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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Essay# 2 – Celebrities, Politicians, and the Almighty Autograph

When I was young, I was obsessed with autographs. My first autograph was Hank Aaron at a baseball card show, back in the mid-80’s. He seemed cordial enough—he thanked me for coming out. I missed a Boy Scout camping trip to wait in line for Ted Williams. Ted couldn’t be bothered to look up and say “hi” or “thanks”.

I decided to attack the baseball world via mail. I would pose as a six-year-old, writing letters to my favorite baseball players on that crazy lined paper that kids use. I would send two baseball cards and a self-addressed stamped envelope. Then I would wait.

Some days, I’d get three back in a day. Some came back signed, others stamped, and others unsigned. Many never came back. Some, like Mike Schmidt, came with a thank you note. Others never came back. Darrell Evans took ten years to send them back. I really respected him for not just throwing my letter and cards away.

Currently, there aren’t any autographs that I would want. I’ve decided that most celebrities are people I wouldn’t want to meet or know personally, with the exception of People like George Kell, Ernie Harwell, or Al Kaline. When I started writing to companies and public figures in the mid-90’s, I requested a few autographs. I don’t know why—maybe as a trophy of sorts. I’m not really sure why, but I have a picture of Dave Thomas hanging in my basement.

Last week, I finally found the three ring binder containing letters that I wrote to Bill Clinton. Back in 1996, he and I squared off—he as a political figure who is too busy to send an autograph, me as a six-year-old filled with back-handed compliments and innocent questions, eager to tell him everything going on in my life. The result was almost a diary of make-believe events in my life, characters, and subplots. It lasted 16 months. I will start sharing these letters here and there, shortly.

The Herman Letters isn’t meant to be a political sounding board. I would have handled Reagan, either Bush, or Obama in the same manner. I’ve written Engler, Granholm, Fred Thompson, and John Glenn, as well. I’m sure I would have written a doozie to #16, Abe Lincoln about that beard. But mainly out of jealousy—I could never grow one like that.

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