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20Jun

Two Hitlers and a Marilyn by Adam Andrusier review – memoir of a driven autograph hunter

Andrusier’s book puts a singular spin on the cult of celebrity and its allure for a suburban boy in the 1980s

The obsessiveness – the downright creepiness – of the collector is amusingly skewered in this memoir of rueful self-absorption. In the 1980s, long before selfies, autographs were the accepted means of stealing a celebrity’s soul and hunters seldom came more tenacious than young Adam Andrusier. A nice Jewish boy from Pinner, he first catches the scent of his habit on learning that his best friend’s neighbour is Ronnie Barker. Knocking at his door, they are answered by a lady who turns them away, though Adam spots the man himself in the hallway before the door closes: “He didn’t look famous at all.”

He has better luck when, on holiday in France, he spots Big Daddy in the hotel swimming pool; after careful stalking, he nabs his prey with paper and pen: who cares if the wrestler’s real name is Shirley Crabtree? “I’d managed to puncture a hole between our universe and the parallel one where all the celebrities lived.” From that moment, there’s no stopping him. In a way he was born to it. His father, Adrian, sold life insurance, but his passions were collecting books on the Holocaust and rare postcards of lost synagogues. He takes Adam to his first ever dealers’ fair, where a jaded old pro tells the boy that most of his present collection is “secretarial”, ie, not signed by the stars themselves. A hard lesson for the fledgling collector, but he learns from it and by the time he’s trading autographs professionally he has an eye for spotting fakes (“if the writing was too slow, if it looked flat or lifeless”).

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