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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Guest Author Bob Deakin wants you to meet: "Tony the Tagger"

Tag sales are a tedious event for the homeowner but without the shoppers, it doesn't work. Most tag salers make a stop a couple times a year but some are professionals known as “taggers” for their years of dedication to the craft.

One glowing example is Tony “Tony the Tagger” Corso of Canton, CT. He earned his nickname by virtue of decades as a familiar face at tag sales and for being featured on both Good Morning America and Hoarders.

Corso comes off as a know-it-all talking about all things, and as cocky as a football player in a night club he explains his strategy for every sale he approaches.

“First thing I do at every sale is back my truck up the driveway. Right away they start showing me around and the prices drop like dollar bills at the strip club.”

Even those that don't know him quickly notice the tall man in denim strolling arrogantly through the throngs of shoppers with his trademark fedora tilted slightly to the left.

He's been attending sales throughout the Connecticut-Massachusetts-New York area since Nixon was president and is known for his penchant for late 19th Century furniture and golden-age Hollywood memorabilia. He not only longs for artifacts but genuinely believes he is entitled to them. Whether it's an oak cabinet Thomas Edison might have owned or a poster of Betty Grable, Tony the Tagger is determined to call it his own.

He says one of the most memorable tag sales was held by a legend of stage, screen and television. Employing a dramatic pause and taunting this reporter with his good fortune, he elaborated with the tale of rubbing elbows with a star before divulging her name.

“Valerie Harper,” he said, slowly and deliberately, leaning forward in his chair with a wry grin, as if announcing the name of the first lady. He went on to detail the day spent at the star's home examining items for sale and the cozy conversation he struck up with her. He claims he spent several hours at the swanky estate and ended up rubbing a little more than elbows with the married actress.

It all began, he says, with a few innocent questions about her Victorian-era armoire, which led to a personal tour of her movie memorabilia collection from the 40s and before he knew it, they'd locked eyes, both leaning over a vintage cocktail table from the 50s when their hands touched for the first time.

“You can't put a price tag on what I walked away with that day,” Corso says, smiling, leaning back in his chair and clasping his hands behind his head.

Asked if he was alleging to have slept with Ms. Harper – made famous by her role as next-door neighbor 'Rhoda' on the Mary Tyler Moore Show – Corso asked with a wink, “Who said anything about sleeping?”
Hello? Who said anything about even meeting this jerk?

While Corso is well-known amongst tag sale hosts it doesn't always equate to admiration.

“He's a jerk,” says Helen Fink, owner of a palatial estate in Greenwich, CT, worthy of Bruce Wayne and his ward. “He walks in like he owns the place and makes low-ball offers on authentic hand-made pieces from the 1800s like they're cheap TVs. He's married and spends more time hitting on me and the shoppers like he's at a strip club.”

Complimented for the coincidental strip club analogy she doesn't bite on an offer for further comment.

“My next door neighbor, Jean, hosts estate sales for homeowners every summer and this guy's been showing up for years,” says Carol Showalter of Norwalk, CT. “He's so full of himself he even gave himself a nick-name; 'T-Tag.' Jean refers to him as 'D-Bag.'”

Told of what the estate sale hosts said of him Corso doesn't even blink, choosing instead to explain the difference between an authentic Universal Studios poster and a fake. Asked what motivates him to continue his week-to-week performance attending sales year after year, Tony holds up a first-generation "Mr Coffee"  and conceitedly quotes baseball great, Joe DiMaggio.

“There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first or last time and I owe him my best.”

Confronted with the fact that very few children go to tag sales and even fewer show up to see him, he downplays his role as a local celebrity.

“Ah, I'm just a simple man with simple tastes,” he states, again with a wink and a grin. “Who can resist a 19th Century gem or an authentic framed Casablanca promo? I also can't help it if the ladies can't resist a tall, confident, handsome man in a fedora.”

Perhaps they can't, but when it comes time to get rid of an old relic, a warm body with a wallet often seems irresistible.

Mrs. Showalter was later asked if any of Jean's clients, by coincidence, were TV stars in the 1970s and said no, then looked up, curiously.

“You know,” she remembered, “everybody always tells Jean she looks just like the next-door neighbor on the Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Thanks for another interesting tale from the tag sale trail, Bob! You can read more of Bob Deakin's work by visiting his site here.  I'll be keeping my eye out for the notorious T-Tag.

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