— Autoghraph February 2009

Jamie Lee Curtis signing for a young fan in San Diego, Calif.

One of the best comedies ever is without a doubt A Fish Called Wanda. And getting the DVD signed by its stars slipped through my hands, not once, but twice!

Jamie Lee Curtis attended a fundraiser at a Balboa Park photography museum in San Diego, Calif., for which I could’ve gotten a free press pass. Instead, I gave the DVD sleeve and a copy of Autograph (December 2005) featuring Curtis on the cover to a staff member. But Curtis got into her car before the staff member could ask her to sign them.

I figured I’d eventually get the DVD signed since I had a friend teaching in Santa Barbara who told me he sees Curtis’ costar in the film, John Cleese, around town once in a while. But I never would have guessed the opportunity could come from two students selling magazine subscriptions. I usually say no to those sales pitches, but one of the students said that the newspaper had written a story about her going to school abroad, and she needed to raise money to go there. A nice sales pitch, indeed.

She then asked, “Do you know who John Cleese is?” I said, “Yeah, from Monty Python.” She got so excited, and then she asked if I knew the show Fawlty Towers. I said, “Yeah, it was great.” She explained that as part of her acting class, she would be reenacting a few episodes from the show with Cleese.

I said, “I’d love to help you out, but I already get a few magazines and two newspapers each day. I won’t have the time to read them.” She then said, “You can donate them to the troops.”

I figured I’d do my part for the troops and said, “I have a deal for you. I’ll order two different magazines, if you get my DVD signed by John Cleese.” She got so excited at the proposal. I paid $100, for the two, two-year subscriptions. She told me when she came back in May, she’d show me all the pictures, and get the DVD signed. I haven’t seen her since.

About 10 months later, I found out Jamie Lee Curtis was coming to nearby La Jolla for a book signing. There were 100 people in line to meet her. She showed up walking down the line, saying hello to people. Ironically, of all the book signings I’ve ever been to, the only other person who I saw do this was her dad, Tony Curtis, as he would shake every person’s hand. Jamie hugged the woman in front of me, who she had known from a children’s hospital in L.A.

Before she sat down to sign, Curtis said, “This line isn’t long, let’s start the signing.” Everyone was in a great mood.

This bookstore had been strict in the past about no other items for the author to sign. So, even if I had the Wanda DVD, I wouldn’t have had a chance. But I did bring two back issues of Autograph, with her on the cover. I was going to give her one, and possibly have her sign one for me. At the very least, take a photo of her holding it.

Curtis drew a fish and wrote “Wanda” in her children’s book Big Words

She was great with all the kids that came to the table, asking them their favorite color and making conversation.

I remembered an interview I did with a DJ from a radio station in Chicago who told me that as a kid, he sent a letter to Curtis and got her autograph. When he interviewed her a few years ago, he showed the autograph to her and asked, “This is real, right?” She frowned and said, “No, I’m sorry to tell you, it’s not. We had people working for us that would sign those. I apologize.”

When I approached with the children’s book I had just bought for $20, I said, “I’ve read all nine of your previous books.” She had a weird smile as I continued, “And I like A Fish Called Wanda the best.” She laughed.

She opened the book and asked, “Who do I make it out to?” I said, “You can make it out to Josh.” I noticed her looking for the sticker with my name that the bookstore gives to autograph seekers, and then instead of personalizing it, she drew a fish and wrote, “Wanda” in the middle.

I then asked if she would take a picture with the copy of Autograph I brought, but I was interrupted by store security, telling me, “She’s not doing any other memorabilia today.” I said, “I’m not asking her to sign it, just hold it.” She said, “No, I won’t do that.” Security added, “Then everyone else in line will want one.”

I tried to buy a little more time with Jamie Lee by telling her I saw her on The Tonight Show asking the other celebrity guests for their autographs to sell for a charity and was wondering if she was still involved with it.

Now, she looked bothered. She paused and said, “Sometimes.”

I was just about to ask her another question about the celebrities she has encountered when she looked at the kid behind me and started talking to him. Security gently grabbed my arm and escorted me out.