Tattooed eccentric Billy Leroy presides over an emporium in a small corner of Brooklyn which regularly sells vintage furnishings to the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Dustin Hoffman, Cameron Diaz and Keanu Reeves.
This small corner of New York is where the weird, wacky and wonderful collide, presided over by a tattooed eccentric selling unique treasures to the stars.
With his red-tinted glasses and trademark waistcoat, Billy Leroy is the go-to man for Hollywood A-listers in search of something special to furnish their mansions and luxury apartments.
His emporium in Brooklyn offers up everything from vintage subway signs and silk-lined mahogany coffins to a never-seen-before Alfred Hitchcock film.
Stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Dustin Hoffman, Cameron Diaz and Keanu Reeves regularly look for finds at Billy’s Antiques & Props.
He says: “I had a really amazing Hannibal Lecter painting that Leo was interested in. He would come over on his bike and drop in just to look at it.
“Keanu is another one who comes in to browse. He dresses down, clothes hanging off him, looking a bit down and out – a lot of the time you can’t even tell it’s him, he’s really incognito.
“And I remember the time I looked up to see Reece Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal making out in my doorway! It was when they were dating. Celebrities come to my store because they get treated and can act like regular folk.”
Billy has run his outlet since the 90s, first in Manhattan before soaring rents drove him out after two decades and he moved it across the East River to Brooklyn.
Now he has invited the TV cameras to capture the craziness of his life for the Discovery+ series Billy Buys Brooklyn, which also features his wife Lorraine.
Billy says he is a dealer, not a collector, and that anything in his possession is for sale – including items in his own home.
“I’ll sell the shoes off my feet,” he says with a laugh during a Zoom call from his store. “Everything has a price!”
The key to his success, it seems, is that no matter who walks through the door, everyone is on the same level.
Billy says: “I treat my celebrity customers like regular people, because I noticed as soon as you start gushing and asking them ridiculous questions, they kind of back off. They like coming to my store because they know they won’t get hassled.”
So he never gets star struck? “The only people who would leave me star struck are the likes of Michael Caine or Sean Connery, bless his soul,” he says. “But sadly Michael hasn’t been in and Sean never visited.”
One star who did make an impression was 83-year-old Dustin Hoffman, who managed to resist a vintage coffin that Billy cheekily tried to flog him.
“Sadly, he didn’t buy it,” says Billy. “Midnight Cowboy is one of my favourite movies. So when he came in with his son Jake, I said, ‘Oh, it’s Ratso Rizzo!’ He thought it was funny. He’s talkative. He would tell me about the time he roomed with Gene Hackman in the 1950s, and they had a cold water flat.
“Can you believe it? They had no hot water. It shows they haven’t always been rich – most of them started from nothing.
“Dustin’s a wealth of information, such an icon, and just a really nice guy, really humble.”
Scottish actor Gerard Butler, 51, had just celebrated the release of 2006 action epic 300 when he turned up looking to furnish his new flat. Billy says: “He had a big welt on his nose. I was like, ‘What happened?’ and he said, ‘These guys in bars often challenge me because of 300. If you play a macho part, they’ll challenge you’.
“He was with his decorator and they started buying a lot of stuff. He must have made a lot of money from that movie because he didn’t barter!
“I went to his Midtown apartment, everything was done like a Roman bath with columns, like something out of the ancient world. He also bought a big meteorite that was five billion years old!”
Another windfall came when singer Usher, 42, arrived, surrounded by security who wanted Billy to close his doors so the star could shop in peace.
“I didn’t mind because I realised it was going to be a big pay day,” says Billy. “My head was going ding, ding, ding! He was a really nice guy and he bought a ton of stuff, including a cool phone booth from the 1940s.”
Some do drive a hard bargain, no matter how wealthy they are. “The richer they are, the more they barter,” Billy says. “They’re ruthless.”
Not for nothing has actress-turned-fashion tycoon Mary-Kate Olsen, 35, amassed an estimated £500million fortune. Billy says: “She bought loads of stuff, she really went for that beaten up, shabby chic look.
About six months later her assistant called me and said, ‘Mary-Kate would like to sell you back the stuff she bought’. I was really glad to have got rid of it, so I told her to just give it away!”
Billy counts stars such as Daniel Craig and Johnny Depp as friends, and now he is hoping his new show might land him a royal customer – as he has heard Prince Harry is a fan one of his previous US shows, Baggage Battles.
Billy says: “Maybe one day Harry will come in. That would be great.”