Man to auction suit bearing autographs of 300 celebrities including Bette Midler

Jersey Central
Glen Gardner man to auction suit bearing autographs of 300 celebrities

After three decades working behind the scenes on Broadway, a borough resident will take center stage to auction a suit with more than 300 famous autographs to benefit an actors’ retirement home.

Vince Esoldi spent more than 35 years on Broadway and at Radio City Music Hall doing hair and wardrobe for some of the top stars to light up the Great White Way. Many of those stars autographed Esoldi’s Autograph Suit that will be auctioned off on the eBay internet auction site starting Wednesday, Aug. 18.

Esoldi will donate 20 percent of the proceeds to the Lillian Booth Actors’ Home of the Actors’ Fund in Englewood in memory of his friend and colleague Peter Howard. Howard, who died in April 2008 at age 81 after residing at the Actors Home, was a musical director, composer and musician whose Broadway credits included “My Fair Lady,” “The Sound Of Music,” and “Hello, Dolly!”.

The Autograph Suit was born after Esoldi attended the opening night party at Sardi’s Restaurant in New York City for the play “Sherlock Holmes.”

“I had my illustrator friends draw on some Sherlock Holmes designs,” Esoldi said. “I wore it to the show, and it was a big conversation piece.”

Esoldi bumped into singer/actress Ethel Merman and asked her to sign the suit.

“I signed a lot of things in my time, but I never signed a suit,” Esoldi quoted Merman as saying. “There were a lot of celebrities downstairs, including Bernadette Peters, and I had 17 autographs after that night.”

Esoldi began working on Broadway doing hair for “Barnum.” He eventually got into the wardrobe union and worked on the original “Dreamgirls.” The longer he worked, the more autographs he accumulated, and he had to add a vest, scarf and shirt to the suit.

He’s had some rare catches over the years. He had Hugh Jackman sign the suit right next to the late Peter Allen, who Jackman portrayed on Broadway. And Paul Newman, who rarely signs autographs, agreed when he saw that Esoldi had Newman’s daughter Susan Kendall Newman on the suit but made Esoldi promise not to tell anyone. Wife, Joanne Woodward, signed as well.

The roster of autographs is too long to list here but includes such major stars as Frank Sinatra, Henry Fonda, Bette Midler, Cher, Meryl Streep, Lena Horne, Elizabeth Taylor, Andy Warhol, Faye Dunaway, Christopher Reeve, Mary Tyler Moore, Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Jimmy Stewart and many more.

While in New Hampshire a few years ago, Esoldi walked into a restaurant where president-to-be Barack Obama and wife, Michelle, were eating with campaign workers. He got the Obamas to sign his scarf. Esoldi also claims to have former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean’s first autograph as governor.

“I’m retiring after 25 years in the wardrobe union,” Esoldi said. “It felt like a great time to do this.”

Aside from the Actors’ Home, Esoldi will fund a performing-arts scholarship at Pocono Mountain East High School in Stillwater, Pa. He also has drawn interest in the suit from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and hopes the eBay winner will donate the suit to the Smithsonian, where it can be seen by the public.

The auction begins at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 18, at Search for “autograph suit.”

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Additional Facts
WHAT:Autograph Suit benefit auction
WHO:Vince Esoldi of Glen Gardner
WHEN:Monday Aug. 18 search for Autograph Suit

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