Bill Coulter doesn't traffic in boring collectibles such as stamps or coins. He collects globes ("got one of Mars"), file cabinets, wheelchairs, umbrellas (18), typewriters (6), car doors, clocks, gauges and . . . mannequins.
I could see where this could be troublesome," says Coulter of his fondness for mannequins. "But they're strictly decorative. The best comparison I can think of are old suits of armor or a hallway of busts. I don't know if you've priced busts lately, but you can't get them. Mannequins are ersatz busts."
Coulter, a 33-year-old widely published free-lance cartoonist, lives with his eight mannequins in two high-ceilinged rooms of an old Alexandria mansion. He says he likes to collect what other people throw away because, "They're real and non-plastic -- there's beauty in them; they're tomorrow's antiques. I'm an artist."
Each mannequin in his eccentric museum is dressed, including one in a black slip, boots and a bandolier filled with pencil stubs. "She kind of represents the '60s to me," Coulter says. Another female mannequin is dressed in Army fatigues Coulter wore in 1969 and 1970, when he served in Vietnam.
"I wanted a mannequin ever since I was a kid," he says. "Friends gave them to me; I've picked them up on the street . . . Friends give me clothes, too. One is dressed somewhat like a stewardess, a couple don't have much more on than pants or tops because I like to see their legs.
"Once I fell good about them, I'm done. I never move them. That's another thing I collect -- dust and cobwebs." The artist crouches to light a match. He wants to show off a newly formed cobweb at the foot of a mannequin dressed in jogging pants, a black sweater and tennis shoes. "I'm trying to get this place to look like Dracula's mansion."