Twenty percent of proceeds from the auction will be donated to the Lillian Booth Actors' Home, which is run by the ActorsFund and located in Englewood, NJ. According to the New Jersey paper The Daily Record, the donation is in memory of Esoldi's friend, Broadway musical director and composer Peter Howard.
Esoldi first wore the suit to the opening night of the musical Sherlock Holmes in 1965. "I had my illustrator friends draw on some Sherlock Holmes designs," he said. "I wore it to the show, and it was a big conversation piece." When he bumped into Ethel Merman, he asked her to sign the suit. The star singer and actress told Esoldi, "I signed a lot of things in my time, but I never signed a suit," but she signed it anyway.
Other signatures Esoldi has collected over the years include those of Bernadette Peters, Hugh Jackman (and the Australian performer he played in The Boy from Oz, Peter Allen — their signatures are next to each other), Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Frank Sinatra, Henry Fonda, Bette Midler, Cher, Meryl Streep, Lena Horne, Elizabeth Taylor, Andy Warhol, Faye Dunaway, Christopher Reeve, Mary Tyler Moore, Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Jimmy Stewart, President and Michelle Obama and many more.
Esoldi is retiring after a career that includes working in hair on Barnum and wardrobe on the original production of Dreamgirls.
The auction begins Aug. 18 on ebay.com. Search for "autograph suit."
-- Thomas Peter