|Your typical autograph show.|
Why do we collect autographs? For many it’s a hobby that is simply a given. If you are enamored with a particular celebrity then their signature can represent a connection, however brief, with that person, plus it’s something you can show your friends to make them envious. Maybe it goes a bit deeper and you need to confront that personality just to make sure you haven't made a mistake in placing them above the rest of humanity. At least their presence on the screen is what you hold dear and perhaps to see them as they really are might be a mistake. In my case, that sword cuts both ways. The greatest encounter for me was, of course, Vincent Price, who proved to be not only a great actor but a wonderful human being and a pleasure to know. I recently started going through my files here at the Del Valle Archives in search of signed photos in preparation for a book I am planning called AUTOGRAPHS FROM THE EDGE (with apologies to Carrie Fisher). I chose that title because many of the subjects will be just that, figures from the world of motion pictures that perhaps fell off the radar of America's most wanted celebrities. In the current climate of reality television, anyone can be famous and admired regardless of whether or not they deserve it. In my view, if someone has entertained me, then they deserve my attention, at least for a moment.
As I began to go through my files I noticed that I chose stills from particular films, in fact, certain scenes that represented a significant moment in whatever film he or she was in. For example, I had Dean Stockwell sign a still from BLUE VELVET requesting a rather rude remark that he said in the film. It was very amusing to me that he had no idea what I was talking about.
Most of the signatures I acquired were done during an interview, either in my home or theirs. However, I could not have accumulated this many in only that manner and that brings me to the place where most of these came from, the HOLLYWOOD COLLECTORS SHOW, which I regularly attended. These autograph shows were relatively harmless venues, made up of mostly out-of-work and forgotten film and TV actors from decades long ago, enjoying a bit of attention, not to mention making money for themselves during a weekend of retro nostalgia.
When all of this began to go south, was, of course, when movie memorabilia became a very expensive cottage industry. One sheet posters from the golden age of movie making began to escalate into thousands of dollars, like some out of control Oliver Stone film. The collectors became investors with auction houses stepping in and adding yet another dimension to the mix.
|Ray and Sharon Courts founded the Hollywood Collectors Show in 1991.|
The mania reached a fever pitch by 1995 and Ray Courts (who ran the collectors show) had to separate the dealers from the celebrities, which seemed like a good idea at the time. The celebrities would lure them in and then the dealers would entice one and all with their wares, although at the time, you could still afford to buy some memories, as well as, chat with your favorite star without having to take out a bank loan.
|Yours truly with Martine Beswick.|
The concept for my book is simple. I place a signed photo on one page and then a few paragraphs on the other to explain the personality, as well as, the film they represent. Looking over these stills I could not help but place myself in an orgy of self-indulgent nostalgia for the place and time of each moment. These pictures really captured my connection with each and every one of them.
|"I'm not here with David Del Valle!"|
|"I want to go shopping now."|
|"Shit, I worked with Bela Lugosi."|
While old movie stars were encouraged to place themselves in Ray Courts hands, he would later take some of them on a traveling tour of different cities throughout the country, just like Mr. Dark in Ray Bradbury's DARK CARNIVAL. The most popular attractions were the "reunion shows" of vintage television programs like LASSIE and LEAVE IT TO BEAVER, with much fanfare given to LOST IN SPACE and TIME TUNNEL reunions.
|David Carradine barely awake as he signs an autograph.|
|"Where am I?"|
|When Val Kilmer showed up, that signaled the beginning of the end.|
|"You've never heard of Mr. Kubrick?"|
|The always under-dressed Edy Williams.|
|"That's my wife, FOOL!"|
|Romeo and Juliet, together again...NOT!|
While the list of celebrities that did this kind of venue is a long one, so is the list of people you may never have heard of that were given tables right along side stars like Hayley Mills and Jane Russell. I like to call them "Press Kittens", a term created by an editor pal of mine to describe 30-something women that did nude scenes in straight-to-video movies who filled their tables with head shots and boob shots, completely prepared for the fanboy that never got laid much. These ladies may not have made a film with Stanley Kubrick but they were better known, in many cases, because of the brisk market for online soft core porn, as well as, the hundreds of similar cinematic send-ups produced by other fanboy-turned-filmmakers like Jim Wynorski.
|Gordon Scott: "Me Tarzan, me bloated."|
|"Find your own photo, I'm here for the free lunch."|
|The Man From A.S.S.H.O.L.E.|
|"Who's got my lotion?"|
|Robert Blake before his murder trial.|
After the O.J. trial, these autograph shows took on a new kind of edgy feel, as you began to wonder just who among these former idols would flip out next. Would it be Mickey Rooney, whose few appearances always seemed to make him appear to be all the more lost and irritable? Or Gary Busey, who never seems to be normal, even in the best of circumstances?
|Corey Haim getting some much needed love from his fans.|
The actor who best exemplifies this type of odd behavior is the late Corey Haim, who sat right across from me for three days. Corey seemed like a lost boy in real life as well, as he wanted to be liked by everyone, which, in itself, is not uncommon among actors. In Corey's case, he really needed to make money and it showed. Twice after I purchased a still of him (which featured the other Corey, the ever distasteful Corey Feldman), he signed it for me as "FROM ANOTHER LOST BOY....COREY." He would then ask if I wanted to have some photos with him and if I did, he had been given a room at the Beverly Garland for just that purpose. This all seemed a bit uncool for a number of obvious reasons so I politely declined, always wondering who among the LESS THAN ZERO crowd at these shows might have already taken him up on the offer. The price was always negotiable and he was also in hopes some film producer would show up and perhaps offer him a job. It was this encounter that eventually led me into calling my first book LOST HORIZONS BENEATH THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN. I mean, who was ever more lost in this town than poor Corey Haim?
I am still sitting here surrounded by photographs, trying to select which one's will make the transition to this latest project of mine. I am using the late Roddy McDowell's idea that worked so well for him with his three volumes of celebrity photographs which he chose to call DOUBLE EXPOSURES, in which each photo was followed by a comment from another celebrity. My book will have a photo on one side with a comment by me on just how I acquired it and what, if anything, transpired at that moment.
The more I remember the circumstances regarding each of these encounters (some of the fourth kind), I have come to appreciate that all of these signatures deserve to be called AUTOGRAPHS FROM THE EDGE.