New York City in May...not the most beautiful
site in the world, but we were on a mission. The weather was warm and the
smell of bus exhaust was everywhere. Jay, Dan and I sprinted from one fabric
store to another, one vintage clothing store to another, winding up at
a rustic cobbler's shop on the fourth floor of what seemed to be a theater
We went in circles with the non-english
speaking employees. Jay held up my Innes-style cloth pumps,"We want
this SAME shoe...can you do this?" They looked a little confused, but nodded
"How much if we have 3 pairs made?"
Jay and I looked at each other, if we were
going to spend that much on these shoes, they were going to have to be
near perfect. We tried to leave no stone unturned.
"White kid leather on the inside, you have
this or we need to buy for you?" "We have, you get fabric for shoe.
Not too thick...see?" and he held up a piece of fabric.
So without commiting to anything, we left
with our word that we would be back. We had all intentions of going straight
to the garment district to get the red silk faille, but time was sneaking
up on us. The auction was in 5 hours, 4 hours if we factored in getting
there early and finding a seat. We headed home to chill for a while.
What did we learn? A day in the garment district makes one shmutzy.
We arrived at Christies at roughly 7 pm.
Steve, Bill and David were already sitting on the far left towards the
back. There were plenty of seats. Dan sat with them and Jay and I took
two seats behind them. The slippers were sitting in their dime-store display
case pushed off to the left side of the room, in front of the car from
Goldeneye. Was James Bond going to run them over? We looked around.
To our direct left were all the media. NBC, ABC, CBS...all the major initials
were there. James Commisar Esq. was walking up and down the aisles
aimlessly, nodding and smiling to complete strangers. I almost expected
him to start kissing babies. All the seats in "his" area sporting boxes
of Godiva chocolates with little stuffed Cowardly Lion dolls attached.
I wanted one. Colleen Faulkner came up to me, flaming red hair contrasting
against her pale yellow suit. She handed me a catalog,"Good to see you..."
and she gave me that wide eyed expression of terror, like she was about
to explode from the stress of what was to come.
When I thought about it later, she always
looked like this...kind of mellow in a petrified way. I later learned that
Colleen was Christie's neophyte. "Where's Tony?" "He's walking
around...pins and needles. He won't be in the room during the auction,
he and Ruth will be upstairs."
"He's not going to watch the auction?
She smirked,"He'll be watching it, don't
Camera's. Stupid me. Im sure the room was
full of them just in case someone wanted to walk off in Dorothy's shoes
or drive away in James Bond's Car. I looked at everyone. Was it the fat
man with the long hair and goatee or the older thin man in the brown polyester
suit that was going to buy them?
What about the woman sitting next to me?
She was older and obviously had money by the looks of her clothing. And
the two black women sitting behind me...what would they want with the shoes?
Then there were the phone bidders. The far right side of the room was lined
with cheap cafeteria tables and a phone was placed about every two feet.
Colleen was sitting next to one. She was accepting phone bids?
Tony made an appearance in the back of
the room, so I quickly tapped Steve and we headed over
I reached out my hand,"Good luck..."
He smiled and grabbed my hand with both
of his. "Thanks, I'm just ready for this to be over!"
No doubt he was ready for it to be over,
and he was nervous. Tony dissapeared into the depths of Christies, and
Ruth was left standing alone by the catalog counter. We walked up and I
gave her a hug.
"It means a lot to Tony that you all are
I laughed, "I suppose that we're his cheering
section!" Ruby slipper support group was more like it.
"Almost the entire family is here." And
she pointed them out, sitting on the right towards the front of the room.
Steve and I sat down. It was 7:30, and the
room was filling up fast. They had added extra chairs in the back
of the room, and they were almost completely occupied. Bill Stillman
and Jay Sarfone had entered the room, and had taken two of the reserved
seats in front of us.
Click on any
image to view.
Rhys Thomas showed up, I walked over to
say hello. We had talked about two weeks before the auction, and he told
me that Christies implied that they didn't want him to show up at the actual
event. Obviously they changed their minds. I scanned his surrounding area.
He had been clutching on to an immaculate copy of his book, now laying
in his chair. Neither of us had talked to Roberta about how she felt about
the auction, but with as much faith and admiration she has for Tony, we
were sure that he had her full support. "They are your shoes now, sir..."
kept drawling out in my head.
Christies was crowded now. Everyone was
talking about who was going to buy what. The auction started quite uncerimoniously.
We sat and watched as they auctioned Carmen Miranda's dressing room chair,
Barney Fife's badge, Gilligan's shirt and hat, and Wonder Woman's gold
leather eagle. The fat man with the goatee turned out to be a Marilyn Monroe
collector, who walked away with the red silk evening gown and a few
other personal items. The car from Golden Eye sold for over $500,000.00.
Would the slippers sell for as much? Surely they would. I looked
over to the press, and they were just as bored as we were. Their equipment
was off, and they sat on the riser until the first Oz lot was called.
They jumped up and focused their cameras.
My heart started beating faster as they
auctioned the press book, the hay reaper, the Cowardly Lion's paw, and
original artwork. When the shoes flashed up onto the screen the whole room
broke out in conversation.
The auctioneer grinned, "Lot 148.
The lot we've all been waiting for, the ruby slippers from The Wizard of
Oz. Lot 148 and $420,000.00 to start."
Why was she opening up bids so high? Rhys
and I both agreed later that this was a mistake, for it really ruined any
chances for momentum bidding.
The price jumped rapidly from $420,000.00
to $570,000.00. A new bidder in the back of the room joined in at $580,000.00.
$590,000.00 came from the phones.
It stopped. We were silent. You could here
the representatives talking to their phone bidders. You could here whispers
like,"Are you sure you dont want to go one more?
Its at $590,000.00...you would have to
go $600k...are you sure? This is your last chance..."
This is where I went into a total state
of shock. Even though Tony had expressed that he knew the shoes wouldnt
sell for a million, I had my fingers crossed. I suppose that it would have
made me comfortable knowing that they broke a record if not anything else.
To me, they were priceless. Looking at them through the case, all
of the memories came back to me. I was 3 years old and watching the annual
telecast of Oz in my green-carpeted den. I was 6 and watched as the shoes
were unveiled at the Smithsonian on television. I was 13 and seeing them
for the first time in real at the Disney/MGM Studios. I was
14 with slipper fever, hounding every vintage clothing store from Miami
to Maine, Florida to California.
At that exact moment I realized why the
slippers were so important to me...because no auction house in the world
could put a dollar amount on my memories.
I looked to the back of the room.
Rhys was standing and had his book in hand. His eyes rolled intently from
the two new bidders to the front of the room. One of the men, maybe 30
years old, had long, dyed blong hair. The other gentlemen had short, brown
hair and looked familiar. Rhys was taking everything in as observantly
as possible. The auctioneer pointed to the back of the room,"$600,000.00.
Now at $600,000.00, against you on the telephone, the bid is here.
$600,000.00. Last chance...and selling for $600,000.00! SOLD!"
The auction of the ruby slippers was over
as quickly as it had begun. $600k couldn't have been right. Christie's
estimate was $750k upon request, and I physically saw Kathleen Guzman on
camera saying, "If a 'Happy Birthday' Marilyn Monroe dress can bring in
$1.3 million dollars, the ruby slippers can EASILY bring in $5 million."
I knew that was high. The room erupted in applause. As far as the press
was concerned, the auction was over. I sat as long as my self-control allowed,
and I jumped out of my seat.
Ruth came up to me, "Who got them?"
I pointed to the man with long blond hair on the cell phone, "I think he
did, or the other guy that was with him..."
As I turned, Tony was standing there. He
looked at Ruth confused. I shook Tony's hand and congratulated him, and
then saw all the camera lights outside. Tony, Ruth and I walked into the
breezeway to hear what was going on.
The gentleman with the brown hair was giving
press interviews and we heard him saying , "Their the cat's meow...we plan
to open a museum in Hollywood...We've bought several of Marilyn's dress's
already this year...".
Steve and Bill joined me. He told me it
was David Elkouby...the guy who had the poster shop in L.A. In the
E! special, all of the world had learned how he had been convicted for
selling stolen movie props and wardrobe. I looked down to see if he was
still wearing his electronic ankle shackles. None to be seen. David passed
through the breezeway on his way back in, holding the copy of Rhys's book.
They had obviously already met. I was wondering what Rhys' impressions
Tony was smiling as he stopped David, "I'm
the guy who owns the shoes!" "I figured that...I saw you earlier."
Tony was still grinning, "I just wanted to congratulate you!" "You've had
them for 12 years. Now its my turn."
I looked at Steve. I couldnt believe what
I had just heard. Did Elkouby know that the shoes had a cult following?
Did he know that we were summing him up from the start? I dont think
he would have cared. He didn't know that he had just bought part
of me and some of my closest friends. He didnt know that I was the last
person to hold those fragile slippers before Tony packed them up
one last time. The sentiment seemed all but there. We stood outside
for a while, chatted with Ray Bolgers granddaughter and Bert Lahr's daughter.
Tony came through and introduced Steve and I to his family.
Elkouby appeared. Steve and I tackled the
opportunity and spoke to him briefly, told him who we were and about the
fan club. He seemed nice, but was being pulled away for dinner with his
crew, so there wasn't any time to chat. Rhys said something that Roberta
had told me long ago..."Its not Elkouby who owns the shoes, its the shoes
that own Elkouby." So right she was...and always has been. We stood
around for a while to say our goodbyes to the Landini's, Rhys and the rest
of the ruby slipper crowd. "It's gonna be so hard to say goodbye..."
Click on any
image to view.
Squished into the back of a cab I sat pensive.
I was in a disoriented state that I remained in for most of the night.
I was trying to sort things out in my head. I was quiet through dinner,
and barely touched my veggie fajitas. There wasn't anything wrong
with me, its just that the whole experience had suddenly become very personal.
By the time we got back to the hotel, I felt fine.
That night I learned the difference between
a pair of red-sequined shoes and a pair of magical ruby slippers. My emotions
werent contained in the dusty glitter of Hollywood, they were conjured
up by something far more elaborate...and it was those personal emotions
that I was sharing with all the people around me. Strangers really did
I spent the rest of the week with Dan in
PA...shopping and talking and creating and having a good time. I
didnt want to leave, but before I knew it, saturday was upon me. I was
sad, and missed everyone before I even left.
As I got on the plane to go back home,
all the memories flooded my head. I had just had one of the best
week's of my life, and noone could ever take it away from me. As we took
off, I closed my eyes and clicked the heels of my New Balance cross-trainers
three times quietly so no one would hear, and I muttered under my breath,
"Theres no place like home...theres no place like home...theres no place