Michael Collins 2004 -- Custom Signing
at Novaspace Gallery
Michael Collins came to Novaspace for his first-ever signing session March 19-21, 2004. The public response was overwhelming, with nearly 800 items to sign. Despite a high base price, many folks obviously took advantage of the rare opportunity to obtain an authentic signature from this heretofore reclusive Apollo 11 astronaut.
Like most Apollo astronauts, the "Right Stuff" was immediately evident. Collins is possibly the most fit and trim we'd ever seen for a man of 73. Tanned from his twice a week fishing junkets, he sadly admitted to being "deaf as a post" though it really wasn't that bad. One had to speak clearly as we do with other folks that age, especially astronauts who have been around loud aircraft noise most of their lives.
Mike Collins doesn't quite understand the fuss over his rare appearances, as he was only with NASA six years out of an exemplary life. A true Renaissance man, after the first moon landing, he became an Under Secretary of State, then Director of the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum, the most visited museum in the world, is a gourmet cook, and now an artist/photographer.
His unique art is not space oriented, but a reflection of the wildlife near the glades of his Florida home. Photography, watercolor, and combinations of both. A rather unique, soft style, mysterious, yet recognizable. Novaspace will offer giclee editions of his work soon.
After introductions and some small talk, we set about to signing books, which made up a large part of the total. Collins confessed he wasn't used to signing "Michael." Preferring "Mike" or simply "M.", but still signed "Michael," per our request, with varying degrees of success, when he did a good one, he would say "There's the Michael!", or conversely "there goes the Michael again". He says about six years ago, he began having trouble with small up and down strokes in his handwriting, such as the "I" in "Michael" or the "n" in "and" but attributes it to old age. "Burnt-out synapses" he says.
Collins is admittedly fussy about inscriptions, preferring not to have "words put in my mouth" which is why he writes his own books without any assistance from professional authors, very confident of his own skills in literature and English. All of which made the signing go much smoother and quicker, with few errors, enabling us to get through the piles of goods.
We had an unexpected amount of completion items (Collins' signature completing an Apollo 11 set), and saw a LOT of Armstrong signatures. Well over 200. A few were suspect, but most looked good to our eye.
The first night we gathered for dinner at a nearby steakhouse. Collins ordered the salmon and his customary gin martini. We had lunch catered at the gallery the next day with the full gallery staff and guest Eddie Braun and son Decklan. Eddie is a well-known Hollywood stuntman who is eager to steer his 6-year old into something else less dangerous. He manages to set up meetings with astronauts, the President, Bill Gates and the like. He is a most entertaining fellow with a lot of stories to tell. His gift to Collins was a very rare bottle of wine.
Apollo 12's Alan Bean called the gallery for some advice on an art matter, and we told him Michael Collins was here doing a signing. We took a break from signing, and the two spoke together on the phone. Collins took a shine to one of Alan's originals at in the gallery, and told Alan how much he liked it.
We finished up and went to dinner with the full crew and spouses at a Mexican restaurant. Chips, salsa, margaritas and conversation lasted into the night.
General Collins kept saying how impressed he was with our gallery, the crew, our preparation and professionality, which we love to hear, as it bodes well for a return and hopefully some good word of mouth to other astronauts.