It's a bracing sight. Dozens of pairs of them dangle haphazardly in the talk show host's closet—suspenders bearing stripes, polka dots, pictures of Michael Jordan, Monopoly game boards and even tiny spies. "The guy over at the CIA who gives spies false identities made that one," says King, 60.
It's no state secret how he started collecting. He hated the look of jackets on Larry King Live, so six years ago, then-wife Sharon urged him to try braces. The rest is television history. "People called in and said they liked them," says King. "That's all I needed to hear." But harnessing up is tricky. "You need your solids," says the master. "There are a lot of patterned ties you have to wear solid braces with. You want to understate it." Whatever the combination, what holds up his pants is now his trademark. At a recent speaking gig in Las Vegas, he appeared in a suit. "Somebody yelled, Take off the jacket!' " he says. "They were all waiting for the braces."
Eva Gabor's parasols
She wasn't worrying about the ozone layer—who was?—years ago when she started saving parasols from the Broadway costume dramas she had appeared in. But today the chairwoman of Eva Gabor International, a successful wig company, won't venture into the L.A. glare unshielded. It's a practical look, not a romantic one. "Romance," declares the unattached Gabor, 73, "does not come from an umbrella. Don't be absurd, darling."
Diahann Carroll's handbags
They're works of art," says the singer-actress, 59, who has been collecting Judith Leiber bags for 30 years. The delicate creations by the Manhattan designer are certainly priced that way—they sell for $800 to $5,00 apiece. Carroll's gallery of 20 includes a silver pear and her favorite, a beaded minaudière from husband Vic Damone. "When you carry one, you don't need jewelry," says Carroll, who sees more bags in her future. "I'll decide I own enough, and the see one I have to have. It's the collector's disease."
Stephanie Seymour's vintage dresses
Women in the '50s and '60s didn't mind being feminine," says the Victoria's Secret model. "There's so much grunge now." Not in her closet. A devotee of vintage couture by the likes of Chanel and Dior, Seymour, 26, owns about 100 pieces from seasons past. "I love wearing them," she says. But she takes care not to look antique. "If I can say, 'You wouldn't know this is 40 years old,' " Seymour says, "then it's for me."
Raoul Felder's slippers
Some people might think I have a foot fetish," says the 60-year-old divorce lawyer about his weakness for slippers, "but they couldn't be further from the truth." Felder, who has smoothed the way to splitsville for Robin Givens and Mike Tyson, as well as the Brian De Palmas and others, explains that he was boning a chicken in 1985 when "the knife slipped and cut a tendon in my foot. I had to wear slippers to work." Clients asked, "What size?" and the slippers, size 11, started arriving. Now fully recovered, Felder owns more than 100 pairs and still soft-shoes it in the office. But he won't wear his bear slippers in public. "If I did," he says, "people would think I was a lunatic."
Kellie Martin's hats
Even at 14, the winsome actress understood that Life Goes On, as her TV show was named, so she decided she'd commemorate the high points with souvenir hats. She started out timidly. "I didn't know if I'd have the nerve to wear a hat, but I bought one in 1989 on my first trip to New York," she says. "Everyone stands out there, so I figured I'd fit in." That straw hat with beige flowers led to the floppy maroon one she found in Paris, and soon her chapeaus numbered 20. Now 18 and the star of the CBS series Christy and an upcoming NBC-TV movie, A Friend to Die For, Martin finds that her keepsakes can help on bad hair days—and ward off minor headaches as well. "I'm not very famous, but sometimes people recognize me," she says, "unless I wear a hat."
June Carter Cash's antique lace
Making fine lace takes hours and hours," says the country star. "When it's done, It's like a story has been told." Her home near Nashville, then, should count as novel. As in each of the six houses she shares with husband Johnny Cash, there is antique lace adorning windows, covering tables and nestling in armoires. June, 65, owns dozens of vintage lace dresses, which she began wearing in the '60s "because it was different," she says. In the sequined world of country, it's different still, and her collection remains on active duty. "When I put one on," she says, "I feel I'm wearing the best I have."