6 Book Signings That Went Awry

Sara D. Davis/Getty Images
Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

When authors and publishers are high on the commercial potential of a new book, they’re often willing to invest the time and expense necessary to arrange for in-person signings at bookstores, conventions, or other events. Fans can get a (fleeting) chance to interact with their favorite writer, and writers get a reasonable chance of developing early-stage carpal tunnel.

Unfortunately, not all of these meet-and-greets go smoothly. Take a look at six times book lovers and authors got more than they bargained for.

1. THE PALTROW INCIDENT // CHRISTINA OXENBERG

Despite a literally royal lineage—her mother is Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia—author Christina Oxenberg (Royal Blue) was feeling something other than revered during a 2013 book signing at the East Hampton Library. In this multi-writer event, Oxenberg was seated next to Gwyneth Paltrow, who was publicizing a recipe collection titled It’s All Good. The problem, as Oxenberg later noted in a blog post, was that the celebrity of Paltrow totally consumed her immediate vicinity, with fans of the actress entombing Oxenberg’s table and blocking her from the view of passersby. When Oxenberg went to get something to eat, Paltrow’s bodyguards blocked her from returning to her seat. Instead, she crawled under the table and admitted to making "a plate of miniature sloppy hamburgers, stinky steak sandwiches, and the like and hauled it back to my piece of table" in an attempt to annoy her neighbor.

2. THE INK ATTACK // VAL MCDERMID

Author Val McDermid photographed during a public event
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Scottish crime writer Val McDermid was giving a lecture at Sunderland University in 2013 when she noticed a peculiar woman in the audience. The woman was wearing a wig and glasses, a fairly obvious and clumsy disguise. When McDermid segued into signing books for the crowd moments later, the woman approached the author and asked her to sign a copy of her 1995 nonfiction book, A Suitable Job for a Woman. After McDermid complied, the fan produced a bottle of ink and tossed it at McDermid. At a hearing in which she was found guilty of assault, the woman—identified as Sandra Botham—appeared dismayed at a paragraph in the book that described a person named Sandra as being shaped “like the Michelin Man.” Botham asserted McDermid was referring to her, despite the fact the two had never met.

3. THE SPIT CRITIQUE // JANE FONDA

In 2005, noted actress/fitness icon/activist Jane Fonda released her autobiography, My Life So Far. In it, she details her life and career up and through her public denouncement of the Vietnam War in the early 1970s. The latter apparently didn’t sit well with a Kansas City man, who waited patiently in line during a signing so he could have the opportunity to hawk chewing tobacco in Fonda’s face when his turn came. After being charged with disorderly conduct, the man—a 54-year-old Vietnam veteran named Michael Smith—told the press that he didn’t regret the incident and labeled Fonda a “traitor.” The man was hauled off; Fonda continued to sign books for those remaining in line.

4. A FUR-RIOUS REACTION // KELLY ROWLAND

Singer Kelly Rowland
Rich Fury/Getty Images for VH1

Former Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland published a parenthood memoir titled Whoa, Baby in 2017. Signing the book in Ridgewood, New Jersey, Rowland was confronted by several animal activists who had pretended to be fans in order to enter the store. Once inside, they produced signs and began chanting “Fur trade, death trade,” insisting Rowland “has blood on her hands.” Their ire was directed at the fact that Rowland had been photographed in the past wearing fur clothing. After some awkward discussion between Rowland and her associates, the protesters were escorted out. Singer Patti LaBelle experienced a similar incident while she was promoting Desserts LaBelle at a Barnes and Noble in New York.

5. THE LESSER-KNOWN ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT // MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

In 1958, civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. was signing copies of his book, Stride Toward Freedom, in the shoe section of a Harlem department store when a woman approached. After she confirmed the man was indeed King, she produced an eight-inch letter opener and plunged it into his chest. Surgery saved King’s life, though doctors feared that if he had so much as sneezed, he might have died—the weapon's edge had settled on his aorta. While in the hospital, he told a reporter that his attacker, Izola Curry, was in need of mental help. “I’m not angry at her,” he added. Curry was committed to mental and assisted living institutions before her death in 2015.

6. THE FLYING TOMATO // SARAH PALIN

Sarah Palin signs her memoir
Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin proved to be a divisive presence during the height of her notoriety in 2009, when she published a book titled Going Rogue. As she signed copies at Minnesota’s Mall of America, a man positioned himself on a balcony near her table. When the moment seemed right, he began lobbing tomatoes in her direction. Instead of hitting Palin, he managed to splatter the vegetable on a security officer instead. Busy autographing books, Palin didn’t even notice the airborne food—she had to be told about it later. The attacker, 33-year-old Jeremy Paul Olson, was arrested. Police discovered additional tomatoes on his person.

This $49 Video Game Design Course Will Teach You Everything From Coding to Digital Art Skills

EvgeniyShkolenko/iStock via Getty Images
EvgeniyShkolenko/iStock via Getty Images

If you spend the bulk of your free time playing video games and want to elevate your hobby into a career, you can take advantage of the School of Game Design’s lifetime membership, which is currently on sale for just $49. You can jump into your education as a beginner, or at any other skill level, to learn what you need to know about game development, design, coding, and artistry skills.

Gaming is a competitive industry, and understanding just programming or just artistry isn’t enough to land a job. The School of Game Design’s lifetime membership is set up to educate you in both fields so your resume and work can stand out.

The lifetime membership that’s currently discounted is intended to allow you to learn at your own pace so you don’t burn out, which would be pretty difficult to do because the lessons have you building advanced games in just your first few hours of learning. The remote classes will train you with step-by-step, hands-on projects that more than 50,000 other students around the world can vouch for.

Once you’ve nailed the basics, the lifetime membership provides unlimited access to thousands of dollars' worth of royalty-free game art and textures to use in your 2D or 3D designs. Support from instructors and professionals with over 16 years of game industry experience will guide you from start to finish, where you’ll be equipped to land a job doing something you truly love.

Earn money doing what you love with an education from the School of Game Design’s lifetime membership, currently discounted at $49.

 

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11 Fascinating Facts About Tamagotchi

Tamagotchi is the toy that launched a thousand digital pet competitors.
Tamagotchi is the toy that launched a thousand digital pet competitors.
Chesnot/Getty Images News

They blooped and beeped and ate, played, and pooped, and, for ‘90s kids, the egg-shaped Tamagotchi toys were magic. They taught the responsibility of tending to a “pet,” even though their shrill sounds were annoying to parents and teachers and school administrators. Nearly-real funerals were held for expired Tamagotchi, and they’ve even been immortalized in a museum (of sorts). Here are 11 things you should know about the keychain toy that was once stashed in every kid’s backpack.

1. The idea for the Tamagotchi came from a female office worker at Bandai.

Aki Maita was a 30-year-old “office lady” at the Japanese toy company Bandai when inspiration struck. She wanted to create a pet for kids—one that wouldn't bark or meow, make a mess in the house, or lead to large vet bills, according to Culture Trip. Maita took her idea to Akihiro Yokoi, a toy designer at another company, and the duo came up with a name and backstory for their toy: Tamagotchis were aliens, and their egg served as protection from the Earth’s atmosphere. They gave prototype Tamagotchis to high school girls in Shibuya, and tweaked and honed the design of the toy based on their feedback.

2. The name Tamagotchi is a blend of two Japanese words.

The name Tamagotchi is a mashup between the Japanese words tamago and tomodachi, or egg and friend, according to Culture Trip. (Other sources have the name meaning "cute little egg" or "loveable egg.")

3. Tamagotchis were released in Japan in 1996.

A picture of a tamagotchi toy.
Tamagotchis came from a faraway planet called "Planet Tamagotchi."
Museum Rotterdam, Wikimedia Commons//CC BY-SA 3.0

Bandai released the Tamagotchi in Japan in November 1996. The tiny plastic keychain egg was equipped with a monochrome LCD screen that contained a “digital pet,” which hatched from an egg and grew quickly from there—one day for a Tamagotchi was equivalent to one year for a human. Their owners used three buttons to feed, discipline, play with, give medicine to, and clean up after their digital pet. It would make its demands known at all hours of the day through bloops and bleeps, and owners would have to feed it or bathe it or entertain it.

Owners that successfully raised their Tamagotchi to adulthood would get one of seven characters, depending on how they'd raised it; owners that were less attentive faced a sadder scenario. “Leave one unattended for a few hours and you'll return to find that it has pooped on the floor or, worse, died,” Wired wrote. The digital pets would eventually die of old age at around the 28-day mark, and owners could start fresh with a new Tamagotchi.

4. Tamagotchis were an immediate hit.

The toys were a huge success—4 million units were reportedly sold in Japan during their first four months on shelves. By 1997, Tamagotchis had made their way to the United States. They sold for $17.99, or around $29 in today's dollars. One (adult) reviewer noted that while he was "drawn in by [the Tamagotchi's] cleverness," after several days with the toy, "the thrill faded quickly. I'm betting the Tamagotchi will be the Pet Rock of the 1990s—overwhelmingly popular for a few months, and then abandoned in the fickle rush to some even cuter toy."

The toy was, in fact, overwhelmingly popular: By June 1997, 10 million of the toys had been shipped around the world. And according to a 2017 NME article, a whopping 82 million Tamagotchi had been sold since their release into the market in 1997.

5. Aki Maita and Akihiro Yokoi won an award for inventing the Tamagotchi.

In 1997, the duo won an Ig Nobel Prize in economics, a satiric prize that’s nonetheless presented by Nobel laureates at Harvard, for "diverting millions of person-hours of work into the husbandry of virtual pets" by creating the Tamagotchi.

6. Tamagotchis weren't popular with teachers.

Some who grew up with Tamagotchi remember sneaking the toys into school in their book bags. The toys were eventually banned in some schools because they were too distracting and, in some cases, upsetting for students. In a 1997 Baltimore Sun article titled “The Tamagotchi Generation,” Andrew Ratner wrote that the principal at his son’s elementary school sent out a memo forbidding the toys “because some pupils got so despondent after their Tamagotchis died that they needed consoling, even care from the school nurse.”

7. One pet cemetery served as a burial ground for expired Tamagotchi.

Terry Squires set aside a small portion of his pet cemetery in southern England for dead Tamagotchi. He told CNN in 1998 that he had performed burials for Tamagotchi owners from Germany, Switzerland, France, the United States, and Canada, all of whom ostensibly shipped their dead by postal mail. CNN noted that "After the Tamagotchis are placed in their coffins, they are buried as mourners look on, their final resting places topped with flowers."

8. There were many copycat Tamagotchi.

The success of the Tamagotchi resulted in both spin-offs and copycat toys, leading PC Mag to dub the late ’90s “The Golden Age of Virtual Pets.” There was the Digimon, a Tamagotchi spin-off by Bandai that featured monsters and was marketed to boys. (There were also Tamagotchi video games.) And in 1997, Tiger Electronics launched Giga Pets, which featured real animals (and, later, dinosaurs and fictional pets from TV shows). According to PC Mag, Giga Pets were very popular in the United States but “never held the same mystique as the original Tamagotchi units.” Toymaker Playmates's Nano Pets were also a huge success, though PC Mag noted they were “some of the least satisfying to take care of."

9. Rare Tamagotchis can be worth a lot of money.

According to Business Insider, most vintage Tamagotchis won't fetch big bucks on the secondary market. (On eBay, most are priced at around $50.) The exception are rare editions like “Yasashii Blue” and “Tamagotchi Ocean,” which go for $300 to $450 on eBay. As Complex notes, "There were over 40 versions (lines) of Tamagotchi released, and each line featured a variety of colors and variations ... yours would have to be one of the rarest models to be worth the effort of resale."

10. A new generation of Tamagotchis were released in 2017 for the toy's 20th anniversary.

The 2017 re-release of the Tamagotchi in its packaging.
Bandai came to the aid of nostalgic '90s kids when it re-released a version of the original Tamagotchis for the toy's 20th anniversary.
Chesnot/Getty Images

In November 2017, Bandai released a 20th anniversary Tamagotchi that, according to a press release [PDF], was "a first-of-its-kind-anywhere exact replica of the original Tamagotchi handheld digital pet launched ... in 1996." However, as The Verge reported, the toys weren't an exact replica: "They're about half the size, the LCD display is square rather than rectangle, and those helpful icons on the top and bottom of the screen seem to be gone now." In 2019, new Tamagotchis were released; they were larger than the originals, featured full-color displays, and retailed for $60.

11. The original Tamagotchi’s sound has been immortalized in a virtual museum.

The Museum of Endangered Sounds is a website that seeks to immortalize the digital sounds that become extinct as we hurtle through the evolution of technology. “The crackle of a dial-up modem. The metallic clack of a 3.5-inch floppy slotting into a Macintosh disk drive. The squeal of the newborn Tamagotchi. They are vintage sounds that no oldies station is ever going to touch,” The Washington Post wrote in a 2012 profile of the museum. So, yes, the sound of that little Tamagotchi is forever preserved, should it someday, very sadly, cease to exist completely.