Eudoran’s hobby all in a name
Tami Klinedinst loves getting autographs so much that when her hobby began as an elementary school student she collected signatures of people from talented classmates in hopes of having proof she knew them "way back when" after they became famous to the local librarian.
Klinedinst has since set her sights on bigger names, beginning with stars of the 1970s like John Wayne and Sonny and Cher and continuing recently with the stars of the prolific Star Trek series.
But the thrill for Klinedinst isn't so much in amassing the autographs, which she keeps in a bevy of three-ring binders and on memorabilia, but rather the experience of meeting the signing stars up close, something she gets ample opportunity to do at Star Trek conventions that frequent the Kansas City area.
"You're all in the same room, and you share that experience," Klinedinst said. "You see those people (the actors) and you see that chemistry, and to be part of that chemistry."
At the conventions, collectors travel among booths set up by the shows' stars -- Klinedinst counts the original series among her favorites -- to acquire autographs and to hear the stars speak.
"What's fun is when you see them in character and then you see them in real life, and you say, 'I know that actor,'" she said. "You really do see what kind of talents and skills they have."
Not being one of the hard-core fans who dress in costume for such events, Klinedinst admits the events draw an interesting crowd, and Klinedinst said she expected some good-natured ribbing for her hobby.
However, she said the openness to people who wouldn't necessarily fit the mainstream was a big part of the conventions and the shows' appeal.
"The aliens are all accepted," she said of the shows. "Everybody is equal. Everybody's respected, and their cultures are worth preserving. It's really a neat philosophy."
Through the conventions, Klinedinst has acquired autographs of the big names like William Shatner and Leonard Nemoy as well as from lesser-known stars, with whom she also has her photo taken. During the convention, Klinedinst runs to a copy shop to have the photo enlarged and returns the next day to have the star sign it.
"I think they're more valuable if not, but I've got to have them personalized," she said.
In many cases, she said collectors could purchase photographs and memorabilia already signed, but that took away the thrill, Klinedinst said.
"I get the joy and the fun," she said. "I could be buying them (already signed), but why? That takes the fun out of it."
By meeting stars up close -- including during a premiere of the 1996 film "Evita" -- Klinedinst said she had the opportunity to see the actors' talents and to see them out of costume, meaning she saw them more as "real people" than stars.
Of course there are a few exceptions, like when Klinedinst attended a convention dinner with the actors from the original series who played Scotty, Sulu and, most important, Chekov.
"I had such a crush on him when I was a kid," Klinedinst said. "I almost passed out when I got to meet him."
In the sixth grade, Klinedinst said she began writing stars and asking for photographs, garnering responses from the likes of the cast of "Room 222," a 1970s comedy-drama set in a school classroom, from Sonny and Cher, and from a set of twin boys who are now-forgotten teenage idols.
Some such autographs she assumes are not authentic. However, there is one she suspects -- and hopes -- is, a signed thank-you card from Klinedinst's hero, John Wayne, during a hospital stay in 1975.
When Barbra Streisand sent a photo unsigned, a sixth-grade Klinedinst forged Babs' signature, borrowing a "t" she liked in Ruth Buzzie's signature.
Despite her affinity for autographs, Klinedinst said she limited her requests.
"I always sent off to people I liked," she said.
Klinedinst's brushes with fame have also included winning several radio contests and making quite an impression on a soap star for whom she and her sister had adapted a song to perform for him.
Because it was more about the experience of meeting the stars than the autographs' value, Klinedinst said she didn't know how much her collection was worth.
"I know if I ever had to sell it, I'd be dead," she said jokingly.