Nicky Hilton struts quickly down Hollywood Boulevard on her way to the hot nightclub Mood. She's primped and surprisingly solo, except for a body guard and the horde of camera-ready paparazzi that follows her every move.
But then there are these other guys...
As she hustles towards the door, a few men walk up and ask for her autograph on a glossy 8 x 10 photo. Without stopping, she scribbles her name on one. They flip to another picture and keep asking for more. She barely responds, so her body guard pushes everyone away, and she makes her way into the club.
The autograph guys happily show off the results of their pursuit: The glossy picture of a naked Nicky crouching down in front of a stove has a big blue signature in the corner.
Within a week, that picture was up on eBay with a starting bid of $19.99; it sold for around $30.
Click here to see Nicky Hilton and autograph seekers
Welcome to the world of the professional autograph seeker. These (mostly) men are as prevalent as any paparazzi photographer, the kind that hangs around hot celeb-filled parties, nightclubs and restaurants. But unlike the paparazzi, they're not in it for the money shot -- they're looking for the money scribble.
To get anything worth anything, these men have to be ready to pounce on whoever's on the scene, so they often have a stack of photographs in their car. As soon as they find out who's in the party, they're ready to pursue with a picture for signing.
Click here to see autograph seekers look for more photos
This autographazzi is pretty shady. When we try to talk to one of the guys on the street, he won't give up any information, like how much he makes selling these autographs. Another actually gave us a card with the web address www.changeyourlife.com <http://www.changeyourlife.com>, an ACN network of get-rich-quick schemes.
What's surprising is how aggressive some of these guys can be, almost as aggressive as anyone wielding a camera. Many paparazzi have been sued, attacked by a fed-up celebrity, or even arrested. But the autographazzi get away with walking right up to the stars to get in their face, to hound them and aggressively beg for signatures. If they need to, they'll lie and say the picture is for a family member. Really, it's probably for eBay.
On most days, there are more than 50,000 pieces of autographed entertainment memorabilia on eBay, ranging from baseballs to guitar picks to photographs. A representative from the auction website told us that from September to November of this year, more than 34,000 pieces of "original autographed" memorabilia sold for an average of $30 per piece. That's a decent chunk of change for those dealing in volume.
What do the celebs think? Most know these guys are just out to make a buck off of their signature. Many stars refuse to sign autographs for this type of "fan," but others sign just to make them go away.
We recently saw Limp Bizkit front man Fred Durst getting asked for an autograph outside of Guy's, a nightclub in West Hollywood. The rocker insisted to the fan, "It's not worth anything, dude," so he didn't want to sign (though he eventually did). Then Durst discussed the validity of most of the pieces on eBay which are supposedly signed by him.
Click here to see Fred Durst and autograph seeker
We also saw Shannon Elizabeth refusing to sign more than one picture for someone she recognized as an autograph hunter who regularly approaches her. And Vin Diesel tells an autograph mob, "Do what you will these my friends...but I better see some donations to Hurricane relief."
The chances of that, my friend, are slim.
Click here to see Vin Diesel
Click here to see Shannon Elizabeth