Valentines 2014 (Robert Wagner)

Last year I came into possession of a box of fan mail to Robert Wagner sent in 1957. It contained envelopes from all around the world, comprising about 150 envelopes with letters, about 250 envelopes only and about 30 envelopes with letters that had never been opened.

I decided to make my 2014 Valentines "Letters to Robert Wagner."

Each envelope seemed to be its own piece of art. The handwriting, the placement and layout of address, stamp and cancellation stamp varied widely from envelope to envelope. To this I added my own stamp that said "Timeless Love" – sometimes to the front of the envelope and sometimes to the back, depending on how it would interact or interfere with the original design. And then I sent them back around the world for Valentine's Day. The majority of them came from Argentina, but there were occasions I could send some back to their country of origin.

Those with letters were sometimes just a simple request for a photo and sometimes more. 

The letters came in all shapes and sizes, all different kinds of papers, including the above which was a simple piece of paper, typed on 2 sides, folded and sealed with the stamp on the back.

Having sent fan mail myself when I was a teenager, I completely empathize with these fans' expectations of a personal response.

The front of this letter is all business; the back tells the truth. 

Most of the letters seem to have been opened with a slicer, which also sometimes sliced the letter in half.

The above letter was sent from Berlin, addressed simply to "Mister Robert Wagner, Centfox/Hollywood." Despite being redirected from MGM, it got to him (his staff).

Even the typewritten letters have an incredible amount of personality.

 

The letters that were unopened were especially fascinating. I sent them with a note saying that they had never been opened and leaving it to the recipient to decide whether to open it or not.

There were two letters from Norway, from different people that had exactly the same text. Because they both mentioned the Norwegian weekly magazine, I wondered if the magazine had written a letter in English for people to copy and send.

Then I discovered 5 other letters (not shown here), again from Norway, again with all the same text (but different from the above). Could the 5 people all have known each other and written their letters together? A bit of a mystery. I sent all 5 letters to the same place: Pentagram in New York. 

I struggled at first with the fact that some of my valentine recipients would receive envelopes with letters, and some would only receive empty envelopes. But I found the envelopes so beautiful and their emptiness made them equally poignant. What did they contain? How much love did they reveal?

Below is one of my favourites, sent from France and including a coupon for return postage.

I wonder about the people who wrote these letters. If they're still alive, do they still care about Robert Wagner? Given that I still have a weak spot for the actors I once loved, my guess is yes.  

n.b. Robert Wagner's birthday is Feb. 10.