Back in the day, Easter for most kids meant a visit from The Bunny, colored hard boiled eggs and perhaps a basket of jelly beans. But for Hollywood memorabilia collector Barry Barsamian, Easter was the one opportunity he had to watch his favorite movie on television – The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland. “There were no videos or DVDs in those days,” Barry explains. Every year he watched the 1938 classic film, every year becoming more and more intrigued with Hollywood, movies and movie stars. When in 1976 Barry had the chance to purchase one of the dresses Judy Garland wore in the film, he jumped right on it and he’s been collecting Hollywood memorabilia ever since. Now through May, Barry has opened up his collection of over 100 items for a public exhibit at the Metreon in San Francisco.
Among Barry’s Hollywood treasures are:
• Fur trimmed coat belonging to Marilyn Monroe circa 1950s.
• Youthful dress worn by Judy Garland in a dance scene with Fred Astaire in the 1947 film Easter Parade.
• Joan Crawford’s costume jewelry and Lucy Ball’s dyed wig from the movie Yours Mine and Ours.
• One-of-a-kind Donna Karan black dress specially made for Barbra Streisand.
• Blue chiffon dress worn by Elizabeth Taylor.
• Phyllis Diller’s 1960s chandelier dress.
The collection is impressive but equally as interesting are the stories Barry has for every item, which he shares with beaming enthusiasm. Some of the stories are personal antidotes of his encounters with stars like Shirley Temple Black, who calls him B.B.
Barry grew up the in the Oakland Hills watching 1960s television and collecting TV Guide. “I would save my five cent milk money and buy TV Guide for 15 cents,” says Barry, who himself has the look of a 1930s matinee idol. He attended Skyline High School with Tom Hanks, “We were both in South Pacific,” shares Barry. Part of the exhibit is a photo gallery of Barry with various stars he’s met over the years including his father’s cousin Mike Connors, who starred in the 1970s television show Mannix.
In the 1980s Barry started working as an extra in films. He has also worked for local television stations KGO and KTVU and was the photo editor for the society magazine, Nob Hill Gazette. Currently Barry co-hosts the cable show BACKSTAGE! With Barry and Kathy with actress Kathy Garver.
The exhibit itself is nicely arranged with the clothing hanging on forms, making them easily visible up close. Cases display jewelry and accessories; Hollywood style sets show off items such as Rock Hudson’s lamp, Mary Pickford’s 1930s china tea set, and Barry’s 1950s family television.
This exhibit is a must-see for fashion students, Classic Hollywood buffs, fans of The Wizard of Oz film, and anyone who wants a lift. “Our world is in such a bad way,” says Barry. “I hope this brings back the good old days for people.”
Hollywood Legends: The Barry Barsamian Collection, at the Metreon, 101 4th Street, SF. Open Wednesday through Sunday noon-8pm, now through May. $10 for adults, and $8 for kids under 12.
Above photo by Russ Fischella