ figure skating.

R.L. Stine, the writer of the Fear Street and Goosebumps children’s book series, started out as a writer of comedy; for a while, he edited Scholastic’s humor magazine, which was titled Bananas. When his first book for children, How to Be Funny, was published, he went to a book signing, at which he wore rabbit ears. During the entire afternoon of the book signing, he autographed exactly one book!

Famous violinist Fritz Kreisler was frequently approached by strangers asking for his autograph. One woman thought that he looked familiar, so she asked someone for his name, then she told him, “I’m one of your greatest admirers; in fact, I ride in one of your cars every day.” Hearing this, Mr. Kreisler signed this autograph: “With kind regards, Walter P. Chrysler.”

Being a best-selling author can be hazardous to one’s health. Horror writer Stephen King spoke at a library in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, then he signed hundreds of autographs. Even so, some people were not able to get their books autographed — Mr. King’s hand developed so many blisters that he was forced to stop signing his autograph.

In 1975, Quentin Crisp’s book The Naked Civil Servant was published, and this very out and very effeminate homosexual became a celebrity. Suddenly, taxi drivers who had driven by him even though their taxi was empty not only stopped for him, they also began to ask for his autograph, saying, “The wife’s never going to believe this!”

Brinton Turkle dedicated his first book, Obadiah the Bold, to his youngest son, Jonathan. Mr. Turkle pointed out that the book would be read in libraries all across the United States and Jonathan’s name would appear in the front of the book. Jonathan was nonchalant about the honor, merely saying, “OK, Daddy. I don’t mind.”

In 1992, Dominique Moceanu, then a member of the junior national gymnastics team, had her goal set to compete in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. When asked by fans to sign her autograph, she often wrote, “Dominique Moceanu, Atlanta Olympics, for sure!” She won a team gold medal in Atlanta.

In 1988, African-American author Maya Angelou was arrested while participating in an anti-apartheid rally in Berkeley, California. The police officer who arrested her was an African-American woman. After fingerprinting Ms. Angelou, the police officer requested her autograph.

Children everywhere have a special love for the Harry Potter books of J.K. Rowling. At a book signing crowded with lots of children — and adults — wanting Ms. Rowling’s autograph, a 12-year-old Scottish girl told her, “I didn’t WANT there to be so many people here, because this is MY book.”

When photographer Margaret Bourke-White was married to author Erskine Caldwell, they worked together on a book titled You Have Seen Their Faces and dedicated it to Patricia. Patricia didn’t really exist — she was the daughter they hoped to have together but never did.

R.L. Stine, author of the Goosebumps and Fear Street series, has many young fans who enjoy his writing. One nine-year-old boy got Mr. Stine’s autograph on a copy of Monster Blood. After receiving the autograph, the boy told Mr. Stine, “I’m the luckiest man on earth!”

Because he was so famous, humorous poet Ogden Nash was frequently asked to give his autograph. This didn’t bother him, except when young autograph hounds thrust a piece of paper and a pen at him and said, “Who are you? Sign here!”

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