And now for Pinkburst Project Part II….The Auction itself, Boston MA, May 1, 2011.
I learned of the Pinkburst Project (and brought it to you first!) in a hotel bar in Buenos Aires–oh gawd, that sounds so internationally sophisticated–for those who don’t know me at all, just know that flying to South America alone for me was the fear factor equivalent of eating a giant spider sandwich while public speaking naked in front of a stadium full of circus clowns ten thousand feet in the air. [oh please no clowns….I fucking hate clowns….]
When Jay Jay first mesmerized me with the story of each guitar….and then each amp….how he relentlessly pursued the guitar makers, and then managed to get them to fall like dominoes, one after the other….and with each story, he produced a photo on his iPhone. I knew by the third guitar, that this event was going to be significant and extraordinary, and I told him, right then and there–just say when, and I’m booking a ticket! I had no idea how personal this event would be, and how truly emotional it would get.
The morning after the NYC show, Dave (Funtazia) and I wolfed down the cheesecake for breakfast–truly a decadent rock-star inspired act–grabbed a cup of coffee at Penn station, and boarded the train bound for Boston. The four hour train ride was quite scenic at parts, and I did get a bit reminiscent as we rode past Providence, my old college stomping grounds. Dave and I managed to fill four hours of conversation leisurely, and I truly do find the train to be one of the more enjoyable ways to see the country.
We arrived in Boston on time around 2:00pm, and headed out on foot n’ wheels to the hotel, which was approximately a mile or less away through Boston’s Chinatown. We were about to unknowingly pass by one of my biggest weaknesses–dim sum–and Dave willingly indulged me in a quick stop for some plates of steamed dumplings. We stayed at the Boston Park Plaza, which delightfully, was literally across the street from the Skinner Auctioneers headquarters. Compared to the cramped and aging quarters at the Herald in NYC, the historic hotel at Boston Park was elegantly restored and fully wheelchair accessible. They offered us a wheelchair accessible room upon check-in (I wasn’t able to procure one online) and the accommodations were lavishly enjoyable.
Dave suggested we attend the auction viewing–it was only open for another hour–so we strolled and rolled twenty paces to the Skinner front door and were amazed as we entered the second floor where the auction items were all on display. The first room was quite non-descript– simply an open room with a few plain tables, displaying violins, bows and classical guitars. (including a Les Paul from the 60’s). We walked into the second room, and I swear to you, we both let out an audible gasp. To see all 13 guitars and amps–the guitars all displayed in a row, with beautiful, thoughtful museum spotlighting–it was nothing short of art. It almost seemed as though the guitars themselves were emanating a glow from within, and we both simply stood before this spectacle. I could feel my eyes welling.
As if it couldn’t get any more surreal, I turn around only to be greeted by David Bonsey, Skinner’s Musical Instrument expert–if any of you have ever watched Antiques Roadshow, then you know that David Bonsey is an expert’s expert when it comes to music and musical accoutrement. My first instinct was that we were about to unceremoniously be asked to leave–and instead, he extended a warm welcome and took time to chat with us about the auction and the instruments. We both thanked him for Skinner’s involvement and shared with him stories of our journey and our connection to Pinkburst. He extended an invitation to us to return later that evening for a private reception as his guests, and we both nervously accepted.
Neither Dave or myself had ever counted on such fortune, and the two of us both packed as minimalists do–we hardly had attire appropriate for a cocktail reception. Nevertheless, Dave calmed my nerves, and we both donned our Pinkburst Project matching tee-shirts, and returned later that evening to meet Jay Jay and his potential bidders. A fascinating mix of guest (rock industry and otherwise), and I was delighted to see our own Don the Webmaster there. He cleans up quite well–and I didn’t recognize him–in my defense, every time I see Don, I’m looking at the back of his head as he takes photos. Jay Jay was wearing shoes embroidered with pinkburst guitars, that I swear, if he markets those suckers, he’ll make enough to fund research for the next decade–they were the hit of the night.
Dr. Foster, Jay Jay and Samantha each said a few words to the assembled–Dr. Foster in particular, shared his thoughts on his very first heavy metal concert experience– describing the “prancing and posturing” which amused us to no end! I had a chance to share with Dr. Foster that not only does my grandmother have Uveitis, but my employee that I recently hired does as well–and I got a fascinating look into the history of Uveitis treatment, and what my own grandmother must have endured. He in turn, shared with me, that he was impressed with Twisted Sister, and that Dee Snider must surely be the best frontman in the business. 9 out of 10 doctors agree, what else can I say?
It was hard to leave the reception, knowing that this would be the last time any of us would ever see all of these magical, glorious pieces in the same room at the same time. We took in one last took–snapped plenty of photos–grabbed a late night snack–and collapsed while dreaming of pink guitars jumping over a pastoral fence. In true form, we arrived the next morning early, and watched the staff setup for the auction. It was hard to believe that they were handling violins hundreds of years old with the ease and comfort as you and I would move an ordinary object. The Skinner Auctioneers were a smooth and oiled precision operation, and the auction began almost to the second.
Unfortunately, I did not read the fine print ahead of time. Silly me–I assumed that auction houses that get tens of thousands of dollars for an item will accept a credit card. It was actually the only form of currency they would not accept. They did, however, allow me to bid under the premise that I would wire directly the funds from my bank, on Monday morning. Knowing my paycheck was deposited already, I had a very clear amount that I knew to stay within, but with 6% sales tax and an 18% house fee, I knew that my chances of coming home with a guitar were limited. I was outbid every time. Alas. Not in the stars for me.
Jay Jay, complete with Salmon dinner jacket, said a few words to those assembled–explaining the project’s significance and the charity that will receive the profits. Personally, Dave and I found Jay Jay’s remarks incredibly amusing and sharp….however….this was not a “rock” crowd. They were a bit, well, crusty and sour, with a lack of humor and a love of violins. Jay Jay’s tongue-in-cheek remarks about “every month there’s a 400 year old violin available for you to bid on–these guitars are a one time opportunity only!” Well….let’s just say that it was the auction equivalent of a fart in church. Matched only by Jay Jay’s “Buy these guitars or I’ll go home and shoot my dog!” We heard a few of them grumbling about how they had to “sit through” what they deemed a distraction and time waster–time waster? It was for CHARITY for chrissake! lighten up! sheesh. I mean, really? How can you NOT laugh at comments like “we’re middle-aged transvestites working 15 days a year…”
I swear, had I the means, I would have bought the whole lot for that comment alone.
I will list below what each item went for–my wish would have been for each guitar to fetch about $10K a piece, so it was hard to see these beautiful works of art go out the door for less—especially when said violin sold at approximately $86,000. Couldn’t that cranky fellow have just bid $10K and given it as a Christmas gift? Surely he must know a rock fan somewhere!
The winning bids:
1. Gibson Les Paul $7,000
2. Gibson, S.G. $2,800
3. Gibson, ES-335 $3,000
4. Gibson, Bozeman $1,900
5. Fender Strat. $2,900
6. Fender, Telecast. $3,750
7. Fender, Jazz Bass $2,500
8. Gretsch $5,500 (sigh. this one was SO lovely!)
9. Epiphone, Les Paul $2,900 Jay Jay’s true baby–his actual tour guitar.
10. Thunderbird Bass $1,900
11. Paul Reed Smith $5,600
12. Ruokongas $4,000 (must admit–this one shocked me!)
13. CF Martin Nazareth $4,100
14. Marshall 1/2 stack $3,750
15. Marshall JCM 800 $4,750
16. Marshall Bluesbreaker $4,500
17. Orange $3,000
18. Fender, Twin Reverb $2,000
19. Fender, Dlx Reverb $2,000
20. Fender-Bassman $800
21. Mesa. Dual $2,000
22. Vox AC-30 $2,000
23. Vox AC-15 $1,000
24. Diamond $1,300
25. Hartke $850
And with that…it ended as quickly as it began. Dave and I both exhaled. It was over, and we watched the thrilled bidders collect their guitars after a photo op and signing with Jay Jay–and the guitars were off to the various corners of the country. Three and half years in the making, and it was done in an hour.
In the end, more than $100,000 was raised over two nights for Dr. Foster’s foundation for Uveitis and Ocular Immunology Research, and that is what it was truly all about. Jay Jay and Samantha should be commended for all of their tireless efforts and proof that one person can truly make a difference.
Dave and I finished our afternoon with some vietnamese food….I stopped at the Chinese bakery on my walk to the underground busline to the airport, and a few hours later I was on a plane headed back to Baltimore, trying to process all of the sights and sounds of the weekend.
To all of the bidders and donors and all those who did the actual work–thank you for the support of this special project. I’m sure this is just the beginning, and not an end in the very least.
And with that, I conclude…and shall see you all in Greece, my babies!
trotting off, this your faithful road reporter