You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.

February 23: The Pop Cultcha Collector

February 23, 2015

6a00d8341c630a53ef0134861213c7970c-piLester Glassner, an artist who spent much of his seventy years of life amassing pop-culture iconography — including 250,000 movie stills, World War II military posters and anti-Nazi bric-a-brac, wind-up toys, dolls, plastic fruit, Czech art glass, Walt Disney paraphernalia, costume jewelry, magazines, records, sunglasses, and more, especially from the 1940s — was born on this date in 1939. Glassner earned income as a designer, picture editor, and art librarian, but most of his time was spent collecting, and his primary support came from his life partner, Jerry Feirman, a real estate investor who predeceased him by fifteen years. Their brownstone on the Lower East Side served as a private museum. Glassner’s African-American memorabilia, along with 2,500 rare children’s books and theater and film books were donated to Buffalo State College; his film posters went to the Library of Congress. “The very existence of the dime store,” wrote Glassner in his book, Dime Store Days, “spelled heaven-sent relief from the psychic hardships of childhood in the 1940s. The loss of one’s equilibrium from the stony indifference of wartime reality was instantly assuaged upon entering any of those gaudy Xanadus. They were peaceful havens of fantasy and mischief, enchanted Coney Islands where toys, candy and cosmetics were packaged and sold in the glittering trappings of the Hollywood Style. It was a style that ruled the whole world in that particular decade in every conceivable way, a style that was glamorous, spectacular and bigger than life.”

“It just started with that Mickey Mouse lamp in Buffalo, and it got out of control.” —Freda Honig (Glassner’s sister)