Merle Glickman, doll collector, game show contestant, dies at 78

Visitors to Merle Glickman’s house might have felt like they were being watched – by dolls.

“Our house has practically been taken over by dolls,” her daughter Elyse said. “It kind of became a warehouse.”

From cute Cabbage Patch squishy dolls to antique porcelain mannequins, Ms. Glickman has appraised, repaired, bought, sold and collected dolls made from the 18th century to the present day.

Known as the “Doll Lady”, she died on January 21 after a series of health problems, according to her daughter. The longtime Skokie resident was 78.

In Ms Glickman’s obituary, her family said her survivors included thousands of dolls, ‘hopefully finding good homes soon’.

Her collection began with Vogue, Ginny and Madame Alexander dolls, as well as dolls made by hand under the Works Progress Administration to help women earn money during the Great Depression.

In the 1980s and 1990s, she taught at the Museum of Science and Industry.

“Merle Glickman was a trusted expert in the world of dolls,” said Kathleen McCarthy, the museum’s chief curator. “MSI was proud to host its really fun and engaging talks, such as ‘150 Years of Making Dolls’ and ‘Dolls by Famous Makers’.”

In 2010, a Denver, Pennsylvania auction house estimated prices could reach $3,000 to $22,000 for some of the hundreds of dolls it was then selling for her and her collector mother Martha Cristol.

Young Merle grew up in West Rogers Park. Her father Paul was a mail carrier and her mother was an executive secretary at Walgreen’s, according to her daughter. She went to elementary school in Stone and loved going to the old Riverview amusement park in Belmont and Western.

Even as a child, “she wouldn’t take no for an answer,” her daughter said.

She said that, on a trip to Canada when her mother was about 13, “she managed to meet Katharine Hepburn, chatting with the ushers at the Stratford Festival, and Katharine Hepburn gave her an autograph.”

She graduated from Senn High School in 1960 and studied at Syracuse and Northwestern universities.

As Ms Glickman wrote in a profile for a Senn meeting, “I finished high school and put away my dolls. (I was too old…). Went to university (I was too young…). Became a secretary, then an editor and worked and traveled with the American Medical [Association]. I discovered that I was not ugly. I quit my job after 5 years and went alone on the Queen Mary for a year exploring Europe and the Middle East, in case life never let me do that again.

“She had always dreamed of going to Europe,” her daughter said. “She had a big map on her wall, so she put pins on the map of where she wanted to go. She had a vision for her life. She wanted to be an expat and travel.

Ms. Glickman’s travels have taken her to Belgium, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Scotland and Switzerland, among others.

In the mid-1960s, she spent time in “Swinging London”, as some called the city which had become a center of cool culture thanks to an exuberant “tremor of youth” after the deprivations of World War II.

“She took the subway for the first time,” her daughter said, “and she saw signs around the station saying ‘WAY OUT.’” Confusing that with 60s slang, “She thought it was was for a show or concert.”

Merle and Earl Glickman.

Back in Chicago, she meets her future husband Earl Glickman at a Jewish mixer. They married in 1967.

A lover of game shows, Ms Glickman appeared in the 1960s and 1970s on ‘Password’, ‘Jeopardy’ and ‘The Who, What or Where Game’, according to her daughter, who said she also competed with the famous partner Lynn Redgrave. to win first prize on “The $20,000 Pyramid”, hosted by Dick Clark.

“I used to think that was what she did for a living,” the girl said.

In the 1990s, she again participated in “Jeopardy” and also appeared in Clark’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “The Challengers”.

Mrs. Glickman used her winnings to help fund her doll collection.

Merle Glickman, her daughter Elyse and her husband Earl.

Merle Glickman, her daughter Elyse and her husband Earl.

She would visit people’s homes on what she called “doll calls”. She inspected their collections and made offers on those that caught her eye.

She enjoyed musicals such as “Auntie Mame” and “The King and I” and TV miniseries like “Roots”, “Shogun”, “The Thorn Birds” and “Rich Man, Poor Man”.

Mrs. Glickman is also survived by her son Paul. She was cremated on January 28. Due to the pandemic, no memorial is planned.

As for her dolls, her daughter said, “We want to put them in good homes.

Merle Glickman (left) and her son Paul and her husband Earl.

Merle Glickman (left) and her son Paul and her husband Earl.