325 Lamps and Counting

Photo: Victor Prado/New York Magazine

When 43-year-old musician Bryin Dall isn’t making “gay sex music” in his two-man band Hirsute Pursuit, he’s chasing down another obsession: lamps from the fifties, sixties, and seventies. His 1,100-square-foot apartment houses about 325 lights, some 250 of which are vintage lava lamps (including one that stands four feet tall). The rest of the collection is made up of mid-century-modern Majestic, Moss, and spaghetti lamps, lady-head lighters from the twenties and thirties, French glitter lamps, and spun-fiberglass lamps from the U.K.

Why lava lamps?
They’re just so iconic. My cousin gave me my first one—yellow liquid, red lava—when I was 5 or 6 years old. I still have it. But I scooped up most of mine in the eighties and nineties.

When lava lamps were all the rage at Spencer Gifts?
They’d become cheap by then. It’s funny, because a lot of people still don’t get it. They say, “Oh, Austin Powers!” It’s like, “No. I mean, if that’s your reference point …”

Where do you go to commune with other lava-lamp obsessives?
There’s a website called Oozing Goo; it’s where all of the lava-lamp nuts are.

Are there a lot of you out there?
Oh, yeah. And there are people who are way more knowledgeable than I am. I just happen to have the most complete collection of vintage American lava lamps.

Is lamp collecting competitive?
Yes. I know a lot of poor people who spend all their money on it. I used to have bidding wars with this one guy on eBay; turns out he’s from Long Island and probably had 2,000 lava lamps—just a mad collector. He lost everything in Hurricane Sandy.

Are visitors always trying to touch your lights?
Yes! The only thing I get really nervous about is my fiber-optic lamps. They don’t make them with glass anymore; they use cheap plastic, which looks like shit. Mine were the first ones they made, and they’ve become brittle with age. Everyone that comes in wants to rub their hands over them, and it’s like, “No! No! No!”

What’s the most you’ve ever spent on a lamp?
A thousand dollars on an Imperial floor lava lamp. It has a massive container supported on a beautiful walnut stand. The other lamp I spent big money on is my Sputnik. It has 72 arms, and each one takes a bulb. I won it on eBay for $650, but have been offered much more to sell it. I refuse; I’ll never see another one.

Your electric bill must be insane.
It’s actually pretty normal. I use low-wattage bulbs and only turn on a few lamps at a time. Unless I have a party—then I light everything up.

Interview by Andrew Parks

325 Lamps and Counting