With his larger-than-life roles in The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur, Charlton Heston became identified with Biblical epics more than most actors. The Hollywood legend made over 100 films over a sixty year career, winning the 1959 Best Actor Oscar for his title role in Ben Hur – a role originally turned down by Marlon Brando, Burt Lancaster, and Rock Hudson.
Born John Charles Carter, ‘Chuck’ (as most called him, except his wife of 64 years who always used the moniker ‘Charlie’) chose his stage name from the surname of his mother (Charlton) and his stepfathers surname (Heston).
In 1996 he made a flying stop tour of New Zealand’s three main cities to promote his autobiography In The Arena. I found out late that he would be signing copies at Whitcoulls in central Christchurch for 30 minutes.
The book didn’t interest me, but Chuck’s siggy did. I went to the local public library, flicked through a few more publications and found the iconic image Charlton as Moses in The Ten Commandments and quickly sketched it on an A4 sheet of paper. In my haste I wrote his name as ‘Charllton’.
Now to get it signed, in person, without buying a copy of the book looked unlikely, so I needed some assistance from the big man above… not in the biblical sense, the Whitcoulls store manager, whose office was situated above the store. I did try and ask a shop assistant if she could get Charlton to sign it, but she referred me to the boss. Fair enough. Nothing to lose. I put my request to him, he said he would mention it to the minders, and if ‘Moses’ wanted to sign and had the time, so be it. It was in the lap of the gods.
In due course, Charlton arrived, took up his position, signed copies for the crowded congregation and headed to the door and my holding position. I wasn’t alone. Non-buying ‘graphers had gathered. Moses moved quickly, but I managed to stop him with the sketch. He looked at it, turned it sideways, took out his pen and corrected the spelling. Oops. He turned it back and signed it, then into the car and away.
Got him. Next time, remember one of the Ten Commandments – thou shalt spell the celeb’s name correctly.