YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Page 2 / News, Trends, Gossip and Stuff To Do | OUT

His Home Is a Museum Just Waiting to Happen


Here is the Southern California Living section's decorating tip of the day: Why not brighten a nook or cranny of your living room with, say, a life-size mannequin of Bert Lahr dressed as the Cowardly Lion?

That would be totally au courant, given the big cat's return to the big screen in "The Wizard of Oz" revival. Of course, you'll have to have a spare $1 million, according to the lion's owner, James Comisar, who recently had the iconic costume appraised by Butterfield & Butterfield.

"It took 21 of us two years to restore him," Comisar says of his refreshingly quiet roommate. "The hide was preserved at the L.A. County Museum of Art. I mean, the same hands that worked on Picasso worked on the Cowardly Lion, because I believe to pop culture, he's every bit as important."

And besides, he has more hair.

Here in the land of wild style, Comisar has a unique interpretation of Beverly Hills chic, which you might call middle-period private museum. He literally houses (and warehouses) the largest collection of television memorabilia in private hands, which rivals that of the Smithsonian's.

And don't even think about breaking in. We are sitting on a couch in Comisar's living room, watching the TV freak's favorite show--alternating shots of the various entries into his humble apartment.

"That's my 10 hidden cameras. I've hidden cameras inside, outside, everywhere. I have a $100,000 security system."

And how big is that television?

"Is it always size with you people?"

Down, boy. Anyway, atop Comisar's very large TV is a large, droopy H.R. Pufnstuf head that reminds him of his childhood as a fat kid glued to the tube.

"Pufnstuf was like our Howdy Doody," the 33-year-old Comisar says dreamily of his purchase. "I spent like $50,000 in 20 minutes. We were the biggest buyers that day. There was Michael Jackson, Steven Spielberg and Comisar, and I think I definitely spent more than Steven."

Here's another difference: Our guess is that Comisar, who scouts out Hollywood memorabilia for rich collectors, won't be eating out any time soon. He forks out $1,500 a year just for spider web maintenance in his home office-horror memorabilia room. And please don't use the four-letter word electric bill in his presence. His climate-controlled warehouse is kept at 65 degrees and 55% humidity, 24 hours a day.

"Everything is monitored every four minutes. So if NASA was storing my artifacts, they couldn't do it with more precision." Are we getting the picture of someone who's very particular? Forgive us, James, but it's the public's right to know that you fold your toilet paper roll into a point, just like the Four Seasons Hotel.

Comisar says it takes that kind of commitment to keep intact the foam, glue, spit and polish that have gone into the TV props and costumes that outfit our tackiest dreams. But he has yet to find a partner as in love with his brood as he is, who could help him publicly display the 5,000-piece Comisar Collection, as he calls it.

"If I wanted to look the other way, I could have this stuff displayed all over the country, but it would not be dignified, and they'd be falling apart and they'd be schlepped to shopping malls."

So as Comisar waits for the right co-host to help him showcase his Wonder Woman and Fred Munster costumes, there's no place like home.

As long as it's set at 68 degrees.

And dusted twice a day.

Irene Lacher's Out & About column runs Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Page 2.

Los Angeles Times Articles