The Cher Auction
The first thing to know about our excursion last Friday afternoon to peruse the preview of the Cher auction on its opening day is that The Beverly Hilton was not made to be walked over to from street parking. It sits on almost a triangular island between the Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevard crossover. No crosswalks in sight, my friend Christopher and I walked a quarter of a mile (me in dressy flip flops) to get in the door.
Once inside, we immediately came upon Chad Michaels, Cher impersonator, in full costume doing spots for a German TV show. I turned around and saw another familiar fan, Erika DeCiutiis (a contributor to my first Cher Zine), who had arrived earlier with Javier Ozuna. I had just recently met Javier, who spoke with me at a Cher Show seminar and hosted the Cher Museum from his own very impressive collection at the Cher Convention in LA last July.
It was around 1pm in the afternoon and we were practically the only ones around. Executive Director of Julien's Auction House Martin Nolan came by and teased Erika and Javier for hanging around so long (they came right when the preview opened at 10am and they were able to schmooze with Bob Mackie, who had just dropped by). Martin spoke to me about setting up the nicely-done re-creation of Cher's Malibu home right there in a ballroom of The Beverly Hilton. Martin said it took 30 people 42 hours working nonstop over two nights to get all the furniture in, the pictures hung and the dresses displayed. Javier later informed me that the mannequins had to be shaved down to fit Cher's small size. (The LA Times reported recently that her dress sizes ranged from size 0 to 2 to 4).
More people streamed in as we milled around to look at six or eight areas of displayed items with furniture, art, costumes, and kick knacks. Happily, photographs and fondling of the items was very much allowed.
Now, for those who don't yet know, Cher recently cleared out her Italian Renaissance style home in Malibu of all its gothic revivalist bric-a-brack to be sold at a Sotheby's/Julien's auction October 3-4.
For years, Cher was inspired by the 19th century father of gothic revival Augustus Welby Pugin, who designed the British Houses of Parliament. Cher's Pugin memorabilia and artifacts (including architectural drawings and a bed he designed) are expected to garnish a hefty return in the auction. Fans will more likely go for dresses, jewelry and television show memorabilia, like one of the white globes from the Sonny & Cher Show.
Nothing was marked for cheap and, speaking as a fan myself, I had to wonder whether I would succumb to auction fever for one of the cheaper items ($300) or pay my health insurance bill this month. Sign of the times. And a sign of the struggle we have with celebrity obsession in our culture. Many fans were dealing with the same issues.
In one online forum, fans were ecstatic to be able to walk through Cher's virtual home, but others expressed frustration over the prices and condition of the items. One online fan called "Suzi" stated, "whoever forks up $5,000 for a damaged dress...God bless em, cos that's a car or mortgage down payment to me." A few fans felt that auction hoopla and prices had gotten too out of hand. They felt Cher should have saved objects of her history and opened up a museum such as Priscilla Presley did for Elvis so all fans could enjoy the items into perpetuity. Others thought that Cher was entitled to make a buck from her stuff. With an estimated wealth at near $600 million, it's hard to believe Cher would need to hawk dresses to redecorate with a measly $1 million the auction was expected to earn.
Most news reports claimed that partial proceeds would go to charity, but what portion was never disclosed. Specifically, the proceeds are reported to be divided between Children's Craniofacial Association, Operation Helmet, The Fallen Heroes Fund, Habitat for Humanity, and Cher's new decor. Well, what's a girl to do? Even NPR, reporting on the auction in August, stated that gothic revival was so ten years ago. Cher's now thinking of something between a Moroccan, Tibetan, and/or Indian Zen look. In fact, she recently stated in the LA Times that she had just purchased an Indian wall and was going to turn it into a closet. Hearst Castle much?
Sigh. Actually, yes. Cher's selling two limestone keystones and a 19th century balustrade fragment once owned by William R. Hearst. Just keepin it real, folks.
What I wanted to know is what was Cher keeping? According to reports, Sonny Bono's piano (that's sweet), the Time Magazine cover dress, the dress she wore when she won her Oscar, and the dress she wore when she was thrown out of the London Hilton in 1965.
Yes, it's a good thing to make a fundamental change in your life. And it's surely a zen thing to want to clean out the house and start over. After all, a cluttered life means a cluttered mind and soul. Live simply, as Thoreau would implore.
Well, if Cher stopped buying domestic tchotchkes altogether, now that would really be a change.
Some of the items up for our grubby little hands:
Many show costumes including Lady Luck, Donna Jean Brodine, and Laverne.
Press Packet Photos
Cher Art: High to Lowbrow
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