In Search of Madonna's Bra

If you think Jerry Seinfeld's puffy shirt is something you'd find on eBay, you'd better check the Smithsonian Institution, where it's found a place alongside such treasures as Mr. Rogers' sweater, Fonzie's leather jacket, Indiana Jones' fedora and Oscar the Grouch's garbage can.

Chances are, nearly any significant TV or movie prop you can name is on display somewhere, along with celebrity keepsakes that range from the mundane to the bizarre.

The park bench where Forrest Gump postulated that "life is like a box of chocolates" is on display at Georgia's Savannah History Museum. The Hollywood Museum has Marilyn Monroe's old refrigerator, and it's not far from the jail cell that housed Hannibal Lecter in "The Silence of the Lambs."

"For me, it's a treasure hunt. You think of something from a TV show or movie and you can find it," says Chris Epting, author of "The Ruby Slippers, Madonna's Bra, and Einstein's Brain," a guide to some of America's strangest attractions.

For some museums, the Smithsonian decades ago legitimized the practice of turning TV props into museum exhibits, making room for Archie Bunker's chair and the ruby slippers from "The Wizard of Oz."

Nowadays, "Austin Powers" fans will find Dr. Evil's ring at Washington, D.C.'s, International Spy Museum, which is also home to Maxwell Smart's shoe phone.

At smaller museums and roadside attractions, you'll find the Lone Ranger's mask (Maine's Fawcett Toy and Art Museum) and Arnold Schwarzenegger's M47 tank (Ohio's Motts Military Museum). Many years after serving in the Austrian army, Schwarzenegger purchased the tank that he drove. He brought it to Ohio in 1999 as an attraction at a Planet Hollywood. When that venture failed, he lent it to the museum.

And, of course, you'll also find these pop cultural curiosities:

Madonna's Conical Bra -- One of Madonna's most famous undergarments, the black-and-gold bustier from her "Who's That Girl" tour is a highlight at Frederick's of Hollywood's Lingerie Museum, which has a collection that includes Ethel Merman's girdle from "There's No Business Like Show Business" and Tom Hank's "Forrest Gump" boxers.

Historians will note Tony Curtis' female undergarments from "Some Like It Hot," the fur-trimmed negligee that Cybill Shepherd used in "Moonlighting," and something that purports to be Phyllis Diller's training bra (marked "This Side Up!").

Elton John's Platform Shoes -- How honored Sir Elton must be to have his monogrammed, rhinestone-studded, silver-and-black platform boots enshrined toe-to-toe alongside the late Princess Diana's fuchsia pumps. At Toronto's Bata Shoe Museum you'll also find Queen Victoria's ballroom slippers, John Lennon's Beatle boots and a pair of Elvis Presley's loafers.

Sir Elton wore those 5-inch platforms in concert in 1974, but later they became "too dull for stage wear," according to a curator. The Bata is hailed as the world's largest footwear collection, with 12,000 artifacts going back to 4,500-year-old Egyptian sandals, and other things Elton wouldn't be caught dead wearing.

Elvis Presley's Guns -- There's a side of Elvis Presley's past you won't find at Graceland, which was declared a National Historic Landmark just last month. At Sierra Sid's, a casino in Sparks, Nev., you'll find the 45-caliber handgun that Elvis supposedly used to shoot up a TV, along with two firearms he brought back from Germany after his stint in the Army.

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