My drivers license reads "Eric Reiss" but Im Rick to friends
and family. I was born in San Antonio, Texas in 1954, but moved shortly thereafter to St.
Louis, Missouri, so I cannot really call myself a Texan. "Rebel born, Yankee
bred," as my Southern friends say.
|By the time I was five or six, I had already
started collecting junk in the "Gaslight Square" district of St.
Louisprimarily old wind-up phonographs and other mechanical things that caught my
fancy. In 1963, my family moved to the Chicago area, where I taught myself player-piano
repair by tearing apart a soggy old pumper that had been abandoned in our basement. This
eventually provided the capital needed to help me build my various and sundry
collectionsphonographs, jukeboxes, nickelodeons, and other bulky things. My timing
was great. Player pianos were just coming back in vogue as people rediscovered the music
of Scott Joplin and other ragtime pioneers through new recordings by Joshua Rivkin, Max
Morath, Eubie Blake etc..
In 1972, I
graduated from Highland Park
High School, my folks moved to Miami, Florida, and I headed back to St. Louis
to attend Washington University.
During my second stay in St. Louis, I helped finance my studies and collecting mania by
playing ragtime piano down on the levee on the Goldenrod Showboat,
where I became musical director in 1975.
At Washington University, I met a foreign exchange student
from Denmark and in late 1975, I landed a job as a stage director at the Danish Royal
Theater, which enabled me to pursue both my chosen career and my romantic interest. After
my graduation in 1976, with majors in Performing Arts and Political Science, I headed for
Copenhagen where Ive lived ever since.
Rick, age 3
Rick and jukebox,
After 10 years of work in the
highly political (and highly unsatisfactory) world of Danish theater, I took time off to
write a book about old phonographs entitled The
Compleat Talking Machine. It has since become something of a classic for phonograph
collectors and is now in its third revised edition (eighth printing). In a roundabout way,
the book eventually led to a new career as a writer for a large Copenhagen-based
business-to-business advertising agency. They needed someone who could explain technical
things to people who werent necessarily technically oriented, which was pretty much
what I had accomplished in the phonograph book.
On an odd sidenote, one of the big New York ad
agencies has a sign on the wall: "Dont tell my mother Im a writer in an
advertising agency. She thinks I play piano in a whorehouse." I think I must be one
of the few copywriters who has actually done bothand I assure you, my mother is much
more pleased with my current profession. So is my wife, Dorthe.
So what about the hats?
Ive always loved hats, particularly visor hats, and have had several
collections over the yearsoften made up of discarded theatrical costumes. Most of
the first collection was sold in order to pay an enormous overseas phone bill when I was
in college. A few years later, I sold the second one to finance my move to Denmark. The
collection you see here got started when I tacked a few hats to the wall of my office at
the agency. For some reason, this appealed to my friends and co-workers, who have since
made major contributions. In fact, there are now several hundred hats decorating the
wallsas well as the antlers of my mascot, Max the Moose.
Now in its
Rick and Dorthe
Max the Moose
|My good friend and colleague, Ralph, thought
the hats deserved a Web site, so here it is. My warmest thanks to Lotte, who spent
numerous evenings and weekends creating the fundamental design, compressing graphics, and
putting it all together, and to Michael, who programmed the fantastic database that makes
it work so efficiently.
Portraits by Finn Rosted