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Auction's Bid for Humor Helps Opera


Pee wee Herman's shoes, a very small Ferrari, "General Lee's Civil War jacket" and three "original" paintings that looked curiously similar were among the treasures on the auction block.

"They're fully warrantied, expiring at midnight,' " insisted Michael Lawler, co-chairman of the Wacky Auction, a benefit sponsored by Opera Pacific's Young Bohemian Guild.

But co-chairman R. Allyn Nielsen confessed, "I thought this up; they're all lies." After all, Nielsen said, "It is a wacky auction."

To enjoy the offbeat spirit at Plaza des Cafes in Irvine last Thursday, 150 guests donated $15 each to munch Mexican fare and to vie for the zany and the glamorous. George Weston, director of guild and volunteer service for Opera Pacific, estimated proceeds at "a little over $4,000."

There was a little star quality, too. Peter Vidmar, a 1984 Olympic double-gold medalist and a member of the Young Bohemians' steering committee, flew in from Atlanta to open the auction. "I took ballet for six years as part of my gymnastic training, so I appreciate the arts," he said. "I plan on living here a long time, and I want to get involved."

While trying "General Lee's Jacket" on for size, Opera Pacific director David DiChiera said admiringly, "These young ones really know how to put a party together."

DiChiera, who bid on the jacket in the silent auction, later grieved when Kathy Bunning took possession with a higher bid.

Guest Pauline Thomas hovered over the auction table to protect her interest in an antique fire extinguisher "which I need in my office for many reasons," she said. Max Austin also coveted it because, he said, "they're beautiful when polished." However, Thomas squeezed him out with the winning bid.

The wackiest bidder of all--in terms of dollars spent for "serious" prizes--was Lawler, who had spent $1,000 by evening's end for, among other things, 50 free passes to Edwards movie theaters and a $500 shopping spree at South Coast Plaza with one year of free valet parking.

Auctioneer Gordon Bowley kept the bidding moving. "There are some similarities between this painting and the others," Bowley intoned as he brought forth what he called an "original oil painting" that happened to be identical to the two before it.

It was Weston, an energetic organizer, who kept the evening on track.

"He's wonderful at starting things, and getting young professionals together for fun and for education," steering committee member Beverly Bridges said.

"I'm here because I'm interested in opera and I like George very well," Diane Wallace said.

All in all, the evening was a success, according to Weston, because many of the guests declared an interest in joining the guild.

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