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Meet The Collector: Ken Schwartz - page 2 / 6





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Bottles and Extras

Windows 98 is crammed into one corner. But the scent of glass was strong and I turned to find a ceiling-to-floor-display of labeled whiskeys beneath spotlights in a converted closet. I was transfixed by the array of familiar names and pre-pro artistry, but before I’d had time to absorb all the labels, Ken was flipping switches and ushering me though another door at the rear of his study. I was totally unprepared for the sight before me.

At first I wasn’t sure of what I was looking at, in part because I’d imagined Ken’s collecting room to be in a separate building rather than through an insignificant door leading off a tiny study. I was also expecting the room to be more cavernous given the laser-print images but, while it certainly is huge, Ken has managed to cover every square inch of available wall space in the interim and, after having blanketed the walls, began installing lag bolts in the ceiling joists so that he could fill the air space overhead. Huge tin litho advertisements descended from the ceiling like stalactites, while purpose-built, moveable displays now grew like stalagmites from the floor. The far end of the room held a full length, saloon-style bar, while the center was occupied by circular gaming tables. Ken rescued several arched, stained-glass windows decorated with pastoral scenes from an old mansion in San Francisco, and they sat high in the rafters at either side of room. Ken has them back-lit to further the illusion of that this was a house of worship. Bare-fleshed beauties graced the upper parts of the walls and gazed down at us like Madonnas and Blessed Saints. The room was infused with a muted amber light emanating from the columns of tightly packed and back-lit whiskeys lining the walls [Figure 3]. As I made my way into the room, I understood that I was in a Temple of Glass.

As you can see from the photos, considerable display space is given over to signage and bottles, but as we made our way through the room, I was treated to cases brimming with glass flower holders from early automobiles, beaded purses, antique toy cars, hat pins and half-dolls, souvenir plates, spittoons, steins and jugs. The gaming table at the far end of the room is itself a display, the glass top covering cubby holes stuffed with mirrors, poker chips and packs of playing cards that advertise whiskey. The centerpiece of the collection is, of course, the bottles. Sadly, while they do make an attractive display,

January-February 2008


Figure 3

Figure 4: If you happen to run into Ken at a bottle show, you’ll be struck by the fact that he seems surgically attached to a large loose-leaf ring binder. The binder, it turns out, is a record of his entire collection - not just shots, but bottles, jugs, billheads, everything. His introductory message is no exaggeration: the only way he can keep track of what he owns and what he needs is by keeping a physical record, the images gleaned from standard references with “has vs. wants” differentiated using highlighters.

the only one I recognized was The Genuine.

trying to explain to my spouse that I’d just dropped a year’s wages on a bottle. Maybe the Band-Aid approach would work best – as fast as possible, hoping that the pain would last but a moment.

As I stared down at this greenish-yellow flask, Ken related the tale of how he acquired it. I absently-mindedly wondered what conceivable tactic I might use upon

returning from a bottle show and then

Ken had saved the best moment until

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