Featured in Autograph April 2009

Counterclockwise from top: James Cameron (left) with my stepdad, who played Captain Smith in Ghosts of the Abyss.

I’m usually out there getting autographs the hard way; outside concert venues, sneaking backstage, or waiting in a long line at a bookstore. Last spring I finally I got a few the easy way. Thanks to my stepdad, John Donovan, who played Captain Smith in James Cameron’s 3D Titanic movie Ghosts of the Abyss, I got to go to a party at the Malibu mansion of director James Cameron, the Academy Award-winning author and director of several Terminator films, True Lies, Rambo II and The Abyss. His biggest hit was Titanic.

I immediately called my friend Ken Calloway. At one of his parties, he had bottles of wine with really cool labels. “Buy a bunch of bottles of ‘Two-Buck Chuck,’” he said. “Peel the labels off, and design your own on the computer. Make up vintages that fit the theme of your party.”
“And save a fortune on expensive wine,” I said.

Titanic, Special Collectors Edition, signed by Cameron at the party.

I asked him to make me a Titanic label, so I could hand a bottle of wine to Cameron when I got to the party.

Ken called it “Iron Jim’s Titanic Cabernet” and had a picture of the Titanic on it. On the sides, he described the wine, using various film titles in the description. I had him make sure it said 1912, the year the Titanic sank.

Besides the wine, I brought a leather-bound version of Titanic and a DVD of Strange Days, a weird sci-fi film he wrote and produced. I also brought a DVD of Usual Suspects for Cameron’s wife, Suzy Amis, to sign. (They met while filming Titanic.)

I had to turn my name in at the main gate  to this community and at Cameron’s residence. My girlfriend, Kristina, and I met up with my parents outside Cameron’s house, where I was eyeing his cherried-out Shelby Cobra.

When I was introduced to Cameron, I handed over the bottle and he said, “Cool. Oh, it’s a 1912. I better not open this.” I saw him reading the sides of the label. He smiled and said, “Thanks. I’m going to save this. If we drink it, it will just end up an empty bottle.” I admitted it was just an $18 bottle of wine anyway. He laughed. I think he was surprised I paid that much.

The Usual Suspects signed by Cameron’s wife, Suzy Amis, and Streange Days signed by Cameron.

I waited to ask Cameron for autographs. This was a swanky affair, and I didn’t want to seem unprofessional.

I told another guest that I wanted to get something signed by Cameron and his wife. He said “Cameron is really good about signing. One time I brought a Titanic poster, and he was late for a meeting. He asked, ‘Do I have to sign it now? Can I sign it later?’ Then he just signed it. I guess as long as you don’t say ‘Thanks, I can put this on eBay now.”

I spotted Suzy Amis. Kristina advised it would be cheesy to ask Suzy to autograph my DVD, so I tucked it into my back pocket as I walked over to chat with her.

I asked her how she got the part in Usual Suspects. “Kevin Bacon called me,” she said, “and said his friend was directing this little film.”

Titanic VHS signed by Cameron during the filming of Ghosts of the Abyss.

“My girlfriend is going to kill me,” I said, “but would you mind signing the DVD for me?” I handed her the DVD and she wrote “For Josh, Live Your Passions! Suzy Amis Cameron.”

After dinner, guests gathered in the screening room and Cameron showed scenes from his television documentary Expedition: Bismarck that had never been shown.

Finally, I approached Cameron for his autograph. I gave him an extra label for the “Iron Jim” wine, in case he had another bottle he wanted to slap it on. He thanked me, and I said, “Well, it’s sort of a bribe. I want to see if you’ll sign these.” I handed him the DVDs of Titanic and Strange Days.

With the collector’s edition of Titanic in his hands, he noticed the silver embossed “James Cameron” signature. Signing above it in bold black Sharpie, he said, “Now you’ll have a real one.”