The Autograph Hound

Anyone who's anyone is on Art Kean's wall.

Hoping for a glimpse of a celebrity in town?  Try the Mobil Station.  There are 80 of them hanging there now.  Their autographed photos are carefully framed in neat rows on the walls of Art Kean's Mobil station on the corner of South Ave. and Morse Court.

Kean, 61, is an enthusiastic raconteur, happy to share the story behind every one of the pictures.  He starts with the wall over the cash register.

"That's the premier wall," he says, pointing to a gallery that includes Hillary Rodham Clinton, Presidents Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Tom Brokaw, Phil Donahue, Tim Russert, Maria Bartaromo as well as a good selection of New Canaan residents.

"My good friend is Brian Williams from Channel 4 news.  He buys his fuel here. Harry Connick, Jr., he comes here all the time.  Third would be Glen Beck, he comes here.  Next one is Paul Simon.  Fills up Tuesday to Friday. He comes in once in a while with his Porsche.  Calls me Arty.  That's Garfunkel's name," Kean says.

It's easy to understand how he gets the locals' autographs, but what about some of those others?

"I know these big shots, different people," Kean says, "I get the pictures, then I call them up and I say, 'I need some autographs'.  They get them signed and send them to me. I'm supposed to be getting Barack Obama, but there's a delay.  I think he forgot. I'm waiting for Tony Blair."

Kean started his collection in the '80s, going to baseball autograph conventions and collecting balls and photographs. "Mostly Yankees. I threw a few Mets up there to make them happy," Kean says. "NO RED SOX," he adds with emphasis.

Kean started working at the station 37 years ago, and bought it two years later, when oil companies were forced to divest themselves of owned and operated stations.

"That's Raleigh Warner," Kean says, pointing to a picture on the premier wall. "He was the CEO of Mobil.  He said, 'you want this station?  You want it?' He went in back and called headquarters.  He came out and said, 'you've been good.  You can have it.' I can't tell you what I paid for it. Giuliani's coming in."

Kean's daughter, Marie, 29, and son, Art, 32, work at the station with their father.  Kean's prized possession is a picture of Marie with Yankee manager Billy Martin, taken when his daughter was four years old. 

 "There's Yogi Berra, he's a doll," Kean says. "The nasty one was Reggie Jackson. He signed it on the bottom in the dirt where it was dark."

"Really nasty," Marie agrees. "Willie Nelson's coming."

Kean isn't interested in selling his collection. "I don't want to sell anything.  I just want to add to it," he said.  "I got the Catfish Hunter pictures over there.  A guy offers me $2,000 cash to sell them.  Big wad of Benjamins.  No way."

"You can't sell them," Marie says, "They're mine.

A number of the featured celebrities have stopped by the station.  Kean said Montel Williams comes in once a month and buys a Diet Pepsi.  Sue Simmons stopped by to see her picture on the wall.  Ann Coulter comes in all the time according to Kean.

"I met Indra Nooyi, the CEO of Pepsi Cola, through a guy in town," Kean said pointing to her picture. "I said I need her autograph.  One weekend she came up here and she came in.  She told the guys she stopped by to see Arty".

"I'm waiting for Hank Aaron."

Kean says he's going to retire in four years.  When he does, he'll give the station to his children.  He's planning on writing a book. "I'm going to call it "The Life of a Mobil Dealer," Kean said.  "And then I'll do a book signing.  I'll be the one giving the autographs."


shortpants August 09, 2010 at 03:47 PM
Great story...what a character
Eva Levine August 09, 2010 at 06:31 PM
What a fun piece. I'll have to go in and check it out!
Pepper August 09, 2010 at 06:39 PM
Really enjoyed this.....thanks! LH
Wolf Moore Jr August 11, 2010 at 02:09 PM
So much for a little privacy. You go in for gas and the guy knows your life story and tells it to the world.
maria faucher December 31, 2010 at 08:01 PM
Don't be so jealous... it kills


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