When I weary of the usual pursuits, I visit eBay to see what’s floating around at enticing prices. Sometimes it’s a CD or a 78, a book, or even a teapot. (I’ve bought most of my wardrobe there in the past few years, but for obvious reasons the need to Dress for Success has quieted down.)
Late Tuesday, I saw this gem, upside-down in the original posting (I’ve rotated it to show off the signature):
I have seen enough carefully ornate signatures by Fats to feel this one is authentic, and, better yet, it’s from real life: when the star is leaning against the wall and people ask for autographs, as opposed to what one might do sitting at a desk. Incidentally, too-neat signatures are usually suspect, especially if the star’s handwriting was not all that tidy.
Feeling artifact-lust and isolation boredom, I noticed that the bid was low — around $28 — and offered a more substantial bid, and sat back. I’ve seen autographs and inscriptions that I felt passionately I had to have, but I was easy about this one.
Today, engrossed in chores, I forgot to obsess over the bidding when the auction ended, and got a notification from eBay that someone had plunged more money than I had offered, which suited me fine. I lost this sacred piece of paper, but I have an extra $107.51, a relief.
And at the bottom of the eBay notification, as if to bring me back to commerce, this delicacy was for sale:
Happily, I didn’t need this: I have a Basie signature, and around 1973 I met Buck Clayton and he graciously autographed a record he was on. Both signatures look genuine. Basie had perfected his in one swoop, and it is a little raggedy, which suggests on-the-spot. I’d never seen Buck use a fountain pen, nor write in green, nor offer his own trumpet logo-ornament. But as remarkable as this holy relic is, all I need is a photograph to show you.
Maestro, please? And bring along Mr. Holmes, if you will:
That piece of paper is gone, but no one can steal my Waller-joys.
A postscript, as of August 15. A dear Swiss collector-friend pointed out very kindly (and that makes a difference, you Corrections Officers out there!) that the Waller signature could not in any way be connected to Fats, because the paper on which it was written was from a Down Beat 78 rpm record sleeve, and that the D.B. label started in 1947, four years after Fats left us. So I feel a twinge of wicked pleasure in being saved from buying something fake presented as real. It pays to have good friends!
May your happiness increase!