WHAT PRICE WOULD you pay for a piece of paraphernalia your favourite celeb once breathed on? Your self-respect is probably the answer, if the USD$99K ($151k) sale price of Cardi B’s assault mic on eBay overnight is anything to go by.
In case you missed it, the controversial singer was cleared of a battery charge after hurling her mic at a fan while performing live at Drai’s Beachclub in Las Vegas last Saturday. Footage of the incident shows Cardi responding aggressively after a woman in the audience tossed a drink at the stage, catching her in the face.
The mic-cum-projectile went to auction on eBay with funds now going to Wounded Warrior Project and local charity Friendship Circle, an organisation that aids children with special needs. Production company employee Scott Fisher, who retrieved the mic, told TMZ it was easy to locate because the single word ‘MAIN’ had been taped to its handle. The buyer remains anonymous.
Also up for sale this week are 30,000 items that belonged to Queen front man Freddie Mercury. Among these are some genuinely desirable items, such as the black lacquered baby grand piano Mercury composed Bohemian Rhapsody on. Similarly, artworks, items of clothing, furniture, photographs and handwritten lyrics could have sentimental if questionable material value to Queen-stans. But if we’re going to draw the line somewhere, let’s draw it at Mercury’s Scrabble board and “cat art”.
“Freddie was a hoarder, he didn’t throw anything away,” said Thomas Williams, a Sotheby’s director, who’s clearly a master at understatement. “His possessions give us an extraordinary 360-degree view of the man, from his childhood until his death.” I would argue the scope of that ‘view’ should be pared back to a tight 45, but I’m neither cashed up, a Queen fan or particularly fond of cats, so what do I know.
Estimates for what Mercury’s possessions are expected to fetch range from £20 ($38) for a china ornament, to up to £3m ($5.8m) for the baby grand. In total the auction is expected to rake in between £7.6m ($14.9m) and £11m ($21m).
Mercury’s collection of cat art, ornaments, T-shirts and other items that paid homage to his six cats, all originally strays, are grouped together. “He really indulged his obsession with cats,” said Williams, again shooting for understatement, or possibly irony, in his attempts to flog feline bric-a-brac. Among personal polaroids on sale is a pair with Mercury before an enormous fry-up, and one taken shortly afterwards showing the plate empty. The man could always eat.
Mercury himself appears to be a master of understatement writing, “I like to be surrounded by splendid things … exquisite clutter,” in his biography Freddie Mercury: A Life, In His Own Words.
Now, I know what your thinking: these are garish examples of the necrotic effects of late-stage capitalism, in which society begins to eat itself in pursuit of any flicker of fame an inanimate object might confer on deluded but cashed-up buyers.
Alternative take: these items will prove to be shrewd purchases that increase in value as time goes on. In the case of Mercury’s piano, you could certainly make that case. His cat art and Cardi’s mic, we’re less confident. But who cares if you’re a flush superfan, and besides, in many cases proceeds of these ridiculous auctions go to charities. Here’s some of the more outrageous items that have been sold at celeb auctions.
Justin Timberlake’s French Toast : US$1,025
A radio DJ put this on eBay back in 2000. Buyer Kathy Summers, 19, said, “I’ll probably freeze-dry it, then seal it…then put it on my dresser”. We hope it’s still there.
Scarjo’s used tissue: US$5.3k
The actress used the tissue during an appearance on Tonight back in 2008. She then put it on eBay and donated the proceeds to charity! God bless you, Scarjo.
Joan Rivers’ dog bowl: US$14k
A Tiffany dog bowl belonging to Rivers’ terrier, Spike, fetched this insane price back in 2016.
William Shatner’s kidney stone: US$25k
The Star Trek star sold his own stone back in 2006 and donated the cash to a housing charity. Always the witty one, Shatner said of the sale: “This takes organ donors to a new height, to a new low, maybe. How much is a piece of me worth?”
Darth Vader’s original mask: US$885k
The mask worn by Vader when he revealed he was Luke’s father (sorry if we spoiled that!) actually makes some sense for its sheer versatility: a pop-cultural artefact, sex-play/Halloween prop and mantlepiece conversation starter. Well bought.