Best Collector - 2009
Vyle Raven-Greyv, Curiouser & Curiouser
"I spent the first nine months of my life in a Ziploc bag and have been clawing my way to freedom ever since."
That's her life, in a nutshell, according to Vyle Raven-Greyv, the eccentric owner of the weirdest shop in the Valley, Curiouser & Curiouser.
"I can't say more because it would ruin my mystique," Vyle maintains. (Everyone calls her Vyle.)
All you really need to know is that Vyle is a woman who collects everything. Everything. Here's just a sampling: She has five hearses (which she actually drives), a large collection of military vehicles (some of which sit outside her store on Seventh Avenue and Missouri and serve as her "Open" and "Closed" signs), two I.G.huahuas (a breed of dog she says she invented herself, a cross between Italian Greyhound and Chihuahua), and a 4,000-square-foot house that she says is so full of stuff and reptiles that she can't walk through it anymore. And that doesn't even include anything that's lost in the amazing mass of "curioddities and obscuriosities" that you can find inside her store.
When you walk in, you're greeted by an Egyptian coffin, a mummy listening to headphones, and a skeleton sitting with his head under an old '50s-style salon hairdryer. There are shoes, jewelry, records, B-movies, bear traps, jukeboxes, crosses, Buddhas, couches, an entire room full of vintage clothes, another full of dolls, more bags than you can count, a row of sunglasses hanging on a line, a sophisticated collection of old candy, lamps, statues of anything from dogs to zombie soldiers, army helmets, feather boas, witch hats, a lawn jockey, glassware, an African mask, an alien mask, dog collars, kites, a rocking horse, an old cigarette dispenser . . . and a wood-carved rendering of the Last Supper. Whew! There's much, much more, but we've run out of breath.
"I spent most of my life finding things," Vyle says. "Clearly, I don't need anything else."
Vyle refuses to share her age, and she compares herself to Michael Jackson (she says she has a Peter Pan complex and refuses to date anyone over the age of 19; let's just say she's probably old enough to have been Jacko's mother), but we think she's beyond compare — a one-of-a-kind, an original, a total mystery. This is a woman who is and/or has been, she says, a military historian, an artist, a graphic designer, a multimedia pioneer, an event manager, a public relations specialist, a ferocious patriot, and a number of other occupations we can't fit into coherent phrases.
So, what does it all mean — all the stuff, all the identities? "They're souvenirs of having lived," she says. And, even if the rest is a mystery, the fact that Vyle Raven-Greyv has lived is most certainly true.