LOS ANGELES – James Comisar is the first to acknowledge that more than a few have questioned his sanity for spending the better part of 25 years collecting everything from the costume George Reeves wore in the 1950s TV show Superman to the entire set of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
Then there’s the pointy Spock ears Leonard Nimoy wore on Star Trek and the guns Tony Soprano used to rub out a mob rival in an episode of The Sopranos.
Along the way people thought I was nuts in general for wanting to conserve Keith Partridge’s flared pants from The Partridge Family,’ the good-natured former TV writer says of the 1970s sitcom as he ambles through rows of costumes, props and what-have-you from the beginnings of television to the present day.
But they really thought I needed a psychological workup, Comisar, 48, adds with a smile, when they learned I was having museum curators take care of these pieces.
A museum is exactly where he wants to put all 10,000 of his TV memorabilia items, everything from the hairpiece Carl Reiner wore on the 1950s TV variety program Your Show of Shows to the gun and badge Kiefer Sutherland flashed on 24 a couple TV seasons ago.
Comisar is one of many people who, after a lifetime of collecting, begin to realize that if they can’t find a permanent home for their artifacts those objects could easily end up on the trash heap of history. Or, just as bad as far as he’s concerned, in the hands of private collectors.
If he simply sold it all, he could probably retire as a millionaire several times over. He won’t even think about that.
I’ve spent 25 years now reuniting these pieces, and I would be so sick if some day they were just broken up and sold to the highest bidder, he says.
Comisar believes he’s finally found the right site for a museum, in Phoenix, where he’s been lining up supporters. He estimates it will cost $35 million and several years to open the doors, but hopes to have a preview center in place by next year.
But, really, why all the fuss over a place to save one of the suits Regis Philbin wore on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
In Shakespeare’s time, his work was considered pretty low art, Comisar responds.