Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Auction 'Ere

So Saturday night we played for the Allentown Symphony Ball, which is a fundraiser for a local orchestra here in the Lehigh Valley. It was the third year that we played the ball, and gigwise for the sahara-like month of February it’s a pretty decent job. One feature of this particular ball is that there is a live auction that takes place during the dinner. The first time we played the event, the executive director of the symphony, Eustace K. Butternut (not his real name…his real name is Steve Wogaman) acted as the auctioneer. Eustace is a VERY nice guy, and I’m sure he’s excellent at what he does, but unfortunately he was a bit out of his element. As he was trying to get people bidding, I stood by him on the stage (running the PA) and quietly tried to help him out. Having played a whole mushroom soup-filled tureen of these events, I’ve witnessed many of these auctions, and have sorta figured out how they work. The key to jacking up the price on any item is to start with LARGE amounts and then get two people bidding against each other at smaller and smaller monetary increments. The psychology is that a bidder will think “…heh it’s only 50 bucks more” about four or five times less than he’ll think “…heh it’s only 25 bucks more.” You have to take advantage of that, and throw large amounts down first, then work to the smaller ones. Pretty obvious thinking, but in the moment, in front of 300 guests, it’s easy to get flustered. ANYWAY- Eustace (with my silent coaching) managed to get some really great bids on a number of things. AFTER the auction he turned to me and said- “If your band is back next year- would YOU like to run the auction?” I’m always up for a challenge (i.e. stupid) and figured- “sure, what the fuck.” (I don’t think I quite put it to him that way though…)

The following year (last year) I ran the auction, and actually had a fun time doing it. I had a wireless mic and was running around on the dance floor trying to get people to bid against each other. When it’s not your money- it can be a LOT of fun announcing amounts like “five…THOUSAND dollars” or “thirty-six…HUNDRED dollars- I have a bid of thirty-six…HUNDRED dollars… is there thirty-SEVEN…” At the conclusion of LAST year's auction I was wondering if everyone on the staff was happy. The highlight of my evening was when one of the organizers, an EXTREMELY dignified and timelessly classy woman (about in her sixties) walked over to me. She was all decked up in a lovely evening gown, and appeared to be THE kind of woman one would see at a charity ball for a symphony. I was anxious to know if she was pleased, because I had spoken to her briefly before the auction. “Everyone happy?" I asked. Now again- picture Angela Lansbury in a Christian Dior gown, smiling a wry smile, turning her head and saying-

“We made a SHITLOAD of money…”

Fucking priceless.

Needless to say they asked me to be the auction-guy again this year.
We started off the night with two quick items: The first was a week’s stay in a village in Tuscany. I believe the minimum was $2000, and it went for somewhere around $3200. Not bad, but not great. The second item was my favorite. The winning bidder would get to conduct one piece with the symphony at an upcoming concert. I told the crowd that if I had disposable income I would TOTALLY bid on this item. The minimum bid was $350, and I got two guys (one in a Phantom of the Opera mask… it was a sort of costume ball by the way) into a war.

“Six hundred, six hundred… do I hear SEVEN. SEVEN to you sir- I HAVE seven… EIGHT to the phantom- eight to the phantom…eight HUNDRED dollars for this once in a lifetime opportunity to conduct the… I HAVE EIGHT. NINE to you sir…”

Maybe I’m fucked up (yeah.. MAYBE) but this was just BALLS fun. The conducting bid topped out at one thousand SEVEN hundred dollars. The Phantom won. Nice. That money was all gravy for the orchestra.

After dinner we were to auction off five other items. A one-of-a-kind couture gown, a weekend at the BMW test track facility in Georgia, a week’s stay at a castle in Ireland, a fur coat (yetch), and the chance to charter a Lear jet to anywhere within one thousand miles of ABE airport. Things went OK- but the problem was that it was a bit late after dinner, and people started milling about and talking and visiting other tables. Now- during the auction, I’m trying to keep track of individual’s hands going up and down and bidding on items. It’s a bit of a challenge because there are THREE HUNDRED people in the room- and it seems like for some fucking reason, a HUGE majority of these people decide to start practicing their semaphore.

“Hey- tuxboy!…You realize there’s an AUCTION going on, right? When you STAND and SWING your hand BACK AND FORTH- I’m going to assume that you want the FUR COAT. Unless you have EPILEPSY and you DON’T want the fur coat, stop WAVING hello to Mayor McGoatnut and sit the fuck down!”

This was the mink we auctioned off.
We managed to get rid of two of them for $8500 a piece.
Seventeen thousand dollars worth of shkeeve. Yoy.

Well- TWICE I finished out the bidding (once on the couture gown, and once on the lear jet) and when the runners went to find the bidders, they were told that they hadn’t bid.

SHE-IT. Fuck me with Stakowski’s Baton and Hair Tonic…

Now- I KNOW that a guy looked at me during the gown bid and put $2100 on the dress. He looked RIGHT AT ME and raised his hand. There is a SLIGHT chance that he was just waving to someone else and I misinterpreted it. SLIGHT. However: FUCK YOU. Sit the fuck down and stop waving. I AM %100 POSITIVE however, that the couple that bid on the lear jet, BID ON THE LEAR JET. I looked right at them, we closed out the bid (at around fifty three hundred dollars) and I’ll bet they just got cold feet. Dipshits. I have to say that Eustace was EXCEEDINGLY cool about all of this. Realize that as I would close out the bidding on one item, I’d move on to the next one. About ten minutes later the runners would come up and say- “they’re saying they didn’t bid…” and we’d have to try and reconstruct who the next-to-last bidder was on shit that we did fifteen minutes ago. Sheesh. A private bidder stepped up and bought the gown for $1800, and I managed to figure out which older woman had bid on the lear jet before the reneging asshole couple reneged. She threw down five large on the plane, and everyone was happy.


Oh- one other funny thing, I had to read the product descriptions of all the items to the crowd just as we would start the bidding. When it came to the couture gown- the paragraph describing this thing was CHOCK-FULL of words like “tulle” and “duchesse satin” and “hand overcast serging” and “décolleté” and “armscye” and… I nearly had “une gague d’etomache.” Good thing I watch Queer Eye AND Project Runway.

Does that make me gay?

Yes. Yes it does.

This is the lovely couture gown with black duchesse satin and embroidered
décolleté with hand placed semi-precious onyx and faux diamond
armscye stitching featuring a cream tulle mini
train and opalescent millennial corseting.
I asked if I could borrow the dummy for 15 minutes.
They said no.

Anyway, I think once all was said and done, we’d raised close to $25,000 bucks for the symphony. Not too shabby. I think I should have asked for 10% of the gross. Ah well, next time.

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