Grandfather to several college students, father to children living on the opposite coast, a chapeau-wearing gentleman with an aversion to manicures (nails worthy of competition with a Chinese emperor), this is one top-notch picker. “Tiger” (a pseudonym used to maintain the secrecy of his identity throughout the West side and beyond) clandestinely creeps around the back entrances of Los Angeles’s mid-to-high end interior design and home décor retailers, each and every one of them convinced that he’s bringing the best of the best exclusively to their back door. While he does get to know his “clients” well enough to pick with them in mind, not everyone gets the greatest pieces, of course; competition and jealousy reign in this industry – for this reason, among others he declined to disclose, his identity is being kept confidential.
Beginning in the audio department in Hollywood’s studios back in 1970-71, Tiger soon found that they were “always looking for specific things” on set, so he quite randomly found himself becoming the ordained seeker of the desired pieces for television and movie sets. As a set dresser for fifteen years, he spent nearly a decade working with Circus of the Stars and even dressed a set for a Michael Jackson event in Santa Monica “back in the day”, sourcing its sofas and chairs.
As the motivator for Nick Metropolis to begin renting to the studios and as a part-time salesman at the Hand Prop Room, Tiger eventually broke off to work entirely independently “somewhere in the late eighties.” As a picker, he works entirely for himself and that’s much of the joy (and risk) of the game. “I got my knowledge from Eddie Ingram on Washington Blvd, an old dude. He’s got everything under the sun. I met Eddie when he had his store, Ingram’s, on La Cienega. Now he lives on Washington in a house behind his store.” With the guidance of a picking sage, Tiger has gleaned more and more knowledge through the years. He shrugs and says, “You pick things up from other pickers. And you read books.”
The next time you spot a nondescript white van making its way throughout the West side, traversing from the Valley to La Cienega to Santa Monica and elsewhere, it could be our quietly famed picker, Tiger, doing his good work and earning a well-deserved dollar. Though just as likely, it could be another unremarkable white van, lacking such precious cargo of the high design sort. Because there’s only one Tiger and, like the feline inspiring his alias, he is stealth in his blue Velcro sneakers.