Autograph Hunting

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 26th June 2012.

As a pop culture fanatic, I love to collect memorabilia, in particular, signed items. I’m not really interested in trying to make money by hanging onto these autographs until they appreciate in value and then sell them off. I’d rather put them on my wall as a reminder of an encounter with an artist whose work I admire.

Of course, it is not always easy to get an autographed item. Famous actors don’t tend to wander the streets very often. Most of my prized possessions are photos signed at pop culture conventions, such as Supanova, which was held in Sydney last weekend. The celebrities that attend these events tend to be stars from cult TV shows or movies, and most charge $30 or so for an autographed photo.

There’s plenty of signed collectibles available on eBay, but you never truly know if the autograph is legitimate. In the US, it is estimated that 90% of autographed items sold on eBay are forged.

So how can you obtain authentic signed items without travelling around the world stalking your favourite artist? The good news is that some great signed collectibles are available directly from musicians and actors websites, and not all of it will cost you a fortune.

I’ve previously written about my admiration for The Beach Boys. To celebrate their 50th Anniversary Tour, you can purchase an uncut proof sheet of their new CD artwork signed by all 5 surviving members of the band, including Brian Wilson, for only $500, directly from their website. If you fancy a limited edition signed surfboard, it’s a bargain at $6000, and there are only five out of ten left.

One of my favourite albums ever is Paul Simon’s Graceland, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Currently available from Simon’s online shop is a deluxe bundle which includes the Graceland boxset, the album on vinyl and a limited edition poster personally signed by the master songwriter. This bundle is only $250 and great value for cashed up Paul Simon fans.

Geeks rejoice. Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, sells an array of signed items on his website. My choice would be The Shat’s latest album, Seeking Major Tom, which will only set you back $95 for an autographed copy. I’d also recommend that you admire your signed CD and not actually listen to it.

Holy superannuation fund Batman! Everyone’s favourite Batman, Adam West, is still making a living from his iconic role from the sixties. Direct from the Adam West Store, you can grab a signed vintage art movie poster from the 1966 Batman film for $35.

If musicians float your boat and your budget is tight, then why not add a exclusive lithograph signed by Nelly Furtado to your wall? It will only set you back $25 directly from the artist herself. If you prefer your music and politics to the left, English singer songwriter Billy Bragg will put his pen to a copy of his Mermaid Avenue Complete Session CD boxset for $35. For the eighties tragics, pop queens Debbie Gibson and Tiffany will sell you a genuine signed photo for only $20 and $15, respectively.

Proving that you don’t have to spend a fortune to collect an autographed item, the cost of a cup of coffee is all it takes to get Guy Sabastian’s John Hancock. A signed copy of his latest single is available via JBHifi’s website for $4.

Whether it cost you a couple of bucks or a small fortune, or even a few hours hiding in the bushes in the Hollywood Hills, the true price of a signed collectible is its sentimental value to a fan.

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Shooting the Shat

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 12th April 2011.

So you’re a controversial Hollywood actor, some would say a has-been, currently between jobs and looking for a gig. What do you do for a little income? You book yourself on a speaking tour and hope that your fans will shell out to see you do something you’ve never done before. That is, be yourself.

No, I’m not talking about Charlie Sheen. I’m referring to Captain James T. Kirk himself, William Shatner. The Shat premiered his William Shatner Live speaking tour in Sydney last week and over two thousand fans parted with $150 or more to pack the State Theatre just to be in the same room as the man also known as T.J. Hooker and Denny Crane.

In his introduction, Shatner acknowledged being nervous about his first ever speaking tour, especially after hearing the reports of walkouts and poor reviews for Charlie “Winning” Sheen’s similar enterprise the week prior. I’m pleased to report that Bill’s show did not disappoint and ended with a standing ovation.

I remember meeting Batman’s Adam West and being slightly underwhelmed. I have a dedicated and autographed picture which I’ll treasure forever but I certainly got the impression that West was just there for a payday and had better things to do. That certainly wasn’t the case with Shatner, who seemed genuinely pleased to be in Australia and meeting his fans.

I attended a private Q & A session prior to the show, where Shatner introduced us to his wife, Elizabeth Martin, who is 28 years his junior. Both previously widowed, the couple breed, ride and show horses. Being a little younger than her husband, Martin admitted meeting Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Captain Picard, Patrick Stewart and wondering how it was possible a spaceship could have two captains.

The main show consisted of an interview by host Jonathan Biggins, followed by questions from the audience sent via twitter. There was also the opportunity in the foyer for fans to submit questions. It was via this method that I managed to end up standing in front of a sold out State Theatre audience with a microphone talking to William Shatner.

In response to my question, Shatner confirmed that he will not be appearing in the new Star Trek film. He also added that he was disappointed to not have been included in the recent Star Trek reboot which featured Leonard Nimoy reprising his role as Spock.

Shatner was surprisingly candid throughout the show, explaining the events leading up to the tragic death by drowning of his 3rd wife, Nerine Kidd. He also discussed his close friendship with Nimoy and the animosity which still exists between himself and some of his Star Trek co-stars, particularly George Takei.

The Shat also revealed himself to be an environmentalist, making a passionate impromptu speech for saving Mother Earth. Heavily involved in environmental charities, he also told an amusing anecdote involving an amorous gorilla propositioning him during an appearance.

Infamous for his spoken word interpretations of pop classics such as Mr Tambourine Man and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Shatner ended the show with a special performance of Men at Work’s Down Under.

Having turned eighty this year (but looking sixty thanks to a little work I presume), William Shatner shows no signs of slowing down. With a successful live show on his hands and the second season of his new sitcom $#*! My Dad Says to record, The Shat looks set to continue going where no actor has gone before.