A small mystery, if you can call it that, unfolded as 22 of Cary Grant's personal effects were auctioned by Sotheby's Wednesday afternoon at the Bel-Age Hotel. All eyes were on Candy Spelling, wife of television producer Aaron, as she bid feverishly on a gold-and-sapphire Faberge box, circa 1900, a gift to the screen idol from Barbara Hutton (then Countess Haugwitz Reventlow). (The box is accompanied by Hutton's original invoice from the Schaffer Collection of Russian Imperial Art Treasures, dated Nov. 20, 1940.)
Mrs. Spelling, seated in the very last row, seemed determined to outbid a telephone shopper and hardly rested her bidding paddle (No. 111) until the box, valued between $3,000 and $4,000, seemed to belong to her. The final price, according to a Sotheby's spokesperson: $9,625.
Afterwards, when asked about her dogged interest in the item (Was it Cary Grant? Gold boxes? Or Faberge?), Spelling said she just loves Faberge. But, strangely enough, she denied having bought this particular bauble, although everybody in the room could see that she had and Sotheby's later confirmed that she had.
As to how the auction house received the property from Grant's estate, Sotheby's vice president, Nan Summerfield, says the actor's widow, Barbara Grant, consigned pieces that he "either had received from previous wives" or that had "no sentimental value to (his daughter) Jennifer or to Mrs. Grant."
Three items were gifts from ex-wife Barbara Hutton. Of special note: a charming pair of Grant's gold-and-rock-crystal intaglio cuff links, each decorated with a sailor and infantryman, was purchased for $1,375 by phone bidder Stuart Jacobson, author of last year's lovely picture book, "Only the Best," and this year's "The Art of Giving."
The buyer of Grant's seven pieces of Hartman luggage, made of caramel-color parchment, was retailer Jerry Magnin, who paid $1,870 for the lot, valued between $300 and $500. Magnin says he wanted the handsome luggage for a window display in his new Polo shop on Rodeo Drive. Magnin, by the way, said he would have bought some of the actor's jewelry to resell at Polo but the prices were too high. For instance, Magnin explained, no reasonable customer would pay more than $600 for the aforementioned intaglio cuff links.
Speaking of Cary Grant, Barbara Hutton and Rodeo Drive, the Rodeo Drive boutique called Somper By Fur Couture International provided the fur coats worn in the lavish television movie "Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story," which aired this week.
You may wonder if the coats were specially designed for the production and painstakingly researched for period authenticity. Well, no, not exactly. The coats came from the shop's "dead storage," meaning they were coats belonging to people who stored them and died; never paid their bills; traded them in for something better, or simply never reclaimed them from summer storage.
Actually, this has been quite a week for Somper, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary. To mark the moment, owners Edd and Penny Jacobs offered an array of gifts, the biggest being a trip to Cannes, France, for really big spenders this week (through tomorrow). Which explains why the mayor of Cannes, Anne Marie Dupuy, came to Beverly Hills (Cannes' sister city, you should know). The Jacobses even presented the mayor with a fox boa. And, no, it didn't come from dead storage. It's brand new.
Speaking of birthdays, Erte celebrates his 95th today. For the occasion, the Circle Fine Art Corp. has released the artist's long-awaited alphabet jewelry, brooches and pendants based on the 1977 serigraphs of the same theme. Prices range from $1,500 to $5,400, depending on the letter (the top price is for the letter L) and whether the letter is from a limited edition of 1,000 or an unlimited edition.
The official unveiling is tonight at the Circle Gallery in New York, where Erte will be present among a glittering guest list that includes Gay Talese, Francesco Scavullo and Roberta Peters.
Unfortunately, Erte won't be paying a visit to the Beverly Hills Circle Gallery. Why not? "He doesn't want to come out here again," says Circle Gallery's Sally Walsh. "He wasn't treated well when he was here in 1985" for a visit to another gallery. "I won't mention the gallery, but he was used as a commercial tool . . . there were 1,000 people . . . not enough security . . . it was a tasteless thing, and it didn't benefit him at all. He said when he left he would not come again."