Tuesday, October 3, 2017

No Holds Barred: Debbie and Carrie Up for For Sale

Lot 684: Carrie Fisher lifesize "Princess Leia" statue in classic British telephone box.
Est: $8,000 - $12,000
by Blair Sabol

George Carlin said it best; “The meaning of life is all about owning and getting STUFF” ... we all have too much STUFF.  There is a whole industry developed on where to store your STUFF and how to get more STUFF.  And remember, other people’s STUFF is shit!  Only your STUFF counts.” 

That may be true.  After all, STUFF is STUFF — unless it’s Hollywood and Celebrity STUFF, with major auctions.  Then we get into a whole other category — money and memorabilia better known as “cultural nostalgia.”

For instance, on Sept 27th, Audrey Hepburn’s personal collection was presented by Christie’s in London. I looked it over, some of Cecil Beaton’s photos were great — her low-heeled Mancini pumps were iconic, but the rest of it was depressing (old clothes always look like old clothes even if Audrey Hepburn wore them). A gold snuff box from Rex Harrison ($10,000)? Maybe the black satin Givenchy cocktail dress from Charade ($92,000), a satin sleep mask ($8,000) and the Burberry raincoat ($92,000), her 1960 famous ballet slippers ($10,000)?
My Fair Lady, 1964
Cecil Beaton
Audrey Hepburn, circa 1963
Estimate: GBP 2,000 - 3,000
Two Pairs of Audrey Hepburn’s High-Heeled Court Shoes; Rene Mancini, 1980s/90s
Price realised: GBP 1,250
On the other hand, every celebrity auction has the monogrammed beat up Louis Vuitton Suitcase and the Cartier gold lipstick holder or compact for $75,000. Imagine you too can remember Audrey and sing “Moon River” with one of her items if you have $500,000 in your pocket to blow.

Lets face it, Audrey Hepburn was a fashion idol and died in 1993. I was not worried that her sons’ sale of their mom’s personal effects would come up empty. After all, celebrity auctions are about “owning” a piece of history — even if it turns out to be a used bathmat!

Paul Newman's Rolex Daytona sold for 3,722,000 Swiss Francs. That's over a million bucks.
There is a huge trend in the last year of celebrity sell-offs. There was Vivian Leigh’s collection at Sotheby’s last week, and the October sale of Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona Watch at Phillips; and two big auctions; Juliennes’ “Icons and Idols: Hollywood” and “Treasures from the Vault: Joseff of Hollywood.”  It’s interesting that while Hollywood box office is dumping — Hollywood collectibles is booming.  Then again, I think the audience for all this “celebrity stuff” is dying so you best sell it off or buy it quick while it seems relevant to somebody!  And now everyone can get in on the sales via the Internet and stream the actual bidding scene.

So what better timing than this upcoming weekend to have the Hollywood auction of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher who both died last December; Carrie on the 27th and Debbie on the 28th.  Joe Maddelena is the CEO of Profiles in History, which is presenting “The Personal Property Auction of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds” on October 7th – 9th in Calabasas California.

“Debbie was a huge collector and fan of the movies. I have already done 3 auctions of her things before she died.  We sold Marilyn Monroe’s “Subway Dress” from The Seven Year Itch for $5.5 million dollars. The highest grossing celebrity auctioned item in history — and much much more. But Debbie wanted her fans and collectors to be able to own some of her things. This was her wish — so there are plenty of inexpensive items (those all start at $100). She felt that things last forever and we are just caretakers.”
Marilyn Monroe’s “Subway Dress” fromThe Seven Year Itch, which sold for $5.5 million dollars. 
Carrie was a totally different collector. “She was eccentric and whimsical and a lot of her things were about words and odd funny meanings.”  I know since I visited Carrie in her home a few times and it was always filled with insane pieces like her antique electroshock therapy device and strange portraits of monkeys who looked like celebrities. Her Star Wars collection is major, but minor in the scheme of her giant shopping addiction. Carrie always gave the best gifts — she gave me an expensive amethyst Buddha from one of her many Asian trips with “RubbaDub” engraved on his belly.  I also have many of her postcards written with her own particular perverse haiku lines on the back.
Lot 1142: Antique Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) device. Est: $300 - $500.
The auction includes many of Carrie’s cancelled checks for their autograph value. I never remember her writing a check for anything. Not even for drugs! So this is a rare item.

I firmly believe that the Fisher/Reynolds auction will be THE Hollywood Auction of the season, if not the closeout of an entire era because Carrie and Debbie represented two different generations of stardom and fans.  Think about it ... after them, who wants to collect anything by the next set of celebrities? The Kardashians? Beyoncé? Even Gaga?
Lot 1266: Carrie Fisher collection of (10) signed checks. Est: $200 - $300.
The current millennial generation is not that into memorabilia — they have rejected owning their own parent’s antique china, oriental rugs and glassware ... even decent paintings or baseball card collections. It is the age of Ikea and bare walls and minimal white plastic plates. Vintage Hollywood is not their bag — not even Mick Jagger’s original pair of “Sticky Fingers” tight jeans would resonate with them.

But maybe if Profiles in History gets their hands on the costumes from “Game of Thrones” (which they are actively pursuing) or dragonheads, they might score with the next level of collectors.

No doubt the Fisher/Reynolds event will be the “Comicon” of celebrity auctions. There is Debbie’s crowd of costume collectors (straight, gay, and trans) who want that Singin' in the Rain chemise dress or one of the pairs of Red Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz. While Carrie’s followers are mostly Star Wars geeks who would pay anything for a life size C-3PO, or a Princess Leia in a British phone booth figurine, or the Star Wars director’s chair with her name on it.  My personal favorite was an item sent to Carrie by a fan — a Prozac bottle with a tiny Princess Leia figurine glued inside!
Lot 1312: Carrie Fisher personal on-set director's chair from Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi. Est: $8,000 - $12,000.
Carrie’s Directors Chair — listed at $12,000.
A gift from a fan: Princess Leia in a Prozac bottle.
Two weeks ago I went up to Calabasas (now the chic L.A. neighborhood) to visit the Profiles in History warehouse. Brian Chanes, head of consignment and acquisitions met me at the door and thoroughly entertained me with informative stories on the world of Hollywood Memorabilia.

“Celebrity items were always a niche interest.  Even Christies and Sotheby’s wouldn’t touch it — now they are jumping in, but they are actually late in the game. The Carrie/Debbie auction is huge because of their unique personalities, but it is not our biggest auction.” 
Brian Chanes, Head of Consignment at Profiles in History, backstage at Debbie/Carrie auction.
Both he and Maddelena have been around for 30 years dealing in all of this, and were personal friends of Debbie’s. But aside from that, they have sold iconic items like the Cowardly Lion costume from The Wizard of Oz ($805,000), Steve McQueen’s racing suit from Le Mans ($960,000) and ironically, Audrey Hepburn’s Ascot dress from My Fair Lady ($4.44 million). 

These guys know their STUFF and walking around the warehouse was more interesting than taking the Universal Tour! Walls filled with vintage signed movie posters — gorilla heads from various monster movies — there was even a gorgeous photo of Irene Dunne by George Hurrell in the ladies' room. I was ready to bid on that alone!
George Hurrell vintage photo of Irene Dunne in the ladies' room.
Neither Chanes nor Maddelena would reveal to me what would end up being the Fisher/Reynolds top seller. Chanes confessed “we never actually know — sometimes it is a surprise, but is seems that Carrie’s annotated Star Wars’ script could go for over $20,000 and Debbie’s original Norman Rockwell painting of Ben Franklin (used on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post) as well as her tricked out 2014 Mercedes Touring Van should bring big bucks.”
Lot 1311: Carrie Fisher personal bound presentation script for Star Wars: Return of the Jedi signed by Lucas. Est: $20,000 - $30,000.
Lot 644. Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post painting of Benjamin Franklin entitled "Independence" featured on the cover of the May 29, 1926 issue. (1926)
Est. $1,500,000 - $2,500,000 .
Lot 182: Debbie Reynolds' 2015 custom Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500 tour van with Chinook RV conversion. Est: $100,000 - $150,000.
The actual auction catalogue ($45) is a keeper and truly a Hollywood history book.  They were almost sold out a week before the auction. Chanes did say that archiving this amount of STUFF was enormous.  There is not only Debbie’s rare sheet music from Singin' in the Rain, but Carrie’s quirky vintage novelty signs and store displays.

There are also a lot of their own personal clothes. If you cruise the catalogue, at times it almost looks like a deluxe yard sale with movie production lights, china, and underwhelming costume jewelry — remember Debbie wanted the public to own a part of it all. She also wanted her collection to stay in the USA. But with Russian, Chinese and Arabic deep-pocketed buyers, that probably won’t happen. Check out the catalogue online at profilesinhistory.com, it is a jaw drop. 

When I was finished touring Debbie and Carrie’s life of STUFF (including Carrie’s popular dog Gary’s little glasses and collars) I realized it is an “Everything Must Go” sale with 1500 lots.  The proceeds will go to Debbie’s charity, The Thalians (an organization dedicated to educating the world about mental illness), and Carrie’s daughter — Billie Lourd’s choice of the Jed Foundation (a support organization to empower teens and young adults struggling with suicide and emotional issues).

Along with the personal effects auction, there is also Debbie’s family ranch home in Creston, and her North Hollywood Dance Studio.  Both are up for sale.  As for Debbie and Carrie’s Beverly Hills compound, which was up for 18 million — it seems to be off the market.  Rumor has it that Billie wants to keep it for a personal retreat.
Lot 1334: Carrie Fisher handwritten statement on drugs and alcohol and personal copy of the AA big book. Est: $200 - $300.
Lot 1322: Carrie Fisher as "Slave Leia" from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi original oil painting by Enric Torres Prat. Est: $5,000 - $7,000. Lot 1040: Prozac-themed art print. Est: $100 - $200.
Lot 1037: "There's No Room for Demons When You're Self Possessed" custom area rug. Est: $2,000 - $3,000.
Lot 1125: "R2-D2" trashcan and "Chewbacca" light switch cover. Est: $100 - $200.
As I said, this entire Fisher/Reynolds family dis-assemblage is THE end of an era event.  I wondered if Chanes and Maddelena were prepared for the lines of people coming dressed in Star Wars cosplay and Singin' in the Rain slickers to the weekend auction. 

“We are ready — I guess,” says Chanes, “but most auctions nowadays are done online.  I don’t anticipate people tailgating in a parking lot Coachella style.” It was smart of Maddelena to stage it before their December double death anniversary.  Timing is everything. 
Setting up the phone tables for the online portion of the auction.
Carrie and Debbie’s STUFF.
Samples of Debbie’s performing wardrobe at Profiles in History warehouse.
A collection of movie posters, camera and dolly, and Debbie’s dress.
Autographed Movie Posters.
Carrie and Debbie’s Kitsch up for auction (notice the fork).
Catalogues from past Debbie auctions done by Profiles in History.
20th Century Fox Willy’s M 38 Jeep, listed at $30,000.
The Gary Collection (Carrie’s dog).
Carrie’s two crutches, her dog, and her drugs.
Debbie Reynolds Paper Dolls.
Citizen Kane typewriter, listed at $20,000.
“We knew we had to get this mounted and done NOW. Celebrity auctions can be tricky. Sometimes the longer you wait, the more valuable it becomes.  Then again, sometimes people forget,” says Chanes. With Carrie and Debbie, I think “now” is of the essence.

It is no news that Carrie and Debbie had a very complicated mother/daughter relationship (the HBO Documentary “Bright Lights” reveals that beautifully).  They were loving, but competitive. So true in their collectibles — who will fetch the most in their auction — who will “win?”  Will Debbie’s extravagant Hollywood collection top Carrie’s Princess Leia lineup?

My money is on Debbie — she always had the last word — in life, death, and STUFF!  I know Carrie would agree.
Lot 1053: Obscene assemblage of (21) Italian ceramic letter tiles by Carrie Fisher. Est: $200 - $300.