Boozy brands: Havasu man’s collection keeps him in good spirits
LAKE HAVASU CITY – Gerry Tieri spent decades in the liquor business, so it’s only natural that he picked up a few branded items along the way.
“I had about 500 (advertising) mirrors. Now I’m down to about 100,” he said, glancing around the entertainment cave in his garage. One long wall is covered in the mirrors and other alcohol promotional signs.
A tall cupboard contains hidden treasures. Many of Tieri’s decorative liquor decanters haven’t been cracked open, making the sealed collectibles even more valuable. Some of the spirits are no longer manufactured. Other bottles are contained in fanciful presentation boxes.
The Lake Havasu City retiree worked for liquor distributors for years in Minnesota and California. He took a breather and owned his own liquor store in Whittier for a time. Because liquor and beer distributors generously hand out swag to their customers, Tieri was able to both give and receive the promo items as the years rolled by.
He said it was a chore to weed out his collection before he and his wife Joyce moved to Havasu 15 years ago.
“I knew I had to sell some of the things, but we almost couldn’t give them away at our yard sale in California. So we just packed it all up, brought it to Havasu and had a sale here at our new place,” Tieri said.
The difference was like night and day.
“People snatched up our stuff; the liquor items were very popular. This one guy wanted to buy a big neon sign I had. I said it wasn’t for sale. He begged me to give him a price, so I told him it was $450. He left and came back about an hour later with the $450. I really didn’t want to sell the sign, but here he came with the money,” he smiled.
Tucked in with Tieri’s alcohol collectibles is a small montage of black-and-white photos. It seems out of place among the other garish colors that dominate the room.
“What’s this about?” a visitor asked.
“I was in a movie with Jimmy Stewart, James Milliken and Barbara Hale. That’s me,” Tieri said, pointing to a smiling 11 year-old boy in the photos. The photos were taken on-set during the filming of 1955’s “The Windmill.” The Western was a made-for-TV movie that aired on General Electric Theater, a TV show hosted by Ronald Reagan.
Shortly after, he also worked on another show as a junior emcee with Bob Hope.
Tieri said show business jobs dried up after that, but he found work as liquor department manager at Von’s grocery. That led to selling alcohol to commercial customers for Youngs Market Company in California.
“I started as a salesman. My first territory was Inglewood and Watts. I worked my way up to the vice president of the California district,” he said.
But Tieri always had his eye on Havasu.
“My parents brought us here for vacations, starting in about 1954,” he said. “We camped in the Black Meadows area – I think they called it Camp Collins then. Plus we’d camp at Site Six. I remember one Fourth of July, we were one of only three families camped there. And to think that now, thousands of people come here for the Fourth. Isn’t that something?”