It began with a call from John Bredin, who produces Public Voice Salon, a TV show I had been on a way back. “I’ve just seen your Emmy in a junk shop in Williamsburg,” he told me. “It was wearing a wig. They were kind of using it as the store mascot,” he said. Did I want to get it back? Oh, yes. It had been eleven long years since I had seen it.
A few weeks ago, on Aug. 3, we agreed to meet close to the store, which was on Driggs. I had gotten the Emmy, a New York-area award for 1979/1980, for writing and narrating an episode in The New Immigrants, a series on Channel Thirteen.
My episode wheeled in those well-to-do folk who had skedaddled to New York, in part to get away from the kidnappings and aura of menace that were part of the then international phenomenon of terrorism.
They were soon dubbed “Eurotrash” by Haute New York, although many were from Latin America. I also had arrived from London a few years before and although I would hardly have made a list of juicy kidnap targets I knew plenty of the players. Hence the show.
How had the award wound up in a Brooklyn junk store? Simple. I moved all my stuff into Public Storage over several weeks after selling my apartment and moving back to London for a stretch in 2009. I heard nothing to the effect that my account had fallen into arrears but on my return to New York I found everything had been sold.
As well as the Emmy, I lost a great deal of art, all of value to me, of course, and some to anybody, such as pieces by Peter Beard, Richard Hambleton, and Kaws.
Public Storage had ways to contact me so that I would have actually knowledge and notice of the sale, but they did not use them; instead, my attorney Jay Edmond Russ, Esq. said “...they gave you the minimally acceptable written notice under New York Lien law 182, which, essentially, is to a last address, even if they know precisely where you are and how to inform you. It’s shameful but it’s legal.”
They auctioned the contents of my storage unit for, literally, pennies on the dollar, with total disregard for my lifetime of accumulation of family photos, letters, etc. Jay wanted to recover my personal effects and did, but the art was a goner. And with it, my Emmy. I understand that whoever awards them would have replaced it but I didn’t bother.
What I miss most are the documents that were lost, like letters from a Resistance stalwart who took care of me when my mother, Elisabeth Furse, and I were in Vichy France during World War II, before she was caught working for the Brits and was imprisoned, along with mini-me, in Besançon internment camp.
She and I were behind bars 18 months. She escaped with me, getting into Portugal, then back to London in time for my fourth birthday. Fortunately, I have a pretty good memory, and all this—and much more—will be in a forthcoming book.
Bredin told me how the lost Emmy had been found when we met. He had been in the store, and bought an angel statuette, telling the man at the counter, that it was to be a stand-in Emmy for his wife, co-producer of the TV show, on its tenth anniversary.
The man indicated that there was an actual Emmy in the store, indeed right in front of him. Bredin read the inscription. Hence the telephone call. I was keen to get the much-battered original back, and I certainly wondered about her adventures in the years that we were separated.
We walked into the store, which is actually called Junk, but which is rather fancy and excellently stocked. My Emmy was somewhat battered, shaky on its stand, and wearing a wig of black Medusa hair and a string of costume jewels. A right old trouper.
Bredin paid $10 for his angel, I paid rather more than that, but she is standing beside me, flashing her costume jewels and fully be-wigged as I write this. It is lovely to have her home.