Celebrity memorabilia goes on the block for charity


A small agency, trying to raise big money, asked celebrities to donate personal items for an auction.

Actress Janet Leigh took the request literally.

She sent her curling iron, with a few strands of hair still stuck in it.

Along with scores of other items -- many offbeat, all with some link to a famous person -- Ms. Leigh's Clairol curling iron will go on the block Sunday at the Celebrity Autograph Auction for the Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County.

Until now, such things as pizza sales and raffles helped the rape crisis agency provide free counseling and a hot line, supplementing a budget that comes mostly from a state grant.

But last year, volunteer Heidi Eber spent six months writing 1,300 personal letters to famous people, asking for an autographed photo or, even better, a signed personal item.

This spring, she received a steady flow of signed 8-by-10 glossies of everyone from B-movie king Roger Corman to country music star Billy Ray Cyrus, who also sent a signed toy tour bus that Ms. Eber's 3-year-old daughter has been eyeing as it sits in a box in the Ebers' basement.

Ms. Eber might have bid on the Billy Ray Cyrus bus, she said, but someone already has offered $40 for it.

For a tax-deductible donation, anyone may take a stab at owning Ms. Leigh's curling iron, Milwaukee Brewer B. J. Surhoff's Nike spikes (worn during a game), a size 4 polyester jumpsuit from Vanna White or dozens of other items.

Mary Tyler Moore signed and sent the famous "Chuckles Bites the Dust" script from her TV show.

Candice Bergen sent two "Murphy Brown" scripts autographed by the whole cast. Other scripts include "Designing Women," signed by Dixie Carter, and "Bob," signed by Bob Newhart.

Corbin Bernsen sent an "L.A. Law" script. Walter Payton donated an autographed football, and Bjorn Borg a tennis ball.

Photos came from country singers, prize fighters, test pilots, and some models and actors -- such as Jennifer Warren -- who have been in dozens of TV movies but whose names most people wouldn't recognize.

Some of the donations have increased in value because the actors have died since sending them: a color "A-Team" glossy from George Peppard, who died Sunday; a "Gershman's Bar-Mitzvah Ranch" bandanna from Cesar Romero; and a children's book by Fred Gwynne.

Mr. Gwynne lived in Carroll County, on a farm near Taneytown, until he died this winter. Last summer, he donated to a signed copy of one of his children's books, "16-Hand Horse," to the rape crisis center.

"I think this one is going to be a collector's item," Ms. Eber said, holding up a signed 8-by-10 of Roseanne and Tom Arnold, smiling.

The couple made the gossip columns this spring after reports of a breakup.

"When someone told me, 'You know they filed for divorce,' I said, 'Yes!' But then I thought, what am I doing?" Ms. Eber said.

She is not discouraged by the subsequent reports of reconciliation.

"Celebrity marriages are so fragile as it is," she said.

But the time is not so right for one-time stars such as Brooke Shields. Although she was one of the most famous models of her day, Ms. Shields' photo might not draw more than a $5 bid, Ms. Eber guessed.

Shirley MacLaine sent a signed recipe for her favorite chicken mushroom soup.

Ms. Eber said she would have expected something vegetarian, considering Ms. MacLaine is equally famous for her New Age spirituality as for her acting.

Serious collectors might go for memorabilia such as a color drawing of a fighter plane, signed and sent by famous test pilot and former Air Force Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager, Ms. Eber said.

Bids are coming in from as far as Chicago. The agency sent a list of items to some known collectors of memorabilia.

Doors to the auction will open at 12:30 p.m. at the Wakefield Valley Golf and Conference Center, 1000 Fenby Farm Road, Westminster. Bidding will start at 1:30 p.m.

Admission is $15 at the door or $12 in advance.

The ticket price includes a catalog and hors d'oeuvres. Catalogs are available for $5, which may be applied toward admission.

All proceeds benefit the Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County.

NB For more information, call the rape crisis center at 876-9147.

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