The Motion Picture Prop Company article on The Golden Closet
The MPPC Goes Inside the Golden Closet
By:Lee Malone and Allen Brokate
The MPPC managed to get a rare sneak peek into the Golden Closet, one of the worlds premeire movie prop and wardrobe collections on the web. Let’s go inside and take a look at what makes this place so magical.
The Golden Closet was founded by Breanna Livie in 1998 and has become a leader in the marketing and sales of motion picture and television wardrobe and props. Ms. Livie’s family has been involved in the motion picture industry for three generations. Her grandfather Charles James began work as a motion picture costumer back in the 1950’s, and in 1978 he and Breanna’s father James Livie established Costume Rentals Corporation (CRC), one of the first independent motion picture costume rental houses. In 1990 James Livie founded his own costume rental house, Eastern Costume Company, and both businesses are still in operation today.
The Golden Closet roster is currently comprised of three full time staff members: Breanna Livie (owner and CEO, acquisitions, sales), Allen Brokate (Website management, research, customer relations, sales), Sierra Bay Robinson (Photography, research, order processing, customer relations, shipping, sales).
Allen Brokate is a close family relation to Breanna (cousin), and has worked alongside her off and on for approximately seven years in helping the company maintain its distinguished reputation within the collecting community.
Sierra Bay Robinson is a professional costumer with extensive experience working on productions. She brings her keen understanding of the film production and costume wardrobe industry to assist in authenticating and marketing The Golden Closet’s ever expanding inventory of screen used wardrobe and props.
Favorite Prop/Wardrobe Piece:
Breanna: My favorite item was probably Elvis Presley’s two-piece suit that was worn in “Clambake”, not only because it was worn by Elvis, but also because my grandfather worked with him on that film, and it was made by the infamous Hollywood Western tailor Nudies. My second favorite piece would be Al Pacino’s “Tony Montana” pinstriped suit that he wore at the end of Scarface. It’s the one he wore when he utters the classic “Say hello to my little friend” line before the gun battle at the end.
Allen: The top three favorite items I’ve seen while working for The Golden Closet: First would be the golden idol seen at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indiana Jones steals it from the booby-trapped temple. Second would be Dom DeLuise’s “Captain Chaos” mask worn in the original Cannonball Run. Third would have to be Al Pacino’s actual “Little Friend” M16A1 with an M203 grenade launcher. It was the actual live firing weapon used in the film. I also get a huge kick out of checking out most of our hand fabricated science fiction props too. The workmanship that goes into a lot of these items is really impressive.
Sierra: My personal favorite would be the Stormtrooper blaster we had from the original Star Wars movie, because of it being part of such an iconic film, and also one of the first films I have any memory of seeing. My other favorites are vintage wardrobe pieces. The design, fabrics, details and overall construction of the old studio garments are unbelievable, and I always get a rush when I find a piece in a film during my research; it’s like a little treasure hunt, and you find out so many interesting bits of historical Hollywood information during the process. There are really too many for me to pick just one…
(Allen) Proper research and authentication of all of our wardrobe and props has been the key to maintaining our reputation in the collecting community over the years. Many times our job is simplified by acquiring our wardrobe and props directly from inner industry sources that personally created or oversaw their use on productions. In these cases our consignors or sources provide us with personally signed certifications for their items, and we try to deal exclusively with reputable sources and inner industry professionals that we’ve developed working relationships with over the years. Even in these cases we double check their authenticity by cross referencing items with other sources and by locating and examining additional photographic or digital reference images of the items whenever possible.
Of course it’s not always that easy, and all items presented by The Golden Closet require intensive research and authentication prior to being offered for sale. The use of DVD screen capture software allows us to freeze, brighten, or zoom in on details of garments and props that would never be visible to the naked eye has made the job considerably easier in recent years. Prior to that, we had to rely heavily on repeated viewings of VHS tapes where/when available, and even that could be a challenge when dealing with poor quality copies or black and white films shot in dark lighting. Many older films are still unreleased on DVD and this still presents a challenge occasionally, but we always land on the side of caution and choose not to offer any items to the public unless we’re completely satisfied that the item is authentic. We’ve rarely if ever made any mistakes in our research, and in the unlikely event that an item we’ve offered is proven to be misrepresented for any reason, we are more than happy to offer our customers a refund.
We also have several sources here in Los Angeles that have libraries of old photo stills and promotional photos or posters as an additional research avenue, but many times these libraries are poorly organized or incomplete, and I have spent hours of my life poring over thick files of loose photos in a sometimes vain attempt to find a single photograph of a Dorothy Lamour sarong or specific Fred Astaire tuxedo jacket for instance. I’m not always successful, but on those occasions where I am, there’s a feeling I get that must be similar to when a detective cracks a particularly tough case, and it’s extremely gratifying!
The most challenging research project I’ve ever undertaken has to be The Sopranos wardrobe collection we acquired nearly two years ago. We had numerous garments in our inventory, and while some had the original production/costumer’s tags attached listing scene and episode, every individual item had to be confirmed and a few turned out to be incorrect or the scene in which the garment had been used might have ended up on the cutting room floor. Also, a large number of the items had no accompanying tags, which left me with the task of locating their appearance in any one of the episodes from the series. When you consider that the show ran for approximately eight years and was comprised of eighty-six episodes, I think you might have a good idea of the magnitude of the project I faced. The only person who might know more about The Sopranos than me would be David Chase (the series creator), but I bet I could give him a run for his money after all the times I’ve watched every single episode. I was hearing the theme song in my dreams for weeks!
Unless being displayed, wardrobe items are best stored in a linen bag in a dark climate controlled environment that’s free of moisture. Dust, sunlight, and humidity can all contribute to a fabric’s deterioration. Wire and wooden hangers can cause tears in the shoulders of a garment over time, so padded cloth hangers are preferable, or consider storing the garments flat and unfolded if possible. You may wish to consider plugging in a portable dehumidifier near your collection for extra protection as well.
Most of these issues apply to props as well, although items molded in rubber or comprised of rubber parts will always be subject to natural deterioration over time, so should be stored and handled with care to avoid pressure cracks. Rubber is especially susceptible to heat over time, so don’t store rubber or latex props near heat sources or direct sunlight. A climate controlled environment helps prevent materials from shrinking or expanding and prevents paint from cracking or flaking as well.
The Gandolfini collection is currently featured on your website. Collectors can go in right now and purchase wardrobe, are there plans for a live auction?
I assume you mean “another” live auction? Just earlier this year The Golden Closet presented the largest public offering of Sopranos memorabilia in conjunction with Christie’s at their Rockefeller Center location in New York, and the auction was an unprecedented success.
Breanna was honored to attend the event with our consignor James Gandolfini, who played Tony Soprano and generously participated in the event which helped raise considerable revenue for The Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit charity that provides assistance to U.S. military veterans and their families. It’s one of Mr. Gandolfini’s favorite charities and one we also continue to support. Some of the proceeds of the Sopranos items on our website will go to benefit them. Here’s a link to their site for more information: http://www.woundedwarriorproject.com. Anyone interested in our current collection of Sopranos items should visit our website http://www.thegoldencloset.com.
Apart from the items we currently have listed on our website, we will also be presenting another select group of Sopranos items in the upcoming Pop Culture Auction to be held at Christie’s auction house in South Kensington on December 4, 2008. Information on that event can be found on their website: http://www.christies.com
Breanna, you come from an industry legacy family. You are and have been around many iconic pieces. Does this weaken the magic or heighten it?
I was raised around studio clothing and have come across collectible wardrobe pieces from nearly every iconic actor in motion picture history. Even though one might think that these things would have become mere novelties to me after so much time, there are still certain items that will always command my fascination and respect. Who wouldn’t be impressed to be around pieces of motion picture history like Humphrey Bogart’s suit worn in “The Big Sleep”, wardrobe worn by the legendary James Dean in “Giant”, or John Belushi’s signature Ray Ban sunglasses worn in “The Blues Brothers”? These items are all part of our cultural history, and I’m honored to help preserve them and offer them to other people with a keen appreciation for them. One of the coolest things we currently have for sale is a black velvet frock coat that used to belong to Jim Morrison from The Doors. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
Does the TGC have a storefront or are you an online business only at this time?
The Golden Closet does not have a retail location and is not considering opening one anytime soon unless things drastically change. Since our clientele are scattered throughout the United States and globally, we are happy to continue offering our items directly to collectors and via online resources or live auctions at this time.
We of course are more than happy to speak with anyone that has an interest in collecting motion picture and television memorabilia but don’t currently feel the need to have a physical storefront, especially in this era of heightened global communication that has come about due to the Internet. We only recently expanded our website and are in the process of adding more inventory to it, so we fervently encourage interested parties to visit us to see our new additions in the coming months and contact us for any information we can assist with.
Most definitely! We have a large amount of inventory that has yet to be listed on the site, although we are working on updating it as fast as we can. Breanna also has extensive contacts throughout the industry and also amongst other reputable dealers. The odds are, if you’re looking for something and we don’t have it, we probably know someone who does or maybe even someone that worked on the film you’re interested in collecting.
While there’s a degree of competition between other dealers, we also have several companies that we know to be reputable and have good relationships with. They’ve steered clients our way on occasion if they didn’t have something one of their clients were looking for, and we’re happy to reciprocate if we’re unable to assist someone with their collecting interests. Many times customers appreciate that and will contact us later when they’re looking for other items. We’re in business to make money of course, but we’re also here to help.
What does the future hold? Can you give us a sneak peek into upcoming plans or events?
In Breanna’s words, “I have no clue”…but I don’t feel that’s entirely true. The memorabilia business is an ever-changing animal, just like the collecting community. Changes in studio structures and obvious recent changes in the economy are going to affect both parties, but The Golden Closet is anticipating new challenges and also new opportunities to present themselves in the near future. We’re always acquiring new stock from past and current productions and will continue to focus on live auctions and web based technologies to assist the collecting community with their various interests.
One thing we’re excited about is the transparency and de-mystification of the memorabilia business that’s come about through the Internet. Blogs, forums, and online magazines like yours have created new avenues for dealers and collectors to converse directly with each other. This increased flow of information has the potential to weed out disreputable dealers that hurt everybody, and also allows new collectors better information to learn about the hobby from other experts and to connect with like-minded individuals that share their passion for collecting. In the long run it will benefit everyone, and we’re honored that you’ve invited us to be a part of it here.
We are very excited to see more from TGC and please take a look at their website and you never know what you might find there.
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