Gene Cernan 1999 -- Book Signing

at Novaspace Gallery

The Gene Cernan book signing at Novaspace was a gala event, held over two days, April 16 & 17, 1999 at our Tucson, AZ gallery. Although Tucson was the smallest city on the tour, Gene was anxious to come, as he has Tucson ties (he serves on the Board of Directors of UP WITH PEOPLE, founded in Tucson), and some old friends here. Arizona is also the home of artist Robert McCall who designed the Apollo 17 patch, and Ron Evans, the Apollo 17 command module pilot who passed away in 1991. Novaspace was also the only single venue to be afforded two full days of signing. In contrast to the Alan Bean booksigning held a few months before, this was a PRIVATE booksigning, not open to the public, just for our NOVASPACE customers. Most of the 300 or so in attendance were from outside Tucson, indeed from out-of-state. Mr. Cernan asked everyone who came up to have a book signed where they were from, (to start the conversation), and was continually astonished at the answers. Many came from Florida or the East Coast.

We encouraged Mr. Cernan to give a brief talk both days, as we had heard at other signings that he was a magnificent and powerful public speaker. He seemed at ease with the crowds, fielding questions, and explaining his motivations behind writing the book Last Man on the Moon.

Customer and sculptor Ron Shinkle drove to Tucson from the Ft. Worth area, bringing along a HUGE 1/44 scale Saturn V which stood 8 feet tall, which was placed to the right of Cernan as he signed books. and also a Gemini-Titan rocket to the same scale, which we set on the booksigning table next to Gene. Gene was amazed at the difference in size when you see them to scale together, and continually referred to it in his talks.

Several of our artists attended, including Chris Butler, who was signing his new print Apollo Dawn across from Captain Cernan, also brought along a new painting, depicting Cernan's view out the LM window as they approached the landing site of Apollo XVII, and Gene was so taken aback you could almost see his hand grab for the stick to ease the craft down. We framed and hung the painting behind Cernan's signing table. Artists Jim Scotti and Bill Hartmann were also in attendance.

As usual, we had a tent set up in front of the gallery, which held chairs, several tables for the food, two different ice sculptures on Friday and Saturday, surrounded by fresh shrimp at the base, along with our famous picture cakes, croissant sandwiches, wine, cheese, and veggies, cheesecake, raspberry-almond torts, chocolate pecan squares, cream puffs, and various other snacks and candies. Linda Wilson, who does our data entry, doubled as caterer, and puts down a huge spread of goodies. We also had telescopes set up on both Friday night and solar viewing on Saturday afternoon.

After Cernan's introductory talk, I took the mike to make a few other announcements (location of the bathroom, etc), and mentioned that artist Robert McCall and his wife Louise, would be arriving soon with Jan Evans, widow of Apollo 17 command module pilot, Ron Evans. Gene couldn't resist and grabbed the mike back: "Let me say something about that. Jan Evans always had a nickname for me. She called me 'mouth' because I was always talking. If she were here now she'd be yelling from the back 'shut up, mouth, and sign books!' Don't be alarmed if we trade insults or fight like cats and dogs. It's all in fun, I haven't seen her in many years, and I love her deeply." He then spoke quietly about his good friend Ron, and never understood how a Vietnam ace and a man who flew them to the moon could die suddenly in his sleep.

McCall, wife Louise and Jan Evans(mugging) (serious) arrived shortly thereafter. McCall was mobbed in the gallery after a short discourse with Cernan. We had ordered some extra 2001: A Space Odyssey posters and we finally sat Bob down at a table inside to sign more comfortably.

In contrast to the Alan Bean event, which had too many people, six hour lines, and a broken credit card machine, the event ran smoothly. Books were sold in advance, and the lines were metered, which worked well, and allowed time for customers to browse the gallery, look through our prints, schmooze with friends, or just pig out. Again we had complimentary photos taken of each person in line with Captain Cernan. Though Cernan was usually straight-faced in these photos, he saved his smiles for the children. He LOVES kids. Participants were sent prints of their booksigning, along with the negatives so they could make copies or enlargements.

We gave out several dozen door prizes, which included not only NOVASPACE gallery items, but signed first-day covers from Apollo XVII, signed Space shots trading cards from Gemini IX, and Apollo X and XVII, an Apollo XVII signed mission report, and a Apollo XVII signed commemorative decanter. Mr. Cernan was generous to sign the door prizes beforehand without hesitation.

Before and after the booksigning both days, Cernan spent hours autographing and personalizing hundreds of books and miscellaneous memorabilia for our mail order customers who couldn't make it to the booksigning. Our "bookkeeper" (really) Stef Greener kept track of all these, and sat beside Cernan to make sure the customers got their requests done without error.

Among the attendees were the Supercollectors, members of an astronaut autograph listserv, administered by Albuquerque's Jeremy Theoret, far left, BYU astronomer Mike Joner, Myself, and Alan Thompson, far right. Alan and wife Leslie came out from East Texas, asking to help us (both also came out for the Alan Bean booksigning), and we put Alan to work at Cernan's immediate left, opening books to the proper page, and Leslie maintained order in the line. (Both are teachers). We couldn't have done without them, and Alan and Cernan became fast friends. It was fun to see Alan in hog heaven.

All in all it went VERY smoothly, and I was happy for the customers, but glad it was over.
----Kim Poor, April 1999

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