Best ever Possible Dreams moment? That's a tough one.
In 1994, Carly Simon sang a few bars of Anticipation to the crowd. They went wild, and a dream night of songs with Ms. Simon was auctioned for $81,000. Twice.
In 1998, a similar situation arose, and Washington Post owner Katharine Graham agreed to host three separate lunches. Each bidder (Merv Griffin among them) paid $25,000, and Mrs. Graham made a donation of her own as well. In minutes, $100,000 was raised.
This year's Possible Dreams Auction will surely bring its own share of memorable moments. With its history of surprise guests and impromptu performances, the auction is a sure thing for an evening of entertainment - even if you plan to watch with drink in hand rather than walk away with a dream.
The 24th annual benefit auction is set for Monday, August 5, in the garden of the Harborside Inn in Edgartown. Bids aside, the cost of admission is a $20 donation. Doors open at 4 p.m. with music by Rick Bausman and the Beetlebung Steel Band; the auction begins at five.
All of the evening's proceeds go to Martha's Vineyard Community Services. The money supports the agency's otherwise unfunded programs, among them Women's Support Services, Visiting Nurse Service and the Island Counseling Center.
This year poses a greater challenge than ever, organizers acknowledge. With the downturn in the economy, they worry bidders might be hampered by financial constraints, and consequently hesitant to reach into their pockets with the usual generosity that the night engenders.
But this is a year when Community Services needs that generosity more than ever. State budget cuts have reduced the agency's funding, and though so far they've managed not to trim services, the support the auction promises to bring will be essential in the coming year.
As Community Services executive director Ned Robinson-Lynch recently told the Gazette, "Fundraising should be for extra things, but right now, we count on it."
Monday night, Susan Klein and Rick Lee will share the job at the podium with longtime auctioneer Art Buchwald. Since Mr. Buchwald first filled the position in 1980, the auction has raised an ever-escalating amount of money, from $12,000 that year to upwards of $450,000.
The 2001 program of 48 dreams brought in $403,600. This year's list is bigger than ever, with 53 items on the auction block. Returning dreamers will recognize some as staples of the auction menu: a clambake for 20 by Bill Smith's Martha's Vineyard Clambake Company; golf with Vernon Jordan at Farm Neck Golf Club; cocktails with Oscar winner Patricia Neal at her Edgartown home, followed by dinner at Lola's restaurant. And Harvey Weinstein has again come up with tickets for The Producers on Broadway.
Other familiar donors are again offering dreams, but have reshaped them from years past. In a private studio session, playwright and cartoonist Jules Feiffer will draw one of his dancing-couple watercolors for your family. Marc Brown, author-illustrator of the popular Arthur children's books, is also welcoming people into his studio, offering a personal drawing session and inside look at Arthur's world. Walter Cronkite this year will host four for lunch at his home, while Mike and Mary Wallace will entertain four newshounds for dinner at the Century Club in New York city. Mr. Buchwald has put himself up for auction again: he'll meet you for a one-on-one videotaped interview about your family history.
Auction co-chairs Kerry Scott and Amy Eisenlohr were particularly excited about several new dreams, including a flight above Los Angeles on the Goodyear Blimp and tickets and backstage passes to an Aerosmith concert at the Tweeter Center in Mansfield. They also cited several movie-related dreams: Director and screenwriter Harold Ramis has invited two to join him for the premiere screening of Analyze That, starring Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal, and director Peter Farrelly is offering a walk-on part in his upcoming Three Stooges film. There's also the chance for a walk-on role on Jim Belushi's comedy sitcom, According to Jim, and a visit to the set of Ted Danson's show, Becker.
"The items are as good as ever - even better," said Mr. Buchwald. "I'm going to blackmail them, threaten them, do whatever it takes," he added with a laugh. "They'll take it from me."
For more details on the auction and the complete list of dreams, check out the web site at www.possibledreamsauction.org.