Tettenhall resident and our very own – Wolverhampton West magazine distributor – Imre Tolgyesi Stanley has been showcasing his stellar selection of signed photographs of famous faces.
The formidable collection, which includes Neil Armstrong, Billy Wright and Frank Sinatra, tells the story of how accessible the rich and famous once were. Back before selfies with celebrities on the street, the pen was mightier; but, only if you knew exactly which one to use, as Imre reveals:
“The secret is to make them feel good. Write to them in a fountain pen.”
And while he may not be as famous as the faces contained within his collection, the retired day centre officer for Wolverhampton Social Services has an incredible story of his own.
Eight-year-old Imre and his mother escaped Soviet invasion of his native Hungary in 1956 (a fact later honoured in 2017 when Imre was awarded the Order of Vitez – the equivalent of a British knighthood – in a ceremony in Budapest) and it wasn’t long after settling in the Midlands and learning English that his motivation for writing to the stars began.
“I was just a humble person. I wanted to prove that everyone is approachable.
“I wrote a letter in 1973 to Gerald Ford congratulating him on his presidency. About two months later he wrote a lovely letter back to me with his autograph.”
After that Imre’s interest was unstoppable (“From that first one I thought, if I can get a reply from the biggest house in the world I can write to anybody!”) and he continued to write to other celebrities for over 20 years. His collection now boasts signed photos addressed personally to him – as well as the letters that accompanied them – including Mother Teresa, John Wayne and the Dalai Lama; Colonel Gaddafi and even Donald Trump.
He has no motivation to sell and hopes to protect the collection for future generations and pass them on to his family.