In this exclusive chat with Retroality.TV, Profiles in History owner Joe Maddalena gives us the studio backlot back story behind his work as the entertainment industry's foremost TV and movie memorabilia auctioneer--all of which led to his starring role in the reality series Hollywood Treasure, premiering tonight on the SyFy network.
In your estimation as the go-to guy for
I want to give you that answer, but you have to understand what happened first to understand the answer. In the 60s and early 70s they broke up the studios. All of the big studios were busted apart. FOX—they built
(in its place). MGM—they liquidated the lot. They broke up the studio system. The contract players, everything changed. So all of the studios liquidated all of their assets. So the stuff was scattered to the wind. Century City
So you start with that aspect that very little of the old stuff was saved to begin with. This (set, prop and costume) stuff is a byproduct of the finished product. It’s really so ancillary to what they’re making with a TV show or motion picture. This stuff takes up tremendous amounts of room. And in
this room is precious. So I think what happened was, after Planet Hollywood and Hard Rock Café kind of popularlized the idea of memorabilia—because they really were the pioneers of the field and brought a lot of awarness to the field—after that, more in like 2000, there was a systematic effort. There was Disney online, New Line online—a lot of the studios were able to start selling stuff online because ebay was a new venue and they thought it was a cool thing to sell things online. Los Angeles
They did that for a while and I think realized how much work it was and kind of stopped doing that. And I think now they outsource what they want to outsource and archive a tremendous amount of stuff. I think now most studios want to maintain archives and keep a few pieces. But I think they’re also learning that it’s probably a smart marketing idea to start selling stuff.
called me in the heat of Transformers 2 and said, “I want to sell a bunch of stuff. I want the fans to have it.” I went to the archives, I pulled out a ton of stuff and sold it. People were happy about it. There was so much that his attitude was, “Of course the fans can have it.” Michael Bay
I think it’s great that the studios do this, because I think it’s a worldwide currency. You go anywhere in the world and they know who the Terminator is. They know who Alias is, they know who Bladerunner is, (and) Edward Scissorhands. You tell a guy in
that you have the 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card and he goes, “What?” And you go, here’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Terminator. And he goes, “Oh, yeah!” It’s a different experience. China
It’s exciting to see this culture of pop culture preservation evolve in the last decade or two. When I wrote my Three’s Company book, I asked the show’s producers what happened to the trio’s couch; their response was, basically, “That’s a really good question.” If someone like me came up to you and said, “Can you help me find Jack Tripper's couch,” what might be the process you’d undergo to find such a treasure that hasn’t been seen in 25-plus years?
Something like that would be very hard to find. I would tell people who asked me, other than what you did when you wrote your book, it’s probably going to be a dead end. Because it’s a couch and it’s not unique (as a set piece) … My guess is it’s either sitting in someone’s living room or it doesn’t exist anymore. Those pieces are really hard to track down.
It’s more things that you’ve heard of that could still be in existence—and then it’s literally detective work. The good thing about my business is that I’m coming into contact with so many people all over the world—the public. People will call in and say, “My uncle was a set decorator. We have this …” We just got a fantastic thing in for our December auction. This lady worked at Warner Bros. and they had a lot sale one day. Her husband was a pilot and she went up and bought this cool, leather aviator cap. They came in to me and said, “We always wondered…” Inside was a Warner Bros. label that said, “Jimmy Stewart, Lindberg.” It’s the actual flight cap that Jimmy Stewart wore in the Lindbergh story (1957's The Spirit of St. Louis). It’s probably worth $10,000. That cap was not known to exist. If you’d asked me to find it I wouldn’t know where to (begin). But the fact is people did save this stuff.
I think what’s happening is because of what we’re doing and now because of this show, I think more things are going to surface. I think more of this stuff is out there than people ever imagined. I think with public awareness we’re going to find more and more and more of it—which is why I wake up in the morning.