A couple of weeks ago, I posted an unusual episode of the “Dispatches from Fort Awesome” podcast (here), in which I interviewed Holly Haber, who runs reelclothes.com.  Dispatches is normally a podcast about the sitcom NewsRadio, covering it episode by episode, but this was a fun exception.  Holly has worked selling costumes from film and TV for more than thirty years, after inheriting the business from her mother, who started the business after seeing costumes go unnoticed and unused when productions were done with them.  They’d then buy lots from studios and production companies and sell them in their physical store and, eventually, as today, online.

I discovered her website after beginning the podcast reignited a part of my fandom that I could finally afford to explore: buying stuff from the show.  This was during a period when I had an office job that, while entirely uninspiring, did allow for the occasional period of disposable income, which led to me purchasing my first piece of NewsRadio screen-used memorabilia: one of the shirts worn by the character Matthew.  It was the cheapest thing on the site that I could feasibly wear on occasion, so I bought it and agreed to meet up to pick it up, since she is local and I didn’t want to wait, if I didn’t have to.

I’ve since had the very good fortune to be able to afford a few other pieces, including a Jimmy James, Inc orange jumpsuit that is one of five that could have been worn by Phil Hartman.  On top of this, Holly has let me look over various script binders that she has, that were once helpful to her in identifying to which episode certain unmarked costumes belonged.  In fact, I’m currently looking over a number of them to help her identify a small batch of to-be-identified costumes that could end up having belonged on extras/background actors or, possibly, unused or never seen on camera.

While interviewing Holly a few weeks ago, it became clear that, while she is in a for-profit business, there’s definitely an archival nature to what she does, though that perception may come from the fact that I’m meeting her now, 25 years after my favorite sitcom premiered, when there’s still a huge stock left over.  To me, this is an absolute goldmine, even the weird multiple unremarkable t-shirts Joe Rogan may or may not have worn for some scenes in an episode of season 5.  To other people, understandably, it is a pile of cloth.

Still, I feel fortunate to have met Holly and to have stumbled on to this treasure trove, and to have the opportunity to look over these binders.  I am also digitizing many things, including the two binders she’s gifted me, which contain scripts marked up by the costume department, along with polaroids of the cast in costume; most of the cast that is, as Holly got rid of or destroyed Phil Hartman’s costumes and the accompanying polaroids after his death, as requested by Brillstein-Grey.  As is also mentioned in this episode, though, she later discovered a couple of items that had been buried in the back and which were not destroyed.

Another thing we didn’t expect: two of the polaroids of Phil survived, quite by accident.  Fortunately, they’re also from a landmark episode, where the show’s writers threw everything out the window for a season finale, in which the radio station was a space station (they’d do it again the following year, where the station is essentially the Titanic). One photo shows Khandi Alexander and Phil Hartman holding each other, smiling.  It’s delightful, and a nice glimpse of the camaraderie that everyone who has worked on the show has talked to us about.

In the episode before my extended talk with Holly, which was recorded after it, I gifted one of my co-hosts, Allen Rueckert, with a tie from season 4, episode 13, entitled “Who’s the Boss, Part 2.”  It was one of two ties (I kept the other) Phil Hartman wears in this episode – I was fortunate enough to pick from the group she had and, wanting to pick something from a favorite episode, or that had been worn while he uttered a particularly favorite line, I chose this episode, for an exchange near the end, with Dave Foley.

Obviously, as a voiceover actor, and someone for whom Phil Hartman was a massive influence and a hero, having this tie means more than I have yet been able to put into words.  As an archivist, though, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from an actual conservation specialist and have been able to think about it in terms of what it means for the future of the show.

When I work with more obscure artists and projects, it’s realistic that I might be the only person who wanted to preserve it in the first place.  This is something that I reconcile easily – I’m a fan, a scholar, it’s teaching me something, and everything is worth saving, if you can.  When it’s less obscure, but perhaps still underappreciated by the masses, as NewsRadio tends to be, there’s a different perspective.  There’s pressure to make sure you preserve it all well, because, for the near future at least, I know there’s interest.  People listen to my podcast, NewsRadio still plays in reruns, and the show launched numerous careers of people who still work and continue to affect culture.

This potential pressure is an opportunity I don’t take lightly, so every chance I have to log a new piece of information about the show, regardless of the source, I take it.  Usually, though, it’s digital.  If I owned all of the costumes myself, sure, I’d have forever to look them over and preserve them the way I see fit, but I’d like other fans to get them (and, if they want, to send me photos and scans and details).  Now, though, I have a few physical pieces that relay so much information through touch and by seeing them physically.  The more physical the archive becomes, the realer it is to me, and that inevitably informs how I relay the importance of the show and this growing archive to people.

You can listen to the podcast and find links to the digital archive for NewsRadio here: wnyxnewsradio.com