Being a non-celebrity is perfectly fine with me. I get uncomfortable when people start paying attention to me. One of my favorite poems is Emily Dickenson’s “I’m Nobody—Who Are You?” The way I remember the poem is not quite the way she wrote it, but I like my version better:
I’m nobody, who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
How dreary to be somebody,
How public, like a frog,
To croak away the livelong day
To an admiring bog.
Starting about 18 months ago, there was a spate of documentaries on Ted Bundy, and for some reason many of the documentarians wanted to interview me. I have never turned down an invitation to talk about one of my cases, so I got a good bit of face time on some of the documentaries. This stood in stark contrast to the news coverage of the time and the early documentaries that came out on Bundy in the 1980’s. At that time the Lake City case was virtually ignored by the media. People would ask me if I was in any of those documentaries, and I would tell them that if they paid close attention, they might catch a glimpse of the back of my head in a courtroom scene or two.
Now, however, things were different. My main agenda for appearing on these documentaries was to counter the pop culture narrative that Ted Bundy was the second coming of Professor Moriarty. I tried hard to spread the news that Ted Bundy was nothing but a garden variety dirtbag who happened to have a pretty face, the gift of gab, and a slightly above average IQ.
I failed, but there was an unintended consequence of appearing on these documentaries--I had become a movie star! Whoopee! I even had a page on the IMDb! In case you missed the irony, I’m being sarcastic. I mentioned earlier that I get uncomfortable when too much attention is paid to me. I became very uncomfortable with one aspect of this newly acquired attention. People started sending me pictures of Ted Bundy and asking for my autograph on them.
When I got the first letter, I sat on it for several weeks trying to decide whether to ignore it. I finally decided that the cover letter seemed sincere, so I signed a couple of pictures of wanted posters and booking photos. I stopped short at signing pictures of just Ted Bundy. Answering that letter didn’t open a floodgate of letters seeking autographs, but I’d estimate that I got about one letter per month after that. Always there were booking photos and wanted posters, and always there were photos of just Bundy. I would sign the booking photos and wanted posters and send them back with a cover letter explaining my refusal to sign a photo of just Bundy. One of the photos was a picture of him standing in open court grinning like a mule eating briars. I’d rather have my fingernails ripped out with rusty pliers than sign something like that!
Feeling guilty for my refusal to sign all the pictures, I began to enclose a 4x6 photo of Bundy taken at the Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler the day after he got the death penalty in our case. My father was the Institutional Inspector at RMC back in 1980, and he got the photo for me. I’d sign that photo and explain its significance and say I’d enclosed it to make up for not signing all the proffered photos. Here's the photo:
I occasionally run my name on Google, Bing, and a couple of other search engines just to see if anyone out there is libeling me, and that’s how I discovered I was on the IMDb. Over the years I’ve found some incredibly asinine things written about me, most of them knee slappingly funny. Tonight, however, I saw something that made me angry.
Somebody had sold one of the wanted posters that I autographed on ebay for $499.99. There was a promise that the wanted poster would be accompanied by a certificate of authenticity attesting that I personally signed the poster in front of a representative of the seller. The representative must have been hiding behind the curtain in my home office when I signed it. I’m not sure how he got into the house through the locked door without being detected by our security system. [I’m being sarcastic again.]
I’m not sure whether I ought to feel sympathy for the person who paid almost $500 for an autograph that he could have gotten for the price of sending me a letter containing a postpaid envelope. I feel like he was hoodwinked worse than I was. But it’s hard to generate sympathy for anybody who could be dumb enough to pay that much money for the signature of a non-celebrity like me on the picture of a dirtbag like Ted Bundy.
As George W. Bush once tried (and failed) to say, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” I am not signing any more wanted posters or booking photos of Ted Bundy. In the future, anyone sending me photos of that nature to be signed will have them returned unsigned. Just in case they really want my autograph for themselves rather than to sell on ebay, I will send them an autographed picture of the visual aid we used during final argument.