My friend and partner, Joe Freck, owns and operates an automotive art company in Gainesville, Florida and decided he would like to publish an edition of racing prints to be signed by Sir Stirling Moss (actually, Stirling wasn’t yet Sir Stirling at the time) and called me to make a deal. Stirling and wife Susie maintain a condo in South Florida and usually spend time there both in January and again in August before scurrying on to Monterey for Steve Earle’s historic race weekend. The timing and logistics looked good, Joe and I made a deal and we set up a signing at the Moss’ winter home.
I decided it was time for a road trip by car and, even though it’s over 1600 miles from Madison to Aventura, I can usually drive it in two days, the second day with the top down and the wind in my face. I arrived the day before Joe and artist Roger Warrick were due to arrive to do the signing, spent an enjoyable evening with Susie and Stirling and then cleared the decks to sign some 850 prints the next morning. Joe and Roger appeared right on time; we set up shop at the dinning table, surrounded by signed photos of Stirling’s contemporary drivers and got to work.
Joe and Roger immediately fell in love with Susie and were entranced by Stirling’s easy charm (he signs prints like Picasso painted – bare chest with a gold chain, a pair of shorts and a steady line of chatter about everything under the sun from racing to politics). They moved the prints from one pile to another, Stirling chatted and signed and Susie provided more conversation and refreshments as the morning flew by. Just out of curiosity and because I hadn’t assigned myself any difficult chores, I timed the signing session and found that Stirling had signed all 850 prints is just under four hours. We bundled things up, bid goodbye to Joe and Roger and adjourned to the pool for the remainder of the day.
About a month later Joe Freck again called and wanted to do a similar signing with Phil Hill, my very first client in this agency endeavor. We agreed to do the signing at a hotel connected to the Orlando airport and Phil and I met up at Chicago Midway to fly together to Orlando. On the flight I noticed that Phil managed to commandeer a triple bank of seats and stretched out to sleep the trip away. As usual, I was squeezed in between two huge people and sat up the whole trip. When we alighted and were getting a snack, I asked Phil how he managed to control the three seats and give himself a place to stretch out. “It’s simple,” he said, “I sit and look up the aisle as the other passengers come on and make eye contact. Once they do, I roll my eyes way up into my head, the passenger thinks I must be nuts and no one wants to sit in my row!” I soon found out for myself it works, as I look even crazier than Phil when I do it.
We did the print signing in Orlando, with Phil reciting The Lion what et Albert, a lengthy comic poem that Phil learned years ago as a child and recited with a Cockney accent, all the while signing his name to 850 prints. On the trip down I had mentioned to Phil that I had recently been over to Stirling’s with Roger and Joe to do a similar gig and Phil had casually inquired as to how long it took Stirling to do the 850 units.
As Phil finished up the last signature, he looked at me to ask how long it had taken. I told him and then he asked again as to how long it had taken Stirling to do the same number. When informed he had beaten Stirling by about fifteen minutes, he smiled and said, “You’ll be sure to mention that to Stirling the next time you talk, won’t you?” Indeed, I made a point of doing just that in the next week or two and said, “I guess Phil beat you, didn’t he?”
Stirling’s reply was right to the point, as he dismissed Phil’s victory, “Shorter name!”
The competitive spark never dies with these guys.
– Donn Gurney