On our way home this evening, we discovered an estate sale on the corner across from our apartment building. Despite the fact that expendable income is in seriously short supply in our household, we decided to check it out. It turns out this is sort of an estate sale clearing house sort of event; it’s a sale of what’s left over from several estate sales combined. This made for a very interesting assortment of stuff… There was a large collection of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia, a number of Barbie dolls and Britney Spears dolls, several framed and signed movie posters (including a poster for The Wizard of Oz signed by Ray Bolger), some games, some toys, lamps, housewares, clothes, paintings, and bigger items like ski jets, boats, and exercise equipment, among a lot of other stuff. It was fun to browse.
We did end up buying a few things. We found a couple of XBox games for $5 that we picked up, and a set of Trivial Pursuit cards (the 1980’s set, for $3). And since I was writing a check for the total, I went ahead and splurged on a couple of mementos that I found interesting: a scrapbook that was filled with newspaper clippings circa World War II, and a package of telegrams. I could only see the top telegram, but it was dated April 27, 1927, and just the sheer age of it was enough to pique my interest. The guy ringing up my sale quipped, “Those should make for some interesting reading.” I agreed… I love old stuff like this, and it seemed like a good way to spend $5 that would probably be spent on diet soda otherwise.
This turned out to be a very cool find. When I started reading through them, I realized these were part of a specific collection - they are all related in some way to Clifton Webb. There are 47 telegrams in all, with dates ranging from August 16, 1920 to October 15, 1966. In trying to determine whether these are indeed authentic, I’ve been doing a little research.
There are a number of telegrams from Clifton to his mother, Mabelle, and several from her to him. A little research shows that he was a devoted momma’s boy, who lived with her until her death. There are several addressed to his secretary Helen Matthews, who was taking care of him at the time of his death, expressing condolences for his death on October 13, 1966. There are a number from other luminary names from classic Hollywood, including Noel Coward, George Cukor, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Gene Tierney and one signed simply Tallulah, which I’m guessing would be the infamous Tallulah Bankhead. There are a couple that mention Laura, a performance which garnered Clifton Webb his first Academy Award nomination.
I’m pretty convinced that these are real, and though it would appear that telegrams as memorabilia isn’t worth a whole lot of money (my dreams of striking it rich with an estate sale discovery have been dashed!), I still think this was a pretty cool find. If nothing else, I learned a little bit of Hollywood history, like the fact that it was pretty much accepted that Clifton Webb was a gay man, but that he avoided scandal and the other silliness by keeping his private life private.
My boyfriend commented that only I, being the gay culture magnet I apparently am, would stumble across a set of old telegrams relating to a gay actor of Hollywood’s past. This is just one of those things that happens to me, one of those fruit fly moments.
My favorite out of the bunch is this party invitation… I’ve been a bit fascinated by stories concerning William Randolph Hearst since I saw The Cat’s Meow, and though this isn’t specifically him, it’s close enough.
If you’re interested in seeing more, I’m just nerd enough to have scanned them all in for posterity. Go see them all and enjoy! (Somehow when I was resizing the images I lost some of the quality - cause I wasn’t paying attention to the settings - so they’re a little blurry. But it took too long for me to go scan them all again. If you *really* want to see them better, make me a financial offer I can’t refuse, and you can own the whole set!)