THE STARS ARE SIGNING; GLENDALE MAN'S COLLECTION IS LABOR OF CINEMATIC LOVE.
When Ethel Barrymore was performing in a stage play in Tulsa, Okla., Joe Ackerman asked for her autograph. That was in 1932, and little did the young man know then that collecting celebrity autographs would become a lifelong pursuit.
``I've been a movie buff from the get-go,'' said Ackerman, now 83 and a Glendale resident. ``Maybe I got it from my mother, who played the piano at the local silent movie theater, and my father, who ran the projector.''
Ackerman has collected more than 6,000 autographs from movies stars, sports figures, and radio and TV personalities. He also has an impressive collection of more than 200 candid slide photographs of celebrities that he began snapping when he arrived in Hollywood in the early 1940s.
``The stars were more gracious back then. They would make time for you,'' Ackerman said. ``Of course, everything was in Hollywood back then, so they were more accessible.''
Ackerman and his wife, Marian, have presented their autograph and slide show, free of charge, to social and civic groups for the past 10 years. They were at the Moorpark Senior Center on Friday and more than 30 seniors enjoyed calling out the names of the stars as the slides were shown.
``I'm interested in classic movies, and this falls right in,'' said Ann Bayer, an audience member. ``It's a thrill to see all the stars.''
Some of Ackerman's star signatures are mounted with posters of the movies that made them famous. Beside a colorful poster of ``Gone With the Wind'' are the signatures of 18 cast members including Clarke Gable, Vivien Leigh, Olivia De Havilland and producer David O. Selznick.
``When I brought home Clark Gable's autograph, my wife just about fainted,'' Ackerman said. ``Gable was at a golf tournament in Beverly Hills. I asked if I could take his picture and get his autograph and he said sure.''
Ackerman and his wife travel with only a small portion of their collection that includes 105 movie posters with autographs. Among the posters with cast member signatures are ``Citizen Kane'' with Orson Wells, ``Casablanca'' with Humphrey Bogart and ``The Wizard of Oz'' with Judy Garland.
Born in Oklahoma, Ackerman always had a yen to come to California. He got his chance during World War II, when his asthma kept him stateside and he signed on to work at Lockheed.
``I would work at Lockheed during the day, and at night I would go out along Hollywood Boulevard to the theaters and collect autographs,'' he said.
Ackerman and his wife met on a blind date and have been married for 45 years. The Glendale couple has five grown children and 13 grandchildren.
The Ackermans still enjoy collecting autographs and would like to keep their collection together, perhaps finding a home for it in a museum or other public venue.
``I'm a collector. I'm not in it to make money until I need it,'' Ackerman said. ``The stars have been good to me, so I want to be nice and share my collection with everybody else.''
Photo: Autograph collector Joe Ackerman shows off a ``Gone With the Wind'' poster framed with the signatures of 18 cast members.
Eric Grigorian/Special to the Daily News
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Jul 26, 1999|
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