Collect Call

Dropping in on Mark "Ultranova" at Blackhole for a little obsession with the art of things

Silly Billy, a very sensible-looking 33-year-old who works as an employment recruiter, introduces himself as Bill Wicht. His collection is a box of 12 finely detailed bug replicas. "They're the best I've ever found," says Wicht, who has been collecting and pinning real bugs since he was a child. He won't give up his retail source.

"I will tell you this: September is tarantula breeding season on Mount Diablo," says Wicht. "It's really fascinating."

Leah Fenimore and Steven Tobinbrought bindis to "Geek-tique" and an example from their Globe Mini Magcollection. "This is How to Talk to Your Cat," says Fenimore, a 38-year-old massage therapist. "Globe also offers other important things, like garlic recipes for athlete's foot and horoscopes for your dog."

"How to Talk to Your Catcomes complete with hair samples from our cats, Tomato and Gazelle," says Tobin. "Gazelle was graceful once. Now, she's as big as a buffalo."

Acting bartender and seashell collector Angela Zangara makes the rounds with martini glasses filled with vodka-based blue Jell-O and blackberries, which blend nicely with the equally strange offerings of Rice Krispies treats, homemade Oreos, and marshmallowy twists from Japan.

Full-time high-rise maintenance engineer and part-time model Jabal Angelhard shares his collection of warm knit caps and woolies. "I was trained as an engineer at sea," he says, before launching into an explanation of why chlorine is added to the seawater coolant systems aboard large ships. Angelhard then disappears with a lovely woman and a Jell-O martini into the black-light-white-satin cuddle alcove.

DJ Grin eagerly directs me to his folder of Garbage Pail Kids trading cards -- sets one through eight. "I started collecting these when I was 7," says Matt Henri as the Stranglerspurr out of his sound system. "I saved my lunch money and rode my bike all the way into town from our place in the country. They were a quarter a pack." Henri offers a few of the guests unopened packs, then leads me to a chessboard comprised of the gumball machine Homies created by David Gonzales.

"L.A. is a blue town," says Henri. "[Gonzales] only does blue Homies, so I had to paint the clothes of the opposing set in red to represent the north, then I took the board to Modesto and taught the young gang kids to play chess. They put down their PlayStation cuz they could relate."

Sharon Murtagh, who's been listening in fascination, talks about her father, who has been sending her packs of playing cards from all over the world for the last 30 years. "I've got packs from throughout Northern Europe and Asia," she says with a wistful smile. "If I didn't purge every once in a while, I'd have hundreds, but it's still sweet when I get one in the mail."

"I wanted to see what Elliot was up to tonight," says sound artist Aaron Ximm, who contributed a sound piece to "Systems Up!," a recent Lessing exhibition at Blackhole that included a wall created by Lynn Lu with 100 jars filled with live crickets wired for sound. "The work he brings together is consistently good and provocative, always an odd assortment of artists that I don't know, so I knew the ["Geek-tique'] would be interesting, too."

"I liked squeezing the Creepy Crawlers," says John Vigna with good-natured fortitude. "We used to bake them in the oven."

"They were like currency," says Lessing, fingering a dusty rubber monster. "I used to trade them with other kids. Also the Wacky Packs. I think Wacky Packs really helped shape me in some way -- the underlying democracy of Madmagazine-style parody, the freedom and liberty assumed in that sort of soft subversion. I love that."

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