So here we are.
I remember a segment of some afternoon talk show from many years ago... it was probably Oprah, or maybe Ellen... where a hidden camera experiment revealed just how much people crave free things, no matter what those free things are. A bowl of rocks - plain, ordinary rocks - were placed in a bowl marked “FREE” and displayed on a sidewalk table. And every person who passed by that bowl grabbed a rock. Some grabbed several. Again, the rocks were not special, unique, or even pretty. They were just rocks. But they were free. And even if those people didn’t really want or need rocks, they grabbed anyway. That’s the power of “free.”
It would seem that I am a rock. (But not in the good way.)
I’ve written twice about this, as the title of this post would imply. In “do not bend” it was simply curious musing about why so many Czechs were emailing me for autographed photos out of the blue. In “do not bend, part 2,” I discovered that my sudden influx of requests (28 of them) from Eastern Europe had nothing to do with me and everything to do with international autograph collector blogs posting my email address.
That second post in March is now my most-read... and it probably didn’t help matters much. Since then, there have been 87 more requests (some of them multiples), migrating all the way west to the U.S. and Canada. That makes a whopping 115 autograph requests in 2012, more than I received the entire two and a half years I was on Broadway.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that most of the people who are writing don’t really want my autograph at all. But why, then, do they ask for it?
I finally figured it out: they just want something for free. Signed pictures, bank pens, matchbooks, rocks, anything, as long as it’s free. I know this now because I have instituted a policy where I ask for a $10 donation to charity - any charity - in exchange for an autograph. (I figure it’s a win-win, especially since the postage and cost of supplies is coming out of my own linty pocket.) The policy is plainly spelled out on my website right next to the contact link. Out of the 87 requests that have met with my reply asking for a donation, only 17 lovely people have donated.
And yes, I trust the people who say they’ve donated. I figure that if someone is going to lie about giving $10 to a needy cause, well, that’s something for Karma to sort out. I doubt that my autographed glossy is worth it to come back in the next life as a dung beetle.
(I have a feeling a lot of people are coming back as dung beetles anyway, and I predict a dung beetle population explosion of epic proportions in 50 years or so.)
But enough about dung beetles and Karma. Let’s have a little laugh by looking at the different, actual (and all [sic]) examples of transparently insincere autograph requests:
your company is one of the best known in the world and I am also
thinking of purchasing some of your products. However, I would like to
try some of them before buying. Could you please do me a favor and
send me some of your samples?
(Samples of what, exactly? My acting?)
I would love to add this formor Sabre to my collection because Im a huge Sabres fan. Thanks.
(Seriously. If you’re going to send a form letter, try just a teeee-ny bit harder and maybe make sure the recipient actually played professional hockey.)
I'm your big fan from Slovakia, watch all your news.
(My news in Slovakia, or my news in the United States, neither which exists?)
Thanks for everything Ma'am and I want to wish You all the best of luck Ma'am.
(If you really wanted to hand me empty-but-polite flattery you would refer to me as Miss. Or Ms. Or Ravishing Creature.)
Please, send me your autograph, because it is the only thing that I will rejoice in my hard life in Russia.
(Really? The only thing?)
Dear Ms D’Bruzzo,
I'm sorry to approach you like this but I'm a fan. Not a big one but enough to appreciate your various projects, insights and most especially your contribution to the modern entertainment industry.
(It is hard not to laugh out loud at the “not a big one” part.)
Dear Legend :
Your talent,intelligent,knowledge makes you a once in a live time legend.
(Does he know what “once in a lifetime” means? Because I’m guessing, based on the “Dear Legend,” that he didn’t send this to just me. Meaning he’s either lived a lot of lifetimes, or...)
In our city there is a fan club of your name.
(I know that there are some gullible actors out there, but seriously... holy cow! My own fan club? In Russia?!? Zowee!!!)
Hey I'm a huge fan please send me an autograph or an fanpack!!!! Please don't personiliaze it because it's for My friend an I don't know how to spell his name. THANKS aging!!! Ps I broke my arm! Thanks again!
(Wow. Your friend is so dear to you that you will give him the gift of other people’s autographs, but not so dear that you have bothered to learn how to spell his name. Lest you readers think I am a horrible harpy, assuming the worst about this poor broken-armed person, this is the reply I received when I informed him about my charity donation policy:)
My mom says that we can't afford it I'm sorry! :((((. Is there anyway u can just send me one please!!! It's for my girlfriend!!! Thanks!
(His poor dear friend must be so disappointed to be turned on so fast. I wonder if he can spell his girlfriend’s name. Look, anyone who asks for a non-personalized autograph usually wants to sell it. I actually did this kid a favor by not making exceptions to my donation policy, as my secondary market value is nil.)
Having your autograph will be a real dream come true for me. This you will make me the happiest person!! Please!!! Eventually very much it is not easy in ours heavy time to remain the happy person.
(Sometimes I am struck by the deep, profound sentiments expressed in these translated missives. E. in Russia is right: it is not easy in our heavy time to remain the happy person, indeed. Then I got the following from S. in Russia:)
Very much I ask you to send me by mail your photo and your autograph. Very much it would be would be desirable that the autograph nominal on my name. This you will make me the happiest man! Please!!! After all very not to be easy during our heavy time the happy man.
(Not since the rash of Czech emails that closed with Success may be always be at your side have I seen such culturally consistent smoke-blowing.)
And one of my favorites recently came from southern Moravia, in response to my letting him know my charity policy:
So sorry, but I will not send any money . Even happened to me, I paid for the signature! Even Mr. Dustin Hoffman sends autographs for free ! You're a little star and you may not want Money! ! ! ! !
(Wow! I’ve been compared to Dustin Hoffman!!)
Don’t get me wrong. I have received several genuinely sweet emails over the years, and I truly enjoy hearing from people who have been touched by my work or the projects that I have been a part of. But it never ceases to amaze me how blatantly and badly some people will lie to get a freebie. At least it’s good for a chuckle or two or fifty.
Like all good trilogies that end with the third installment, this “do not bend” post will be the last I write about the subject of insincere autograph seekers, no matter how hilarious any future missives from around the world might be.
Unless, of course, I pull a George Lucas and call it “do not bend: episode 1.” I bet he actually does have a fan club of his name in Russia. Oh, well. He can certainly afford the international postage.
Yes indeed. Welcome to me.