Featured in Autograph January 2010

The author (left) with Mandy Patinkin

People think I can just waltz over and get any person’s autograph I want. Believe me; I have as many hits as misses. And I recently had a painful one.

At the House of Blues in downtown San Diego, one of my favorite singer-songwriter pianists was appearing—Regina Spektor. I got tickets to the sold-out show and was looking forward to getting a signed memento.

I brought a CD and bought a pair of drumsticks with her name on them at the merchandise booth.

It was an amazing hour and a half show. After touring as the opening act for a number of bands, Spektor is finally headlining. She appeared at Radio City Music Hall last October and has been on all the late night shows several times in the past few years. Her songs have been used in TV shows and films such as Grey’s Anatomy and the 2009 My Sister’s Keeper.

I got to hear my favorite tune, “Fidelity,” and headed to the side entrance trying to catch her. Standing with other waiting fans, I overheard speculation about how long she lived in Russia before moving to the States. (Spektor’s family emigrated in 1989 when she was nine.) Another fan wondered why she had such a large lesbian following. And a couple argued about what genre music she’d fit into: punk, folk, classical. I just wondered how long I’d have to wait before getting her autograph.

A bald, 6-foot-3-inch security guard told us, “You guys are too late. She got into a car and left the second the show was over.” I was skeptical because the same security guard used the same line when Fiona Apple played here years ago and she came out an hour later and signed my two CDs after most of the crowd had left.

But when the tour manager came out and announced the same thing, I figured Spektor had either left or really, really didn’t want to sign. I saw drummer Matt Chamberlain and asked him to sign the drumsticks. He signed, surprised I’d been able to buy them at the venue. He said, “I guess if I ever need sticks, I’ll head over to the merch booth.”

Spektor sticks signed by drummer Matt Chamberlain

I drove home, trying to be positive and telling myself I at least got something signed. But it wasn’t Spektor.

Not My First Spektor Failure

In May 2008 my girlfriend and I took a trip back to her hometown near Washington, D.C. Of course I loved the museums, the White House, the monuments. But it was the celebration of Israel’s 60th birthday on the outdoor Mall in front of the Capitol that got me a few autographs I hadn’t expected.

Over 200,000 fans watched Regina Spektor perform and I had my program ready for her signature. Spektor performed for an hour in 100 degree heat and, as we headed behind the stage for the tour bus, I figured security would be hardcore. But there wasn’t a security guard in site. Some guy without a shirt said, “You just missed her, man. I was 50 feet away as she stepped on the bus. I yelled her name but she didn’t look back.”

Stubborn, we stood in the empty lot for half an hour before heading back to the front of the stage. And with perfect timing.

Actor Mandy Patinkin (better known as Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride) had been hosting the festivities. And now he was signing autographs for about 100 fans. I got his signature and a photo. Patinkin responded to questions about Chicago Hope as he edged toward the exit, politely saying, “I can only sign a few more autographs.” And fans did a pretty great job of getting an autograph and stepping aside to make room.

Puppeteer Caroll Spinney with a fan

Oscar the Grouch was there from Sesame Street, and a few of the younger kids were taking photos with him. I talked my girlfriend into standing near him for a photo, and we laughed at how the person operating the puppet would slyly insert himself into the photos.

Later, we found out that the actor was Caroll Spinney, who also voices Big Bird. He’s been with Sesame Street from the beginning and now we’re glad he slowly moved his head into each shot.

Now if only I can get Regina to stop being a grouch and start signing!