Collector David Howes was born in 1962, five years after the Grinch burst on the children's book scene. Written by Dr. Seuss, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" has become a multimedia success story.
And Howes has become the ultimate Grinch collector. At age 50, the East Aurora resident has gathered at least 150 pieces of Grinch memorabilia. Through the course of his collecting, Howes also has amassed an amazing amount of Grinch trivia.
By day, Howes works in the building maintenance department of the Orchard Park School District. On weekends, especially during the holiday season, Howes shares his collection with the public. Currently, much of it is on display in the Aurora Theater on Main Street in East Aurora.
People Talk: What is roast beast?
David Howes: Most people think it's roast beef, but it's an eight-legged turkey. That's the thing I like the most, the Whos are so over the top on everything. They like doing everything to the extreme. I can relate to that.
PT: When did you fall for the Grinch?
DH: As a kid I think I was a little scared at first of the Grinch. I was probably 8 years old, and I always watched the Grinch, Frosty and Rudolph. But the Grinch became my absolute favorite. I think I liked the green.
PT: What sparked the collection?
DH: In 2003, when the props [from the 2000 live-action movie] started showing up I absolutely fell in love with their design: the Seussian skews, the twists, the turns. I felt like I was owning a piece of history. I wanted something tangible from the movie. My first prop was a green ornament. I think it cost $42.
PT: Isn't the Grinch mean?
DH: Most people think he is mean, but I say he is misunderstood. The spirit of Christmas really changed him. His heart grew three times its size. At the end, he brings back all the presents. He becomes the hero of Whoville.
PT: Do you identify with the Grinch?
DH: I think anybody can identify with the whole story of maybe being an outcast like the Grinch. I never considered myself unhappy or mean, but I can understand being an outcast because I was a little heavy kid. In the film version with Jim Carrey, the Grinch clearly was bullied. They show how he was picked on, especially by the mayor who was absolutely horrible to him.
PT: What is your prized Grinch possession?
DH: Definitely the pumbersilla. It cost $650. Most of the props doubled to quadrupled in value since I bought them. If you look at the props, you'll see they used a lot of '50s art deco style. A pumbersilla, a cross between an umbrella and a parasol, floats from the sky carrying newborn Whos. We have our stork story. The Whos have their pumbersilla, which was not in the original cartoon version.
PT: Do you prefer the cartoon or movie?
DH: The movie because of its character development. If you watch the movie, you'll see the rivalry between Betty Lou Who and Martha May Whovier, the mayor's love interest. You'll understand the Grinch even more. He lives on Mount Crumpit, and he can see the Whos throwing their presents away. He could not understand the idea of getting presents and then throwing them away after a couple of weeks. It didn't make sense to him. I think he is the most intuitive Who in Whoville. He thought Christmas was supposed to be more than presents.
PT: What do you think of the cartoon's narrator, Boris Karloff?
DH: No one else could have pulled it off like he did. I love that we hear him through the whole thing, but he doesn't sing the Grinch song. Thurl Ravenscroft, the voice of Tony the Tiger, did. He was inadvertently left out of the credits, and Boris Karloff and Dr. Seuss personally called him to apologize. He was such a gentleman.
PT: What is your next collection piece?
DH: I have the last surviving piece of the Grinch's furnace, and I can't wait to restore it.
PT: Are you obsessed with the Grinch?
DH: Maybe fascinated. OK, maybe it borderlines on obsessed. I do believe I am saving a piece of movie history that is obviously becoming a cult classic movie.
PT: What are you wearing on your feet?
DH: Who shoes. Do you notice how large they are? The Whos all had six toes. That fact is recited at the very beginning of the movie, which Anthony Hopkins narrates. Another fact they mention in the movie is that the young Who doesn't have a pronounced nose. He hasn't grown into it yet.
PT: What kind of dog is Max?
DH: A mutt. In the movie's DVD extras, they'll tell you Max was actually rescued from the pound. Max's real name was Kelly, so Max was a girl.
PT: What would you ask Jim Carrey if you had the chance?
DH: If he would play the Grinch again. He actually sat in the makeup chair for three hours every morning to get that makeup on, and another hour-and-a-half at night to get it off. He was in makeup 93 days.
PT: What is a recent Grinch fact you came upon?
DH: There are 1,938 candy canes used in the movie. They were all props. I watched the movie maybe a hundred times over but there's almost another two hours of extras on the DVD. You think you can catch everything, but that was one little fact they stuck in at the end.
PT: What else do you devote your energy to?
DH: My house and my wife. Our house was built in 1928. My wife and I have been married for seven years.
PT: What does your wife say about your preoccupation?
DH: She is very tolerant, I'll have to say. My wife is a "Wizard of Oz" fan, nowhere near the extreme that I am with Grinch. We do have a big collection of the original Oz books, pre-1935 with color plates. That to me is a collection in itself.