Man and His Bottle Caps
RENT $666.19 [rent stabilized]
SQUARE FEET 280 [two rooms in 1904, six-floor walk-up, experimental worker housing]
OCCUPANTS Harley Spiller a/k/a Inspector Collector [administrator, Franklin Furnace; itinerant teacher]
It's so safe walking up York in the Seventiesall hospitals and grandmothers. This building had two attacks by the Upper East Side rapist. [I look at him suspiciously.] No, I'm not the rapist. Before this was a German Hungarian neighborhood, it was Irish, very tough. Cagney went to that school on the corner. There still are Irish toughs in the park. A few years ago, the Sopranos kid was arrested for mugging some kids. That was near my block. You had a false sense of security.
You're across from the famous 1912 tuberculosis apartments [Shively Sanitary Tenements], though now they're a regular co-op. There's something so forlorn about those iron balconies. No one sits on them. They were to catch the healthful air from the river.
I guess we can't hold off talking about your collections anymore. I have about 10,000 Chinese menus, 10,000 graffiti stickers, several thousand autographs. My first was Colonel Sanders. I was a little boy at the Waldorf. I'm from Buffalo. We'd visit New York four times a year. We stayed in rooms 15 E and F. I have roughly 6,000 keys. Probably 40 are 15 E and F. [He flips through his autograph album.] Here's "To Harley Spiller. Right on, Marlin Briscoe." Sidney Poitier in Nassau. Buddy Hackett. He went to school with my cousin Lenny.
New York Knicks vs. Memphis Grizzlies
TicketsSat., Oct. 29, 7:30pm
New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
TicketsSun., Oct. 30, 7:00pm
St. John's Red Storm Men's Basketball vs. Baruch College Bearcats Men's Basketball
TicketsMon., Oct. 31, 7:00pm
Brooklyn Nets vs. Chicago Bulls
TicketsMon., Oct. 31, 7:30pm
Let's rest a minute. [In a deep voice like Louis Armstrong] Well, Hello Dolly. I said, Will you write, "Well, Hello Harley"? He was a little blurry. He wrote, "To Hello Harley."
Why did you want to get autographs? My parents would stick a pen in my hand and say, Go meet Colonel Sanders. Today I don't do it. I was on an Eminem tour bus. I didn't ask. But he sent me one. Not Eminem but Eminem's tour manager. I have a chewing gum collection. It's sometimes really hard to sort things.
I expected your apartment to be this jungle of gum and toothpicks. I stopped. Everything is put away. Why? Maturity. [He holds his forehead and looks down.]
You look pained. My fiancée walked out. She left a note on this table that you're writing on. She lived here with me for two years.
Was she a collector? She collected photos of the flower arrangements I gave her. They were gorgeous. I was working at Takashimaya. How did we fit here? It was OK. She was a quiet, slim individual. I never bumped into her. . . . I moved here in 1982, a year out of college. My parents ran an advertising and sales promotion company. In his basement, my dad had little drawers with feathers, dice, chopsticks, name tags.
A chip off the old block! Before I changed, my friends Paul and Joe the Cop, a retired policeman, came over. They were having snacks. Joe said, What is that shit on the wall? I'm also a teacher. Let me show you my calendar: Bottlecaps, Monday. Autographs, Tuesday. Shoes, Wednesday. Bottle caps, Thursday. Tree sap, Friday. I don't collect maple syrup, but I teach a lesson in sap. I teach in schools in all five boroughs.
Collections can be about miniaturization, making a perfectly ordered universe. It is a totally artificial world. Nothing dies. Repetition, vast numbers of the same object, is also about keeping the thing alive. When I go through my seashell collectionI can say when I got this one. It's very pleasurable to have the memory. It's a retrospective of your life.
Why isn't just having one of something OK? You're holding your head. You're so dramatic! I've always loved RCA Victor. We had it on our hi-fi at home. People were throwing out record players in the '80s. I took every cool tone arm I could find. I stopped once people had thrown out all their record players. I locked the collection. It's over. Yes, if I saw another one, I'd take itthe kind that looks like a cobra, with the eyes.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in New York, delivered to your inbox.