RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS
30 June 2007
Celebrity Book Collectors. Part One.
Having done Billionaire book collectors I thought I would move on to mere mortals and do Celebrity book collectors. Let's celebrate the stars who collect books -they spread the word, they give book collecting a better name and they pour some of their swags of cash into our coffers. This list won't be comprehensive and may include some celebs who merely wandered into bookshops or bookfairs but are not the real deal. Although the cult of the celebrity (today's aristos) is distasteful and banal, the ones who collect books, and even read them, are the good guys--these aren't your Vin Diesels, Limp Bizkits and Jordans. Here goes:-
Johnny Depp. Seen at bookfairs. Collects beats, said to have bought Kerouac's shabby old mac for $20K. He starred as seedy book scout Dean Corso in Polanski's 'The Ninth Gate.' Corso is trying to track down an ancient text called "The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows" which is supposed to be able to summon the Devil himself. A rare and dangerous book. Johnny's brother, Dan Depp, once had a cool bookshop in Santa Cruz, California - 'The Frugal Bookworm.'
Whoopi Goldberg. Seen at shops and bookfairs. Also collects bakelite. Has been known to spend such a lot at a fair that she turned a lousy fair into a good 'un. Bless her.
Brad Pitt. I saw him wandering around the Los Angeles bookfair in a grey hooded tracksuit. Small but perfectly formed. He was buying Salinger, Kerouac and Cormac for four figure sums. A flunky paid and collected the books. Brad can also be found on audio CD reading Cormac McCarthy -All The Pretty Horses / The Crossing / Cities Of The Plain.
Sarah Michelle Gellar. Aka 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'. She once told an interviewer, “I cannot go into the Heritage Book Shop without buying something. I joke that it’s my church. Whenever I’m having a bad day, I can go in there and look at these books and get completely lost in the old, illustrative art.” Heritage has just shut down but I guess the church reference comes from the ultra kitsch stained glass windows which even in LA were de trop.
Jimmy Page. Led Zeppelin (pictured left.) Collects Aleister Crowley and at one time had a bookshop in Kensington Church Street. Said to be cautious with his money when it comes to books --he is sometimes known as "Led Wallet." So keen was he on the Great Beast he bought Boleskine House, Crowley's rural retreat on the shores of Loch Ness.
Another celeb who has a bookshop (and collects) is the great British film director Bryan Forbes. He collects Napoleon and has a bookshop in toney Virginia Water (Surrey.) Larry McMurtry famed novelist and screenwriter also collects books and has a bookshop -'Booked Up'- in Archer City, a one horse town in Texas. The store is arguably the largest single used bookstore in the United States, carrying somewhere between 400,000 and 450,000 titles. All second hand or used or 'previously owned.'
Nicholas Cage. Serious comic book collector, offloaded part of his collection last year for a million dollars or more. He turned up at our London shop earlier this year and was buying pretty illustrated books. Had a minder but was apparently a very amusing bloke. Talking of minders - the Reverend Ian Paisley used to turn up with 4 bodyguards and buy armfuls of theology. A serious collector.
The first great celebrity collector of the modern age has to be songwriter Jerome Kern. He wrote "Ol' Man River," "I Won't Dance," "The Way You Look Tonight," and "A Fine Romance" and was said to live off the income of his income. He collected books like Shelley's own copy of Queen Mab, complete with annotations in the author's hand -- which he bought for $6000 in a 1920 auction. (Its previous owner, Buxton Forman, had paid £6 for it in 1896.) Such a book makes a jacketed 'On the Road' look like a Mills and Boon. In the famous Kern sale of 1929 at Anderson Galleries, he recouped his initial investment when the book sold for $68,000. (The auction total was $1,729,462.50.) No celebrity (except Gates) could come near having such a fine collection now.
More of this nonsense later in the week when I shall be dropping names like Ashley Drane (of 'That's So Raven') Richard Prince (ridiculously trendy artist) Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) Bernie Taupin (Elton's lyricist) Madonna, Anita Pointer and that little bloke who plays Harry Potter.