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TIFF ’09: the business of stalking

September 18, 2009



The Toronto film festival is wrapping up this weekend (finally), and even though it’s great to have it in the city, it makes getting around extremely annoying. The main reason for this is because of the super fans that make it their sole mission in life to do anything in their power to gawk at their favourite (and by that I mean any) celebrity. Take the picture above, for instance. I don’t think Naomi Watts has that many fans in all of North America, yet alone just Toronto. (But of course I kid. She has at least twice as many.)

Anyways, I was there trying to get pictures of crazies for some TIFF coverage I was doing earlier this week and one guy in particular stood out. He was standing a good 20 feet from Watts, behind a crowd with a picture and pen in his hand, screaming (not yelling) “Naomi, can you please come over here.” She didn’t, and the guy looked legitimately pissed off.

At first I thought, great, this guy has a gun or a dirty bomb stashed in his sneaker or something. But after talking to him I understood why he was so upset. He was a professional stalker, and by that I mean he did his research, came to galas, hotels or after parties prepared with pictures and sharpies, and sold autographs over the internet. In fact, there was a whole bunch of them, and you could identify them by their matching binders full of photos. These guys were the real deal too.

One really tall, really skinny guy, who I could only assume was the ring leader, was yelling at a lower class autographee (or foot soldier): “You idiot. This isn’t even a complete signature. She didn’t complete the fuckin line here.”

Anyways, I got a few minutes with one of the guys and asked him some questions about the life of a signature paparazzi, which ran in the Post but I’ve re-printed a few of the questions after the jump.

It just goes to show though: If you’re persistent enough, even an OCD can make you some coin.

Name: Phil
Age: 31
Job: professional autograph collector

Let me get this straight. You professionally get autographs?

Well, it’s a side job, but yes, I am a professional autograph collector. I get them and sell them on the internet.

What is the big ticket autograph, in terms of value, for this year?

It remains to be seen, but a couple of the names that were at the top of my list were Oprah Winfrey and Hugh Hefner because they are really obscure and access to them is really hard. Plus their names are iconic.

Did you get Oprah?

I did, twice actually. First was when she went to see Up in the Air at Ryerson. I was tipped off she would be there so when she came out the back door I was ready and waiting and got the autograph. The second time was last night after Roy Thomson Hall. We beat her to her private jet at the airport and were waiting for her when she got there. She promised me at the red carpet but it was too hectic, so she said okay when we saw her again but her security guard wouldn’t let her and the driver kept on driving. She ended up telling the security guard to bring the items to her and she signed them after all.

What techniques can you share with rookie autograph collectors?

I’ve done this fest a few times so I know some of the hotspots that I’m not too willing to share, but the best place to get them, honestly, is the red carpet. They’re there for the fans after all. With Naomi Watts we were three people deep and the trick is to just call her, make a scene, be loud. You want to make them notice you, and then they feel obligated to come over to you.

And last question. What is the easiest sell?

The buzz actors, like Amanda Seyfried. Up and coming, anyone young and attractive.

Like Megan Fox?

Megan fox for sure. I did well on Megan Fox, she signed a whole bunch.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Simon permalink*
    September 20, 2009 7:54 pm

    That’s creepy. Great story man, love the angle on TIFF news that’s been beaten like a dead horse.

  2. jeflee permalink*
    September 21, 2009 3:16 pm

    Great post. I’ve actually been stalking Naomi Watts for years, I’m just really bad at it. Maybe she Googles herself? HI NAOMI!

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