Dr. Hartley Miltchin Featured in Shalom Life

Newspaper Story: Our client, Dr. Hartley Miltchin was featured in a News Story about his CELEBRITY SHOE COLLECTION on display at the CANADIAN NATIONAL EXHIBITION HISTORY OF ROCK AND ROLL EXHIBIT


CNE Hosts Largest Private Celebrity Shoe Collection

Published: August 23rd 2010 in News » Local

Dr. Hartley Miltchin and the world’s largest celebrity shoe collection.Photo by: Edward Gadjel

Left to right: Jermaine Jackson, Elvis Presley, Chubby Checker, John Lennon

When the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) asked Dr. Hartley Miltchin if they could borrow some shoes for a couple of weeks, he of course said “yes.” After all, who wouldn’t want to show off the world’s largest private collection of celebrity footwear, if they just happened to own it?

For Miltchin, who also goes by his nickname “Doctor Toe,” the collection which now features more than 350 pairs of celebrity shoes was “in the closet” for many years.

“I collected for four or five years and my family didn’t even have a clue what I was doing,” Miltchin told Shalom Life. “It’s bad enough people tease me about being a foot doctor and having to look at feet all day. [I thought] they would really tease me if they knew I was collecting old, stinky shoes.”

This former “closet obsession” as he refers to it, began in the 1990’s when he purchased a pair of Michael Jordan’s ’96 shoes in a charity auction. These autographed size 12 kicks were worn during Jordan’s time with the Chicago Bulls, Miltchin’s favourite NBA team from the time in which he lived in Chicago.

For the next three to four years, this lone pair of shoes sat in Miltchin’s office, before he suddenly had an incredible idea. “I decided that if I could get his [Jordan’s] shoes perhaps I could get other sports superstars’ shoes, so I started hunting for this stuff because now there was the internet and it was easier. Then I had sports collectors all over North America looking for shoes.”

And so, the now famous collection began to grow, although it was at first limited to just athletes’ footwear. Miltchin managed to obtain Wayne Gretzky’s rookie skates worn while he was playing for the Edmonton Oilers. “These were his [Gretzky’s] favourite skates because it appears that he broke the blade on one of them and instead of replacing the skates, he replaced the blade for another season.” These skates were unsigned, so Miltchin had a sports collector follow Gretzky at public events and appearances, until he finally cornered “The Great One” and paid around $1000 to have them signed at Greztky’s downtown restaurant.

Miltchin then acquired a pair of Jordan’s playoff shoes, and had them signed by the Bulls team that won 70 games in a season. After acquiring Shaq’s size 23 shoes (Miltchin’s largest pair, the smallest being Canadian ballerina Karen Kain’s size fives) along with those of Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods, Miltchin decided to expand the collection beyond sports stars. “I figured there must be other types of shoes out there. Perhaps musicians or movie stars, TV stars, whatever. I started a hunt for that and it sort of became a part time job because I was always searching for auctions and all kinds of state sales or whatever I could find.” But still, he was not ready to go public with his growing collection. “What I’d do when I got the shoes is look at them briefly for a split second and I’d throw them in a bin. So they weren’t catalogued, they weren’t photographed. I had them, I knew I had them and they were just thrown in a bin.”

Miltchin, a former Mad Magazine collector, would take the shoes out and bring them to schools for children to see, and was encouraged by the excitement he garnered. As well as buying from charity auctions, he also purchased shoes from Planet Hollywood when they went bankrupt. An original cameraman of “I Love Lucy” hooked him up with three pairs of Lucille Ball’s shoes, as well as a couple pairs belonging to Marilyn Monroe, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and John Wayne.

“About six years ago, I decided I was taking the collection out of the closet. I wanted people to see it and it had grown probably to 200 pairs. I went to Mrs. Sonja Bata at the Bata shoe museum. She couldn’t believe that there was a collector here in Toronto that had such an extensive collection. She decided she was going to build an exhibit showcasing a lot of these shoes. I developed a relationship with the Bata Shoe Museum and just knowing that visitors were looking at these shoes and there was a big fascination with the shoes, it was a big hit.”

When not on display, autographed shoes are kept in a temperature, humidity and lighting controlled box, and handled using acid free paper to avoid having the signatures destroyed by lighting and oils.

Since Miltchin has told the public about his “obsession,” he estimates that he has purchased over 150 more shoes totaling approximately 350, although he says he has never actually counted the exact number of shoes and boots that make up the $10 million collection. Among those that are currently being featured at the CNE include the footwear of Chubby Checker, Eminem, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, the Jackson 5, Elvis Presley, James Dean, Madonna, Spice Girls, Elton John, Billy Joel, Kim Mitchell, Rod Stewart, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Phil Collins, Shania Twain, Avril Lavine, Barbara Streisand, Bette Midler and more. The black and white checkered Chubby Checker boots were recently signed at a private meeting between Miltchin and Chubby Checker himself.

One of Miltchin’s fascinations with celebrity shoes is being able to use his abilities as a podiatrist to analyze the celebrities’ feet. “With most sports memorabilia, people want good condition, but I want it in poor condition. If I look at a pair of Oprah’s shoes, [I can see] she’s got huge bunions. Marilyn Monroe was also developing bunions. I look at Pierce Brosnan’s shoes from ‘Die Another Day.’ These are well worn shoes, but I look at the bottom and the whole structure of the shoe, and [I can tell] he’s a very straight walker, and doesn’t have foot problems that I can see.”

Miltchin’s current favourite pair that he owns belonged to Elvis Presley. These boots were among the most expensive of the bunch, and one of the hardest to obtain. On his dream list is a pair belonging to former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, the ruby red slippers worn by Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, and Michael Jackson’s loafers, going up for sale in October. Miltchin says that if he can obtain the loafers, his collection will be complete.

In the future, Miltchin plans to use the collection to help those in need. “Eventually, what I’d like to do is figure out the logistics of using part or all of the collection for charity purposes so that we can raise money and use it to help underprivileged children in third world countries to have proper shoes, not hand-me-downs but shoes that fit properly.”

Dr. Hartley Miltchin’s collection can be viewed at The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll Exhibit at the CNE, located at Direct Energy Centre Building Hall A. The Exhibit, free with park admission, opened August 20 and runs until September 6.