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Mr. Hollywood 

Morrie Everett’s movie poster empire draws the collectible world to Kirtland

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Back then, his guests were as famous as the stars he traded in. And they didn't always come during calling hours.

"Michael Jackson used to come in, before it opened or after it closed, with two bodyguards. He'd say to me, 'Mr. Everett, do you have any Shirley Temple or Disney or child stars?'"

Everett has done business with Steven Spielberg, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Clint Eastwood, among others. The stars tend to seek his counsel when buying film-related items as gifts.

By the end of the 1990s, he had closed the Hollywood store after his friendship — and the neighborhood — fell apart. "We had a porn theater open down the street, and people were panhandling for money," he remembers. "It wasn't paying its bills anymore."

In 2000, he also shuttered his downtown Cleveland store after weathering his ninth break-in — almost one a year. Every time, the crooks took money and equipment, but never posters.

Far from the lights of Tinseltown — or even C-Town — Everett opened up shop in Kirtland, where he lives. He does little walk-up business there, but also little commuting. "And out here in Kirtland," he adds, "I have been broken into zero times."

Every once in a while, an avid collector — maybe 20 of them a year — will find his way to Everett's strip-mall home to root among the cartons and stacks. He welcomes them all.

"We had two guys from California who spent nine days here," he recalls. "I've got a man here from California right now who comes in once a year. This guy is a high-end dealer, looking for important stuff. He's looking to buy a lot and wants a discount."

In Hollywood's early years, more posters were printed in Cleveland than anywhere else, thanks to a concentration of companies specializing in the stone lithography process used to manufacture posters into the 1940s.

One inevitable by-product of poster making was overprinting — printing-press flubs that have gone from worthless to (in some cases) priceless.

"You're running a poster, then you run another poster, and one poster prints over another at the end. Then you had two or three overprints on one sheet," says Bob West, a professor in Kent State's journalism and mass communications department.

In the 1960s, West worked for an ad agency that used one of Cleveland's main lithographers, Continental Lithograph Printing, which is still in operation on East 72nd Street near St. Clair Avenue. (It's known today as Continental Franzen Litho.)

"They just gave them away, to me anyway," he says. "I used them to wallpaper my house. I think other people used them for decoration too. Now they're valuable — one of a kind — but I moved a long time ago. Maybe they're still in that house."

In other instances, the houses themselves are stockpiles of memorabilia.

Years ago, once a movie's theatrical run had ended, posters that weren't trashed sometimes fell into the hands of area home-builders: Promotional window cards, measuring 14x22 inches, were printed on heavy cardboard stock that, back then, was used as insulation in houses.

Today, Everett is sometimes called on to assess the treasures hidden in the walls of homes. As he puts it: "Death brings the good and the bad." And the death of an old house can yield a treasure chest of movie memories.

"We sold $100,000 out of the floorboards of a house in Washington," he says. "They were almost all from 1927, when the house was built. The guy must have worked for a theater or lithograph company."

Everett has seen much of the same here. "Cleveland is rich in history. We know there are more houses with posters in them. We find them when they are renovating or tearing them down. They're all on the West and South Side. We haven't found a single one on the East Side. I think it's because the homes there are older."

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