RI man obsessed with 'Jaws'

By R.J. Heim

"Jaws" was Steven Spielberg's first big hit and his second release after his first film "Sugarland Express" with Goldie Hawn.

Jim Beller, who now lives Providence, said his fascination with the movie started that summer of 1975 on his last day of school when he was in the third grade.

"Teacher had Time magazine on her desk with this image of this shark coming up out of the water. And I was like, 'What's that?' And she goes, 'Oh, that's a new movie that just came out," Beller said.

Beller asked his mom if he could go. His parents weren't sure, so they saw the movie first that night.

"The following weekend, the Friday night, she took myself and a bunch of my friends," Beller said. "I just got hooked It's a great story. It's suspense. It's drama. It's comedy. It's just the acting, the music, the directing, everything."

Since then, he has amassed the world's largest collection of "Jaws" memorabilia in the world, including one of the original mechanical shark's teeth.

"Took out of the shark after the scene where Robert Shaw gets eaten at the end," Beller said.

With the advent of the Internet in the 1990s, connecting and collecting took on a life of its own.

"Everything, magazines, books, toys, advertising, original newspaper articles from '74 during the making of, model kits. You name it, they made it, and I probably have it," Beller said.

He started his own website in 2004 with countless files of everything in his collection -- even a Japanese slot machine.

"It plays scenes from the movie. You have to go further and further and try and get the ball in the hole," Beller said.

After his website, Beller had another idea. He wanted to come up with a coffee table book. It came out last year. "Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard" is chock full of 300-some-odd pages of "Jaws" everything.

The book was created by Beller, and the writing done by an up-and-coming author. Spielberg loved it so much, he wrote the foreword to the book.

If you ask what could Jim possibly do next to top what's he's done already? His next project is to hopefully open a "Jaws" museum on Martha's Vineyard.

"And have a lot of my collection there. Work with the people on Martha's Vineyard and do a filming location tour," Beller said. "Everything on Martha's Vineyard looks the same as it did back in '74, '75."

Beller was in heaven at the first Jaws Fest weekend in 2005 on Martha's Vineyard, where the entire movie was shot. He's already booked for the next one coming up Aug. 9-12 this year on the island.