Rose Bowl flea market
Where Hollywood's power players find trash and treasure
So, Mr. Fink, you’re new in Hollywood. You’ve just sold that million-dollar screenplay about love, life, and terrorists taking over the Santa Monica sewage-treatment plant, and now you want to spend your money in the hippest way possible. But where do the beautiful people go to power-shop these days? Rodeo Drive? Melrose Avenue? Hardly.
It’s Pasadena, on the second Sunday of every month, at the massive Rose Bowl flea market, where you’re likely to see Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer, Diane Keaton, Whoopi Goldberg, or megaproducer Joel Silver scrounging for bargains among the thousands of junk-treasure vendors spread across the stadium parking lot, selling everything from tube socks to $8,000 player pianos.
The smart shoppers — and most of the stars — arrive before dawn, paying a $10 early-entrance fee to get first crack at the bazaar, a mind-numbing maze of antique furniture, vintage clothing, jewelry, and lots of really bad art. There are antique fountain pens being sold for thousands of dollars and Dukes of Hazzard lunch boxes for considerably less. Anything worth collecting — from Pee-wee Herman dolls to Tiffany lamps — can be found here. Anything. ”Lisa Bonet was here last month,” says vendor Cole Cantrell, ”looking at my snuff bottles.”
Jerry Simpson sells vintage radios and sees plenty of stars. ”Jamie Lee Curtis is around all the time,” he says. ”You wouldn’t recognize her, though, ’cause she always looks like hell.”
Dixie Mark, who sells items ranging from old magazines to traffic signals, has worked the Bowl for 25 years, and it wouldn’t bother her if she never saw another star. ”The celebrities are the biggest chiselers out here,” she says. ”I tried to get Ringo Starr to give me $5 for a Mickey Mouse rattle and he wouldn’t do it. All he’d pay was a dollar.”
”You could be living in a $40 million mansion and still want to dicker over $1.98,” Simpson says, laughing. ”But I understand that. It’s the hunt that matters. That’s why they’re here.”