Last night, I watched this wonderful movie, House of Versace, on Lifetime Television for women and gay men. Raquel Welch was in it, and I love Raquel Welch. She is 73 and still hotter than any of these ho-bags on screen today – male or female. I know she has had work done, but it is good work, and her wigs are phenomenal. Anyway, I could talk about Raquel and her magnificent bosoms all day, but this is not a “Rack Report.” Do I watch too much Fashion Police or what?
While watching this intriguing movie that sucked me in for two hours of drama and high fashion along with coke snorting and cigarette smoking, a commercial came on for a new reality series called My Collection Obsession. Usually, reality shows don’t hit home with me because I am not a housewife, hair dresser, drunk Italian whore, duck hunter, redneck toddler in a tiara, or Alaskan truck driver. I also have never been arrested or needed to be scared straight. Try as much as you will, you will never scare me straight.
I do collect things, and when I do, it becomes an obsession for a period of time. This has been going on since I can remember. I started with tadpoles. Forgive me. I was just six years old at the time. I had bowls of them in my room until my mother threw them all out.
In my early teens, I started collecting autographed photos. I had Johnny Carson, Joan Rivers, Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Vicki Lawrence, Steve and Eydie, Joan Collins, Bob Hope, Gerald Ford … Gerald Ford? How the hell did he get in there? It wasn’t enough that I collected them; I framed them and put them on the walls of my bedroom.
Now, Stern family, seriously? You couldn’t figure me out then?
Anyway, by framing them and decorating with them, I began my purposeful collecting. That is I don’t collect things I cannot use. If it doesn’t work, I don’t want it.
When I discovered online shopping and shoes in Sasquatch size, I started collecting shoes, but unlike Carrie Bradshaw, I actually wear them. It may take a few years to get around to my fourteenth pair of black Chuck Taylors, but I will. Trust me.
As you know from my more than a hundred posts, I sort of collect cars. Some would say, I just buy old cars and drive them because that is basically what I do. I don’t keep them on display in some vast garage, nor do I trailer them to Concourse events. If you saw what I drive, you would understand. Presently, my vast collection consists of three cars. My trusty thirty-year-old AMC Eagle wagon, a 1954 Hudson Jet Liner that I have already driven 1,500 miles in the last three months, and a Rambler undergoing life-long restoration that no one is allowed to mention in my presence unless I am drunk or in a coma.
I also have a compact pick-up, and I drive all my cars every week, except the Rambler, which as I mentioned is going through a lifelong restoration.
About that Hudson Jet Liner: I have driven it in the rain and up and down mountains and on road rallies. It’s a car, and if I can’t drive the car, I don’t want it, unless of course it is a Rambler going through a lifelong restoration, which you are not allowed to mention.
Lately, something has happened to me, and I blame my friend, Frank, the foremost authority on all things Mid-Century Modern. For my fiftieth birthday, he gave me a beautiful glass Procter-Silex percolator from the 1950s. I brewed my first pot, and I was hooked.
I never liked the drip makers. My OCD caused me to replace mine every three months because they would get so nasty, and I couldn’t get them as clean as I wanted, so I threw them out. Also, the coffee usually tasted like crap.
Enter the percolator. Why did people quit using these? They are easy to clean and the best part is that when you pour coffee into your cup, it goes into your cup! Who designs those drip coffee pots? My father always said he would pour the coffee directly onto the counter and hope some ended up in the cup.
Typical Milton, one percolator wasn’t enough. I had to buy another one, and another one, and another one. Before I knew it, I was collecting again. I have three chrome Sunbeams, an orange and a green Poly Perk, a chrome and green plastic totally immersible GE, and an avocado green Cory Buffet Queen forty-cup percolator. In total, I have thirteen percolators, including two stove top models from the 1920s. Before you ask, I tested all of them and they all work. I even have a travel percolator I display with the Hudson. I even talked a co-worker into getting one, and she loves it!
If you get one, the secret to a good fresh pot of delicious coffee is coarse grinding your beans and using ice cold water. It doesn’t hurt to wear pearls and heels either.
They are arranged on my kitchen counters and don't take up a lot of room. People do remark on them when they visit. Strangely, once they see all the percolators, they rarely come back.
Did I mention I use all of them? Not at once of course. That would be weird, and I don’t want you to think I am weird.
Funny thing about my collecting is when I run out of room, I stop. There aren’t percolators in boxes (well there is one, but that is a gift for someone). There aren’t percolators on the floor of my closet or in my bathroom vanities or even in my storage shed. The blessing of being OCD about a place for everything and everything in its place is that stopping is easy. I am not, nor will I ever be, a hoarder.
But that didn’t stop me from jumping right into another obsession. This one, however, is strange indeed. Thanks to Frank again – did I tell you he also got me addicted to Jerseylicious? – I wanted a rotary phone. He has a rotary wall phone, and it is lovely and it works.
I have my phone service through my cable company. I rarely used my home phone because it was one of those cordless phones, and I hated it. I also didn’t like the way it rang and pushing the buttons, then hitting send like a cell phone. Also, the phone is plugged into a modem and the extensions are these ugly radio transmitter looking devices. I am sorry, but phones have absolutely no style anymore. None.
I tried cancelling it, but thanks to “bundling” that would have cost me an extra $50 a month. Instead they gave me a loyalty discount of $18 a month if I kept my phone service. Go figure.
So, I thought, if I get one rotary phone, maybe I won’t mind having this phone service anymore.
Did I tell you I have a knack for finding the most obscure things?
I found a restored early 1950s style phone just like the ones on I Love Lucy from this guy who restores phones as a hobby and a business. I wonder if people think he has a collection obsession? I bought one. While it was in transit, I started to panic. What if rotary dialing doesn’t work on a modem? Maybe I should get the landline hooked up? Maybe I should just cancel the service and go with DSL, satellite and landline? Where I live that is the only other option. I called this company and that company and then I found a tone to pulse converter, and I ordered it just in case. I couldn’t wait to see if the phone worked when it arrived; I had to spend that $49 on the converter now.
The phone arrived. I plugged it into the modem and picked up the receiver. I had a dial tone. I then dialed my cell phone and loved the whirly wheel. It worked. Oh my God, it worked! It rang! All I had to do was dial. No pressing special buttons. No hitting send. No lighted dial. It actually connected faster than that appliance they called a phone that I had before. I then dialed the phone from my cell phone. And it rang!
Now, I was hooked, so you know what that meant. I had to have one in every room. Within five days, I had a flesh colored rotary phone next to my bed and a never used 1970s push button model fresh out of the box (you need one push button phone so you can choose 2 for Spanish) for my desk. The Pièce de résistance is an avocado green rotary wall phone just like Nana’s! When I answer the Nana phone, I have an urge to light a Kent cigarette and adjust my wig, while I scream into the phone.
Did you ever notice Jewish people always yell while on the phone? We just aren’t convinced the technology works because Alexander Graham Bell was a Goy. Also, when we whisper, they can hear us in Paraguay.
In addition, I have four other phones I just had to have, one is for my brother and two are for Frank, and the other I am saving for my weekend getaway home someday. I cleaned all the phones I didn't get from the restorer, and yes, they all work beautifully! Right now there are nine old phones in my house and three on the way. I am a collector not a hoarder – I hope.
To get the extensions to work, I found a General Electric wireless jack system that is easy to program. After all, what is the point of having a phone as a decorator piece? That is what I had with that cordless crap, and they weren’t even pretty.
You may wonder how well they work. First, the ring. I love the sound when the phones ring. These sissified rings on electric phones these days are disgusting. When you pick up the receiver, you know you are holding a quality product in your hands. The best part is that the sound quality is amazing. No buzzing, no static and no sounding as if you are in an echo chamber. The youngest phone is forty years old, and they work better than anything you find today.
I now know why our grandmothers were in such good shape. That I Love Lucy phone has a heavy receiver, and holding it for more than thirty minutes is a workout.
Now, if only I could find a modern TV in a 1950s style cabinet. But, what will I do with the eleven televisions I know I will end up buying? Oh well, as long as they work, I can give them as gifts.
If you miss avocado green and harvest gold appliances, join me, follow me, buy my books: www.miltonstern.com.