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Men's Spring Fashion Issue | Metropolis / Snapshots
from the Center of the Universe

Tailor-Made Hollywood Classics

To Feel Like Cary Grant, See Anthony Gasbarri

April 07, 2002|MICHAEL T. JARVIS

The business card says it all: "Anthony Gasbarri of Rome. Custom Tailor to the Stars. Same location in Hollywood. Since 1961." In a musty Vine Street salon next to a pawnshop, Anthony Gasbarri creates handmade suits for Hollywood players and snappy dressers who like their clothes tailored the old way.

There's a tape measure around his neck, but it's mostly for show. Anthony Gasbarri of Rome doesn't measure his clients for suit sizes--the tape is for measuring the one piece of fabric he'll turn into a jacket with no center seam in back. "Like a fine sculptor, I craft each individual canvas by hand, cutting each piece to the anatomy, not the size of the customer," boasts the maestro, 75. For reference, he consults a 1932 anatomy treatise complete with skeletal diagrams.

"Nothing fits like a Gasbarri suit," says Mark Rosner, a screenwriter on "The Rock" and other films. Rosner got hooked after his first Gasbarri original. "I have a closet full of them. My wife said, 'You have to cut this out.' " Rosner also owns vintage Gasbarri: "I have his personal topcoat that he made for himself and which he talked me into buying," he says. "It's a double-breasted herringbone coat with a belt in back, from 1951 or '52. It's Clark Gable-style, right out of another era."

Gasbarri started as a tailor's apprentice at age 8 in his hometown of Pacentro, Italy.

"After World War II, I moved to Rome to finish my profession," he says. "I went to school but I didn't like it." He built a clientele among American diplomats who later helped him immigrate to America in 1958. At first, he worked in Georgetown, dressing "lots of people during the time of Eisenhower. I was very popular." He moved his family to California "for the Italian climate," and worked for tailor Albert Mariani of Beverly Hills on Rodeo Drive. "After two years I opened my shop here on Vine," Gasbarri says.

He quickly became sought after by Hollywood's elite, including film actress Mary Pickford, who he says sent him a bottle of Dom Perignon by limousine to show her gratitude for the suits Gasbarri created for her husband, Charles "Buddy" Rogers. Other smart dressers Gasbarri clothed include Guy Williams, Red Skelton and Aldo Ray. His favorite client is Kirk Douglas, who jokingly threatened to "send him back to Roma" if his suit didn't fit. Scenes from "Spartacus," Gasbarri's favorite film, are painted on the walls of his shop, which are lined with autographed photos of luminaries such as Bob Crane, John Saxon, Merv Griffin, Lee Majors, Marty Robbins and a clean-shaven Willie Nelson, circa 1963. Steve McQueen was another customer. "He takes my coat to London's Savile Row and asks for duplication," Gasbarri says of McQueen. "They told him they couldn't do it."

Actor David Starzyk believes that Gasbarri's suits have landed him roles. "When I walk into an audition, I'm usually the best-dressed guy in the room," says Starzyk, who has appeared on the TV shows "NYPD Blue" and "The Practice." A tailor on one TV set was so impressed with Gasbarri's workmanship that he suggested Starzyk buy 10 more suits. "I feel like Cary Grant in Gasbarri's suits," the actor says. "They don't make them like this anymore."

Gasbarri will tell you his handiwork is a bargain. "If you buy in Beverly Hills, it's $5,000 and up. From Gasbarri, it's $2,000 and up. American people need a good high quality [suit] at a good price."

His business comes mostly from regulars, but new customers receive a flier headed "A message from Gasbarri for gentiluomo," explaining how his work differs from mass-produced ready-mades. "Hollywood used to dictate fashion, but not in the last 25 years," he says. "You want to find a good tailor, go to the cemetery."

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