"Misty, Water-Colored Memory Merchants..."
The Toronto Globe and Mail recently discovered Ray and Sharon Courts' Hollywood Collectors Show, and left feeling sad. (Sorry to say, the article is now locked behind a pay-or-else firewall.)
I'll admit, the Courts shows used to leave me feeling sad, too. The sight (and sound) of Gil Gerard's Buck Rogers lady friend discussing an unhappy former marriage with an autograph seeker I presumed to be a total stranger was not a moment of uplift. Equally depressing was my own encounter with what I presumed to be an unnaturally happy Dana Plato.
Then I "met" Rerun. And I didn't get sad anymore.
Now, I didn't really "meet" Rerun. I saw Rerun at a magazine party in Manhattan. I was there because I'd written for the publication (and wanted the free food); Fred Berry was there as Rerun, from his beret to his suspenders, because, as it later dawned on me, he'd been hired by the publication. (I have no idea if he also wanted the free food.)
The party was retro-themed, with Grandmaster Flash as the deejay, and Berry as the professional mingler. While it initially struck me as, yes, sad that Berry was available for parties, it eventually struck me as impressive that Berry was available for parties. After all, no one's ever paid me to attend an event. (Please, no jokes about how many times I've been paid to stay away from an event. It's just too close to home...)
By the end of the night, I saw Berry as less of a former somebody, and more of a man whose business it was to remind people of their own former lives. While I don't doubt Berry, who died in 2003, would have preferred to be known as the biggest star in all the world, I also don't doubt that what he was was of value. His job as a memory merchant was, above all, an honest living.
So, buck up, Globe and Mail. The Hollywood Collectors Show isn't so sad. Or, at least, it's not any sadder than nostalgia is supposed to be.(Originally published by Joal Ryan on Aug. 8, 2008.)
c. Joal Ryan