Mannequins today have limited personalities. Many are headless. Others lack limbs. Tom Kiley laments the change from their 1990s heyday, when they resembled models and celebrities.
“If anyone can get me a Luna, as long as it’s intact with arms out, I’ll give them $5,000,” says Kiley, referring to long-limbed fashion icon Danyale Luna.
One of the foremost experts on the history of mannequins, Kiley has amassed upwards of 10,000 specimens, all jammed into two Katonah buildings, several barns, and trailers around the county.
“It’s the largest collection in the world,” says Kiley, whose chest-long beard and biker-chic attire make him look like a cast member on Duck Dynasty or a roadie for ZZ Top. When attending events, shows, and flea markets, however, he favors a kilt, preferably of canvas.
Kiley and his twin brother, Joe (who is clean-shaven), own Katonah Image, which is dedicated to art and preservation of printed photographs. Nonetheless, the mannequins have come to occupy the customer-service area, basement, and upstairs, like squatters who can’t squat.
Tom is enamored of the mannequins and enjoys restoring vintage pieces. Portions of the collection have appeared in commercials and in films such as Sleepers and Fatal Attraction; others have adorned city department-store windows.
He specializes in statues that reveal emotion, strike elaborate poses, or are modeled after famous people: Marilyn, Twiggy, Pat Cleveland, Diane Brill. The brothers also collect vintage arcade games and carousel horses (and yes, they love Rye Playland).
Tom and Joe present such a contrast that the TV show American Pickers featured them in a popular episode titled “Twin at All Costs.” Their personalities work on TV due to their differing fashion dispositions and whimsical playfulness.
Years ago, they had fun posing mannequin displays in their parking lot, until hamlet officials pulled the plug.
“They said it was an eye distraction that could cause accidents,” says Tom, “and they did.”