Hollywood Museum founder Donelle Dadigan headed a re-opening ceremony of her Hollywood Museum August 4, 2021; commemorating the donated additional props from Bill and Patrick Shea to the Back to the Future Part I, II, III exhibit. On behalf of the Museum and the Shea father and son, Donelle presented a $5,000 check to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which Michael accepted via video. Another Back to the Future alumni who couldn’t be there – screenwriter Steve Gale. Steve gave his Back to the Future comments also via video, as he is in pre-production of BACK TO THE FUTURE: THE MUSICAL to open later this month at the Adelphi Theatre in London.
Surrounded by a plethora of celebrities, Hollywood Museum board members and Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, Donelle told her captive audience of the various safety measures implemented during the Museum’s closure. Those in attendance were treated to the newly named “Hollywood Museum Burger” from the Museum’s next-door neighbor, Mel’s Drive-In Hollywood.
Had the chance to catch Donelle before her presentation.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Donelle!
How has The Hollywood Museum held up during these pandemic months?
Other than not being able to open to the public, there has actually been a lot of activity surrounding the Museum. Both production and media outlets were able to take advantage of the down time, that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible, including ABC for the Academy Awards, CBS Sunday Morning with Jane Pauley, documentary productions, and a new talk show hosted by Susan Anton for the Retro TV Network and The Family Channel; reuniting casts from shows such as Happy Days, Knots Landing, Lost In Space, as well as The Sid & Marty Krofft shows. One of the more ambitious projects accomplished during the down time was the virtual productions of The Hollywood Museum Squares, with the original directors, producers and over 40 stars from each of the shows successful incarnations, including all three of its hosts, Tom Bergeron, John Davidson and Peter Marshall (intros), as well as the shows narrator, Shadoe Stevens. Tickets for those virtual shows can be purchased at StellarTickets.com.
How about yourself? Were you just as busy with your Museum responsibilities as if it had remained opened? Or did you get to spend more time relaxing at home?
Forgive me for laughing, but I can’t recall there having much time to rest. We used the 18 months constructively, by upgrading an already state of the art security system and, given the pandemic, we are proud to announce that the Museum’s ventilation and filtration system has been upgraded and is now outfitted with hospital and school quality filters, including UV-blue light – sanitation systems that have been installed – in each of our ventilation units – to neutralize – allergens and pollens in the air, AND kill up to 99.9% mold, germs, and viruses that can cause COVID-19, so that when we reopen, the public and regular patrons as well as our staff can feel safe and thoroughly enjoy the exhibits without trepidation. However, masks are still required at this time.
You bought this building, still known as the Historic Max Factor building, in 1994. Were you involved in petitioning for its historical landmark status?
No, I was not. Huell Howser led the charged to do that, prior to my purchase. However, I enjoyed my conversations with Huell about the building, its history and its importance to the Hollywood community and the Hollywood entertainment industry.
I understand that you originally bought this building to house your personal collection of Hollywood artifacts.
At the time, I was the new kid on the block, and there were other prospects for museums in the works. However, The Hollywood Museum is the only one to have survived.
Currently, the Hollywood Museum houses over 10,000 articles of movie memorabilia. At what point did you stop counting?
Maybe more than a decade ago? At that point we were nearly representing 100 years. Forms its humble beginning to present.
Is there one particular piece that you make a point of looking at each time you walk through your Museum? And what is its significance?
I appreciate you’re not asking for a favorite item, because I can never answer that. It’s the “Sophia’s Choice” question. It’s like asking which child does a mother love the most. As far as any particular piece, it changes as often as the schedule of our highlighted lobby exhibits. One constant is Max Factor’s personal make-up case and the original make-up that Max factor, in many cases, invented himself. There are the distinctive and rare items such as the Beauty Calibrator and the kissing machine. The first is early technology, designed to evaluate a woman’s features and show where could use the most attention, and the latter was developed out of sheer necessity. At the time, it was required to hire married couples to test the lipsticks, but even the most matrimonially dedicated became weary of kissing each other all day long. Max Factor gave us many of the staples we use today, such as pancake and tube lipstick. There are many examples of his genius enabling entertainment to acclimate to an ever-changing industry. As films went from black and while to color, he had to adapt with the times. As you know, make-up is not one size… or shade… fits all. Each of the stars had different complexions and features to be highlighted. He developed the standard for determining the best look for women using their hair color. A practice copied by the studios, which, of course, led to his world-famous Blondes Only, Red Heads Only, Brunettes Only, and Brownettes Only rooms.
Not only memorabilia pertaining to Hollywood is housed in the Museum’s collection. Can you tease my BroadwayWorld readers with some of the many items related to Broadway entertainers?
As you know, several stars had cross over careers, from stage to screen or screen to stage and back again. Legends represented in the Museum include, Judy Garland, Joel Grey, Bette Midler, Patrick Swayze, Shirley MacLaine, Nathan Lane, Carol Channing, Bob Hope, and many more. The Museum houses props and wardrobe connected to these legendary individuals from crossover productions such as CABARET, HELLO DOLLY!, THE PRODUCERS, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, knows as The Bird Cage for the film version. There is a costume that was worn by Bob Hope while in vaudeville and a jacket worn by Rose Marie (Sally Rogers/The Dick Van Dyke Show) worn on opening night of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas.
From customer feedback, what is the most popular item or exhibit everyone flocks to?
That is as distinctive and varying as the fans themselves. Some are huge Lucille Ball fans, who can’t get enough of the I Love Lucy artifacts. Other’s may be dedicated fans of Marilyn Monroe and linger on items or wardrobe from her career as well as her personal life. Some are fans of SciFy and congregate around collections dedicated to The Planet of the Apes, The Minority Report, The Hunger Games, Star Wars and Star Trek. Fans are extremely diverse. While one may be drawn to Rocky‘s boxing gloves and robe, another is captivated the costumes and wands from Harry Potter, or intrigued by Pee-Wee Herman‘s bicycle. There is no end to the diversity. We have found that the most dedicated of the fans are those who love horror and suspense. Some have been known to make pilgrimages to our Dungeon of Doom, which includes everything from the original classics such as Frankenstein, Werewolf and The Mummy to the iconic Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday The 13th, and Halloween, as well as Chucky, Van Helsing, The Walking Dead, Sweeney Todd, and The Birds. Of particular interest to just about everyone is the original complete set of the Academy Award winning Silence of the Lambs, which includes costumes and props used by Sir Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter and the chair that Jodie Foster actually sat in for the film as FBI agent, Clarice Starling. There is also the Historic Photo Gallery, which includes a piece of the original Hollywood sign, complete with graffiti and bullet holes, as well as photos of early Hollywood, its founders and pioneers, such as Charlie Chaplin, Dolores del Río, Mae West, Dorothy Dandridge, Mary Pickford, DW Griffith, Butterfly McQueen, Shirley Temple, Cecile B DeMille, Hattie McDaniel, Clark Gable, Lena Horne, Ramon Navaro, Sidney Poitier … The list seems endless.
You just reopened the Hollywood Museum to the public.
Yes, August 4th the Museum was re-opened to the public from 10:00am to 5:00pm and, among many exhibits, we will be highlighting the Back To The Future trilogy that includes costumes, props, scripts, designs, sketches, even the hover boards and, of course, the DeLorean.
Is there still an elusive item that you would love to include in your Hollywood Museum?
I’m proud to say that the Museum’s reputation has grown to the point that the word elusive is not as prominent as it used to be. We are very grateful to the studios, the networks and production companies that now seem to reach out to us with offers and suggestions. I suppose, if I put my mind to it, I could come up with an iconic wish list of items from the past we would love to include. We already represent over 100 years of TV and film history and that list will only continue to grow as long as new films and TV shows continue to captivate audiences.
Thank you again, Donelle! I look forward to visiting your Hollywood Museum again when it reopens.
For directions, hours, tickets and COVID safety measures, log onto www.thehollywoodmuseum.com
To follow the Museum, go to: