John Verzi, a former post office worker, lived in a mobile home park in Las Vegas, spending his days watching TV and nights gambling in casinos. But Verzi had an interesting past: he was a gifted photographer, who for six decades had collected 25,000 autographs and taken more than 12,000 photos, including intimate snapshots of the world’s classiest and most famous celebrities. In 2018, Verzi died in his trailer with his collection. Fleishman tells the fascinating story of this eccentric man, and the piece includes fantastic photographs of movie stars from Hollywood’s golden era.

It was a life of getting to places fast, of tips, winks and confidences. Verzi drove a VW Beetle and traveled with cameras and colored index cards for autographs. He’d get a nod that Frank Sinatra might be in Beverly Hills having a drink or Lucille Ball was playing backgammon at Pips or Jim Morrison of the Doors had arrived at a West Hollywood theater to see “The Beard,” a play that was raided by police for a sex scene. Verzi kept tabs and followed whispers.

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.