The Death of Kent Warner and the Ruby Slippers

Kent Warner
March 8, 1943 – April 25, 1984
“You’re buying memories, not just threads.”

With the recent disappearance of a pair of ruby slippers, Ithought it appropriate to focus for a moment on Kent Warner.  If it weren’t for him,God knows where the slippers would be – or countless other Hollywoodcostumes which Kent had the foresight to “liberate” andpreserve.  One of the most entertaining books I’ve ever read was penned by RhysThomas, called The Ruby Slippers of Oz, which explains the maladyof the shoes.

Kent came to Los Angeles in 1964 to follow his dream of becoming acostumer.  He idolized Adrian, and had the good fortune and timing to beworking for most of the major studios before (or just as) they were dismantled.  He wasemployed at Universal,Desilu, Paramount, Warner Bros. and MGM.  In 1970 he was brought in to workthe famous auction, probably the first major auction of film costumes ever.

Up until that point, people didn’t appreciate or understand the importance of costumerelics, and most old wardrobe was stored for years in barns – some with noroofs, hanging from therafters.  Somany ended up moth eaten, falling off of hangers – or water damaged.  Kentgot wise, and since he had access to these areas, began scouring for pieces hecould take, and either preserve for himself, or sell – knowing they would betaken care of for future generations – and making a tidy sum to boot.

There was one story that Kent was ordered to take a load of costumes to theincinerator – happened to glance at a label, and it was Bogart’s trench coat fromCasablanca.  Wow.

He struck up a friendship with Debbie Reynolds, who has intendedto open a Hollywood Museum, and he would sell Debbie costumes, fromthe trunk of his car, in the Thriftyparking lot on Sunset.  

She maintains that everything she everpurchased was purchased legally.  Meaning from the rightful owner.  Idon’t think Debbie did a lot of questioning about how that particular owner cameinto possession of the item.  Who cares, honestly.  No one else seemedto.  More power to her.

I do think that something is seriously wrong with DebbieReynolds and her museum.  I mean, this has been going on for DECADES. She had a museum in Vegas.  I went to it, it was great.  Closed. The stuff has been in storage forever. She was supposed to have a museum in theHollywood and Highland complex.  It didn’t happen.  Lawsuits stillfly.  People that worked for her, ripped her off.  Lawsuits. Dolly Parton offered the costumes a home in PigeonForge – but Debbie’s website had the Hollywood and Highland logo – andnothing has transpired.  Whatis up with Debbie?  One thing for sure, she has shitty taste in men. Maybe she should consider the alternative.

Back to Kent.  He lived, I believe, in a Craftsman stylehome similar to this one on Stanleyin Hollywood, 

which has since been demolished to make way for this uglyapartmentbuilding. 

While working for MGM, Ken set himself agoal to locate a pair of theRuby Slippers.  How many pairs he found are still up for debate, but thestory of their discovery is riveting, mentioning the possibility of seven pairs.  One pair was auctioned in 1970, butanother pair surfaced shortly thereafter, and Kent kept a pair (the nicest ofcourse), sold a pair… it’s fascinating.  You can peruse a comprehensiveslipper website here.  

Kent was also a huge Judy Garland fan (I didn’tsee that one coming). He attended an Oscar party and photo-bombed Judy.

Rhys Thomas’ painstaking research into Kent’s life is welldocumented, and I hope he doesn’t mind my repeating the story, and I promise youits an interesting read.

Kent contracted AIDS.  In Spring of 1983, hesold his house, and moved into a condoin Studio City.  

Some rather festivesoul lives there now, 

and has this disappointing modern mailbox.  

Eventually, on April 25th, 1984 – he succumbed tosepticshock and peritonitis. He was 41 years old.

He is buried at Forest Lawn HollywoodHills.  According to the book, It was an unusual service in that words were notspoken. On a beautiful Saturday in Southern California, the type of day Kent liked to spend at flea markets, the mourners stood in silence on the hillside, while the casket was lowering into the ground. They watched in silence while friends and family took a hand at pouring shovel after shovel full of dirt onto the casket, silence while the spade packed the last handful of earth on a mound of memories.

Trivia:  Kent adored Connie Sellica and did the costumes on the A-Team and Hunter.

If you have any information on the rip-off of theslippers, call (I swear) 1-800-664-JUDY (5839) or 218-327-9276.

Another Oz Collectibleyou might be interested in.

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