From Cher’s used Hummer to Wayne Gretzky’s old hockey sticks to Ozzy Osbourne’s guitar, anybody can have a piece of celebrity – for a price.
If you were flush with cash and wanted to sit on a throne fit for a rock star, for example, you could have bought the late Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia’s toilet for $2,500, the amount it fetched at auction last year.
Or for the right price, you could be driving to work Monday in Ozzy Osbourne’s 2006 Bentley – a car that always put him in heaven, he says, when he would “crank up the sound system as loud as it would go.”
Hundreds of items belonging to Osbourne, the heavy metal rocker and former star of “The Osbournes” hit TV series, were being auctioned off Friday and today in Los Angeles.
If the Bentley is too pricey (the auction catalog lists its value at $160,000 to $180,000), there’s Osbourne’s guitar-shaped table lamp ($20-$30), his Los Angeles Angels baseball rally monkey ($25-$50) or his daughter Kelly’s personally autographed picture of actor David Hasselhoff (priceless?).
For higher rollers, there’s the expensive art and jewelry that Osbourne and his wife, Sharon, are parting with to raise money for the Sharon Osbourne Colon Cancer Foundation.
Which raises the question: Who buys this stuff, anyway?
“Believe it or not, a lot of people buy these things as investments. It diversifies their stock portfolio,” Julien’s Auctions President and CEO Darren Julien says of the big-ticket items.
“It’s something they can put in the office and talk about and people will recognize it when they walk in,” Julien says. “But when you go to sell it down the road, if you hold onto it long enough, or that person becomes even more famous, it increases in value.”
Julien organized a similar auction last year when Cher decided to clean house. A percentage of the profits from the sale, which included her Bob Mackie-designed gowns, benefited her Cher Charitable Foundation.
Another Julien auction fetched a half-million dollars for guitars that had belonged to Bono and The Edge of U2. It benefited the charity Music Rising.
As for the more pedestrian tchotchkes being sold this weekend – like Ozzy’s toy slot machine or Kelly Osbourne’s Hello Kitty telephone – they are likely to be snapped up by fans of Osbourne’s music or reality show.
“It’s something akin, on a lower level, to the idea of a saint’s relics, to the objects that were touched by glory in some way,” says pop culture historian Leo Braudy of the University of Southern California.
Collecting star memorabilia is nothing new. When Napoleon III became emperor of France in the 1800s, he was said to have sat on a throne that once contained the bones of ninth century French hero Charlemagne – just so he could park himself next to greatness.
For many years, says UCLA sociologist David Halle, people took pride in collecting things like books previously owned by scholars and intellectuals. But in what Halle calls today’s “visual culture,” they prefer stuff touched by people they see on TV.
“Of course it becomes almost ludicrous after a while to have something like a pair of gym socks framed and say these were Ozzy Osbourne’s,” said Braudy.
(For the record, no Ozzy hosiery was up for sale this weekend. But you could pick up a pair of his boxing trunks. Sharon’s, too.)
“I’m more interested in the art, but I’m sure a lot of people will be here for the celebrity items,” said Barbara Lazaroff as she checked out the offerings at a pre-auction screening in Beverly Hills while waiters served hors d’oeuvres and Osbourne’s music blared so loudly it almost felt like you were riding in the aforementioned Bentley.
Lazaroff, the ex-wife of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, was considering adding some of the Osbournes’ ceramic art pieces to her own collection.
Earlier this year, hockey great Wayne Gretzky held a less formal “garage sale” that raised more than $200,000 for two local schools. Like the Osbournes, whose sale is expected to raise about $1 million, he was moving to new digs and decided to unload his castoffs.
“People started lining up at 5:30 a.m. and when the doors opened at 7 there were hundreds of people waiting to get in,” said Tom Konjoyan, vice president of development at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, where the Gretzky sale was held.
Last year’s sale of Garcia’s toilet, along with other items from the music icon’s house, also raised money for charity.
Which, USC’s Braudy says, might just make buying Ozzy’s guitar-pick necklace – or the gilded statue of Buddha that he kept in his backyard – worthwhile.
“Everybody has a lot of junk in their house or their apartment and we’re always looking for ways to get rid of it,” he says.
“Celebrities at least have the option of not only giving it away but also helping charity. So I can’t say anything bad about that.”
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