Featured in Autograph January 2009

John McCain signing his book in San Diego, Calif.

My two least favorite types of autographs to collect are politicians and astronauts. So, when about four years ago, Hillary Clinton held a book signing, I had no interest in going. She was a first lady, not a president. And people lined up at the book store at 4 a.m. for a signing that started at noon.

When Clinton was in her fight for the nomination with Barack Obama, the idea of getting an autograph from someone who could’ve become part of history as the first female to be president sounded better to me. I got the inside scoop that she was going to be at a mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., just outside of San Diego.

When I got there, fans, newscasters and cameras were lined up. Sadly, it was one of the few times she didn’t stop to sign a bunch of autographs. In the ’50s, politicians kissed babies. Today they stop to sign numerous campaign signs for fans, which is great for people in this hobby.

Christmas in Plains signed by Jimmy Carter.

I had better luck with former President Jimmy Carter. He’s often at book signings. One newspaper reported that at one book store, Carter was averaging 1,000 signatures an hour.

The book store had a line around it of a few hundred. People could buy up to five books each, and he’d sign them as an employee set them on the table, opened to the proper page. It was like a big assembly line.

I brought my parents with me. My stepdad wanted to meet him. And, I knew they’d buy me the 10 books I wanted. I told my stepdad the Secret Service might frisk him and to make sure there’s no mace or anything in his fanny pack. (I hate to admit it—my stepdad has a fanny pack; the mace was a carryover from his days as letter carrier who had to deal with dogs.)

As we walked in, the Secret Service pulled my stepdad aside. They noticed a pocket knife dangling from his keychain. It was removed.

John McCain and the author meet.

As usual, Carter was signing, “J Carter.” I asked if he could sign one of my books with his full name. He didn’t look up, but signed one in his full name. My stepdad told Carter how much he appreciated everything he did. He went on for a minute, and Carter stopped signing, smiled and thanked him, as they shook hands.

As we left, my stepdad’s pocket knife was returned.

I thought these books would make a nice addition to my political autographs, which consisted only of a Nixon book (one that was offered to the news director of my radio station when Nixon was alive; he promptly gave it to me) and a likely autopenned 8×10 of New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley. I wrote to Bradley as a kid because I was more impressed with him from his playing days with the New York Knicks.

When John McCain came to town for a booksigning, it was well before he announced a run for the presidency. But I suspected he’d run. And at that time, I thought he’d win.

Character is Destiny signed by Senator John McCain.

The line was long, but there were no Secret Service to deal with. He signed his book for me, and a book marker. People were going around the table to have their picture taken with him, so I did as well. I asked him how often he’s asked to sign autographs. He said, “Not as often as celebrities get asked. I can go through an airport without being noticed. There are people that ask, and I always try to sign.”

When John McCain lost the election, I assume it made the value of my book drop by about $100. But since I voted for Obama, I figured it was a fair trade off.