Mrs Evans' notebook. Yours for pounds 111,000
A founder member of The Independent David Lister joined the paper in 1986 as Assistant Home Editor. He became the paper's arts correspondent in 1988 and is now Arts Editor and writes a column each Saturday. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Saturday 19 September 1998
Nevertheless, a notebook belonging to Mrs Evans was sold by Sotheby's this week for pounds 111,500. Mrs Evans is the widow of Mal Evans, who was also unknown to most of the country. But Mal Evans was a road manager for The Beatles. And they, at least, are well known.
You no longer have to be a celebrity to make money from memorabilia. Knowing and working with a celebrity is enough. A tangential relationship to fame can be a real earner in an increasingly celebrity-besotted art market, where auction houses flog off intrinsically worthless posters, T-shirts and doodlings, given a value only because they came into fleeting contact with a star.
This week alone, former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell's dress sold for pounds 41,320; Oddjob's killer bowler hat prop from the film Goldfinger fetched pounds 61,750 and Elton John's matador stage costume sold for around pounds 8,500.
David Lee, editor of Art Review, said: "The supply of great artworks is finite and the auction houses are having terrible trouble filling the gaps. First, they started selling photography, and now it's memorabilia."
Even some of those most closely associated with the lucrative world of celebrity auctions find aspects difficult to comprehend.
Desmond Llewellyn, who played Q in the Bond films, was at the Christie's sale of Bond items. He said: "I think it's fantastic, but these people are crazy."
He had on the same suit he wore in the movie, The Living Daylights, and added: "When I saw the prices that some things were getting, I was tempted to strip off and put it [the suit] up for auction."
Bernard Doherty of publicity company Laister Dickson acts for the Rolling Stones and was hired to promote Sotheby's sale of both the Mrs Evans notebook and assorted items of pop star clothing at the Hard Rock cafe - a clear sign of how traditional auction houses are using music industry personnel and venues to reach a new generation of buyers.
Mr Doherty said: "I find the clothing area a bit odd. In fact, it's weird. I don't understand why someone would want to buy Marc Bolan's jacket. It's not a work of art. But buying song lyrics or original acetates I can understand. They are not works of art, but they are a moment in history. `Hey Jude' is a song that most people on the planet know. To think that someone was sitting in a cafe scribbling, and that person was Paul McCartney - there's nothing like it."
Mark Griffiths, reader in psychology at Nottingham Trent University, sees psychological reasons for the trend. "People want to buy into fame," he said. "And the quickest way to buy into fame is to be associated with fame. Owning Geri Halliwell's dress gives you that differentiation from the rest. Having artefacts from famous people is perceived to give you status."
But Mr Griffiths recognises another trend surrounding celebrity auctions that has little to do with fan worship and ordinary people trying to raise their status. Chris Evans was involved in the bidding for Geri Halliwell's dress.
"You do get fame feeding off fame and publicity by association," says Mr Griffiths.
Indeed you do. The Lancashire couple that paid pounds 11,500 for the `Hey Jude' lyrics and assorted doodles in Mal Evans' notebook bought the notebook for their 21-year- old daughter.
She is Davinia Murphy, who appears in the television soap Hollyoaks.
"I wanted to buy the notebook for her," says Alan Murphy, who owns a tissue paper factory, "because she plays the part of Jude in the television programme".
It's a long and winding road from Paul McCartney to a television soap actress who plays a character with the same name as a song title; but why look for logic in the inflated and over-hyped world of celebrity auctions?
The Price Is Wrong
FAME IS fickle and so are celebrity auctions. Some of the biggest names can fail to reach the reserve price: AN autographed pen donated by then-Prime Minister John Major failed to raise a bid at an Age Concern charity auction in 1994. Cilla Black's hankie raised a fiver and newsreader Trevor McDonald's tie pounds 15. TV personality Janet Street-Porter put up 65 of her frocks at Christie's. The punk gear and flouncy beaded creations by designers Zandra Rhodes and Vivienne Westwood raised pounds 2,730. Janet expected pounds 6,000. A Christie's spokeswoman said: "She has a style which possibly doesn't appeal to everyone."
Sotheby's tried the handwritten lyrics and musical score to James Brown's 1965 hit Papa's Got a Brand New Bag for pounds 5,000. No bids. Christie's estimated a couple of grand for a first-edition, life-size cardboard cut-out of the Spice Girls hawking Pepsi. No sale. An England shirt worn by Roger Hunt in the 1966 World Cup Final was expected to net up to pounds 50,000. But the highest bid at Sotheby's in London was pounds 19,000. The shirt was withdrawn. His 1966 team-mate George Cohen failed to find a buyer for his World Cup medal at pounds 80,000 in Sotheby's this year. Mohamed al-Fayed, owner of Cohen's old club Fulham, bought it later.
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