EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Just in case you wonder whatever happened to Gene London after Cartoon Corners General Store went out of business, Gene London himself will be at Boscov's in the Shore Mall on Saturday to answer that question.
And in case you have no idea who Gene London is, or what Cartoon Corners General Store was to a generation of children who grew up in the Philadelphia area, you still may want to check out him out at the department store, especially if you happen to be a fan of fashion, Hollywood or both.
Because what London got into after the end of his children's TV show, which aired on WCAU Channel 10 from 1958 through 1977, was women's fashion, he explained Wednesday as he oversaw the setup of the Gene London Traveling Fashion Museum in Boscov's auditorium.
London, now 78, says he started buying and selling and designing women's clothes at a store on Fifth Avenue in New York after the kiddie show went off the air. His business and hobby included collecting gowns and costumes from Hollywood stars, including Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe and Joan Crawford.
Crawford, who would become his friend for years, gave him the first pieces of his Hollywood collection - and after London wrote a letter asking for every article of clothing he could think of from the old-time movie star, she sent him trunks of her stuff, he says. His collection has since grown to more than 60,000 pieces, by his count.
"I'm addicted to Hollywood fashion," London says, standing in front of an old ad — "I Am A Gene London Fan" — for his kids' show. "Completely addicted. This is my madness."
London's three talks Saturday at Boscov's will focus on his Hollywood collection and another favorite subject, the evolution and history of women's fashion over more than a century of American life.
But he'll also happily talk about his days on the old TV show when asked, and about people he's known through his life, including Grace Kelly — the Philadelphia native and longtime Ocean City visitor was a friend and a fan of his, he says - fellow Philadelphia kids-show icon Chief Halftown — "a doll," by London's telling — and Joan Crawford, who "scared the heck out of me," despite their decades of friendship.
He will even, without much prompting, admit that the old rumors are true: He actually did used to trace all those drawings he made as he told his Cartoon Corners General Store stories.
London says the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York killed his business there and he now splits his time between Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Reading, Pa. — the latter town is the home of the Boscov's department store chain, with which London has had a long relationship. A Google search Wednesday turned up a Reading Eagle ad from 1966 for a Halloween appearance by London at a Boscov's branch in Reading, "in honor of kiddies all over the world."
Contact Martin DeAngelis:
If you go
The Gene London Traveling Fashion Museum opens Saturday at Boscov’s department store in the Shore Mall, Egg Harbor Township. It will be on display at the store through May 16.
Gene London makes three free appearances at Saturday’s
opening to talk about his collection and his career, at 11 a.m., 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. in Boscov’s Auditorium, on the store’s second floor.