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FIRST PERSON

Right Name, Wrong Guy --and One Big Problem

December 03, 1996|GERI-ANN GALANTI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

I'm married to a famous movie actor--or at least that's what a lot of people think. Every day my husband receives several fan letters addressed to Donald Sutherland. That's my husband's name, but he's an American artist, not a Canadian actor.

We listed our telephone number in my name to avoid that confusion. But someone has seized upon my husband's name and address and published it in some directory for fans without checking. We do, after all, live in Los Angeles.

Our first fan letter arrived shortly after Donald Sutherland (the actor) won a Golden Globe award in March. Then, the next letter came, and the next.

I wrote back to one of the fans, explaining the mistake and asking where he had gotten our address. He said it was on a list that is published every six months and that he would inform the list maker of the error. I've been counting on that, but it has been nine months since the first letter, so I'll have to try again.

I thought of calling the post office, but that would be futile. There is no way they could distinguish the mail for Donald Sutherland the artist from that for Donald Sutherland the actor. And we can't leave letters unopened and mark them return to sender. My husband receives a lot of mail, so we must open each one to learn which Donald it is for. We have been saving the actor's mail should we learn where to send it.

I have learned something from this. I used to think fame was something to be envied. I don't any longer.

Although most of the letters include complimentary remarks about the actor's talent, every single letter asks him for something. One fan didn't bother with the niceties. The letter contained one sentence, bluntly demanding: "Send me an autographed picture."

Although some of the fan mail does reflect a bit of old-fashioned hero worship, the overwhelming impression is one of commercial motives. The writers often mention that they are "not professional collectors," just fans--while at the same time including several 3 x 5 cards for Sutherland's signature.

One writer asked for two cards, with "only original [this underlined] autographs." I'm not sure how much Donald Sutherland's autograph is worth, but his son Kiefer's is worth $40, according to an article I read.

*

Dear Mr. Sutherland,

Like millions, I'm a big fan of yours. Everyone loved you in "M*A*S*H." I also enjoyed you in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "The Puppet Master," and "Dr. Terror's House of Horror." If you would, I'd love to have an 8 x 10 autographed photo of you to hang in my den. My girlfriend would be thrilled to have one too!

Perhaps I am being too suspicious when I suspect the "girlfriend" of being an excuse to get an extra autographed picture to sell. Maybe if my husband's name were Tom Cruise or Antonio Banderas . . . or maybe I've just lived in L.A. too long.

*

Dear Donald,

My name is ___ and I sit on death row, an innocent man. After 12 years I won a new trial to prove this. While I wait, I write my favorite stars to collect their autographed pictures as a hobby. I have dozens of them, 8 x 10 color [glossy] if possible, and enjoy receiving them very much. May I have yours please? I think you're great! And it would be an honor to have one.

P.S. I am at the return address until _____. If mailed later, please do so at my public defender's office.

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