Sunday, March 30, 2008

Avon calling (Storage Part One)

Tonight, on a very special episode of fan/collector/geek, I'm going to cross a very dangerous line.

The line at the door to my storage unit.

Many years ago, as I was starting to accumulate collectibles in my one bedroom apartment (good-sized, but still one bedroom).  I thought about getting a storage space.  On reflection, this seemed like a ridiculous luxury.  If I was going to spend money on a storage space, why not spend it on a larger apartment, with another room for my stuff?  So I pushed the idea aside.

And slowly, my place filled up.  First, stacks of boxes in the closet.  Then, boxes in front of my shelves.  Then - I filled my balcony with big plastic storage containers filled with collectibles.  Finally, I worked out if I pulled the couch out from the wall, I could stack a whole lot of boxes behind it, plus get a handy shelf to set things on while watching TV.  And, still I was getting more stuff.

It was about this time that I started to question the collecting urge.  Why was I buying all this stuff?  Why couldn't I let any of it go?  Why was I letting it take over my apartment?  And then something dawned on me.

If I got a storage space, I would have a bigger apartment.

This isn't quite the same has having a revelation that possessions were meaningless and giving them all up, but it was life changing just the same.  My stuff had become a quite literal burden in my everyday life, and I wanted to put an end to it.  So, I found a reasonably priced, secure 5 foot by 10 foot storage unit conveniently located halfway between my home and my office.  I bought a cart at Home Depot (be carefully asking them where the carts are: they'll keep telling you they're up front.  I said I wanted to buy one and he said they don't sell carts.  I said I found them on your website and he sent me to the farthest end of the store.  They weren't there, but It did stop me asking him annoying questions.  If all Home Depots are laid out the same, which they seem to be, you'll find the carts in a secret half aisle on the far right side of the store that you can't see from the front - no fooling!).   ...where was I?

Oh yes, so every morning I would load some boxes on the cart and drop them in the storage space on the way to work.  Soon, my apartment was relatively clutter free.  The balcony has a rack of cactus plants on it, plus a table and two chairs for enjoying the view.  Admittedly, I rarely use them, because they get filthy very quickly with freeway soot (the freeway is two blocks away), but it's the thought that counts.  And as you can see, the storage space was soon chock full of stuff and clutter, which is fine, because that's it's job.

I'll go more into how a simple storage space changed my life and my collecting soon, but for now let's look at one of the collectibles I keep there.  As a kid, my grandmother often gave me and my sister Avon items for Christmas and/or birthdays.  I imagine it was easy for her to get - maybe a friend of hers sold Avon - and now that I think about it, she pretty much knew she'd be getting something we didn't already have.  One year she gave me this "hot dog and bun comb and brush."  See the comb is the hot dog and the bun is the brush.  Cute.  This was a fine present; I was probably about 6-8 when I got this one, and I had more fun playing with it than a typical comb and brush.

What makes this interesting, though, is this isn't the one my grandma gave me.  I lost it piece by piece years ago, but when I saw this at a flea market in Los Angeles for (as I recall) five bucks, I couldn't resist buying it.  It reminds me of my childhood, it reminds me of my grandma... but now, it sits buried in my storage unit.  It's not on a shelf in my living room, its not displayed as a nostalgic/camp decoration by the bathroom sink, it's deep in a box in storage.

In fact, I'll probably see this photo I've taken for this blog on my computer much more than the comb/brush itself.  But still I'll keep it, because that intangible connection, knowing I have it even if it's where I can't see or touch it, is important.  It somehow keeps that memory of having it as a kid alive.  And that's what I find interesting; it must be a part of what makes me a collector: because having some things is better than just knowing they exist.  That's a very, very simple principle of collecting, but I think it's a good place to start.

Ah, maybe next time I see this in my storage space, I'll take it home and use it a few times.  For old times sake.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Speaking of Vincent Price...

...on March 5th, 1977 I met Vincent Price.  I know this because my Dad insisted I write the date on the bottom of the autograph he gave me.

Vincent Price was in Syracuse presenting his lecture "The Villains Still Pursue Me" and I wanted desperately to go.  Luckily, as I recall, my parents were not opposed to going themselves, and perhaps had some idea how distraught/impossible I'd be if I couldn't see him.  I was ten at the time, and typical for a kid in Syracuse then, I watched "Monster Movie Matinee" on channel 3 every Saturday, and loved old horror films.  I remember dressing up to go, and I remember my parents going with me.  I don't recall if my sisters were with us.  In any case, it was amazing to see one of my film idols in person speaking about his career.  That said, remember almost nothing about what he said that day, except that if you showed a man walking into a cobweb in a film, all the men in the audience would jump.  And, that he read a poem about the parts he played.

Afterwards, he took questions from the audience and I raised my hand.  I wanted to ask him who he had really enjoyed working with.  You see, I had the book "The Films of Boris Karloff" at home, and I wanted to hear Vincent say "Boris Karloff" so I'd feel smart.  (Of course he would, they'd made several films together and Boris seemed like a great guy.  I was a little kid, though, and not too close to the stage, so I didn't get called.

On the way out, though, my Dad knew where the artist's entrance was, and somehow we got inside.  Mr. Price was there walking through the office lobby section of the Civic Center on his way out of the theater to either his ride to his hotel or (the impression I had) a restaurant across the lobby.  He was with at least one other man and I was quite pleased that he looked up and smiled as he saw this eager little kid approaching.  (I had run up ahead of my folks to make sure I'd catch him).  I told him I was a big fan - an original sentiment - and held out the "Friends of the Zoo" flyer they were passing out on the way into the theater and he obligingly signed the quite perfect signature you see here.  Not a scrawl, you can actually read his name.  I then asked my question "Who have you really enjoyed working with?"  Surely he was going to say Boris Karloff.

Price paused thoughtfully (and a little theatrically) and said well, I really enjoyed....and then proceeded to list a bunch of people I'd never heard of.  Directors.  Producers.  "So and so was always a really pleasure to work with.  Oh, and some lady was a pleasure to perform with."  As he listed off these strangers I nodded appreciatively at each as if ever name was somehow giving me a little piece of vital information I needed.  In truth they meant nothing to me, and not one of them was Boris Karloff.

It was about this time that another kid ran up next to us.  If memory serves me correctly, he was the son of a co-worker of my Dad's who went along with us, about 8 years old.  That may just be a fabrication of my memory to explain my embarrassment, because the kid ran up to Price and said "Wow cool!  Look!  His teeth are like Dracula's!!"  And held his index fingers pointed down on either of his cheeks in the universal sign for "I've got fangs."

I kid you not.

Price looked down and snarled "Away, you beast!" And waved his hand dismissively.  I swear I remember that.  Price left with his friend/manager/host, I left with my folks, and I still have  the autograph.

This was probably my first autograph I got myself.  Being a fancollectorgeek, autographs are a big deal: at the very least, you hold something touched by greatness.  If it's personalized, it's proof you touched greatness.  Strong stuff.  I've never been very interested in buying autographs myself.  I've looked on Ebay and seen four different Tom Hanks photos sporting three different signatures - not good odds.  But I really do enjoy getting a photo, or book, or just a piece of paper signed by someone I admire who I've met.  

There are limits, though.  I've never harassed someone who wanted to get away for a signature. I was lucky enough to attend the Premiere of Star Trek: First Contact at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood.  Afterwards Jonathan Frakes, who both played Will Riker and Directed the film, was cornered in the lobby signing programs for fans.  He smiled genially to each person - and I could have easily joined that faceless mob - but then I saw that as he signed each program - he craned his neck up over the crowd, searching with a look of sheer desperation for Whoever was Supposed to Rescue Him.  (I think it was a she, and she was in the restroom).  

Frakes would have never remembered my face - given the unlikely chance I'd ever "meet" him again anyways - but I had no interest in being a part of that.  So when we come back to the next autograph from my collection, remember that no talent was harassed in the procurement of any signature.

(For those keeping score: my Vincent Price autograph is kept in a book of autographs that moves between a shelf about three below the one you see in my banner, in my living room, and my desk at work).

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Scooby Doo: An American Classic

Just a short entry tonight.  Our collectible of the day is this die cast metal Mystery Machine, which lives on top of a bookcase in my bedroom.  (That's the same bookcase the Dungeons & Dragons books are kept in, if you're keeping score).  

I watched Scooby Doo since I was a little kid, which would have been first run of the first series.  I don't know what it is about that set of characters that's so appealing, but they stand out head and shoulders above all the imitators who followed.  (I'm looking at YOU, Goober and the Ghost Chasers!).  Over the years I've followed the many different incarnations of the show, including the celebrity guest years, the very odd 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo (real ghosts, Vincent Price, and no Fred or Velma), the surprisingly amusing A Pup Named Scooby Doo (Fred always thinks it was done by Red Herring),  and the more recent direct to video films that led to What's New, Scooby Doo? which was personally very satisfying to this long-term, old school fan.
I got the Mystery Machine, I think when a model shop was having a fifty percent off sale.  It came with a little Shaggy and Scooby that are supposed to be posed as if washing the van, but I
 leave them jammed inside.  It looks better on its own.  

I'd say Scooby isn't one of my major interests, my bigger collections, but I have a fair number of action figures packed away in storage.  In the 90s when the Warner Brother Stores were in full swing, a lot of well done Scooby stuff started to come out.  Something about seeing the characters done so well made them impossible to resist buying, but the van is probably the only item I have out on display.  I'll keep an eye out around here and let you know if I'm wrong about that.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Who? James Who?

As previously mentioned, as a teen I got big into collecting James Bond.  And while I collected everything and anything I could find on the ultimate big screen agent, some of favorite items were those that dated from before the Bond movies were made.  Ian Fleming's first Bond book,  Casino Royale, was first published in 1953.  Doctor No, the first Bond movie, was released in 1962.  So there was almost a decade when Bond was really only known to the readers of lurid detective novels.  And apparently, before president John F. Kennedy happened to mention he liked the James Bond books, they weren't all that big of a splash in the U.S.  

One of the prizes of my Bond book collection is this paperback of the novel Moonraker, retitled "Too Hot To Handle," from 1956.  It's the first U.S. paperback of Moonraker and looks more
 like a traditional thriller (or even romance novel!) than how we see James Bond today (let alone in the 1979 "Star-Wars-was-big-so-put-Bond-in-space" film).  Research online suggests the title was changed because of a play named "Moonraker" that was in the U.S. at the time the book came out - and more interesting, suggests this edition is notable for having large passages rewritten for the American audience!  I may have to read this through someday to compare to the original.  Also note the tag line from the Associated Press: "...with blows below the belt the way Mickey Spillane delivers them!"  Ouch.

Sometime later - I don't recall when, I found a copy of Perma Books edition of "Diamonds Are Forever (the first US paperback, from 1957).  Much like the cover of "Too Hot To Handle" it features a man strangling a woman, though this time he obligingly uses a diamond necklace, to tie in to the story.  

So, I kind of got out of collecting Bond books in the early 90's.  I was no longer interested in buying new copies with different covers.  After coming to L.A. these books eventually found their way to a Girl Scout Cookies box on a high shelf in my closet, were they stayed safe and secure for many years.
  Until I decided to write this post about them, that is.  

Once I pulled them down and started doing a little research on the Perma Books, I found their 1956 release of "Live and Let Die" - again the first American paperback - on Ebay for Not Very
 Much At All.  So I bought it.  The cover is fantastically lurid and , unlike the other two, was unmistakably created for this book with a specific scene of Bond, Mr. Big, and Solitaire.

I thought my James Bond collecting was over, except for buying the new films when they come out on DVD.  Clearly one of the "perils" of digging into the stuff you used to collect is the possibility of reviving those old interests.  Oh well.  Live and let...learn?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Collectors begat collectors - Completists and Selectives

Part of the reason I started writing this blog was to examine the nature of collecting, of fandom, of geekdom.  What's the difference?  Can you be a fan without being a geek, and vice versa?  Why do collectors collect?

There seem to be a near endless number of answers to the last collection.  The simplest may be "because they like to."  Someone likes frogs, so they collect little ceramic frogs.  When they're out of town, it's something to look for in the gift shop.  And for birthdays or holidays, you have a head start on what to get them.  "Get that sweatshirt with the frog on it; Auntie Joanie will love it."  

Some people collect because they feel they're preserving history.  I'm kind of like this with some of the fast food items I collect from my childhood.  When I saw that the Carrols company didn't have much of a history on their web pages, I think it drove me to gather together Carrols restaurant stuff even more.  Like on some level I believe without my effort, the history would be lost.

A lot of guys I know collect to relive their childhood, too.  Myself included.  Most of the collectors I know have bought for themselves either 1) all the toys they used to have as a kid, or 2) all the toys they wanted as a kid.  Or, a bit of both.  
It might be more interesting to look at how people collect.  My parents are two different types of collectors, a completist and a selective.  These are my own terms, though I may have borrowed them from someone else's "taxonomy of collectors" that I read.  My Dad is a completist collector on Theodore Roosevelt.  Anything and everything that had to do with T.R. is fair game to him.  From Roosevelt's own original letters to magazine ads from the modern day that use T.R.s likeness to sell ketchup.  I remember as a kid that McDonald's had a game where the cards had presidents on them, and being delighted to get one of Teddy Roosevelt to pass on to my Dad.  He wrote a catalog of his collection and I beleive it said up front if a book said in its preface it had nothing to do with Teddy Roosevelt, then it belonged in the collection.  That can sound a little counterintuitive at first, but think about it.   By making the point of omitting the man, it has included him.
My Mom, on the other hand, has always collected dolls - but not all dolls, just ones she liked.  She didn't collect Barbie's because they were considered collectible, she collected "The Sunshine Family" because she liked them.  This of course led to the inevitable joke whenever a doll of Teddy Roosevelt turned up, "Whose collection does it go in?"  (I think my Dad usually won those; his completist TR would trump her selective doll any day... and would she even select a TR doll on her own?)
I grew up under both these influences, the synthesis of which led me to collect as a completist everything I was interested in.  Or so I thought.  I mean, I would get interested in, say, James Bond as a teenager, and gather together everything I could find - all the books, different copies of the books, movie posters, magazines, you name it.  But always, one of two things would eventually happen.  Either I lost interest in the thing I was collecting, and moved on to a new interest (forget James Bond - look at Indiana Jones!), or I would come across an item I just didn't want to buy that would end my completist drive.  When the James Bond Jr. cartoon started up in the 1980s, with books and toys, I thought maybe I didn't have to have EVERYTHING with Bond's name on it...
So, I've accumulated a number of different little intense collections.  It's rare that I ever got rid of something completely after collecting it, I'd just pack it away, and sometimes revisit it and pick it up again.  Writing this blog has led me to do this, too.  Up next on Monday I'll be sharing something I haven't collected in ages, but dusting them off to talk about here led me to make a new purchase just this last week.  

Does collecting ever get out of your blood?!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Before there was Fudgie the Whale, Before there was Cookie Puss

Back down here I shared one of my "very active" collections.  Here's another.  For the past few years, I've grown more and more interested in restaurants that I went to as a kid, that aren't really around for me anymore.  Some of them just went out of business long ago, and some were based more on the East Coast, and I left them behind when I moved to California in 1990.   It would be easy to list these all as one collection. "childhood eateries" or something like that, but they're all so distinct I'm going to put each one up separately.  Right now we'll look at an item from Carvel Ice Cream, the East Coast soft ice cream store I grew up with. 

It seems like a lot of displaced East Coasters in Los Angeles remember Carvel fondly - on HBO's series "Entourage" the boys from Queens have Carvel at a birthday party, and Patton Oswalt does a bit on Carvel on his "Feelin' Kinda Patton" album, where he describes Tom Carvel's self-narrated ads as sounding like "Tom Waits gargling hot asphalt."  If you heard him, you'd understand.  And Fudgie the Whale and Cookie Puss - the famous Carvel ice cream cakes- are often mentioned in pop culture, most recently (to my notice) in the last episode of The Office on NBC, where character Andy asks for and gets a Fudgie the Whale cake.  But almost completely forgotten today is a Carvel icon that predates them both:  Captain Carvel.

In 1973 Carvel  published issue 1 of "Carvel Comics," a book that could only be found in their stores.  The story inside is about a school field trip to a Carvel Ice Cream Store.   Leading the tour is Captain Carvel,  a tiny kid zooming around in a "Flying Saucer" ice cream sandwich (Normally one of my favorites).    They meet all the ice cream treats come to life (see cover) and explore all the many exciting places in a Carvel Store, like the walk-in freezer and the store room where the cups and ice cream sticks are stored.  The kids love every minute of it.  They also get some lessons the history of ice cream, and some information that we've forgotten here in the cold, stark future of the 21st century on the nutritional value of ice cream:

How could we, along the way to higher learning, forget that ice cream is a health food?  You have it here, in black and white, from an impartial source only interested in selling you as much ice cream as they can.  Hmm.

By issue two Captain Carvel has morphed into a completely different and more super-heroic form.  We'll take a look at him in a future post.

Well, there's very good news for all the displaced East Coasters who are hankering for a Fudgie the Whale cake:  Carvel ice cream stores have started popping up all over Los Angeles.  Pasadena and Las Vegas too.   I've been several times now, and the vanilla soft-serve with crunchies is as good as it was when I was a kid in New York.  The comic, by the way, is a brand new Ebay purchase, and will work its way onto my "childhood restaurants" shelf (which is partially visible in the banner that leads this blog).

Maybe they'll bring back Captain Carvel next?  A gritty "Dark Knight" version of him?


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Wanted: Cap-beer-cino

I think writing, or blogging, about The Big Bang Theory and going to a taping made me think about this item next: a genuine Buzz beer right from the set of The Drew Carey Show.

Back in 2004, I knew one of the prop guys on the show, and he invited me to go to see them shoot the third to last episode, "Love Sri Lankan Style." That episode aired Sept. 1 2004 according to, but as I recall it was taped much earlier than that. The show took about four and a half hours to tape - excruciatingly long - but it took even longer because at the end they reshot two scenes from an earlier episode. If you think it's hard to laugh at a joke the third or fourth time they do a scene, imagine if you don't know the context it's in at all, on top of that. But it was well worth it because afterwards I got to walk down on the set and visit my friend and look around all the sets that were still standard on the show - Drew's living room, back yard, and the Warsaw Pub. (The office had been done away with, I think, in one of the many format changes the show suffered from. Or maybe it was just packed up for this one, I don't know).

I think since the show was wrapping up in two more episodes, they didn't mind giving me a bottle of Buzz Beer, the beer Drew, Oswald, and Lewis bottled and distributed out of Drew's garage on the show. One of the other crew members was impressed they were handing out a full, unopened bottle rather than an empty one - and of course it remains unopened to this day. I was told they were using a brand of non-alcoholic beer, and there's a little plain gold circle sticker on the cap to cover the real product's name. If you click for a close-up of the photo, you can see it actually says it's bottled in Cleveland, Ohio - a detail they wanted to include, I suppose, in case they ever had a macro-close-up shot of a bottle on the show?

A couple other quick notes about the taping: they gave out really good pizza, and I won a Drew Carey shirt from the warm-up guy (there's always a comedian to entertain the audience inbetween takes) for a having a loud and convincing fake laugh on the second take of a scene. I still have the shirt, and the laugh.

Getting this Buzz did, actually, lead me to start a collection of Fictional beverages which has now grown to include a whopping 5 items. I don't know how many fictional beverages may actually exist (a contradiction of terms?) but if I see them and I like them, I will definitely buy them.

Buzz is proudly displayed on a shelf in the "dining room" end of my apartment, along with my other fictional beverages which I'll save for later posts. Close by though is one real beverage that I got that very night, Drew Carey Show bottled water. They passed it out as the evening dragged on and yes, I saved mine. I don't think you'll see many of these out there, though I'm sure several more went home over the years with other big fans. It's kind of collapsing in on itself. I guess that's what happens when you save bottled water for about four years? Well, if it ever looks like it's going to fold in on itself, or starts growing algae, I'll have to empty out that "Genuine Cuyahoga River Water." I'm not a big enough of a fancollectorgeek that I'd save it then!

(P.S. Cap-beer-cino, by the way, was the rival to Buzz beer that Ed Begley Jr. sold in a single episode of the Drew Carey show. And yes, I'd love to find a bottle of it!)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Striking Writers Interval

Returning to TV Monday the 17th is The Big Bang Theory, a CBS sitcom of interest to fan/collector/geeks, because it's about fan/collector/geeks.  The main characters, Sheldon and Leonard (TV geeks take pride if you notice the inside joke in their names) live in an apartment filled with science fiction posters, DVDs, framed comic books, and computers.  With their friends they watch Dr. Who and play Halo 3.  They also are genius physicists.  The story loosely centers around Leonard's interest in the pretty but non-genius girl across the hall Penny, a waitress at the Cheesecake Factory.  
Before the writer's strike interrupted the TV season back in November, only eight episodes of the show had aired.  In that time it quickly became a must-see show on Monday nights for me.  The characters are funny, interesting, and more rarely for a sitcom, their relationships grow and change.  They also tend to work in plenty of references for geeks, be they computer programmers or comic book collectors or even physicists.  I recommend it highly, and if you can't catch it Monday night at 8, you can watch it anytime here (see the full episodes on the right). If you're not familiar with the program, I recommend taking a look at the second episode, "The Big Bran Hypothesis."  Before the opening credits, you'll have seen the best of what the show is all about.  For the opening scene of the first episode after the pilot, that's pretty good, and in my opinion, the show has only gotten better.  Episodes are also available on iTunes.
Also, my good friend Jim Fanning has blogged about the show a couple times on his excellent (and personally inspirational) blog Tulgey Wood.  We also had the opportunity to attend the taping of the episode airing the 17th, and I have the feeling he's going to have something to say about it after the show airs.  (No pressure Jim!)  More excellent news, during the strike it secured a return for 9 more episodes this season and a full season this fall - so it must be making an impression at the network as well.
I've already managed to secure a collectible from the show.  During the weeks that the show was repeating and I was wanting some new connection with it, I searched Ebay and found
 the poster above.  Now, I work about two miles from Warner Brothers, I know people there, and my connection to get this poster was someone in Wisconsin who put it up for sale.  Go figure.  I have every intention of framing this poster, but for now, it remains rolled up in the tube I got it in, right next to my couch, waiting for me to measure it.  Rolled out here on my living room carpet and held in place by four non-related geeky items to photograph (Can you name them all?).
One further note - you can also download the theme song by Barenaked Ladies from Itunes for their magic price 99 cents.  It has a verse or two you don't hear on the show and is well worth it for fans.
Aside from recommending a great show to you, this is my first post that touches on a very interesting sub-genre of collectibles & fandom, which is the self-reflexive.  Comic books about comic collectors, TV shows about Role playing gamers, and movies about Star Trek fans have been on the uprise, and I've been fascinated with them all.  I'm not sure where it started - with William Shatner's "Get a Life sketch on Saturday Night Live?  With the Eltingville Science Fiction Fantasy Role Playing Horror Comic Book Club?  Or was it way back with Myron Victor, a cartoonist who lived in Metropolis and fought as Merryman in the Inferior Five?
In any case, on a weekly basis, I'll take a look at these here and see what these media are saying about themselves, and about the people who appreciate them most, the fancollectorgeeks.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Stars of page and screen (when movies and comics collide)


I hope to not make a habit out of finding my next blog topic in the obituaries.  I got word today that Dave Stevens, the creator of the Rocketeer, died this week of leukemia.  Dave was an amazing artist, with a very clear line and style that not only had a rich pul 30's feel to it, but also almost single-handedly reminded the early 80's that Betty Page was Very Hot (slightly risque link here).   If you're not familiar with Dave's original Rocketeer comic books, you should know that the part of "Jenny" in the movie Rocketeer was "Betty" in the comics, and the spitting image of the burlesque queen / pin-up model of the 1950's.  He released far too few Rocketeer comics - if I recall correctly, only one and a half stories.  I would have loved to see him put out many, many more.
I first heard of the Rocketeer about when I moved to Los Angeles in late 1990.  In the summer of '91 Disney's movie was released, and that whole first spring and summer out here I saw the huge marketing campaign unfold.    that great art-deco profile image was everywhere, sometimes with the simple promise "Summer 1991" underneath.  I honestly can't remember if I read the comics before or after the movie came out, but it was pretty close.

By the time June rolled around, I was dying to see the film.  I didn't even wait until the June 21st opening at the newly remodeled El Capitan theater, which would have felt very 1930's.  Two weeks before the opening there was a sneak preview at the Universal Studios Citywalk Theaters, and I went with a friend from college, Jason, who had also moved out here.  It was in a small theater (Universal was a 12-plex then, it's about 24 now) and that theater was packed.  I remember Henry Winkler was there with his kid, sitting on the far side of the theater from us.  And, of course the movie was fantastic.

So what does this have to do with collecting?  Of course, I have collected Rocketeer.  The movie poster up top there is in my living room, right over my computer, next to some of those cels I mentioned in the Tony the Tiger post below.  It's one of only 3 one-sheets I have up at
 home, though I have collected probably a couple hundred of them.  It is by all appearances a normal US movie poster, but I never once saw it up in theaters back then.  It looks more like one of the VHS video boxes than anything else.

I also have the "Bulldog Cafe" cookie jar on my desk at work.  Back in 1991, I coveted this in the Golden Apple Comics Store that was near my home, on fashionable Melrose Avenue.  (This was right before Melrose Place ever aired, too).  But newly arrived in L.A., rationing my
 ramen noodles for the week, the price of 50 dollars U.S. was unthinkably prohibitive.  I looked at it each time I went to pick up my comics, but could never quite justify it.  Recently, I visited Golden Apple in their new location - a little smaller, a little further down Melrose in the less-trendy section, but as awesome a store as ever.  They had a Rocketeer cookie jar without the box in a glass case, and I asked the price.  100 bucks.  Ryan there told me it had belonged to his Dad, Bill Leibowitz, who owned and managed the store until he passed away in late 2004.  I told him my story about coveting it back when I couldn't afford it, and he thought
his mom would like that it went to someone who had pleasant memories of both it and the store from back when Bill was there.

So, I have several more Rocketeer collectibles that I plan on sharing in this blog in the future, but here's the real kicker:  I've only ever seen the movie ONCE.  That one time, back in 1991, two weeks before it was even in wide release.  I don't own the DVD, and I haven't read the comics since I first bought them - I think they're deep in my storage unit (there's the subject of many future posts!).  Yet the poster is right above me now, and the cookie jar is at my left hand at work.  (For those keeping track at home, the mini-figs in post 1 are high at my right elbow).  

I just think that's kind of funny.  Like I'm more interested in the merchandise than the source.

I'll have to go and take a look at the film again soon.

Thanks, Dave.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

No, really. They're great.

So this represents what is likely my most active collection: animation cels. About ten years ago I started picking up cels from cereal commercials and old cartoon shows. At first, I found them pretty much only at the San Diego Comic Con. Later, of course, Ebay became the place to go.
This is my latest cel, just bought it online a week ago, just got it in the mail.  Usually, I only buy cels that have a certain importance for me - like from cartoons or ads I myself watched as a kid.  Black & White Tony here is from before my time, but he was just too cool to pass up.  And, a steal at only ten bucks with no other bidders.
One thing that may discourage investor/collectors from this
 purchase is that the cel is Tony's head only. and the rest of the image is a color copy of the rest of the setup - Tony's body, the Frosted Flakes (Frosties!) cereal box, and Tony Jr. were probably all separate cels, and the table a painted background.  But considering all that would cost several hundred dollars (or possibly more) for a piece that essentially looks the same once framed - I'm ok with my 10 dollars purchase.  (Note that in person, the color of Tony's head and body match very closely, unlike in the scan here).
One rule I have about the animation I buy is that it pretty much all has to go up on the wall.  The kitchen - dining room - office end of my apartment is pretty much filled with cels like this, all nicely framed.  This means that I either have to end my collection in only one or two more purchases, or move to a bigger place.  Hmm.

Monday, March 10, 2008

PSA for M and Ms

Every Star Trek fan-slash-gambler knows that in Las Vegas, you have to visit the Hilton to experience Star Trek come to life here in the measly 21st century.  (the first time I typed that sentence I typed "23rd" unconsciously, truly showing my inner geek.  Sigh).  But do all those M&M collectors out there know they have a similar mecca in sin city?  Probably.  But I'm guessing any right minded readers out there don't.  The M&M World store is four stories filled with every merchandise item you could possibly conceive of - and about 700 more.
Crossover fans will want to look out for the M&M Star Wars toys, ornaments, and I can't imagine how much more.  And for convenience
 sake, it's right next door to a four-story Coca Cola collectors store.  So if they ever come out
 with Coke flavored M&Ms, they'll have to duke it out to see whose floor space it occupies.
I'm not an M&M or Coke collector, but I have to admit that when I get here, I can't resist buying large bags of monochromatic M&Ms (black, grey, & white... say, how do three colors mean "monochromatic?").  They have dozens of different colors and, 
maybe it's just because they cost about four times as much as in the local grocery store, but I do believe they taste better from there.
Finally, they do have an item everyone should probably own, collector or not:  M&M boxers.  Nuff said.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Tables (dinner and random monsters)

Gary Gygax passed away this week.  That name may not mean a lot to you, but I was a fourteen year old high school freshman in 1980, and that's about when I started playing the creation he's best known for:  Dungeons & Dragons.  D&D was a big deal to geeks in the early 80s, and I continued to play it and other role playing games up to the 90s.  In fact, after I moved to Los Angeles in late 1990, I started playing a modern horror RPG called Chill with a bunch of guys I went to college with.
The three main books of 2nd edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons were the Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide, and Monsters Manual.  The two books that first came out in 1980 - Fiend Folio and Deities & Demigods - are still "new" books in my mind and never became quite as valid as those 
established before I came to the game.  At some point, when I realized I wasn't likely to play AD&D again, I sold or traded those books away.  And some time later, I bought copies of all of them again.  I keep them - and all the role playing games I still have - in a low shelf in the bookcase opposite the foot of my bed.  I see them every day as I'm getting ready for work, and even though I haven't needed to check a "Summoned monsters" table in a long time, I'm glad to have them there.  "Role playing games" is essentially a defunct collection for me - but if I happened to see some old adventure modules I always wanted at a garage sale for a good price, I'd probably still buy them today.  Also, I still collect and read Dork Tower and Knights of the Dinner Table - comic books about gamers - so even if I'm not playing, AD&D still has an effect on what I'm collecting today.

Thanks Gary.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Saga Begins

So, finally I'm here.  As a lifelong collector I've developed an awful lot of interests and collected a lot of interesting stuff, and it seemed like time to start examining what I'm doing.  Why do we collect?  What's the difference between a fan and a geek?  We'll see.
So the plan is, to three times a week post an image either of something I've got, or something I've observed out in the world, and comment on it.  I'm not sure where this will go, but I want to build a list of every different type of thing I've ever collected.
Up first - just because I happened to have the photo handy on my computer right now - are a whole bunch of Marvel mini-figs.  I really got into these for awhile, particularly Spider-man characters.  There's Gwen Stacy and even Spider-man 2099 in the back row!  These little guys are great, but I just sort of stopped buying them.  They still occupy a couple little clear shelves on my desk at work.
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