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So SoCal / Metropolis

What Are You Collecting?

Viva Lost Vegas

July 15, 2001|Leslee Komaiko

Comedian Louie Anderson was drawn to "odd things, antiques and collectibles" at a young age. Growing up in St. Paul, Minn., he frequently accompanied his mother to garage sales and flea markets. Over the years, the Beverly Hills resident has collected maps, globes, old diaries and Stickley furniture. He is most passionate, however, about his assemblage of celebrity ephemera. "I'm a big fan of Hollywood and celebrity," he says. "But I'm kind of surprised I'm a celebrity."

About three years ago, Anderson acquired a set of Jackie Gleason's golf clubs for $7,500 through Startifacts, a Las Vegas-based company. Each club has "The Great One" etched in the metal. Weekend duffer Anderson prefers them to his Callaway set. "I enjoy the fact that he sliced the same way I do." Anderson also owns one of George Burns' bow ties ("a performance one," he says), as well as Burns' Academy of Television Arts & Sciences card. Framed checks written by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball hang in his office. The former was written on Jan. 31, 1955, in the amount of $4.71, to the Southern California Gas Co., the latter Dec. 6, 1958, for $1,000 cash.

A couple of years ago, Anderson almost snagged Elvis' signed American Express card at auction. "I saw it as a beautiful piece of artwork," he muses. "I bid, I think, $30,000. I heard the guy from 'Northern Exposure,' Rob Morrow, paid $55,000 or $60,000. Even today I regret not getting it."

Anderson did receive a consolation prize in the mail a few weeks later. James Comisar, a Beverly Hills collector and collectibles broker, heard about the Elvis loss and sent Anderson Liberace's AAA card. "Liberace invented Vegas in a sense--how extravagant he was," Anderson says. "And Vegas made me able to live oftentimes." He proudly carries the card in his wallet.

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