These Precious Things: "Stuff is the issue" for the official Tori archivist

Little Blue World vol.2 n°1 spring 2002

Saturday 27 August 2011, by Aimee Lortskell

In January, LBW’s new editor Nadyne Mielke and I were privileged to be given a personal tour of the official archive maintained for Tori and her family. Simply put, it is the largest and most comprehensive private collection of Tori memorabilia extant, and we spent an entire amazing day experiencing the collection with the guidance of the archivist.

The archive is not open to the public, and we won’t be revealing the location, the archivist’s name, or other identifying details for security reasons. The existence of the archive has not been publicly discussed before now, and we’re thrilled to be able to present this story to the Toriphile community for the very first time.

First, let us introduce the archivist, who has been quietly dedicated to maintaining this archive since 1976, when Tori was only 12 years old and just starting her career as a performer. He is a trusted friend ofthe family, and has fascinating stories about Tori’s youth and early career. It was the archivist who first suggested that Tori enter a city theme song contest with what we now know as her first single, "Baltimore," and collectors can thank him for the existence of that elusive rarity.

He met Tori one afternoon in late June of 1976, when she and her father came to Mr. Smith’s, the bar he worked in, to ask for an audition. She had been playing at Mr. Henry’s since the age of 11, but was only paid in tips, and this time she was looking for a real paying gig. Tori played a selection of covers and a few of her original songs to a small, lunch-time crowd for about 30 minutes, and immediatly captivated her audience. This is how she was hired for her first formal job, playing in the Tiffany Lounge of Mr. Smith’s four nights a week.

She played there regularly for more than two years, and during this time, the archivist and Tori got to know each other, and became friends over many hot teas and virgin daiquiris. Tori would scribble her setlist for the evening (every night was different, just like she does it now) after school, and he took to saving them for her along with recordings and other keepsakes of her performances. Tori was touched by this, and one day she called him her "little archivist" and a profession was born.

For more than 25 years, he has been devoted to archiving Tori’s career and history. He is a consummate preservationist, and goes to great lenghts to protect and catalog the contents of the archive. Promotional posters, 8x10 glossies, and other frameable items are sealed to museum specifications beneath UV-protective glass and mounted with acid-free paper. All are numbered and signed by Tori with a color-coordinated paint pen to keep the signature from fading as it would with a Sharpie or other kind of pen.

A great deal of attention to detail is apparent, right down to the style of the frame and cut and color of the matting being carefully chosen to complement the piece. Oak fillets, painted bevels, custom-painted french lines, and even 22 karat hand-glazed gold all lend character to each unique graphic display; hundreds of dollars are spent just to frame one poster. Magazines are preserved and filed in special, acid-free manila envelopes with labels denoting the title, author, issue, date, and which pages feature Tori.

The archive also colllects official Tori art, such as original proofs by Paulina Stuckey and Herb Leonhard. It’s interesting to note that Leonhard’s "Cornflake Girl" painting, featured in the Lyrics book, (and our fall 2001 issue), is based on this issue’s cover photo, taken by the archivist.

Videotapes of all of Tori’s TV appearances are stored in white, non-PVC plastic cases with sleeve inserts custom-designed right down to extraneous details like font (Enchanted) and color (earth-tone green). The 162-tape video collection has everything from Tori’s first TV appearance performing "Baltimore" in 1980 to the recent episode of Roswell which featured Tori’s version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." It includes commercials and TV shows in which Tori appeared when she lived in L.A. and unedited copies of the interviews given by family and friends to shows like "Before They Were Rock Stars."

Also on file are Tori and Mark’s wedding photos, which look rather different than they did in the magazines and on The Dent website. Tori described her dress as ice blue, but reproductions made it look like just another shade of white. In the actual photos, you can see the color and texture better, including the pale blue crushed-velvet cape she wore. And for you dyed-in-the-wool girly girls out there, the wedding colors were very soft, bright shades of blue, green, and purple.