Two appraisers—Karen Keane of Boston-based Skinner, Inc., and Boston-based Michael Grogan—visited Leno for the episode at this Newport estate. Keane discussed a ship model in his living room, a mermaid weather vane on his home’s roof, and a lead and bronze peacock garden statue, while Grogan discussed a painting by Blanche-Augustine Camus.
Keane said Leno—whom she noted was modestly dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt during the episode’s filming—was “very interested in the back story of the objects. He understands collecting because he is a car enthusiast; he’s an extremely sophisticated collector when it comes to automobiles. He brings an understanding of the kinds of questions that need to be asked about collecting. And he understands the quality of workmanship of previous generations.”
Another reason the peacock statue appealed to Leno, she added, is that the peacock is the logo of NBC, home of The Tonight Show, which he hosted, except for a brief hiatus, from 1992 to 2014.
Merkerson is visited in her Harlem, New York, apartment by Bene Raia, a Holliston, Massachusetts–based appraiser of dolls, and Leila Dunbar, a Washington, D.C.–based appraiser of pop culture memorabilia. An award-winning actor, Merkerson has appeared on Broadway, and on Law and Order and Chicago Med, both on NBC; she also has a home in Chicago, where the latter series is currently filmed.
Actor S. Epatha Merkerson at her apartment in Harlem, New York.
She recently told AD she collects Black memorabilia and works by Black artists (including Elizabeth Catlett, Geoffrey Holder, and Jacob Lawrence) because “it’s part of my history. I don’t want to be ashamed of what my history was, and so I find it educational. It’s a representation of me.”
She finds entertainment-related objects particularly appealing, some of “folks in poses of dance. As well as being an actor, I’ve done musicals.”
An example of these objects is a 1930 poster for “Bubber Mack and His ‘Apache Dancers.’ ” On it, eleven Black women and one Black man are lined up in colorful costumes; many women wear slacks, no doubt to resemble men. The poster’s headline reads: “The Georgia Smart Set Presents Brown Skin Mammas 1930.” This poster was a gift to Merkerson from actor Jesse Martin, her costar on Law and Order.
Dunbar said the poster was not a stock poster (a poster with one image used for a variety of shows). Rather, Merkerson’s poster was created specifically for the Georgia Smart Set show, and, as a result, is “much more illustrative and detailed,” making it more desirable.
Bemko said every celebrity interviewed for the new episodes “is vulnerable, hungry for information that we have. You can feel their anticipation. They’re just like you and me—people are people.”