SELFIES AND AUTOGRAPHS – Garry Armstrong

Across New England, the Blizzard from hell takes second place to the Patriots’ latest melodramatic postseason victory and relentless march in search of yet another Superbowl championship.

We are literally iced in but that won’t stop die-hard Pats’ fans in their quest for selfies and autographs with their favorite football players. Patriots’ fans, oblivious to the numbing cold are lined up outside numerous venues for a magical second with their heroes. A long second to secure a selfie and an autograph for posterity.

It raises questions about how far people will go for the celebrity snap or signature. What’s the intrinsic value of such possessions?  It varies from financial worth to bragging rights.

Selfies are part of our daily lives now. People documenting the magical and the mundane. There’s a narcissist air to selfies of people wolfing down their favorite food or bathroom mirror closeups to show you’re forever young. If you are compassionate, you will typically post a thumbs-up note of congratulations.

Which invites more such selfies.

But no signature!

That’s a part of our social media lives. The smallest moment gets big attention.

People have always wanted pics or autographs with celebrities. It’s their golden moment! As a kid, I yearned for such mementos with my favorite baseball players or movie stars. I really wanted a photo with Roy Rogers, the king of the Cowboys.

During my working years as a TV News reporter, I met many celebrities, socialized with a few but have very few autographs or pictures. I felt awkward about it.

Even when socializing with the cameras somewhere else, the conversations were relaxed, easy and I thought it would be rude to ask for the pic or autograph. Sometimes the celebs were pleasantly surprised. Robert Mitchum, with a sly grin, asked: “Dude, no pics or autographs?” I smiled, shaking my head and wondering why I just didn’t ask.

Garry with Tip O’Neill – without an autograph

I always thought the legends were more comfortable with my not asking for the snapshot “for my aging aunt who’s a big fan”.  It always sounded so lame and obvious. James Cagney, at his Martha’s Vineyard farm, proudly showed me autographed photos of his early Hollywood friends and peers. He clearly was very proud of the array and talked about his nervousness in approaching William S. Hart, Tom Mix and John Barrymore among other luminaries. I thought it was fine for Cagney because he was a legend. I was just a local TV News reporter.

My biggest regret might be not having asked John Wayne for a picture (1974 – before selfies) even though he was very cordial during our interview. I certainly acted like a fanboy that day, telling everyone – over and over – that John Wayne actually shook my hand.   Eyes rolled in the newsroom as I gushed about meeting “The Duke”.

His shirt says “Living Legend.” AND he gives autographs!

I’ve been retired almost 18 years now and people still stop me for pictures and autographs, usually apologizing for interrupting my grocery shopping. I’m always flattered even surprised, given the length of time I’ve been away from the spotlight. It always “makes my day” when someone says “Hey, I grew up watching you on TV. Would it be okay to take a picture if you don’t mind?” It’s so funny — and the joke is on me, I guess.

Garry getting ready to do his selfie and autograph at Imperial Motors

I was just thinking — who would I love a picture with now?  Most of my heroes are gone. A casual list of “Hey, would you mind if I took a picture with you?” would include Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Alfred Einstein, Robert Frost (I did an interview but again froze on the picture request), FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt, Vin Scully, Sidney Poitier, and Bette Davis — to name just a few.  Mr. Poitier is still around. I’ve met him once or twice. Maybe he would appreciate this longtime fan.

Garry and Harvey Leonard, famed meteorologist sharing old Dodger baseball memories – Almost as good as an autograph

There are so many “celeb stories” in my memory. I wish I’d had the nerve to ask for that pic.

Selfie?  No, I just looked in the mirror. No, no selfie.

Author: Garry Armstrong

As a reporter for Channel 7 in Boston for 31 years, I was witness to most of the major events affecting the region. I met a lot of people ... politicians, actors, moguls, criminals and many regular folks caught up in extraordinary situations. Sometimes, I write about the people I've met and places I've been. Sometimes, I write about life, my family, my dogs and me. Or what might otherwise be called Life.

40 thoughts on “SELFIES AND AUTOGRAPHS – Garry Armstrong”

  1. Garry, I thought you might find this amusing. Some years back when I was living in Manhattan, I was standing in the courtyard of Rockefeller Plaza along with hundreds of other freezing dopes, enjoying the Christmas decorations and especially the spectacular light show designed on the façade of Saks Fifth Avenue, directly across the street. This was during the time when selfies really broke out in a mania of (mostly) youth frenziedly documenting every moment of their lives. During the light show, I happened to glance to my right to the fellow equally entranced by the spectacle (and one of the few in the crowd not engaged in self-distraction). The fellow happened to be Bruce Springsteen. No one else noticed him as they were too busy recording the important moment of their blinking their eyes, or sticking out tongues at their phone. I have always regretted not asking him for a selfie, not of him, but if he wouldn’t have minded taking a picture of myself and the person I was with. That way I could have said the one selfie in my life was taken by The Boss. (In an unrelated anecdote taking place on Christmas Day that same year, I was perusing Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and was mistaken three times for a wax figure.)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Chandler, love and appreciate your share. You get it! “The Boss”? It would’ve been so tempting. I got a big chuckle out of the wax museum anecdote. Katherine Hepburn is another celeb I wished I’d asked. She called me, asking for a visit in Connecticut. I just didn’t have the cojones.

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  2. I’ve never felt comfortable about asking people for autographs or photos. Even now when it is so easy to get a photo with a favourite sporting star. In the first place I am too shy to approach them and in the second place I don’t really want a posed picture where the celeb puts on their “selfie face”. It looks kind of fake. I’ve watched people getting selfies with players at the cricket and I think it is nice that they make time to meet the fans but I think I’d rather meet them in the supermarket and have a chat in the checkout queue.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tas, the supermarket is a great place for social chat. It happens with me all the time. Everyone is just another shopper. I often ask for help in finding stuff. Usually older folks who I assume know everything or a staffer. They usually help me. During the conversation, they smile shyly and say, “I know you. I just didn’t want to bother you. You shop here?’ I thank them again for the help and we do the pic and selfie. Everyone is happy!
      I also see people at social venues, asking for pics and autographs. I look at the celeb — usually they’re pleasant but sometimes you can the annoyment on their faces.
      Tas, would you want a pic/autograph of our commander-in-chief? Just wondering.

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  3. The only autograph I ever got was Neil deGrasse Tyson. I mean, after Dr. Tyson, who (living) do you need 😉 My wife has Presidents Obama and Clinton as well as Neil, but she’s more political than me (and we had our pictures taken with Hillary 😉 )

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    1. Trent, Marilyn and I LOVE Dr. Tyson. He’s brilliant and funny. He also looks very much like my “baby” brother. I think I would ask him for a pic. Oh, I forgot President Obama and First Lady, Michelle. I definitely would ask. I have a huge crush on Michelle.
      Marilyn and I met, encountered many celebs during our Martha Vineyard summers. Marilyn and Carly Simon had a tug of war over a blouse. No pic or autograph. I had a similar encounter with Garson Kanin over a pair of jeans. We were tugging and tugging until Kanin’s wife, the legendary actress, Ruth Gordon, intervened and yelled at hubby. “Garson, let go of the pants. Yeesh. The young man had the jeans first! Behave yourself!” Ruth Gordon stared daggers at Garson Kanin and blew me a kiss. No pic or autograph needed.

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  4. Several selfies I’ve taken with my husband are to “prove” we were there. To preserve a memory – was especially when traveling and moving to England! I have no issue, but you should write a book about all your celeb encounters!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trent, that’s definitely a section for the book. It should resonate with everyone.
      Selfies – on vacation are obviously fine. You want to show where you are. You’re right – it preserves memories. Marilyn took loads of pics on our honeymoon in Ireland back in ’90. I’m so glad she did. We had such a wonderful time in one of our favorite places. We were young, happy and “over the moon” about life. Ireland just begs for pics — it’s so beautiful. Everyone and everyplace looks like scenes from a John Ford Movie, especially Cong, where Ford shot “The Quiet Man”.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I wished I’d taken pics in Scotland, Paris and the wine country, south of Paris. That’s just to show those PLACES which are so iconic (yes, it’s an overused word – but still apropriate)
          We did have pics taken at the Grand Canyon (a jaw dropping experience) and the cowboy country of Arizona (fueled by fantasies of being a cowboy).

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Garry, I felt the same way . An autograph or picture never entered my mind while I was having a conversation with a celebrity or eating lunch or dinner with them. The only one I had was unsolicited. It was a note to me from Walter Pidgeon containing a check and telling me to buy a horse. I was seventeen, and he knew I was an avid rider and horse lover. He was a friend of my father and one of the stars at MGM that my father handled the publicity for. As you know, I grew up in a show business world and later, in my twenties, worked in the industry with Lucy and Desi, Stan Jones (songwriter), and Margo and Eddie Albert before deciding to become an English teacher. Even then, I was still in touch with the Alberts and went to their house for conversations and parties. One of my favorite memories of the Broadway stage was when my uncle was appearing in a play. I was probably about four or five years old, and my mother and I were seated in about the third row of the theater.He had the whole cast bow to me on their first curtain call. You and I were lucky, Garry, to have met such wonderful show people in our lives and enjoyed their company.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your childhood and young adult stories cry out for pictures. But, again, you felt as I do. Yes, we were very fortunate to have met those show biz “legends”, professionally and socially. When I see them in a film, I smile inwardly, remembering the personal moments shared. I love your anecdote about the Broadway cast bowing to you. It must have been so wonderful, a prized moment – at age four and all yours forever.

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      1. If you ever get to this side of the Atlantic I will do your portrait. That’s one of the things I’m good at, but as people age, they are less eager to be photographed. I’ve done a few selfies when I needed a picture and there was no one to take it but me, but frankly, my arms are WAY too short. You need really LONG arms for good selfies.

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  6. Am I the only person living who really ISN’T into selfies?! I DO take the pics, I do portraits but nobody ever does mine and I can’t say I mind…. But also I don’t know any, not a single one, celebrity – AND I know what I look like. I often take pics with my mind – they last…
    Also I find I’m no longer the ‘ravishing’ beauty and maybe it’s better not to remind me why I don’t look into mirrors if I can avoid it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kiki, not everyone is into selfies. None of us is “39” forever as we often say in greetings to our friends who do take selfies. This is not meant to be an indictment of selfie takers. It’s an observation and time is very kind to some people who should be proud of their visage. I’ve known celebrities because of my job. As an eternal fan boy, I enjoy sharing the stories because they were such enjoyable times for me.
      You’re ageless and vigorous in your shares. That’s what really matters.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought it was just us. I’ve never asked for an autograph and I’m mad at myself for it, too. Especially Alfred Eisenstadt, though I do have photographs with him because he came to visit us at our Martha’s Vineyard rental place.

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        1. Rich, I totally understand. So glad to hear “Mr. Cub” was nice to you. It’s occurred to me I stilly carry that naievete about our “heroes” — that they’ll be real life versions of their reel, etc. personas. It’s a total contradiction of all I learned as a TV newsie. Yesterday, during supermarket shopping, we stopped for a brief chat that turned into a 20 minute conversation with an affable, old couple. The Wife kept shouting my name like I was still “Garry Armstrong”. It was funny and, yes, so very nice.
          Let’s play 2. “Banks to Baker to Fondy. Smooth twin killing.”

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          1. Banks had a reputation as a partier here, but in a good way. If he came to an event, he might hang around and talk and dance or tell stories for quite a while. He did not just give his little speech and leave.
            I remember Kessinger to Beckert to Banks when Ernie was at first. (or Santo to Kessinger or Beckert to Banks).

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  7. A number of my old baseball scorecards (I ALWYS kept score at the game… that was part of its charm to me) have their backs filled with scrawls in Sharpie from baseball players. The hotel the players usually stayed at when they visited St. Louis was right across the street from the stadium, so they typically walked after the game and me and a few diehards were always waiting on them. I think back to those days (The 1990’s mainly) and wonder why I bothered… but then I’ll occasionally pull one out and try to decipher whose chicken scratchy belongs to which player…

    As for famous people expecting to be hounded for autographs… my favorite from the postgame days has to be Milo Hamilton…. best known for calling Hank Aaron’s 715th homerun, but at the time he was an announcer for the Astros. As the small mob descended on him as he left the stadium, he gleefully handed out pre-autographed photo cards of himself. Brilliantly efficient or pridefully vain? Who are we to judge…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Squirrel, no judging, certainly not to YOU. Love your baseball scoring card story. Never really could do that with finesse. I think players appreciate your scoring efforts, means you were really into the game. I know about the pre-signed ones. Don’t think they’re kosher. Some of my TV news colleagues did that – with phony sentiments. Reminds me of another pic I wish I had – Ernest Hemingway. We stayed at “Papa’s” hotel and Bar on Bimini for a few years and I – not so subtly – asked if there were any pics lying around. There were one or two – but they were soaked in urine and gin. I passed on them.
      Hey, Squirrel — how ’bout an autograph pic – with sentiments – from you to Marilyn and me?

      Squirrel – Marilyn just pointed out we already have one from you – PAINTED by you. My bad. I still would like one – updated — Please, Squirrel.

      Liked by 1 person

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