Benefit

The spirited crowd is ready for action, or make that auction, at last year's Possible Dreams. Photo by Ralph Stewart
The spirited crowd is ready for action, or make that auction, at last year's Possible Dreams. Photos by Ralph Stewart

Dream the Possible Dream!

Posted July 27, 2006

Will Carly Simon sing for you this year? How would you like the full Mercedes VIP treatment at the Australian Grand Prix? Or perhaps you'd like to pick up some barbecue tips from the gladiator of the grill himself, Steven Raichlen? Dreams that match you with well-known authors, artists, actors, chefs, and sailors will be on the block come Monday, August 7, at the Harborside Inn in Edgartown for the 28th annual Possible Dreams Auction.

For a while there, it was looking like 2006 was going to be a quiet year. This past winter, auction organizers learned that Art Buchwald, the Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist and auctioneer extraordinaire, had decided to forgo his dialysis treatment and would likely soon die. Mr. Buchwald has long been the face of the Possible Dreams Auction - throughout his quarter-century at the podium, he has helped raise millions of dollars for Martha's Vineyard Community Services and has proven that a man with good friends, a sharp wit, and a fierce belief in a cause is an effective fund-raising tool. Few have been able to put their wallets away in the face of Mr. Buchwald's gaze. Or is it the banter?

Art Buchwald gets musical accompaniment from Livingston Taylor. Photo by Ralph Stewart
Art Buchwald (left) gets musical accompaniment from Livingston Taylor. The two have been popular with bidders over the years.

"I don't know how you say no to him," says Bill Rollnick, a long time auction attendee and the former chairman of Mattel. "He was tough enough to say no to before. Now he's impossible."

After a several-month stint in a Washington, D.C., hospice, which could either be characterized as unsuccessful since he went there to die, or hugely successful since he survived, Mr. Buchwald plans to be back at the auction.

"I'll be back," confirms Mr. Buchwald. "The title of my book is "Too Soon to say Good-Bye," and that's the title of this auction too."

As in past years, some 50 dreams will be up for auction - not one of which can be found at your local Neiman Marcus. Bidders can try for a sunset sail on the legendary schooner When and If with wooden- boat designer Nat Benjamin at the helm and Livingston Taylor behind the guitar; a screening of the new Arthur movie "Arthur's Missing Pal" (before it's in your local theater) and a visit from Marc Brown to your child's class; two tickets to the next year's finals of American Idol; a visit to the set of the hit television show Monk with the series star Tony Shaloub; a guided tour through the secret caves outside of Paris with archaeologist Duncan Caldwell; and for the literary set, a book club dinner with author and attorney Alan Dershowitz or dinner at L'etoile with Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Tony Horwitz and Geraldine Brooks.

The Possible Dreams Auction is Martha's Vineyard's premiere charity event of the summer season. Now in its 28th year, the auction has gained a reputation for attracting Island luminaries who are eager to lend their support. It has also turned into one of the great unscripted theatrical events of the season. In past years Tom Rush, Livingston Taylor, and Carly Simon have performed - one year Carly sang a duet of "You're so Vain" with Mr. Buchwald. In 1997, talk show host Merv Griffin stopped by the auction planning to bid on a number of items that interested him and got so excited that he also ended up auctioning off a week at his Arizona dude ranch. Others auction regulars include Mike Wallace and his wife, Mary, Walter Cronkite, Mike Nichols, Diane Sawyer, Jules Feiffer, and Marc Brown, who generally shows up with a giant stuffed Arthur.

Recent additions to this beloved Island event have put some fabulous dreams into the realm of the ordinary man and woman as well. A $100 raffle ticket this year could win you a trip for two to PGA golf on Maui or $10,000 in cash - you choose. An on-line auction with a whole new set of "unbuyable" items will be launch at the close of the live auction and run for two weeks. Details on all these Possible Dreams are available at www.possibledreamsauction.org.

For the live auction, doors open at 3:30 pm, and the bidding starts at 4:30. Tickets to the event are $25 each, and the people-watching alone is well worth the price. However, you can rest assured that 100 percent of the proceeds from the auction support the Island's largest social service agency, which has a visiting nurse service, a counseling center, disability services, women's support services, and an early childhood program.

For more information, call 508-693-7900 x374, or visit www.possibledreamsauction.org.