Eccentric, astonishing, fascinating – the extraordinary Tony Parker Collection comes to auction at Ewbank’s in Surrey
WOKING.- What do a vampire hunter’s kit, a fossilised penis bone from a walrus, a Star Trek latex Borg mask and original memorabilia from the TV gameshow Bullseye have in common?
The answer is the late Tony Parker, who died aged just 70 last year. A fine example of the ultimate collector, his home in the south of England was covered wall to wall, ceiling to floor in his beloved rock, pop and entertainment memorabilia – especially linked to The Beatles – as well as the historical, the quirky and the quaint. From gold discs and musical instruments, to movie costumes and photos of the stars, as well as an extraordinary range of taxidermy, he had it all, with countless additional items of interest from many and varied fields.
Now Ewbank’s Auctions are to offer around 300 lots from his collection in the dedicated sale, Magical Mystery Tour – The Tony Parker Collection, on August 26. What amounts to one of the most eclectic and bizarre collections ever consigned to auction is expected to fetch around £30,000.
Tony Parker’s daughter, Fay Capstick, explains what made her father such an obsessive collector and extraordinary character.
“He was an eccentric and ever inquisitive, whether about space, history or the paranormal. But he was also a musician and would-be pop star. I think once he started collecting and filling the house, particularly when he did the top floor extension, it became an all-consuming passion and he loved to see everything he owned right in front of him.”
The house, as remarkable as the collection itself, became a landmark in the village of West End near Southampton, as Tony added to it over the years. The garden, dominated by a pond, with statues, architectural pieces and even a parking meter and a telescope from the promenade Isle of Wight ferry, became as much a talking point as the stained glass, turret and gothic features with which he dressed the property.
On the inside, he made the most of every inch, commissioning a friend to make cabinets and frames for everything, including an extensive collection of taxidermy, whose bespoke cases slotted into each other to fit some of the quirky corners found there.
This was the setting for the Parkers’ annual Halloween party – one of the great events of the village – with Tony Parker himself at the centre as the Master of Ceremonies.
The Willy Wonka of West End
“It was a bit like Willy Wonka, with the house as the chocolate factory and all the children coming to visit for Halloween,” explains Fay.
“Everyone loved him. He had a magnetic personality and everyone was drawn to him.
“He was always very dapper, sporting a pocket watch, and he had an extensive shoe collection – he really should have been a Victorian gentleman – so he stood out from the crowd and was well known locally.
“Children would stop him in the street to ask if he was going to hold the Halloween party each year. At the last one more than 130 turned up, but we’ve had over 200 before, and he loved giving them the guided tour of the house.”
The house and collection are not the only legacy of this remarkable individual who started life in Clapham, where as an unruly teenager at school, he disported himself on the back seat of a teacher’s car as his friends pushed it into the swimming pool.
The rebel was transformed by the birth of his daughter Fay.
“Having me at 28 was a massive change for him, especially as I had a number of health issues, and it made him grow up. Everything was done to cheer me up,” she explains.
That included bedtime stories that he made up, constant entertainment and even daily emails to her till the day he died.
A successful salesman who first lived in Worthing, Tony caught the collecting bug before they moved to West End.
“The first unusual sign came when I was seven and he bought one of the old Victorian lampposts from the council and planted it in the back garden,” says Fay.
The move to West End provided him with the opportunity to expand on his dream.
“My mum would go out to the shop and come back and dad would have rearranged things or added something new.”
Career as an artist
Later, as an artist he started a Contemporary art business selling his own artworks.
“The talent came from my grandfather whose paintings are included in the auction,” says Fay.”
It was this venture into art dealing that led to the most important discovery of Tony’s life: the son he never knew he had.
“He had had a girlfriend in Clapham when he was 16 and she fell pregnant but never told him. She soon met and married someone else and emigrated to Canada where she had the baby.”
The baby’s name was Mike and it was only after his stepfather died when Mike was 12 that he learnt he had not been his natural father. This led to a 30-year search to find Tony.
“Mike ended up Googling dad’s name every year on his own birthday, putting in details of where he had grown up in Clapham and the school he went to.”
Mike finally tracked him down through the website for the Contemporary art Facebook page and he made contact in 2016.
“We didn’t need to do a DNA test; they were like peas in a pod,” says Fay. “Mike has come over every year for two weeks and they discovered that they liked all the same films and even listened to the same podcasts.”
Tony continued to make his mark at his funeral, with a Beatles coffin and horse-drawn hearse.
Now the Magical Mystery Tour Auction on August 26 marks the completion of his life’s work as a collector.
“Really that house is my dad’s brain exploded,” says Fay. “Every corner captures a piece of his restless and energetic imagination.”
If you want to explore that imagination, you will find something for every taste in the auction catalogue online at www.ewbankauctions.co.uk
Whether it’s the electrical and lighting plans for the fateful Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York, a taxidermy woodpecker, a selection of electric guitars or a Spitting Image puppet head of Groucho Marx, this is the sale for you.