Each February since 2005 Marian Bantjes has sent out handmade Valentine’s gifts. This year, she posted a series of rather unusual letters – ones originally sent to the actor Robert Wagner in the late 1950s…
Two letters turned up at CR this week, postmarked ‘Canada’. Inside both were envelopes containing other letters; both of them were addressed to Robert Wagner. These had postmarks from Santa Fe in Argentina and Mandaluyong in the Philippines and were dated – four days apart in fact – June 1957. What was going on?
After turning the letter around and studying the envelope things became a bit clearer: a red “Timeless Love” was stamped on the paper and “Marian” was handwritten alongside. The stamp, I realised, was in the shape of a fan.
Over the years, artist and designer Bantjes’ Valentine’s Day efforts have included sending out artworks printed on ‘glassine’ (2005); making 150 hand-drawn hearts (2007) and 300 names made out of a heart-shaped alphabet (2008). In 2009 she mailed out ‘found’ fragments of hand-written love letters; the following year it was used Christmas cards laser-cut into intricate, lace-like hearts.
As unconventional as this year’s approach was, it did get me thinking. Had these letters ever reached the actor, who at the time they’d been sent had just appeared in The True Story of Jesse James (he was 26 then). Or had the letters at least reached someone who looked after his fan mail? (One has an officious ‘Not at MGM Studios’ stamp on it). If so, did the senders – Viviana and Conchita – ever receive their signed photos?
That we had two letters, posted from opposite sides of the world, made me think that someone who worked for him had kept them.
Twitter confirmed that the actor was the link in Bantjes’ latest project: there were Instagrams and Twitpics of letters from Germany and South Africa, each one sent to Wagner. Scrolling the tweets also made me think how relatively easy it was to send a message to someone famous these days. Do people even still write letters to film stars?
This is the 10th year Bantjes has been sending out her Valentine’s gifts; Wagner’s 84th birthday was February 10. Coincidence? Only the sender can say. Either way, it was a nice surprise to receive a hand-written letter – a very rare thing these days. Even if the letter wasn’t originally meant for me.