Bryan Ulrich: Signature Guy
In 2002, Bryan Ulrich hid in a closet during a Michael Jackson press conference. He managed to get his photograph taken with the late star, and despite being subsequently ejected from the building, their meeting began a relationship that would continue until Jackson's death in 2009.
Ulrich began his obsession with celebrity as a teenager when he would collect signed baseball and hockey cards from sports stars. He later moved into the world of Hollywood and rock 'n' roll (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bowie, Paul Newman et al) and by 2009, had turned his collecting into a full-time career, showcased online under the name The Signature Library.
Here, AnOther speaks to Ulrich about his dealings with Jackson and roller-skating with Brad Pitt.
What’s your most interesting story?
A friend of mine came to visit me in LA, so I wanted to show her all the Oscar parties and took her on a whirlwind tour of the LA scene during Oscar weekend. On that same night, a friend of mine – who is a paparazzi – got a call. He got tips telling him Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were going to be at some roller rink in Glendale. He asked me if I could come down and try to sneak in and take a picture with them. We were able to sneak in. We didn’t even know what we were sneaking into. We just went inside and it turned out to be the rink had been rented for John C. Reilly’s private birthday party. We laced up and started roller-skating around with Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston and a few other famous people that were there. I raced Brad down the roller rink and at the end of the night, the two of us took a picture with him. We got Jennifer Aniston to take the photo.
Can you tell us a little about your relationship with Michael Jackson?
People didn’t really care about Michael Jackson, at least in North America. So he was much easier to get to in the last few years. To get access to him was just incredible. Some people say I took advantage of Michael, but you can’t take advantage of someone whose consent you’re receiving.
At that time, I befriended Sly Stone. I met Sly and told him that Michael Jackson was in town. Sly had mentioned that he’d love for me to pass a letter on to Michael. I told [Michael’s security guard] I worked for Sly as his personal assistant and that he had a letter and I know Michael adored Sly. So I gave this letter to Michael’s people and that just gave me credibility because they knew I worked with another musician. At times they would take care of me, if you want to say that. I could give them a bunch of albums and they’d make sure Michael signed them for me. It was a good relationship. I’d always follow up with them and choose to abide by their rules. If Michael was not feeling well or didn’t want to be followed around that day, they would communicate that to whoever was there, even the paparazzi. Everyone kind of worked with each other.
Michael really enjoyed all these people being around. So much so that he invited us all – when I say ‘us’, I mean his legion of fans from all over the world that would come to sit outside his house in Holmby Hills – into rehearsal one day in Burbank, in Center Staging Studios. He gave a speech to all of us. We got to watch him rehearse. Not many performers at all would ever do that. Especially someone of that magnitude.
I continued to meet him and every time I would meet him, I would bring him gifts. I would do research about the stuff that he really enjoyed. He loved string music. He loved orchestra. I would search out a vintage, original pressing vinyl of this stuff and give that to him. Michael himself was a huge collector. He collected all kinds of things from The Wizard of Oz memorabilia to musical stuff – even his own memorabilia. He loved his own stuff. Sometimes I would give him twenty photos for him to sign – he would ask to keep half of them because he loved the pictures. He did that often with me. One time I brought him an original promotional poster for Bad. It was a really vintage, hard to find poster and Michael loved it. He literally begged me to borrow it for his daughter, Paris’s birthday party. It was in April, like a week away. He promised to sign it after the party and give it back to me. Of course he did – that was the kind of person he was.
From October of ’08, I spent five days a week with him – the last time I met him was in the first week of June, a few weeks before he passed away. That was the last time. I was actually in New York when he passed away. It was all very surreal when it happened. The last thing I had him sign was a Thriller jacket.
Originally published on Another