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Sci-Fi Shopping Spree

Movie and Television Buffs Spend Nearly $1 Million on Costumes, Items at Auction

August 01, 2003|Patricia Ward Biederman | Times Staff Writer

The ape suit went for $55,000. The chair that once sat on the bridge of the starship Enterprise fetched $22,500. And the body suit, made of genuine 1950s polyester and with the giant S on the chest, commanded $110,000.

It was that kind of sales day on Thursday as science-fiction fanatics showed up, logged on or called in to place their bids for the Profiles in History organization's auction in Beverly Hills. And let it be known that sci-fi enthusiasts make sports fans look like frugal nuns.

Collectively, close to $1 million was spent in a matter of five hours.

The biggest draw was one of two surviving costumes worn by television's Man of Steel, George Reeves. The buyer was an unidentified phone bidder.

But costumes and artifacts from television shows "Battlestar Galactica," "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" and others, including a few lots from the original "Star Trek," also moved briskly. As did memorabilia from the "Planet of the Apes," "Terminator" and "Alien" movies.

Northridge-based Lydia Marano, a small-press publisher of science fiction, fantasy and horror and co-owner of the online bookstore Dangerous Visions, had a theory about why people spend thousands of dollars on the flotsam and jetsam of classic sci-fi TV shows and movies.

"I think it's a way for people to collect history because even though it's a fantasy world, it's part of their history growing up, so it's fun," she said.

Marano, who collects sci-fi memorabilia, said she would buy "anything I could lay my hands on from 'Blade Runner' because it's such a seminal work."

An unidentified buyer paid $25,000 for the black suit worn by Sean Young's glamorous android in "Blade Runner," while a black-and-orange rubber pistol, brandished in the movie by Harrison Ford's Rick Deckard, sold for $17,000.

Profiles in History President Joseph Maddalena isn't surprised that a collector would pay $22,500 for the turquoise and black chair from the USS Enterprise's bridge. He said he believes collectors lust after artifacts from "Star Trek" and other shows because they watched them as children and fantasized that they were heroes in space.

Objects associated with the shows "remind people of a wonderful time in their lives," he said. "They fill some emotional crevice."

Among the biggest-ticket items in the sale were mounted costumes from "Planet of the Apes" and its sequels. An "ape-o-naut" space suit worn by Sal Mineo as the orangutan Dr. Milo in "Escape From the Planet of the Apes" was bid up to $55,000, as rival collectors battled over the phone.

Gene Craker, 43, came to the auction to find items for a Hollywood science-fiction and horror museum he hopes to open in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. An American Airlines flight attendant, he said he bankrolls his collecting with money made from investments.

"This stuff is better than gold," he said of Hollywood costumes, props and miniatures. "It's better than the stock market when it comes to appreciation."

He paid $1,000 for the dress uniform worn by Erin Gray in "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century": "I got a bargain on that one," he said.

Craker said collecting memorabilia is a way to guarantee its preservation.

But others said they collect because they must. "Once you're a collector, you're just addicted," said Angeleno Leonard Stanley. "It's like heroin or something. You can't stop."

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