A Sad Story of Lust and Loss
I don't feel as if I'm a typical Beatles fan. Although I remain dumbly amazed at the phenomenon that occurred and continually delighted by the music that was made, I have no interest in idolizing the participants. When people automatically assume that I'll get squishy at the sight of, say, George Harrison's ant farm, I try mightily to cloak my indignant reaction. I'm uncomfortable with Beatle-worship because I think we were all (individual Beatles especially) caught up in something that was greater than the sum of its parts. Each Beatle's relatively mundane solo career has only served to validate this idea-- but, hey, there's no insult intended; they were only human.
When I was a little kid, almost anything could appear amazing to me. Music, colors, textures and smells captivated me at unpredictable times and became a significant part of what passes today as my personality. Luckily for me, the Beatles arrived during this period. When a magic time inevitably comes to an end, it's as if your house has burned down. I've spent a decent portion of my adult life unconsciously sifting through the rubble, straining to discover an uncharred piece of that magic stuff.
Because I'm a student of (and a junkie for) that serendipitous whatever-it-was, I'll think nothing of spending several hundred dollars on rare Beatles outtakes, but usually I recoil and save my dough when it comes to accumulating memorabilia that deifies the Fabs.
In October, 1993, my wife and I visited a record shop in Islington during one of our sorta-annual trips to England (she accommodates me with quiet patience as I pathetically troll for retro-thrills). There, a gent behind the counter produced the item that would entice me into temporarily swallowing my revulsion at the "Oh My God, HE Touched This!" mentality: a nicely preserved copy of Beatles For Sale, complete with the large, handsome and totally individual signatures of George, John, Ringo and Paul, in that order. And nearly affordable at 1200 Pounds Sterling.
I resisted the prize's pull and left the shop, but was haunted by visions of the LP and its sensual allure. Sensing my rapturous pain, Karen showed mercy and said she'd buy it as my Christmas present.
No thanks, I replied.
The next day, of course, we rushed back to the shop and gobbled it up. Clean. Simple. Deadly. VISA.
It seemed to have an energy of its own as I cradled it under my arm. I knew it was legitimate (yes, despite my excitement, I had asked the proprietor for proof) because it was accompanied by this auction receipt from Christie's:
Not daring to risk packing my precious cargo away in our luggage as we flew back to California, I dutifully held it by my side during the entire journey.
One evening a few days after shaking off the jet lag, I lazily began studying the LP and the Christie's receipt. It occurred to me that a mere receipt didn't actually verify that the autographs were real. I was curious to discover if Christie's knew that their paperwork was being used as de facto proof of authenticity. So more out of idle curiosity than suspicion, I faxed the receipt to Christie's along with a photo of the LP cover and a note asking if the receipt did, in their eyes, certify that my new prize was bona fide.
Then I went to bed.
At 8:00 a.m. the following morning, I watched my fax machine give birth to this letter:
Through my shock and disappointment, I couldn't help but be impressed with Mr. Edwards' efficiency . During the few short hours I'd slumbered, he had summoned a quorum of his most prestigious experts, nailed this insidious forgery five ways and found time to compose and fax an entirely coherent letter to me about it. Not too shabby.
Blood pressure rising, I immediately got on the phone to the gentleman who sold me the piece. He did seem rather suspicious... of me! The original broker of the piece, he indignantly recited, was a person who had brought in many verifiably rare items to his shop and others in the past. (I shuddered, thinking of all the other folks who'd been similarly duped and seduced by the forger's unwitting and credible accomplice, this shopkeeper.) A brief Hitchcockian whiff of paranoia possessed me as I imagined this whole thing somehow being turned around on me. A setup! Intentionally carrying contraband across international boundaries! I'm innocent!
Reason prevailed, however, after I faxed him the letter from Christie's. We agreed to swap the LP for a refund to my VISA account. (For some reason, I declared its return shipping value as $1000, which caused the shopkeeper to have to pay serious duty on the nearly worthless thing. He undoubtedly thought I was exacting my revenge, but I was really just being a big dope.)
About a week later, I called again to inquire about the state of my refund and the shopkeeper gave me the news: the Fab Forger had been nabbed! Sauntering into the shop with a load o' "autographed" Rolling Stones albums, he had been collared by the bobbies after a clandestine phone call.
Now I seriously doubt that the kind shopkeeper phoned all his prior customers to spread the news about their newly devalued booty. So I suggest that if you ever find yourself enraptured by a similar collector's spell, make sure the object of your affection is authenticated before your deal is consummated. There are people who do that sort of thing for a living and can supply you with a certificate of authenticity.
Somewhere in England, at this moment, I imagine a black-bearded, black-hearted, scowling pirate banging his tin cup in rage against the bars of his cell as he curses his unknown adversary, the clatter nearly audible from tourist boats floating down the Thames outside his dungeon window.
So when your grandchildren invariably quiz you about the great man who finally put the Fab Forger in the clink, tell 'em it was me! It was ME! HAHAHAHA! Y'know, it's all about "he who laughs last." Look, I'm laughing last! HA HA HA HA!
And, if you're interested, I know a place where you can get a killer deal on a certain used ant farm.
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