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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Lost" and found: An exclusive interview with the Hollywood memorabilia master behind this weekend's historic TV props auction

Retroality.TV spoke with Profiles in History owner Joe Maddalena about his company's historic auction of Lost props, costumes and set pieces, scheduled for this weekend at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. Click here for press release. For complete information about the two day extravaganza this Saturday and Sunday, including details about registering to bid live or online and the unprecedented Lost fan events in the hours leading up to the auction both days (beginning at 1 p.m. Pacific), visit http://ProfilesinHistory.com. 

The Lost auction is really incredible. What has the response been so far?
It’s phenomenal—maybe two or three times the normal response of one of our catalogs. If we had 800 people bid in an auction, we’ll have 2500 this time. It’s off the charts. The interest is really, really good.

When ABC Studios approached you last year, what was their expressed intention in doing this auction? I imagine there was a fan element but also an element of, “Hey, we have these huge production bills on Lost that we need to offset. Was there a dual approach to this for them?
No. The thing they’d always told me going in is they wanted to do something for the fans. You’ve gotta realize they could do this with any show. The picked this show because they really thought the fans were—to me, it’s like Star Trek. You have the beloved characters the great story arcs. You haven’t had a show like this since Star Trek. I think they really thought about it and thought it through and I think that’s why they ended this show when it was on the top and not nine years into the show. I think this was an effort that they really felt that it was best served (to put the props and costumes) back into the hands of the fans who celebrated and made the show. \

This series developed a following unlike any other I’ve seen in my lifetime.
It’s like Star Trek. You really have the hardcore … I mean, you go to Comic-Con and you have people dressed in Dharma jumpsuits. You don’t have that in any other (recent) show. It’s very specific to this show.

Look, the event they’re doing this weekend is going to unbelievable. They’re doing it for the fans. These are not moneymakers. They’re doing it for the fans.
Can you give us a brief preview of the event—from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Pacific this Saturday and Sunday—before the auction?
Basically ABC has taken over Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport. It’s gigantic; it’s hard to explain to people how big (the hanger) is. The entire room is being turned into Lost. It’s gonna be a “Wow”-and-a-half. There’s gonna be special surprises, special guest appearances. ABC is telling a whole lot; whoever shows up is going to be very, very surprised. There’s gonna be screenings, there’s gonna be a lot of cool things—it’s the best exhibit you’ll ever see if you like Lost. So it really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come out and celebrate the show, see these things, walk away with some great things, and if you want to come to the auction you can.

The auction is part of the exhibit. But what they’re doing is above and beyond and beyond and beyond.

Could there be people from the show there?
What I’m allowed to say is we’re anticipating cast members. There won’t be a lot of information let out until they’re ready to release it.

You were on set for Lost’s entire final season?
Our crew was. I was there I would say every other month. I had staff there the entire season, though.

Can you describe a bit the process of cataloging items both from previous seasons (1-5) and the final season (6)? Was there a big storeroom there in Hawaii?
There were a number of storerooms. It was massive, massive—Lost probably had the highest production values on TV in the last 30 years. It was shot on film on a tropical island. The production costs were astronomical. With Lost you never knew if the writers were suddenly going to take you back 20 years or take you forward 30 years. And a prop that might have been significant in season one that you haven’t seen in four years is suddenly significant in season five because of some kind of flashback, forward or sideways. Everything was kept under lock and key. Very little information ever got off that lot about what was coming up—especially in season 6. They had that place on lockdown.

The props in the catalog for season 6 I photographed six or eight episodes after (the prop’s episode) was shot. Security was extremely tight. So we’d go from department to department. If costumes was busy I’d work on set dec(oration). If set dec was busy I’d work on props. If props was busy I’d work on construction. I’d just sort of go around the flow of wherever there was access and calmness. Because it was a hot thing for that (current) episode, we’d just work around it.
Were there any big or iconic Lost items that the studio wouldn’t put up for bids?
They kept a piece of the plane, they kept … everything that’s in the auction represents everything that was on the show. They kept some airplane seats and pieces of the plane. They kept things for the archives. But they were almost things that were too big to move. 

The piece of the plane they kept it would take a crane to move it. We have a 9’ x 12’ piece of the plane with the Oceanic logo. It must weight 2,000-3,000 lb. That was as big a piece as I thought we could sell.

They were really conscientious about everything being in the auction. A lot of things (used on the show) got destroyed. It was Lost. They blew up things right and left. This is what’s left after six seasons of being on a tropical island.

This is an unprecedented chance for fans to get a piece of the show. But for auctions like this, what’s the typical percentage of fans vs. investors who turn out?
There’s no investors who buy this stuff. That’s the worst possible word you could ever use. I tell people, “If you’re buying this as an investment keep the money in your pocket. This is not an investment.”

That’s encouraging for fans then. It’s an attainable goal to have something from the show.
Absolutely. You buy these things because you love them. You buy them because you want the memories, you want a nostalgic blast. You buy something iconic, it will probably go up in value in decades to come, because I think Lost will be around like Star Trek. A lot of these shows come and go. Look, I was visiting Dawn Wells, Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island. She’s a cultural icon. I was also good friends with Bob Denver before he died. He was an odd guy but he was a cultural icon—Gilligan and Dobie Gillis. The next 30 or 40 years unless there’s a massive change in everything they’re part of our culture. I think Lost is that kind of show.

Everything in this auction is $100-$200, $200-$400, $400-$600. The 9’ x `12’ section of the plane, I think I have it at $2,000-$3,000.  It could be worth $20,000 to $30,000 with the Oceanic logo on it. You’re talking about an art piece.

Not part of the auction, but part of our collective consciousness.