May I have your autograph?
First, allow me to say a hearty “Thank you” to everyone at Edna’s Ichiban and Cache Creek Casino Resort in Brooks, California, for an amazing weekend! I just had a couple of concerts at Cache Creek, and since this was my third time at this sweet venue, it now feels like a home away from home.
After a concert, regardless of venue or country, I spend extra time placing my John Hancock on CDs and head shots, and meeting members of the audience. In the lobby of the theater wherever the show merchandise is sold, I sit comfortably, surrounded by security and members of my family, a marker in hand and a smile on my face. It normally goes smoothly, but there are times when it can test either my or any one audience member’s patience.
At times, my markers won’t work … a CD will still be wrapped in plastic … a camera will mysteriously stop working right when a shot is about to be snapped. I can laugh about it later, although right when it happens, it isn’t always funny.
Here are some guidelines for both artists and audiences, to make these sessions a little, or a lot, more pleasant.
For the audience
Make sure cameras are fully charged (if using batteries, make sure they’re fresh and you have spares on hand) and you have ample storage space for the photos you plan to take, of the artist or of the venue. I’ve found that many theaters, in and of themselves, make for great photo ops. There are chandeliers, ceilings, stained glass, staircases, paintings, sculptures and other artsy pieces that make for some great photographs.
Buy your merchandise either before the show or at intermission. That way, you’re ready for the autograph session. Make sure the cellophane wrapper of the CD or DVD is already removed, to save time. Determine where exactly you want the signature to be, in front of the case or on the CD/DVD itself. We artists usually have permanent markers in different colors on hand, but if you want something special, bring the marker in the color you want. Normally, we ask that only one of your items be signed, to keep the line from coming to a screeching halt.
The autograph line can go at quite a quick pace, so prepare for your turn. I tend to sign autographs very quickly. Be ready with your name (or the name of the item’s owner), as well as how it’s spelled. There are certain names that can be spelled differently—Cathy or Kathy, Lisa or Liza, Joanne or Jhoanne. I’ve seen a lot of very creative ways names are rendered; hence I’ve learned to ask.
Be ready to hear that photo taking will not be allowed. This is usually when a line is especially long. But if you take a snapshot while the autograph is being signed (you don’t need permission for this), the pace is never slowed. I’m not always able to pose, but time permits, I try.
If you’re the poor sap who’s at the end of the line, make sure you have something to keep you busy. If you’ve got either an iPhone or an Android phone, install some games (word games are never a bad idea), newsreaders (CNN and BBC are always good), or answer e-mails. Might as well be productive.
Make friends! The love of your life could be in line behind you. I have a clutch of faithful fans called the AFLS group (named after a Usenet newsgroup where many of us met) that are always at my shows, plays or musicals, whether in Manila or abroad. They’re smart, fun and funny. Seek them out … they normally stand at the end of every autograph line, laughing.
Now, for the artist
Be patient. You have no idea how star-struck and awestruck the person getting your autograph could be. For many, this is that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get some face time with you, so please be gracious. Plus, keep in mind how far they might’ve had to travel just to see you perform. The least you can do is be kind.
Always ask for the name of the person for whom you’re signing that autograph, and how it’s spelled. And do it nicely. “Please” and “Thank you” should always, always be in your vocabulary, if it isn’t already. If it is, fine and good!
Don’t be a brat. Word of mouth travels faster than you think.
Establish eye contact. I’ve been called out for keeping my head down and not looking up at the person approaching the table, so now I try to always take in who’s on their way to see me, and with a smile.
If something goes wrong (and at these sessions, they do and often), laugh it off! Break the tension, make everyone feel at ease. Comfort the lady whose camera decided to fail, or the teenage girl whose memorabilia book is falling apart, bringing her to tears. A sense of humor goes a very long way.
Always have markers handy. Always. It’s a time-saver of epic proportions. Black, blue, silver and gold are good ones to have at the ready.
Above all, for everyone at both sides of the table, have yourselves a wonderful time!