HeyHeyUp! Bilko’s Back – Bigger and Better!
Photos courtesy of Rob Tysall and Steve Everett.
Ann Evans reports that Coventry’s Sgt. Bilko Vintage Emporium and Phil Silvers Archival Museum are back in business.
Like everyone who runs any kind of business, the last four months have been difficult and worrying times. It’s been no different for Steve Everett who is the proprietor of the unique Sgt. Bilko Vintage Emporium and the Phil Silvers Archival Museum in Coventry.
At the start of lockdown however, Steve made up his mind to put a positive spin on the situation. For some time, he had been keen to revamp his museum and shop in order to create a bigger space for exhibiting his Phil Silvers memorabilia and to accommodate visitors to the museum.
Steve had earlier launched a Crowdfunding appeal, plus financial help also came from the Heart of England Coronavirus Resilience Fund, which he was extremely grateful for.
The result being that the unique Phil Silvers Archival Museum – the only one in the world and which has the full support of the Phil Silvers’ family, has been completely revamped. The Archival Museum is dedicated to the life and work of actor/comedian Phil Silvers, and houses a generous display of person effects and items, posters, photographs, letters, books and memorabilia. The Museum was first opened on 1st November 2015 – the 30th anniversary of Phil’s passing. Since then, members of Phil Silvers’ family have visited on a number of occasions and donated many personal items belonging to Phil.
Steve was delighted that Phil’s daughters have recently donated even more personal items that belonged to Phil – including some Top Banana Hats from shows in the 1951-52 period. The revamped museum was officially opened on July 4th 2020, Independence Day.
Amongst the treasures are a pair of his famous glasses, his shoes, his shoe-horn, a smoking jacket, two overcoats, a red waistcoat, hand written letters, his desk clock and wristwatch both of which are still working. His driver’s licence from 1981, various cards such as his Screen Actor’s card, his Beverley Hills bath robe and his favourite Dodgers blanket which he took to games with him. There are also original tickets to his shows which were recorded in front of a live audience. There’s a gold statuette, given to everyone involved when the show went into syndication in 1961. Also, a gold brick which Phil got when the show finished. There’s also many original photographs and Sgt Bilko comics and toys.
Last year they were delighted to acquire five animation cells and some of the pencil storyboard artwork which had originally been on display in New York. Steve made contact with the artist, who was impressed by Steve’s Phil Silvers Archival Museum, and sold him the treasured items.
Steve said: “We have had them scanned professionally printed onto light sensitive paper, so it’s the copies that are on display and the originals stored away safely. To find any of these surviving after 63 years is amazing.”
Visitors to the museum (which is free) can enjoy seeing and hearing Phil Silvers and his Sgt. Bilko brigade throughout their visit as Steve has rigged up a retro television from the late 1940s that plays Sgt. Bilko shows all day long. “It’s actually just the shell of a 1940s TV, inside which I’ve fitted a modern DVD player, but it gives a great effect!” said Steve.
In its heyday the Phil Silvers show regularly drew in 23 million viewers. But, as well as being Sgt Bilko, Phil Silvers was an all-round entertainer whose career spanned 60 years. He’s been in more than 50 films as well as 150-200 TV, stage and radio shows. He could sing and dance, and was originally a Vaudeville and burlesque performer, and had even written a song for Frank Sinatra.
Steve Everett who is also co-founder of The British Phil Silvers Appreciation Society has kept his Vintage Emporium functioning online throughout lockdown, and has recently bought in lots and lots more stock including Star Wars Yoda Baby, The Child figures, and Mandalorian collectables.
The Vintage Emporium is a collector’s and shoppers’ paradise, specialising in vintage and modern film, stage and television memorabilia, especially anything with a ‘cult’ following. He caters for a wide range of taste’s and is bound to have something that will appeal to you. Amongst the shelves of treasures, you’ll find rare autographs, books, magazines, comics, framed photos. posters, limited editions, collector’s toys, models, FOH stills, DVD/Blu-Rays, children’s toys, trading cards, soundtracks, and much more.
The location is also out of the ordinary too, situated in Fargo Village, which is a complex of purpose-built independent shops, studios and handicraft workshops, with a central indoor precinct where there’s regular markets and craft fairs. The buildings at Fargo village tend to be wooden, or ‘crates’ with lots of outdoor places to eat or drink. And here you can browse a wide range of artisans of chocolate, cakes and sweets, also a micro-brewery, The Big Comfy Bookshop, and all kinds of fascinating places and crafts just waiting to be discovered.
Visit the website: www.sgtbilkosvintageemporium.com
British Phil Silvers Appreciation Society: www.philsilvers.co.uk
Sgt Bilko Vintage Emporium, Unit 2C, Fargo Village, Far Gosford Street, Coventry CV1 5ED.