They may not be the blue suede shoes, but Dr. Hartley Miltchin has the next best thing.
The local podiatrist owns two pairs of Elvis Presley’s boots, which are included in the History of Rock and Roll exhibit at the Direct Energy Centre at the Canadian National Exhibition. Miltchin owns the world’s largest private collection of celebrity footwear.
He started collecting shoes in 1997 and kept the hobby secret.
“People used to tease me, you’re a podiatrist, you look at stinky gross feet all day, that’s ridiculous, so I figured, if I said I’m collecting old dirty shoes they’d think I’m nuts. So I never told anybody,” he said, noting the famous footwear sat in a box in his basement for a long time.
Miltchin said he got a thrill from hunting down used shoes, acquiring them through various sources, including estate sales, auction houses and charity auctions.
“When Planet Hollywood went bankrupt… I bought all their shoes,” he said.
He purchased a pair of John Lennon’s boots and a pair of custom checkered kickers worn by Chubby Checker when Dick Clark sold off his memorabilia. Checker’s black and white boots were made in Toronto and feature plastic discs on the bottoms that made it easier for the singer to do the Twist.
“The Elvis boots came from the estate before the Elvis stuff went to auction. Those were the hardest to obtain,” he said.
The King wore one pair on stage and the second pair in three of his films, “Spinout”, “Double Trouble”, and “Frankie and Johnny”.
While Miltchin is obviously interested in feet, his obsession with celebrity shoes began in the 1980s while he was living in Chicago. He was a big Bulls fans and wanted a pair of Michael Jordan’s kicks.
He bought a pair at a charity auction and then made it his mission to acquire other sports stars’ footwear, including Kobe Bryant, Wayne Gretzky and Tiger Woods.
Then a friend tipped him off on how he could get some of Al Pacino’s shoes.
“That started the obsession,” Miltchin said.
While he admits he’s never counted, he estimates he owns about 350 pairs of celebrity heels, flats, loafers and boots.
The display at the EX includes shoes from a wide array of celebrities, including Britney Spears, Justin Timerlake, the Jackson 5, Elvis, John Lennon, Elton John, Jimi Hendrix and James Dean.
A lone shoe that belonged to James Dean.
“The real thrill to me was how I acquired them,” he said, “whether it’s an online auction bid, or I hunted them down from somewhere, that was the fun.”
Rod Stewart’s shoes.