If good soles go to heaven, then we were standing at the pearly gates. To my left were ceiling-to-floor shelves loaded with designer shoes, many with "Paris" emblazoned across the instep, signaling that they were Louboutins, which usually start at about $600 and can cost upward of $4,000.
My senses were on overload as my eyes fell on purple, sparkly, block-heeled Louboutins with their signature shiny, red-lacquered soles and then a dangerously sexy pair of silver stilettos covered with Swarovski crystals. I spotted a generously embellished coppery pair with sky-high heels. And a shelf in the middle of the room held a pair of custom-made hot pink platform stilettos by Walter Steiger, featuring the ace of spades on the heel.
I did a double-take at a black Louboutin platform covered in those googly-eye things you find on stuffed animals. I picked one up and shook it, which made the eyes dance. Weird, but still cooler than anything I'd seen before.
My eyes darted back to the ruby stilettos. They were just the right shade of deep red and were covered in sequins. I wished I could shrink my much-larger foot to a size 7 just for an instant so I could see what a pair of shoes that fabulous felt like.
I was feeling woozy.
Shak estimated that her collection has a value of about $500,000.
"These are all 4-inch. What happened was Louboutin started making 6-inch [heels]. So, when I built this closet, I built it all for 4-inch and that's why you see shoes out here," Shak said, gesturing toward a counter in the middle of the room. "All of my closets were built for 4-inch . . . the average 6-inch doesn't fit."
See, even the 1 percenters have problems.
I was visiting Shak at her richly appointed home in Villanova to talk about women's shoes, particularly sky-high heels that keep inching ridiculously upward. Shak is featured in a new documentary called "God Save My Shoes," which explores the intimate relationship that women have with their footwear. She was selected because shoes are her obsession. Although the average woman reportedly owns 20 pairs, there are those among us who secretly own many, many more.
Shoes aren't particularly my thing, but I've always wondered what it is about them that draws us in as opposed to handbags or some other accessory.
"There is nothing like putting on a pair of sexy shoes or heels. They make you feel tall," pointed out Sherri Guggenheim, owner of Vivi G. shoe chain, which has a store in Wayne. "I can't say that I've ever run into any woman who's not shoe-crazy."
Meghan Cleary, a footwear expert and a producer of "God Save My Shoes," agreed. "I think it really speaks to transformation and identity and who you want to be . . . I think it hits you on a lot of different levels. It hits you on a physiological level. It hits you on a transformational level. It hits you on an aesthetic level.
"Shoes change your outfit. They change your mood," added Cleary, who wrote Shoe Are You? and The Perfect Fit: What Your Shoes Say About You.
"Women are creatures of many moods, and we use shoes to express our moods and change our moods."
As for Shak, who's divorced from investor/hedge-fund manager/professional poker player Dan Shak, her footwear fixation started when she was in her 20s.
"All of a sudden, one day, one closet at a time, I was, like, oh, my God how did this happen? It wasn't where I set out to say I'm going to have a shoe collection," she said, laughing. "I filled one closet and a second and a third and then I said, 'This is crazy.' "
Well, you could be collecting cars, I pointed out.
"That's what I say when people make negative inferences to it. I'm like, I could be collecting cars. Men collect watches. There's plenty of really expensive things that people could collect. But not that this is inexpensive by any stretch."
Employees at Louboutin know her well, which means this reliable customer gets emails of the latest designs. At the moment, Shak is waiting on a custom-made pair of biker-style black platform stilettos covered with Swarovski crystals and spikes.
"It's the elegance of the style. If you really look at [Louboutin's] shoes . . . look at the work in them. They are just beautiful . . . Louboutin just has such a sense of fashion and elegance and they're unique. There's something about them."
Shak, who estimated that she owns between 1,200 to 1,400 pairs of shoes, has been playing professional poker since 2004. She is scheduled to compete in the World Series of Poker in Cannes this week. She has been featured in numerous publications because of her poker prowess, but she's becoming better known for what she wears on her feet than the cards she's playing.
"I would actually prefer it [to be known for my shoes]. Because I think being a poker player has a lot of negative inferences to it today. I think there are just so many professional poker players that have done so many dishonest things that I'm happy that people are talking about my shoes as opposed to poker."
Beth Shak is auctioning off her gently worn, custom-made pink Walter Steiger pumps to raise money for American servicemen and women. The bidding is up to $4,000. To place a bid, log onto wishuponahero.com/beth-shak.