Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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I may have made a strategic error Saturday when I did my garage-sale-ing in Steamboat instead of suburban Oxnard, Calif.
In case you didn't hear the news, Wayne Gretzky and his wife, actress Janet Jones, had a sweet little garage sale in Westlake Village, Calif., during the weekend.
As soon as I heard the news, a mental image of The Great One flashed in my mind. Picture Gretzky, still in his bathrobe, standing in his driveway. The bathrobe is cinched with one of those change pouches professional garage-salers use. He's holding a hockey stick with a little green tag on it in his right hand and a steaming Edmonton Oilers mug in his left hand.
Instead of doing my holiday shopping early at Wayne's World, I cruised through Old Town Steamboat to Uncochief Circle, where I had my choice between a cardboard box stuffed with World Book encyclopedias or a matching pair of red 5-gallon gas cans. I passed on both.
Meanwhile, just off the Ventura Freeway, between Beverly Hills and Oxnard, Mr. and Mrs. Gretzky were unloading 15 years of unwanted designer dresses and autographed hockey sticks. People began lining up at 5:30 a.m., and by the time the sale opened at 7 a.m., hundreds of eager buyers were queued up waiting to get in.
I should be clear that thiswas not an autograph session. Mr. Gretzky was not even present. And even if he had been, he would not have been standing in his driveway to greet shoppers - his home had previously been purchased by former Major League Baseball player Lenny Dykstra.
Instead, the garage sale was held at a private school called Oaks Christian, formerly attended by a Gretzky youngster. The sale was a benefit to help build a $700,000 expansion of the school's baseball stadium.
Although Wayne did not make an appearance, his wife was on hand as people forked out $200,000 for her old stuff.
The Associated Press reported that bicycles and video games used by The Great One himself filled two gymnasiums. Mrs. Gretzky had a couple of tables offering Prada shoes and Vera Wang dresses. The Ventura County Star reported that shoes and dresses originally valued at more than $1,000 were grabbed for $75.
Sports memorabilia nerds scored Gretzky's hockey trophies and complete sets of Team Canada medallions for less than $50, the County Star reported.
It might have seemed a little crazy to fly to the West Coast for a garage sale, but by now I'm sure you're beginning to grasp the magnitude of the lost opportunity. I've done a little research and confirmed that you and I have missed out on other celebrity auctions.
Not far from the Gretzkys', in Malibu, Cher had an auction in August 2006 so she could get rid of her old neo-gothic furniture. She raised $3.5 million, and after sending some of the proceeds to charity, she used the rest to redecorate her mansion. I would have paid at least $25 for a couple of those furry caveman vests Sonny and Cher wore back in the '60s.
And then there's Whitney Houston, who sold 16 of her estranged husband Bobby Brown's music awards at a garage sale in New Jersey earlier this year. Don't have a Grammy of your own? No problem.
I can think of a handful of celebrity garage sales I would go out of my way to attend. What's that? Annie Leibovitz is selling her film cameras and going digital? I'll take a medium format Mamiya for the fireplace mantel.
Did Stephen Stills decide he has too many Martin guitars cluttering up the family room? I'm still "Helplessly Hoping."