It was the summer of 1979…I stood in a line that was at least a football field in length. I was attending The World of Wheels auto show in Baton Rouge, LA, with my brother, Paul, and best friend, Creig. We were not fazed in the least by the long wait. To us boys, ranging in age from 11 to 13, there was no place we would rather be! The long, meandering line of people zigged and zagged through Stingray Corvettes, Mustangs, cameros, and Trans Ams. At the very end of the line, barely visible, and sitting next to our ultimate destination, a bright orange 1969 Dodge Charger. The General Lee! Just to the left of this awesome super car, an elevated stage. Every minute or so, the bodies ahead of me would part just enough to allow me to see the long, dark, flowing hair of Daisy Duke!
The thought of meeting a famous person, and not just any famous person, but the person that every boy my age had a crush on in 1979, was almost too much to handle. My imagination was in overdrive as I made my way down this trail flanked with hundreds of petro-guzzling beasts. My teenage hormones were in full overdrive. Would she give me a kiss? Should I ask her to marry me? Would she!? Silly questions like these permeated my thoughts.
We continued on our trek through the maze of priceless automobiles, but to us three boys, these marvels of human engineering might as well have been piles of schoolbooks. They were invisible. As we drew nearer, I noticed brief glimpses of her forehead…and then eyes! Somewhere along here I noticed her eyes for the first time and I swear she stared right at me and smiled!
Finally, after nearly an hour and a half, we three stood at the foot of the stairs leading up to the stage. I’d noticed by now how the workers keep the line moving at a pretty brisk clip. Every person I’ve watched comes to a stop in front of Daisy, hands her the sexy poster we all had to buy if we wanted her autograph, a brief hello might be exchanged, and the poster is handed back…next in line repeats, and repeats, and repeats. But I just knew she was going to halt the entire line to ask me questions and get to know me better!
My brother and my friend are ahead of me. They hand over their posters, with grins on their faces from ear to ear. Neither says a word. I am shocked! How can they not at least say hi? Well my moment has arrived. I step in front of her and hand over the poster. I’m waiting for her to halt the line…but she quickly scribbles her name and hands the poster back. Everything is happening too fast! I go to say something – perhaps hello or I love you or will you marry me. I will never know and neither will she. My jaw froze in the open position and something sounding a lot like “duh” came out of my mouth before a gentle hand placed on my elbow ushered me toward the steps leading down.
Well, you would think that my day would be ruined after making a complete fool of myself and having the woman of my young, adolescent fantasies all but ignore me, but no! I had the poster with the ink on it that Daisy Duke herself had placed there! I must have looked at that signature a thousand times during our remaining time at the show. And I never once took my eyes off of it for the entire drive home. And for weeks, I would stare at the signature on the poster as it hung on the wall of my bedroom.
Over the years I’ve collected autographs from several different people, but none of them are as special to me as that one was. Autographs to a youngster are like hard evidence of a superhero. Movie stars, sports stars, reality TV stars, the news anchorman, and yes, even authors should realize the honor being bestowed upon them when they are asked to put their signature on something for a fan.
When I am asked to sign my work I can’t help but wonder if I’m delivering the same delight to this child that Daisy Duke did to that 12-year-old boy back in 1979. Judging from the smiles I’ve received when handing over the book I think, yes, I am making this person happy.
And this makes me happy!