Just before Christmas, I treated myself to a new and special experience — I bid in a live celebrity auction. Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills, Ca. presented a 2 day live auction of the remaining estate of classic film actress Greta Garbo.
What made Greta’s auction more fascinating than that of any other celebrity or icon, is that Greta famously ‘went away’. And she did it in a very determined, committed style.
Although she lived in one of the most populated cities in the world, Manhattan, and although crafty paparazzi managed to steal images of her over the years, to most of us Garbo was gone gone gone before we were even here. She left the movies, she left the press, she left the limelight and the stage, she ‘vanted’ to be left alone and so she was.
But Greta Garbo was gone so much longer than she was ever a movie superstar. After the release of her last movie “Two-Faced Woman” in 1941, Greta lived nearly 50 more years. What was she doing all that time?
The auction revealed something delightfully disconcerting — Garbo was up to plenty! Lots of travel, collecting, painting, wearing wonderful fashion, and wearing ordinary clothes too. Up for auction were Pucci blouses, a Valentina suit she wore to a White House dinner for JFK. There were also decades of tubes of paint and art supplies, Louis Vuitton luggage, ashtrays and cigarette holders, cleaning supplies you’d find in any kitchen — rubber gloves and bottle brushes, espadrilles and fur coats, handkerchiefs and scarves, paperback books…Greta continued to live and thrive, long after she shut Hollywood out.
The question one needs to ask when you bid in an auction like this — what do I truly WANT, just something which belonged to her? Everyone would love a dress she wore — but what would I really DO with it? Keep it in plastic fearful of moths chewing it up? I certainly could never wear it — and we don’t build women like Garbo in my family! A lamp? A plate? A pair of gloves her fingers wriggled into?
Then — I saw it. WOW — Greta Garbo had records! Of course! Why wouldn’t she? Everyone had vinyl records, stacks of them in the 50s, 60s onward. What would possibly be in Greta Garbo’s private record collection? All of it was thrilling and surprising. There were several lots of records up for auction — including one of classical records and opera, one of spoken word, one of jazz, then one of international records, and one of rock and pop records. I bid on the last two lots. I failed to win the bid on the international records lot (a sad loss — there were some Francoise Hardy LPs in the bunch). But I was the winning bidder on the rock/pop records! 50 of them!
I now own Greta Garbo’s Beatles records, her twist records (she was a big fan of the dance craze and even ventured out to the Peppermint Lounge to see it for herself on the dancefloor), her Linda Ronstadt records, and mind blowingly — her own copy of Gene Clark’s “No Other”.
So I found a great little vintage decoupaged record box from my office to put them in, and bought a little red Crosley Spinnerette portable record player so I could play them easily without hassle, and if I wished, create mp files from them too.
But I also thought it would be nice to share these records. So that’s the intent of this blog: with each post, I will share the experience of pulling a record from Greta’s collection and playing it all the way though, as we might imagine what Greta was doing when she was listening.
Let’s go play Greta’s records!