About Rick
My driver’s license reads "Eric Reiss" but I’m Rick to friends and family. I was born in San Antonio, Texas in 1954, but moved shortly thereafter to St. Louis, Missouri, so I cannot really call myself a Texan. "Rebel born, Yankee bred," as my Southern friends say.

By the time I was five or six, I had already started collecting junk in the "Gaslight Square" district of St. Louis—primarily old wind-up phonographs and other mechanical things that caught my fancy. In 1963, my family moved to the Chicago area, where I taught myself player-piano repair by tearing apart a soggy old pumper that had been abandoned in our basement. This eventually provided the capital needed to help me build my various and sundry collections—phonographs, jukeboxes, nickelodeons, and other bulky things. My timing was great. Player pianos were just coming back in vogue as people rediscovered the music of Scott Joplin and other ragtime pioneers through new recordings by Joshua Rivkin, Max Morath, Eubie Blake etc..

In 1972, I graduated from Highland Park High School, my folks moved to Miami, Florida, and I headed back to St. Louis to attend Washington University. During my second stay in St. Louis, I helped finance my studies and collecting mania by playing ragtime piano down on the levee on the Goldenrod Showboat, where I became musical director in 1975.

At Washington University, I met a foreign exchange student from Denmark and in late 1975, I landed a job as a stage director at the Danish Royal Theater, which enabled me to pursue both my chosen career and my romantic interest. After my graduation in 1976, with majors in Performing Arts and Political Science, I headed for Copenhagen where I’ve lived ever since.

Rick, age 3


Rick and jukebox,
age 17


After 10 years of work in the highly political (and highly unsatisfactory) world of Danish theater, I took time off to write a book about old phonographs entitled The Compleat Talking Machine. It has since become something of a classic for phonograph collectors and is now in its third revised edition (eighth printing). In a roundabout way, the book eventually led to a new career as a writer for a large Copenhagen-based business-to-business advertising agency. They needed someone who could explain technical things to people who weren’t necessarily technically oriented, which was pretty much what I had accomplished in the phonograph book.

On an odd sidenote, one of the big New York ad agencies has a sign on the wall: "Don’t tell my mother I’m a writer in an advertising agency. She thinks I play piano in a whorehouse." I think I must be one of the few copywriters who has actually done both—and I assure you, my mother is much more pleased with my current profession. So is my wife, Dorthe.

So what about the hats?
I’ve always loved hats, particularly visor hats, and have had several collections over the years—often made up of discarded theatrical costumes. Most of the first collection was sold in order to pay an enormous overseas phone bill when I was in college. A few years later, I sold the second one to finance my move to Denmark. The collection you see here got started when I tacked a few hats to the wall of my office at the agency. For some reason, this appealed to my friends and co-workers, who have since made major contributions. In fact, there are now several hundred hats decorating the walls—as well as the antlers of my mascot, Max the Moose.

Now in its
eighth printing!


Rick and Dorthe


Max the Moose

My good friend and colleague, Ralph, thought the hats deserved a Web site, so here it is. My warmest thanks to Lotte, who spent numerous evenings and weekends creating the fundamental design, compressing graphics, and putting it all together, and to Michael, who programmed the fantastic database that makes it work so efficiently.





Portraits by Finn Rosted