general jack keane and andrew mccarthy here tomorrow. good night, everyone fro >> he risks his life to take down gangsters... >> your uncle met al capone and even spent time with him? >> he lived with him. >> he was like the james bond. he was the serpico. >> ...and helped crack the crime of the century. >> "the kidnapping and murder of charles augustus lindbergh jr." >> wow! >> this will forever change how this story will be viewed. >> but to his family, he's a total mystery. >> a real shadowy figure. >> very shadowy. >> now his heir is on a mission to honor him. >> are you obsessed with this? >> absolutely. >> as we go undercover with the mob. >> you know, i didn't do it. [ cell doors slam ] ♪
i'm jamie colby, in laguna beach, california, about an hour south of l.a. i think my favorite "strange inheritance" stories are about regular folks who discover something in mom's attic or grandpa's basement that not only changes their lives but reveals something i never knew about american history. >> my name is marty dolan. for decades, a few boxes collected dust in my mother's attic. when i opened them, i discovered my family's link to some of the most sensational crime stories of the 20th century. >> i meet marty, a 70-year-old retired anesthesiologist. hi, marty. i'm jamie colby. >> welcome to my home. >> he tells me this true detective story begins in 1960, when marty's great-uncle, mike malone, a longtime irs employee, passes away. marty's grandmother, molly,
heads to st. paul, minnesota, to collect her brother's personal effects. it's there she makes a bizarre find under the pillow -- a gun. >> no serial numbers on the gun. they were etched out. >> why would he, as a government employee, have a gun with no serial number? >> that's a good question. i don't know. >> molly also inherits a pair of handcuffs and several boxes of official-looking papers. it all winds up in the crawlspace of the family home in new jersey. >> and no one really took it upon themselves to dig into these. >> when molly dies, in 1977, marty's mother, dolly, inherits the boxes, and they continue to collect dust in an attic. >> my parents's generation -- they didn't do anything with it either. >> in the mid-1980s, the inheritance moves to the attic of marty's sister, eileen. she and marty become curious about those documents. >> i said, "you know, for the sake of completeness, maybe, we'll take a look at things."
i didn't know what they were or what they were about, 'cause i was young when he passed away. >> how long had they been sitting at that point? >> 25 years. >> how many documents are we talking about? >> thousands of pages. ♪ >> a lot of it looks like dull audit reports, but, then again, some of the files don't seem to belong. one says, "regarding alphonse capone" and another that reads "the capone cases." whoa! this is incredible. >> how about this one? "the kidnapping and murder of charles augustus lindbergh jr." >> that's amazing. marty wants to find out why his great-uncle would have these case files. his first step -- re-examine everything he thinks he knows about mike malone. do you remember much about uncle mike? >> not really. he'd show up, periodically, to visit my grandmother. >> what did he look like? >> he had deep-set eyes and he was mysterious-looking, honestly. i mean, he had this fedora on and an overcoat, even in the summer times. >> a real shadowy figure. >> very shadowy.
>> did he participate a lot with the family? >> no. >> over the years, "mysterious mike" keeps his distance, until the day he dies of a brain aneurysm, in 1960. 25 years later, marty learns it ain't easy to dig up details on the secretive life of his great-uncle and the curious documents he left behind. marty even hires a private detective. >> no one really could give me a feel for what i had. i felt like it was a dead end. >> so marty packs away his uncle's documents and tosses them back into storage. and there they sit for decades. decades. >> yeah. i had my fill of them, basically, and i had a life to live. got married and had my children and started practicing anesthesia. >> after their mother dies, marty and his sister officially inherit their great-uncle's belongings. then, in 2011, just on a whim, marty does an online search of his uncle's name.
after decades of wondering, in the pre-google era, some clues finally surface. it seems uncle mike was no ordinary taxman. >> he was like the james bond. he was the serpico. >> and the papers he left behind hold long-hidden secrets. >> it's a total bonanza. he's opening up aspects that nobody even knew about. >> here's a "strange inheritance" quiz question. while new york and chicago are well-known as towns corrupted by the mafia, the first mob family in america traces its origins to which u.s. city? the answer after the break. with expedia one click gives you access to discounts on thousands of hotels, cars and things to do. like the garland hotel for 40% off. everything you need to go. expedia
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(laughs) which truck would you pick? the chevy. the chevy. the chevy. there you go. boom. that was obvious. plus it looks cooler. no doubt about it. now they know what to get me. (laughs) >> so, the first mob family in america traces its origins back to which u.s. city? it's "b." during the late 1800s, an influx of immigrants from italy made their way to new orleans, bringing sicilian gangs with >> retired doctor marty dolan is starting to realize that his strange inheritance -- secret papers, as well as handcuffs and a gun with no serial number -- may reveal his great-uncle mike malone's true identity -- battling organized crime in its heyday. >> the united states had a problem. we were about ready to fall off the cliff.
>> paul camacho, a retired special agent in the irs criminal investigations division, tells me that, in the 1920s and '30s, organized crime plagues america. bootlegging, gambling, prostitution, and worse. gangsters like al capone, waxey gordon, and nucky johnson are getting away with murder. >> and as these gangsters grew bigger, it was overwhelming. you have gangs controlling aspects of commerce. >> all that commerce changes the gang-busting game. in 1927, the supreme court rules money made from crime could be taxed. that means crooks who don't declare their ill-gotten gains on their federal returns are committing serious crimes. enter the irs. >> they decided they were gonna use the criminal statutes of the internal revenue code to go after corruption and tax evasion. >> the agents charged with pursuing these gangsters -- an
obscure division of the irs called the "t-men." "t" for treasury department. the t-men. >> yes. >> lots of people have heard of the g-men. >> right. >> less of the t-men. why is it so few people know? >> the t-men, out of principle and investigative prowess -- they didn't talk about what they did. they just went on from one case to another. >> t-men like michael francis malone, born jersey city, new jersey, 1893. >> poor irish from the streets of jersey city. he learned italian, yiddish, greek, a bit of spanish, and, obviously, hobokenese and jerseyese. >> when mike's 20, he joins the army, serving with the flying cadet squadron during world war i. after he returned stateside, he gets married and starts a family. then tragedy strikes. >> two of his children died. >> oh, my. >> after the death of their second child, there was an estrangement that never really got better. he became this nomad and put his
life at risk. >> mike joins the bureau of investigation, the precursor to the fbi. he quickly makes a name for himself, then jumps agencies to the t-men. malone's new job -- go undercover with the mob. that's pretty risky stuff. >> it was extremely risky. he really -- his life was put in danger. >> in 1929, malone is put on the case to take down public enemy number one, al capone, the brutal chicago mob boss known as the original scarface. malone leaves behind notes from his undercover work. marty shares them with irs agent paul camacho, who is shocked. >> it's a total bonanza. he's opening up aspects of the case that nobody even knew about. >> so, they send him in on a pretty dangerous assignment. what do they tell him to do? >> they knew what capone did, but they didn't really know how and they didn't really know who. who were the specific players, the details of how they did it?
>> according to the case-file notes that marty inherited, malone goes by the alias mike lepito, posing as a philadelphia gangster on the run. >> even though he was as irish as guinness stout, he can pose as a greek. he can pose as an italian. he was this chameleon. >> he had the whole setup done, from the fedora to the double-breasted suits to the silk underwear, even with the initials m.l. on it for mike lepito. >> mike checks in to the lexington hotel in chicago, capone headquarters, and slowly infiltrates his gang. your uncle, mike, met al capone and even spent time with him? >> he lived with him. >> for a year plus, malone secretly collects evidence that capone and his cohorts are making a lot more money than they're telling the irs. he keeps detailed notes on capone's spending sprees. $7,200 on furniture in a single order. nearly 39 grand paid to the
lexington hotel for long-distance phone charges. 1,000 bucks a week spent on food. all key evidence leading to the arrest of capone on tax-evasion charges. >> it really is an amazing feat of undercover work. >> even more amazing, after the arrest, malone doesn't break cover, remaining by the gangster's side during his 1931 trial. but as this handwritten note reveals, his time as a capone confidant abruptly comes to an end -- in the courtroom, after malone notices something odd about capone's bodyguard, philip d'andrea. "i noticed a man carrying a gun." in the courtroom? >> in the courtroom, with bullets. >> oh, my gosh. the whole courtroom could have been shot up. mike grabs d'andrea, pulls him outside, and arrests him. now everybody knows mysterious mike is not a mystery. >> absolutely. his cover was blown. >> he could have been killed. >> certainly, but capone said,
"you took your chances and you won. i lost." and mike said, "you get a lot farther in life with a badge than just a gun." >> capone is sentenced to 11 years in federal prison. and he's not the only crime boss mike malone helps take down in his 40 years of undercover work. >> they smashed the capone organization. they smashed the new york organization, waxey gordon. they took down nucky johnson. >> it reminds me a lot of "boardwalk empire." >> sure. same team, same chief. mike was involved. >> and marty discovers that his great-uncle's undercover work isn't limited to bootleggers and gangsters. he also plays a key role in cracking the "crime of the century." it's all there in marty's strange inheritance. >> and i positively guarantee that this will forever change how this story will be viewed. >> here's another quiz question. more than 80 actors have portrayed al capone on tv or in the movies.
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♪ >> so, which actor never portrayed al capone on tv or in the movies? it's joe pesci. de niro played capone in "the untouchables," and robards in "the st. valentine's day massacre." ♪ >> marty dolan is unlocking the secrets of these original documents left behind by his great-uncle, mike malone, which tell the story of the crime-fighting division of the irs, called the t-men. >> they cleaned up the wild, wild west in chicago, took down
the gangsters in new york city, cleaned up the politicians, and dealt with the hollywood elite. >> including charlie chaplin, who had to pay more than a million bucks in back taxes. the case files also include new personal details on the kidnapping of the 20-month-old son of charles lindbergh, the first man to fly nonstop across the atlantic. lindbergh's worldwide-hero status made this the crime of the century. how would you describe the magnitude of the lindbergh case for the time? >> the world was obsessed with this case. >> robert zorn is the leading authority on the kidnapping. >> this was the great manhunt in american history. >> the investigation begins in march 1932, when charles lindbergh jr. is abducted from his crib at the lindberghs' estate near hopewell, new jersey. the crime goes unsolved and shocks the nation. lindbergh's father-in-law, former u.s. ambassador to
mexico, dwight morrow, had strongly distrusted j. edgar hoover. so lindbergh chooses to collaborate with the t-men, including marty's great-uncle, mike malone, over hoover's g-men. >> i have 80-some-odd pages of daily memorandums so detailed, you can actually deconstruct the crime. >> marty shares the lindbergh documents from his strange inheritance with zorn. was it a "wow"? >> absolutely. and i positively guarantee that this will forever change how this story will be viewed. >> the biggest revelations come from accounts of behind-the-scene interactions with lindbergh himself, who's known for his extreme privacy. the documents depict a distraught man clinging to hope. >> for example, lindbergh brought a machine gun onto a boat. there was a man who was coaxing him, saying that he was in touch with the kidnappers. that's completely unknown to history. >> he was desperate. >> he was.
i'm convinced this man would have done anything to save his child. >> the case file even includes details about lindbergh's diet, the clothes he wore, and how, out of agony, he stopped shining his shoes. >> these are the kind of details that put you kind of on the ground with lindbergh as he's wrestling to solve this problem. >> is mike and t t-men who convce lindbergh to pay the ransom in rare gold certificates and documented bills. the money is painstakingly tracked, as this note shows. >> the ransom money was $50,000. i have the complete accounting of that to $49,986. >> that forensic accounting helps apprehend bruno richard hauptmann, who's found guilty and executed in new jersey's electric chair in april 1936. unfortunately, by then, young charles jr. had been found dead. >> nobody would have been caught
had it not been for the t-men. >> there's no denying marty's strange inheritance is a groundbreaking historic find, says ray sherrard, a retired criminal-investigation special agent. how unique are the dolan papers? >> there's only one in the world. >> how do you know that these are a "one of," as we say in the collectors world. >> i was looking for those in 1980, when i was sent back to washington to write our agency history. and there was a little three-drawer file cabinet, broken. and i went over and looked, and there was just a mess of papers in there, no organization, no nothing. >> that's it? >> that's when i said, "that's it? so,where's the rest of the stuff?" >> how did mike get these documents? did he steal them? >> no. these records, i'm convinced, were given to him by elmer irey, the chief of the unit. i truly believe that he wanted to have mike tell the story of the t-men. >> and now marty believes that job has been left to him. >> are you obsessed with this? >> absolutely. >> so, how does marty discharge
♪ >> now back to "strange inheritance." >> marty dolan has finally uncovered the true story of his great-uncle, mysterious mike malone, one of the original so-called t-men, irs agents who took down some of america's most notorious gangsters, including al capone. and what's your goal? >> to get this story told. i want my strange inheritance to become america's inheritance. >> marty thinks he's found just the place to make that happen, with the opening of a new mob museum in las vegas, which is my next stop. this is one cool museum.
senior director of content geoff schumacher shows me around. this is where the story of organized crime comes alive. st. valentine's day massacre -- the wall? >> these are the actual bricks from the wall against which the victims were shot. >> here, you'll get the inside scoop on america's most infamous gangsters. just watch your step or you may find yourself behind bars. you know i didn't do it. [ cell doors slam ] the mob museum also highlights the good guys, like the t-men. so marty agrees to sell mysterious mike's smith & wesson revolver to the museum for >> what's unique about the gun is that the serial number has been scratched off. >> and you wouldn't expect it from a law-enforcement officer. >> no. but this is what the gangsters would do, and he was an undercover agent. >> marty also loans out mike's handcuffs, which he believes were used in the 1939 arrest of atlantic city mob boss
nucky johnson, and several of his never-made-public case files. what does it mean to the museum to get these mike malone documents and artifacts from marty? >> the information that he has assembled is astonishing. so we're really proud to be able to show this in the museum. >> and marty's efforts to honor mike malone aren't done yet. >> i'm trying to get him the presidential medal of freedom, the highest civilian award that can be honored. >> and why do you think mike is deserving? >> my uncle put in 47 years of service to this country. but he did this with great risk to his life, great honor to the country. >> are you obsessed with this? >> absolutely. i truly believe this story of courage and character could be used by this country -- nowadays especially. >> a hero helps take down notorious crime bosses, serving america while remaining in the shadows, until a few dusty, old boxes reveal the true story of
an unsung gangbuster. what do you think mike thinks about all this? >> i think he would be a bit embarrassed, because he kept things to himself. but hopefully he's got a smile on his face. >> maybe he still wanted to remain...mysterious. >> probably. >> before we go, one more tale from the mike malone case files. after taking down al capone, mike sets his sights on infamous bootlegger waxey gordon. he heads to a lake in upstate new york, where waxey's rumored to be hiding. when mike arrives, it's pitch-black. he slips and falls in a puddle, making a huge commotion. all the nearby cabins turn on their lights to see what's up, all except one. in an instant, mike knows that's where waxey's hiding. once again, mystery mike gets his man.
i'm jamie colby. thanks so much for watching "strange inheritance."' and remember -- you can't take it with you. ♪ ♪ >> a warehouse stacked high with high fashion. >> she never, ever let on that i was going to inherit this collection. i had no idea. >> a clothesline to presidents, royalty, and thetitanic? >> what's it worth? >> $20,000. >> that's a lot of money for a >> that's a lot of money. >> and a lot of stress. >> my husband actually said to me -- oops! -- "it's either me or the collection." ♪ >> if she says yes to the dresses... >> definitely good for blondes. >> ...will her dream ever get off the runway? >> i got a phone call saying, "charlotte, they're going to take your collection." >> oh, no. i was panicking. [ door creaks ] [ wind howls ] [ thunder rumbles ]
[ bird caws ] ♪ >> i'm jamie colby in new york city, here to meet an heir whose strange inheritance not only unraveled her life... it left her hanging by a thread. >> my name's charlotte smith. what do you do when your godmother leaves you 70 huge boxes of dresses? one thought -- send them right back. but then i realized these weren't just dresses. they were one-of-a-kind pieces of history. >> charlotte? >> hello. >> hi. i'm jamie. >> lovely to meet you. >> charlotte, a native of philadelphia who now lives in australia, is in manhattan to meet with fashion students at the famed parsons school of design. >> this is my inheritance, all pieces bequeathed to me from my american godmother. >> why can't i get so lucky? ♪ charlotte's wardrobe is filled with fashion gems that are as timeless as they are priceless.
so elizabeth taylor, cleopatra. >> yeah! this is 1930s. it was all decadence. it was the silver screen. it was hollywood. this was about 1915. >> over 100 years old! >> over 100 years old. >> and this is just a small sampling of the valuable vintage heirlooms charlotte inherited. >> when i received the bequest from my godmother, it was about 3,500 pieces. >> you heard right. 3,500 designer pieces, all assembled by a very unlikely fashionista. the story begins in 1937 in bryn mawr, pennsylvania, when a college student, doris hastings, sees a peach gown in a shop window. >> she asked her family to give her enough money for her birthday and christmas for three years so that she could buy it. >> doris gets the dress she covets and wears it to a dance, impressing her date, howard darnell.
the two are soon engaged and then married. it was a good investment. >> yes. that was really something that kick-started her passion for clothing. >> doris darnell goes on to become a school librarian, devoted wife, mother of three, and practicing quaker while meantime pursuing her passion for glamorous clothes, especially vintage attire. doris's daughter beth tells us more. >> she adored getting dressed up. any time they went out, if we had a birthday party or we went out to a restaurant, she wore antique clothes. and she loved it. >> but her mother's taste for fashion is an uncomfortable fit with quaker sensibilities. >> when quakers started, they didn't believe in anything except very simple dress. that didn't apply to her at all. my father's mother absolutely disapproved of her completely. >> how did doris's quaker husband feel about what she did? >> he was amused. but whenever they went into a function, he would always walk 10 steps behind so that doris
could walk in and be, you know, the show wearing something extraordinary. >> her quirky style becomes her calling card, and philly society loves it. soon, others are handing down to doris their old designer dresses or family heirlooms for her to wear. >> people were just constantly giving her things. she had a whole wardrobe of house dresses and never bought one. >> by the time doris's three kids leave the nest, the third floor is filled with more than 1,000 high-fashion garments, including designs by dior, chanel, and pucci. it's a dress-up dreamland for doris's young goddaughter, charlotte. >> i just thought, "oh, my gosh, you know, why doesn't my barbie have clothes like this?" >> well, hello! no need for barbie. you were her barbie. >> i was her barbie. >> and doris knows the story behind each and every item. she puts together a meticulous dress catalog that includes letters, photographs, and notes.
>> for her, it was about storytelling and about fashion history. >> these fashion stories were often intertwined with significant world events -- like this dress by lady duff-gordon, the leading british fashion designer of the late 19th century, who survived the titanicin infamous style. >> she was in the first lifeboat with her husband, sir duff-gordon. >> a lifeboat nicknamed the millionaires' due to the wealthy first-class passengers who climbed aboard. the boat paddles away ignominiously with only 12 survivors, despite being able to hold 40. but even the scandal can't sink gordon's popularity. loyal customers show up to her testimony at the disaster inquiry dressed to the hilt in her designs. doris also has the wedding dress worn by eleanor chase when she marries charles taft, son of former president
william howard taft, in 1917 during world war i. the real story here is what the groom wore. >> even though it was the son of a president, charles decided that in respect of the war that he was going to wear military uniform instead of black tie. >> there's plenty more history... an original dior owned by ruth meyer when her father, eugene meyer, publisher of the washington post, hosted parties for the capital elite. and this dress, worn to the 1937 coronation of britain's king george vi. so many great yarns! that's what the dresses are for >> she was not only treasuring the garment. she was also treasuring that person's story, and she was keeping their story alive. >> over the years, doris's collection grows from 1,000 garments to 2,000 and more. by her 80s, she's amassed more
than 3,500 pieces and is beginning to fear what will become of her treasured fashion trove when she's gone. >> she worried terribly about it's a it.the people who gave these things. and she had promised everybody that she was not going to sell it. >> doris begins looking for someone to step into her shoes, but her own children show zero interest. >> i loved her clothes. i loved her whole collection, but it was not something that i would have taken on. >> doris's next call comes like a bolt out of the blue. >> and i remember just instantly thinking, "what on earth am i going to do with it?" >> is it historically significant or financially a mind blower? >> both. >> here's a "strange inheritance" quiz question. who is credited with creating and patenting the brassiere strap clasp -- author mark twain, inventor thomas edison, or hero nurse clara barton? the answer after the break.
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with a lifesaving cardiovascular benefit. jardiance is proven to both significantly reduce the chance of dying from a cardiovascular event in adults who have type 2 diabetes and heart disease alower your a1c. jardiance can cause serious side effects including dehydration. this may cause you to feel dizzy, faint, or lightheaded, or weak upon standing. ketoacidosis is a serious side effect that may be fatal. symptoms include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, tiredness, and trouble breathing. stop taking jardiance and call your doctor right away if you have symptoms of ketoacidosis or an allergic reaction. symptoms of an allergic reaction include rash, swelling, and difficulty breathing or swallowing. do not take jardiance if you are on dialysis or have severe kidney problems. other side effects are sudden kidney problems, genital yeast infections, increased bad cholesterol, and urinary tract infections, which may be serious. taking jardiance with a sulfonylurea or insulin may cause low blood sugar. tell your doctor about all the medicines you take and if you have any medical conditions. so-you still just thinking about your a1c? well no, i'm also thinking about my heart. now it's your turn to ask the serious questions. ask your doctor about jardiance.
and get to the heart of what matters. the things we do rising before dawn. sweating it out. tough to do it all. but we can always find time to listen to great thinkers and explorers whose stories take us places our hamstrings can't. all we have to do is listen. download audible to start listening. ♪ >> so, who is credited with inventing and patenting the brassiere strap clasp? it's mark twain. while the author meant for his patent to be used in vests and pantaloons, it only caught on for one snug garment, the bra. ♪ >> a lifelong love of fashion
fills doris darnell's closets with vintage designer clothes. family, friends, and even strangers vie to be a part of her collection. ♪ that's how it grows to more than 3,500 pieces with designs by chanel, dior, pucci, and dating back to the late 1800s. >> it was like a childhood kind of fantasy, really. it was like disney at my godmother's house. she had so much stuff. so it was a treasure trove up there. in 2004, doris surprises her 46-year-old goddaughter, charlotte, who's now living in australia with her husband and young daughter. doris says she wants charlotte to assume her mantle when she's gone.>> she never, ever let on i was going to inherit this collection. i had no idea. it came out of the blue. >> were you looking for a hobby? >> i was not at all looking for
a hobby. i had a shop, an antiques shop. i had a young daughter. i had a husband. i was living on the other side of the world, and there was a lot of personal and emotional baggage that came with it. >> maybe it's best to politely decline the offer, just as doris's own kids had done. and i remember just instay thinking, "what on earth am i going to do with it?" >> but baggage or no baggage, charlotte comes to terms with her inheritance and tells her godmother, "sure. pencil me into the will." in 2007, doris darnell passes away at age 90. her lifelong collection shows up at charlotte's antiques shop in australia, 70 boxes in all. >> did you have room for all those items? >> well, we stacked it up floor to ceiling. i mean, it was just... it took up half my shop. >> the boxes contain thousands of dresses with detailed notes on each. >> there were four gigantic notebooks with her typed-out letters about the stories behind the dresses and the people who
wore them. >> this social history captured through fashion could be worth a mint, says vintage-fashion appraiser karen augusta. is it historically significant or financially a mind blower? >> i'd say both. >> so, let's talk about these. first up, this '80s cocktail dress by the renowned oscar de la renta, who achieved fame as a favorite designer of jackie kennedy. what would it sell for today? >> in today's market, it would sell for about $4,500. >> karen tells me 1930s gowns like this are in very high demand. >> if it were to sell in a shop in l.a., it would be $6,000 to $7,000. >> she's out of my league, but nice to meet you. karen also puts a price tag on this revealing number by spanish designer paco rabanne. it looks like a j. lo dress. what's this one worth?>> $8,000?
it could go for very much above that. >> then there's this late-'40s hourglass dress by leading postwar designer pierre balmain. >> that's a museum piece. let's say $22,000. >> that's a lot of money for a dress.of money. >> and remember -- charlotte inherited 3,500 pieces, including this 1930s chanel wedding dress valued at 50k. so, what's the whole wardrobe worth? >> it's up there. >> up there in the stratosphere, perhaps millions of dollars, which leads to a recommendation for charlotte's inheritance. >> "just sell it," you know. "don't waste your time. just sell it." >> tally at least one enthusiastic vote for that option. >> my husband actually said to me -- oops! -- "it's either me or the collection." >> here's another quiz question. the answer when we return.
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♪ >> so, when it was first introduced, what was described as the atom bomb of fashion? it's the bikini. in 1946, french designer louis réard named his new garment after the bikini atoll in the south pacific where the u.s. did nuclear testing because he hoped it would make as big of a bang as the atomic bomb. ♪ >> charlotte smith has inherited thousands of valuable designer dresses -- garments that span 150 years of history. and today... this one! ...she lets me model some items
from her collection. >> doesn't it remind you of a stained-glass window? >> so vibrant. >> [ laughs ] >> definitely good for blondes. >> this is timeless! >> that is timeless. >> the dresses bequeathed to her by her late godmother, doris darnell, aren't just beautiful. they're worth a fortune. >> i could see everybody who was money minded standing behind me rubbing their hands together, saying, "just sell it." you know, "don't waste your just sell it." >> and charlotte does test the waters. >> i have sold one thing. >> what was it worth? >> it made just under $6,000. >> if you sold one for $6,000... >> yeah.didn't you say to yourself, "i could sell a few more. there's still thousands of >> i regret it now. >> oh. >> yeah. i regret it now. i knew at the time that i was carrying on something that someone had begun and wished she could continue.
she took it to a certain level and always anticipated it going further. >> so, charlotte resolves to keep the collection intact, roll up her sleeves, and continue her godmother's legacy. >> i decided that i was going to spend 100% of my time making something of the collection. >> her plan is to make money with paid appearances, modeling shows, and exhibits. so, charlotte sells her antiques shop. it's not a decision welcomed by her husband. >> he just couldn't believe i would give up my shop, which was very successful, and take something that was really an unknown risk. so he actually said to me -- oops! -- "it's either me or the collection." >> did you answer right away? >> well, i'm not married any longer. at the time, i was really angry. trust me that i was going to make something out of it. it was a very good motivator. >> but he's not wrong about one thing -- it is a risky move. charlotte, now divorced, learns that as she scrambles to book
gigs while storage and other bills pile up. i can't even imagine what it costs to maintain the collection. >> i need to have $6,000 a month just to maintain it. we're talking already about $150,000 that i've put in. >> money she puts in from the sale of her shop, but those funds only go so far. >> there are moments where i am so overwhelmed, i just think that i just can't cope with this anymore.oing to get rid of. but i say, you know, "keep going. just keep going. you're almost there." >> then, four years after her strange inheritance upended her life, charlotte catches a big break -- a designer from australia uses a dress from her collection as inspiration for her new fashion line. soon, event planners and museum curators are booking charlotte and her dresses. her growing reputation leads to a job at a private fashion
institute. >> they asked me if i would come onboard and teach the history of fashion. >> for the first time in years, charlotte has a steady paycheck, along with a place to store her dresses free of charge. and just like that, everything unravels. >> i get a phone call saying, "charlotte, they're going to take your collection." >> oh, no >> i was panicking. >> what's your "strange inheritance" story? we'd love to tell it. send me an e-mail or go to our website, strangeinheritance.com. hold together. a little to the left. 1, 2, 3, push! easy! easy! easy! (horn honking) alright! alright! we've all got places to go! we've all got places to go! washington crossing the delaware turnpike? surprising. what's not surprising? how much money sean saved by switching to geico. big man with a horn. fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more.
but i'm not standing still... and with godaddy, i've made my ideas real. ♪ i made my own way, now it's time to make yours. ♪ everything is working, just like it should ♪ ♪ >> now back to "strange inheritance." >> charlotte smith is trying to make a successful career out of the thousands of high-fashion historical dresses she inherited from her godmother. in 2009, she's teaching at a design institute when it goes belly-up. >> i got a phone call from one of the other teachers saying, "charlotte, you've got to get down here right away. they've gone into liquidation, and they're going to take your collection."
>> i was panicking. >> you could have lost these valuable pieces. >> i could have lost everything. everything that i owned was in that school building. no one could get in. >> charlotte won't back down. she's able to prove the garments are hers, not the school's, and get the collection back in her custody. but now her strange inheritance poses another tough choice. >> i'd just lost my job, and i thought, "i'm actually a two-home owner" because my collection actually costs me more than maintaining my house. >> charlotte can only afford to keep one. >> it was awful, but you know what, i thought,"there is no way i would inherit a collection like this for no reason." i made the decision i'd rather sell my house than my collection. >> now, think about that. first the dresses cost her her next they cost her her husband. now they cost her her house. are you obsessed? >> [ laughs ] am i obsessed? i'm determined. i'm passionate. >> and at this point struggling
to make ends meet, but it's not all bad luck. charlotte also gets an e-mail from a major publishing house. >> it came out of the blue, saying, "we've been following your story. are you interested in writing a i sent the e-mail saying, "yes, i'd love to talk to you more." >> charlotte nets a book deal, releasing "dreaming of dior" and later "dreaming of chanel," based on stories of dresses from her strange inheritance. the publications provide much-needed income and help her book even bigger engagements, earning up to 16 grand in a weekend. how many different projects have you developed out of the collection? >> i do everything from museum exhibitions... i write books, of course. i do catwalk parades. ♪ >> in september 2017 at the acclaimed parsons school of design here in new york city, charlotte makes her latest appearance as guest lecturer.
>> it's a real honor for me to be here and to tell the story c. >> both students and professors are wowed. >> i think charlotte's collection must be pretty unique. it's very rare to have a collection of that historical range in private hands. >> have you taken this beyond where even doris could have imagined? this is what she had s wanted, where it was being seen around the world. in the 1920s, people were obsessed with the exotic. this is the modern woman emerging. so when you look at that dress, you suddenly know a bit about world history. so, yes, the collection is at that place that she always anticipated and envisaged it to be. keep loving fashion. it's fantastic. >> a dress in the window ignites a fashion flame in an unlikely soul, launching an historic collection that weaves thousands of stories while providing an heir with a total life makeover. >> i think the collection has given me incredible confidence. it's empowered me. it's given me something that i
can learn and grow with. doris has changed my life... >> wow. >> ...through this inheritance. >> as charlotte says, every dress has a story to tell. here's one more. it's december 1941, right after pearl harbor. a young lady in boston is planning her wedding. her fiancé appears at her door to announce he's being shipped out in three days. they decide to get married right away.the woman heads to filene's basement, which is swarming with other jittery brides-to-be. she picks out this simple ivory dress. the label reads "parachute silk," which somehow seems appropriate. after she ties the knot, she lends the dress to two friends for their wartime weddings. it proves a lucky charm for them all. their husbands make it home alive. i'm jamie colby.
thanks so much for watching "strange inheritance." and remember -- you can't take it with you. [ applause ] ) the following is a paid advertisement for time life's music collection. ♪ (larry) remember when a movie ticket cost a dollar, a gallon of gas was a quarter, chocolate bar was a nickel. we were watching gunsmoke and andy griffith and listening to the greatest country music ever. ♪ trailer for sale or rent ♪ rooms to let 50 cents ♪ what's he doing in my world (soft country music) hi, i'm larry gatlin. i grew up in the '60s and we often think of it as a time of change, but it was also a time when we heard hit after country hit on the radio.