They hide in plain sight

A gay friend of mine once told me—half-jokingly—that it was easier for him to come out as a homosexual than as a doll collector. He recounted to me how for years he had taken his dolls off a shelf in his apartment and hid them in a closet whenever he was expecting company. He described how he once literally threw them into a box while his sister knocked on his door for an unannounced visit.

Finally, he said, it just became too exhausting to carry on his charade. He told me that when he did “come out” to his family as a fashion doll collector, they seemed even more confused than when he announced to them that he was gay and had a boyfriend. “It was insane,” he told me. “My heart was beating faster than when I introduced my partner to them.”

In my experience as a doll collector, this story, while amusing, isn’t all that far-fetched. I may not hide “my girls” when I have company, but I do find myself censoring myself when it comes to talking about my dolls. I’ve also found myself mentally categorizing my friends and colleagues into those who “know” and those who “don’t know”—much, I suppose, like a closeted homosexual.

Now I don’t mean to equate being a doll collector who gets smirks when revealing her hobby with being a lesbian who must put up with homophobia on a regular basis. But there are some interesting parallels, nonetheless. Doll collectors are more than aware that many people find their hobby odd, to say the least. We are regularly confronted with questions like, “Do they stare at you at night?” “Is that a Chucky doll?” and (my favorite) “How much money did you pay for that?”

It’s no wonder we seek one another out for company. The company of other doll collectors is one of the few places we can revel in our love of all things doll and know we won’t be judged for it.

So it’s safe to say that collecting dolls is far from mainstream. This line of thinking led me to wonder if any celebrities collect dolls—and, if so, what the general reaction to that is.

The handful of famous people I already knew of who collect dolls of some sort (or at least are open about doing so) tend to be people who are otherwise perceived as—how shall I say this—“quirky.” The fact that Richard Simmons and Marie Osmond both collect and produce dolls doesn’t exactly lend a lot of credibility to the rest of us. Ditto for Morgan Fairchild, Annette Funicello, and Kathie Lee Gifford.

One mainstream doll collector who has never felt the need to closet herself is Demi Moore, although the media has taken its share of jabs at her substantial collection (by some estimates, more than 3,000 dolls valued at more than $2 million, all displayed in a house of their own). It seems that Demi’s first husband, Bruce Willis, initiated her love of dolls by purchasing her a pair of Anne Mitrani dolls early in their courtship. Demi loved the dolls and quickly got bit by the collector bug. Her second husband wasn’t all that enthralled with his wife’s blossoming collection. Here’s one quote from Ashton Kutcher that doll collectors will find particularly endearing:

“They upset me – I saw Chucky! These things freak me out, man, and she’s got like thousands of them. They’re everywhere – and they’re freaky. I think the dolls have souls. And they’re always looking at you – we have some in the bedroom and that makes things just weird. Some of these things are worth a lot of money apparently but they frighten me a little bit.”

What a prize he was. You’re better off without him, Demi.

Demi Moore holds a Robert Tonner doll purchased for her at a charity auction by her then-husband Bruce Willis.

I had dug up this information on Demi last week, while I was researching for this post on celebrity doll collectors. Demi seemed to be the most “mainstream” collector out there. And then, performing yet another doll/celebrity Google search, I saw a headline that I was certain I had read wrong.

Johnny Depp, ardent collector of celeb dolls

And this:

Johnny Depp’s Barbie collection: Depp says ‘It’s one of the things I’m good at’

I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.

It appears that Johnny Depp, the coolest of the cool kids in Hollywood, one of the most respected, most celebrated male actors of our age, collects dolls.

No way.

According to the various Hollywood media reports I uncovered, Depp’s collection includes “dozens and dozens of Barbies, all limited and special editions.” His focus, apparently, are dolls depicting Hollywood celebrities, including himself. Beyonce, Elvis, Paris Hilton, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Lindsay Lohan are also listed by anonymous “sources” as some of the celebrity dolls in Depp’s collection. In interviews, Depp has no qualms talking about how he plays dolls with his kids and owns that he has “a lot of Barbies in storage.”

Fun with Photoshop

In fact, it seems like Depp enjoys his own play with his collection. Several Hollywood news sites state that the actor dresses and accessorizes his dolls to reflect the goings-on of various Hollywood divas. This includes his Lohan doll, which sources say Depp had accessorized with an ankle bracelet when Lindsay was put under house arrest. Johnny Depp, it seems, is a collector who has learned “the power of play.”

“Surely,” I thought, “if Johnny Depp collects dolls, then it will be perceived as ‘normal.’ If someone this cool is a doll collector, how can I be called weird?”

Pretty easily, it seems.

“Johnny Depp: Barbie Enthusiast, Creepy Doll Collector” rang out the headline of Details magazine. “No, that’s not creepy at all,” wrote Details’ resident blogger, in response to Depp’s confession to Jimmy Kimmel that he “has a lot of Barbies in storage.”


Apparently it will take more than Johnny Depp’s Barbie collection to break the general distaste and contempt our society as a whole reserves for doll collectors. I believe that even if that embodiment of the very pinnacle of masculinity itself—Don Draper—acknowledged possessing a doll collection, it still would likely not remove the stigma associated with it.

Then again, I thought, perhaps it’s not so bad to be in the company of Johnny Depp and Demi Moore. Demi’s selection of fine artist dolls shows that she has a deep appreciation for art in doll form, and Depp’s admission that he enjoys accessorizing his celebrity dolls illustrates that he is open to expressing his creativity in unconventional ways.

I’ve definitely been in worse company than that.

That’s one hunky doll