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Give PEACE® a Chance 


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The Unpleasant Fates of Personal Crap Heading inland Saturday afternoon, the soft thick friendly gray clouds thin out and dissolve into loud blue California skies glaring down at the gray roadside rock quarries of Azusa. Northeast of the pit mines, where the 210 meets the 605, I find trouble at an estate sale in a warehouse across the street from the dog pound. What I do wrong, apparently, is use the term “recording device,” as in “Damn — left my recording device in the car. Be back in a second.” Immediately, I’m surrounded by tall white patriots. “You can’t go in there with a recording device,” says one. “No recording devices of any kind,” says another. “No video cameras allowed inside,” says another someone else. I say, “It’s just an audio recorder, so I can talk to myself. That’s my job.” And the several someones simultaneously say, “No recording devices!” and block my path. What could be inside that would warrant such security? Yellow-cake uranium? NORAD overstock? As I understand it, it’s just garage-sale stuff, accumulated by director Tim Burton and actress Lisa Marie during the ’90s, when they were a couple. “Look,” I tell the sentries. “I’m not a terrorist, and I don’t have any drugs or weapons on me. I just want to talk into my recording device about what I see inside. It’s just like writing notes, but faster. It is okay to take notes, isn’t it?” I place my notebook on the table and they gasp, as if it might explode. Someone says, “You’ll have to talk to Lara.” Someone else shouts, “Lara!” Another someone else shouts, “Lara!” Lara arrives and takes me outside to talk. Lara Ott, Lisa Marie’s attorney. Ott is reasonable and kind. Not only does she grant me entry, but also a short interview. “These are Lisa Marie’s personally owned items,” Ott says. “They’re either items that were personally owned by her, or had been owned between she and Tim years ago. [Tim] is not in charge of the sale. Lisa’s in charge of the sale. These are things that he does not own now. These are things that Lisa owns now that are her property or had belonged to the two of them in the past.” “Thank you,” I reply. “And do you know why she’s selling her stuff?” “You know what? It’s a personal decision she made to separate herself from a very painful part of her past, which involved her breakup with Mr. Burton.” “Thank you,” I reply. “And do you know why we’re in Azusa?” “This is where the storage facility is maintained.” “Oh. Okay. Thanks.” Unfortunately, Lara does not escort me in, so once again I’m left alone with the sentries, now trying to explain how I’ve been given official clearance. “Lara!” “Lara!” “Lara!” Lara reappears and verifies my non-terrorist status; I sign and print my name in the register and, under the sentries’ distrustful glares, enter the room. It’s a big gray cinder-block room, full of crap. Crap on tables, hanging crap, crap in bins. But since it’s crap that belonged to paparazzi targets, it must be important, so there are 20 or so citizens rummaging through it. I begin sharing the inventory with my loyal DS330 digital voice recorder. Costume jewelry, $150; more costume jewelry, $200, $100; heart-shaped sunglasses, can’t see the price tag; horizontal file cabinet, $350; clear plastic storage bins, $1 each. Sanford E. Cohen of Estate Sales L.A., author of the event’s press release, apprehends me pleasantly and offers to talk into my recording device. Cohen runs down the good shit, most of which sold the day before: “Tiffany & Co. yo-yos that were Tim and Lisa’s personal yo-yos. Clothing. From top designers. Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton. Murano glass. Fortuny lamps. The Fortuny lamps are hand-painted silk lamps from Italy. These two hot tubs are $11,000 a piece. A lot of modern furniture . . . Is this the kind of information you want?” I don’t know, but before I can answer, some white woman with enormous glasses cuts in. “You missed it!” she exclaims. “You missed it! You missed the zoo yesterday!” “Which zoo?” “Here! This was a zoo yesterday! And you missed it! You should’ve come yesterday!” “Sorry,” I reply. “I was at a different zoo.” “Yeah,” says Cohen. “Yesterday it was an absolute zoo. All the way from the cashier,” he points, “over to the mannequin, over here, people in line to pay. There was a line out the door, to the street, and to the right. It was a zoo of people in here. A two-time Grammy winner paid $4,000 for a dress. That was the most expensive one item yesterday.” “What about the couch?” (A couch used in Burton’s Ed Wood had been advertised on Cohen’s Web site.) “Wasn’t that $10,000?” “Twenty thousand,” says Cohen. “That hasn’t sold yet. But I had one dealer who spent $10,000, on clothing. I had another, uh . . . person of notoriety who spent $12,586, and I had another well-known person who spent $17,000.” “Why, that’s $39,586 right there,” I reply. According to the Tim Burton Collective’s Web site, when Burton heard about the impending sale, he issued the following statement: “It recently came to my attention that a warehouse sale, claiming to include ‘previously owned’ items of mine, is scheduled to take place. Allegedly, these items include props, memorabilia and costumes from various films I have directed, as well as some drawings of mine that were private gifts — never meant for public display or purchase. Since I have not been contacted by the sellers, it is important to note that I can in no way vouch for the authenticity of these items. I am completely against the selling of personal items in such a public way.” California King mattress pad, $50; Lisa Marie’s — at least I hope it’s Lisa Marie’s — teddy for $10; more teddies, corsets; drafting table for $2,500; toaster oven; Marantz receiver; barbecue utensils; blow dryer; old stereo components and telephone parts; sleigh bed . . . I find Cohen. “How much is the bed?” “The sleigh bed sold to a lady in Florida. She called me up. She saw me on the Internet. And I sold it to her for $1,750,” says Cohen. “Thanks.” “And actually,” Cohen goes on, “we also . . . Somebody flew in from Texas. He bought some artifacts. And somebody flew in — somebody sent their representative — from London, and they bought some artifacts as well. Just FYI.” I buy no crap. A tape deck for 30 bucks is tempting, but supposing it didn’t work . . . I shudder, hoping the sentries will let me out empty-handed. —Dave Shulman

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