I’m holding Gloria Swanson’s “in the event of my death” letter. There is her elegant letterhead and there is her barely legible loopy scrawl. The day has taken an unexpected turn. I recently stumbled into Jeffrey von Meyer’s quaint Beachwood Canyon shop, Hollywoodland Antiques & Fine Time Pieces, drawn in by the animated stuffed beaver outside. I’m like a moth to flame with all these stuffed beavers lately. (Yes I know; I stand by it.) While I expected to find vintage clothes or maybe some Fiestaware, I didn’t think I would be entering a portal back in time to the golden age of Hollywood.
The shop owner, Jeff, is an avid collector of the treasured belongings of Hollywood’s gone but not forgotten stars. His shop is nestled in the hills of what was once called Hollywoodland and sandwiched between The Beachwood Cafe and the Beachwood Market. (Only in Hollywood can you see a gyrating beaver in front of a John Lautner design.) A typical day for Jeff might involve tracing the origins of a book inscribed to ‘Charles Chaplin’ or verifying the authenticity of a watch that belonged to Harold Lloyd. His previous career as a private investigator in New York City has prepared him well for this sort of work. In a dusty corner of a warehouse downtown he recently uncovered the original doorknob from the front door of the Tara set in Gone With the Wind.
The morning I walked in Jeff was cataloging the estate of silent film actress, Duane Thompson. Though she was named a WAMPAS Baby Star, akin to making the cover of the Vanity Fair ”Hollywood Issue” today, Duane was unable to get work in the talkies and lived out her life quietly in the Beachwood hills. I thumbed through her yellowed scrapbooks from the 1920s, incredulous that these keepsakes weren’t guarded by family, but grateful that they found their way to Jeff. He is sure to find the right collector to preserve Duane’s legacy.
Hollywoodland Antiques is quite the hangout spot for local residents. Jeff hosts many events on the village green in front of his shop. Recently there’s been live music every Saturday from 12-2pm. In the summers Jeff hosts movie nights on the wall of the market next door and happy hours in the shop. A producer friend who popped by the shop during my visit remarked that the neighborhood is like the fictional Mayberry brought to life. Plans are already underway for a web series called Hollywoodland Watch that will focus on Jeff’s adventures at the shop. If you are in need of watch repair or, say, Joan Crawford’s correspondences, stop in and say hello.