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Art Buchwald's dream comes truePossible Dreams raises $730,000 ... and counting
Art Buchwald was the star of the show, drawing a record crowd to the 28th annual Martha's Vineyard Community Services Possible Dreams Auction Monday, but his heartening story of survival did not eclipse the event's focus and generous community spirit.
Carly Simon prepares to serenade her pal Art Buchwald at Monday's Possible Dreams auction. Photo by Ralph Stewart
The syndicated humor columnist was as jolly as ever as he was wheeled into the Harborside Inn's beautiful summer garden venue. Decked out in casual attire and straw hat, Mr. Buchwald joked as he propped his one leg onto a white wicker hassock. Immediately, he took the focus off himself and his now well-known story of miraculous survival after a series of life threatening incidents and turned his and the audience's attention to the business at hand.
After saying he was supposed to go to heaven, but returned to Martha's Vineyard instead for his 26th appearance as one of the Dreams' auctioneers, Mr. Buchwald said he never expected to be using the MVCS's visiting nurse service, which now comes to his Vineyard Haven home three times a day. "We never see these people," he said, as he asked the 100 Community Services staff members to stand to be recognized.
Of course Mr. Buchwald himself drew a standing ovation from the crowd after auctioneer Susan Klein introduced him as "not only one who traffics in Pulitzer Prizes, but also in miracles."
Marc Brown, author and creator of the popular children's character "Arthur," sold two of the same dream for an auction-high total of $72,000.
Mr. Buchwald's first remarks drew laughs from the crowd.
As the bidding began about 4:45 pm, it immediately became clear that the stakes were going to be higher than ever this year, especially for the celebrity offerings. Although the lowest bid of the day was $1,000 for a ride on the Oak Bluffs carousel and sightseeing trolley, the second item offered by Bill and Nancy Ellison Rollnick, opening night seats for "Madame Butterfly" at the Metropolitan Opera, drew a winning bid of $15,000 and the fast, competitive bidding didn't let up from then on.
Mr. Buchwald's own dream, offering of writing a family's history based on interviews with him, quickly brought $21,000. Later, he offered the same bid again for the same amount.
Auctioneers Klein and Rick Lee kept the bids moving along with their fast-paced chatter and humorous remarks. "We've got 20 (thousand), baby. You must have another 40 tucked away," Ms. Klein said, cajoling the crowd to up the ante on a bid.
Auction participants and spectators began to arrive early in the afternoon, leading up to a record turnout.
Although Island celebrities weren't as numerous as in previous years, a few auction veterans - former CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite, actress Patricia Neal and singer Carly Simon - were on hand to comment on their offerings.
Actress Mary Steenbergen also stepped up to the podium to plug several prizes, including a visit to her and husband, Ted Danson's, Malibu home and former President Bill Clinton's favorite putter. The putter was pulled out of a long UPS box in front of the crowd with "a return address of the Secret Service," Mr. Buchwald added. Ms. Steenbergen explained that Bill Rollnick convinced Clinton to donate it to the auction.
"He didn't want to give it up, but said he would do anything for Art," she said. In lively bidding, with Mr. Buchwald waving the putter back and forth, Mr. Clinton's longtime friend and political ally Chuck Parrish of Vineyard Haven and San Francisco got the putter and the box for $22,000.
Actress and Chilmark seasonal resident Mary Steenbergen takes photos of the auction.
Later, Mr. Parrish commented on his prize, saying, "I won't be playing golf with it." He said he has known Mr. Clinton since 1976, when he was attorney general in Georgia and working on former President Jimmy Carter's campaign. Mr. Parrish's wife Nancy was Georgia campaign manager for President Clinton's 1992 election campaign.
The bidding on Mr. Cronkite's dream offering started at $5,000, and to keep it going, former opera singer Joanna Simon, sitting next to him, said, "Walter and I will do a duet and Walter plays the drums as well." The "dream" drew $30,000.
Carol Guthrie of Darien, Conn., got a dream ride with Carly Simon.
Ms. Hatchard said the CBS veterans have had a personal competition going for the highest bids for years. This year Mr. Cronkite's bid bested Mr. Wallace's by $5,000. Mr. Wallace's absence Tuesday evening may have been one reason. Mr. Buchwald revealed that his competitor was in Iran.
One of the auction's most poignant moments - as in previous years - came when Buchwald pal Carly Simon suddenly appeared at the podium, about two hours into the event. She explained why she was late.
Susan Vaughn is a freelance writer who recently moved to the Vineyard.