Each week, Menemsha summer couple Paula Lyons and Arnie Reisman join colleagues in a raucous radio game show of wordplay, taking questions such as, What’s an anagram for “Armed Possibles” and “A Slob Impressed?”
The answer is Possible Dreams, and this year the couple will bring their repartee to the podium as emcees of the 32nd annual celebrity auction for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services on August 2.
They are bringing along their colleagues from the National Public Radio show Says You, including Barry Nolan, who has been the energetic gavel-wrangler at the Sail MV summer auctions, plus Richard Sher and Tony Kahn.
Over the decades, the auction invites bids on experiences that cannot be bought anywhere else — for instance, this year one dream will include not only tickets to the U.S. Masters golf tournament but also dinner with Gary Player, David Leadbetter, Ernie Els and Paula Creamer, interactive swing analysis, Callaway equipment testing, and accommodations in private homes with the option to play golf at local courses. By the generosity of those who donate the dreams and those who buy them, the auction has raised more than $8 million over the years for Island services for those who need them most.
Summer resident Doug Garron was emcee at the first one in 1979 before Art Buchwald took the podium and became the “heart, soul and funnybone of the auction,” as a former auction organizer put it, until his death in 2007. His sidekicks for many years, Susan Klein and Rick Lee, took the microphone in Mr. Buchwald’s wake, as the auction battled a rainout, location changes and a tanking economy.
“We have big shoes to fill,” said Ms. Lyons, who said she has bid — and been outbid — often through the years and vividly recalls watching Carly Simon raise more than $50,000 in one swoop by offering to croon and make peanut butter sandwiches for two swooning bidders instead of one.
“Art [Buchwald] was such a huge personality. So many people have been involved — Walter Cronkite . . . Mike Wallace . . . it is a bit intimidating,” said Ms. Lyons, who now coaches executives in presentation.
As a former Good Morning America reporter she once put together a dream item with then-morning hosts Regis and Kathy Lee. “But Mr. Buchwald took care of selling it,” she said.
Last year, the couple came up to auction off a Says You dream, so they have an idea what to expect. Mr. Reisman quipped that he and his wife hoped to at least be better than Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin at the Oscars.
“We’re both looking forward to this,” he said, laughing that he at first ignored the community services e-mail thinking, “They’re looking for items already?” Then he realized it was an invitation to host the auction. “I was totally surprised, and honored.”
“It is such an event, and we believe so much in the cause,” Ms. Lyons said.
They know from Says You that it makes a big difference if the crowd is alive and wanting to have a good time. “And you know that if the energy level is not where you want it, we have to do more, crank it up,” said Mr. Reisman, who is also a filmmaker and this summer — a week before the auction — will debut as a playwright.
His farce-in-progress about the Vineyard — called The Sound and the Ferry — will get a reading at the Vineyard Playhouse on July 29. In between that event and the auction Mr. Reisman will host 15 authors at the Chilmark Community Center for what’s called An Evening Without — known writers reading works of writers denied entry to the United States — in his role as vice president of the ACLU.
“But we promise to get a good night’s sleep before the auction,” laughed Ms. Lyons.
Although the panelists never rehearse for Says You — “we just come in and wing it,” Mr. Reisman said — the couple plans to spend time preparing for the Possible Dreams auction.
“You’ve got to have some things to say about the items, and stay up, get some banter going, have some laughs, enthusiasm,” he said.
“We are very excited about the potential entertainment factor with Arnie, Paula and the other three [Says You] cast members,” said DiAnn Ray, cochairman of the auction with Wiet Bacheller, who also just stepped in as president of Community Services. The two women have been in the auction trenches together for many years and they show no signs of fatigue.
“DiAnn and I are longtime friends as well as coworkers and we do this because we love it,” began Mrs. Bacheller.
“And we are so excited and grateful that Arnie and Paula have agreed to do this. They have been so gracious,” finished Mrs. Ray.
Susan Klein said she hung up her auctioneering hat last fall after more than a decade. Her new book, Martha’s Vineyard Now and Zen, with Alan Brigish photography, goes on sale this summer, and she will be on a storytelling tour in California as well. “But it’s fast-paced, exhilarating . . . it’s a wonderful thing,” she said. Mr. Lee is considering a new role in the auction, Mrs. Ray said, calling both of them “an important part of the auction family.”
“We believe so much in the cause,” said Ms. Lyons. “We have many year-round friends on the Island as well as summer friends, and we care so much about having it be a happy, healthy place.
”Everything is changing, turning over there . . . but the needs are still there,” she added.
Mr. Reisman said he loves the new location of Ocean Park; the couple will be buoyed by their fellow cast members and by their long support of the auction to help the work of community services.
All the auction needs, as Mr. Buchwald once said at the podium, is for bidders to “make fools of yourselves for this good cause.”