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Why I don't (usually) ask celebrities for autographs or photographs

Why I don't (usually) ask celebrities for autographs or photographs

Ever since I started working properly in the media business, well-meaning friends and family will often ponder if I can get them an autograph for someone. This is a little tricky because:

  • I don’t generally meet celebrities any more in my line of work anyway!
  • Even if I did, it’d be very hard to interrupt an interview or a meeting with a “Oh by the way, can you sign this for my grandma?” or “Can we just pose for a photograph?”
  • I’m terrible at asking anything of strangers. Unless I have to.
  • How many journalists do you know who interrupt press conferences to ask for an autograph? It’s just not done.
  • Most importantly, I’m usually the only Chinese person in the room. Which means:
    • They’re far more likely to notice me – I tend to stick out like a sore form even when I don’t say anything – and thus, form an opinion, good or bad.
    • The last thing I want to do is enhance the racist assumption that Japanese/foreign journalists are idiotic and don’t know the ‘rules’

Having said all that, outside of work, it seems to be OK. During one birthday celebration in a Soho pub, June Whitfield came into the pub. Before you know it, my then evil scum of workmates had corralled her into posing for a pic next to me – I’m not too sure where that picture has gone, but it’s around here somewhere, with the odd sock. And somewhere in my archives, I also have Woody Allen’s autograph.

Of course, it seems to be just me who has a problem with asking celebrities for autographs where I work. My friend Shari in New York, who’s a radio engineer, had her pic taken with Hugh Jackman and was very proud of it. Stephen Fry, as ever, is the realist and has the do’s and don’ts of approaching a celebrity.

Do you work in the biz, as pretentious people like to call it? Do you collect autographs or photographs, or just get on with it and work with them as colleagues?


  • I generally don't ask anything of famous people unless I'm actually interested in them. Fame itself wouldn't entice me to ask for a name on a piece of paper, which I'd probably only end up throwing away.

    I did make an exception recently. I was in Abbey Road and Rufus Wainwright sat down next to me, as a fellow guest at the event. When I realised I had a brief chat with him, then asked him to sign my notebook for my wife (who's a big fan, though it probably sounded a bit lame).

    I've interviewed a few famous people over the years and have, I think, only asked for one autograph – Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals, who posed for a pic and signed some CDs for me. But then I was a student journalist and not doing it in a professional capacity, so I didn't feel too bad.

    In the music dept where I work there's a pinboard of photos of staff members with famous people they've worked with – Paul McCartney, Chuck D, Tom Jones etc. That's pretty cool – something personal, and which has minimal resale value on eBay. But asking for autographs? Never say never, but I think it's generally not the done thing for journalists.

  • I'm training to be a journalist- and I'd be too scared to do it unless it was either Metallica, Green Day or David Tennant; I would try not to pass up that sort of opportunity.

  • A.Raquel

    I think people of all ages should not ask autographs,nor take pictures nor
    approach famous people for any reason. Many stars take their viewers
    for granted and don't appreciate the support they have received from them.
    Many also get in a very aggressive mood because they think others are out
    there to bother them and at times they even talk bad behind your back after
    they meet you. I wish no one asked celebrities for autographs also because they
    are not better than us though they think they are and we as intelligent humans
    can entertain ourselves doing things we like to do on our own or with family,
    friends or nature.

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