Monthly Archives: September 2017

Audrey Hepburn Shines at Auction, but Celebrity Sales Are Changing

The Vivien Leigh stardust inspired a succession of high prices at Sotheby’s on Tuesday. CreditSotheby’s

“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes,” Andy Warhol once pronounced.

The much-repeated quote, dating from 1968, may in fact be apocryphal. Yet even Warhol, were he alive today, might be amazed that now, thanks to the internet, everyone can be famous for 15 seconds.

The changing dynamics of fame were evident here last week when the collections of the Hollywood stars Audrey Hepburn and Vivien Leigh came up for public auction. The sales, one at Christie’s and the other at Sotheby’s, were held days after the Saatchi Gallery hosted a two-day “immersive experience” to celebrate 10 years of the hit reality-TV show “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”

“With today’s celebrities, their lives are lived in the public forum,” said Julie Lobalzo Wright, a teaching fellow at the University of Warwick in England who specializes in film and multimedia stardom. “But there’s a harking back to the aura of the Hollywood star.”

“There’s a longing for that sense of mystique, of not knowing everything,” she continued, adding that a sense of mystery surrounding older stars made fans want to own something the celebrities might have used, “that makes them real.”

Ms. Leigh, who won best actress Academy Awards for her performances in “Gone With the Wind” (1940) and “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1952), and Ms. Hepburn, who won that coveted Oscar for her role in “Roman Holiday” (1954), and greater fame for her depiction of Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” were two of the most dazzling stars of Hollywood’s golden era.

But the two auctions appealed to subtly different audiences.

At Christie’s, the 246-lot Audrey Hepburn “private collection” sale, held on Wednesday by her sons, Luca Dotti and Sean Hepburn Ferrer, consisted mainly of photographs and fashion items. Ms. Hepburn was one of the great global style icons of the 1950s and ’60s, and the live sale (there is also an online-only auction that runs through Wednesday) attracted the most internet bids ever at a Christie’s auction.

More than 1,000 Audrey Hepburn admirers attended an event at Christie’s before a sale of her personal effects on Wednesday. CreditChristie’s

It raised 4.6 million pounds, or about $6.2 million, seven times the estimate, with 30 percent of lots bought by online bidders. All the lots sold, and thanks to those internet bids the event took a marathon 10 hours.

The sensation of the auction was the £632,750 given for Ms. Hepburn’s original working script for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” the 1961 film that defined her career as an actress — and turned her into a style icon.

The price was a salesroom high for any film script offered at auction. Estimated at £60,000 to £90,000, it was bought, suitably enough, by Tiffany & Company, represented in the room by its archivist, Annamarie V. Sandecki.

The “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” section of the auction generated intense bidding, with a further £81,250 offered by a telephone bidder for a black-and-white still from the movie that had been signed by Ms. Hepburn and her co-star, George Peppard. It had been estimated at £2,000 to £3,000.

“She had a classic elegance that’s timeless,” said Julia Thompson, 35, a neurologist who was among the 1,200 or so Hepburn admirers who attended an evening of stylish Christie’s events before the sale. “That’s why people go to Tiffany’s. It was famous because of her.”

As for Ms. Leigh, she was a lover of England and the theater, from an earlier generation of actresses. Her 321-lot collection, offered last Tuesday at Sotheby’s by her three grandsons, featured traditional furnishings and artworks from the homes in London and Buckinghamshire she shared with her second husband, the actor Laurence Olivier.

A 1930s Winston Churchill still-life of roses that Ms. Leigh had owned drew the top price of the auction. CreditSotheby’s

The Vivien Leigh stardust inspired a succession of high prices for antiques that would have been worth little if owned by less celebrated mortals.

Ms. Leigh’s 19th-century gilded brass mechanical pencil, for example, sold for £1,875, against a low estimate of £100. It was one of many lots bought by British fans in the room.

Her collection raised a total of £2.2 million, again with all the lots finding buyers. The double-celebrity allure of a 1930s Winston Churchill still-life of roses that Ms. Leigh had owned inspired at least five bidders to push to £638,750, the top price of the event and more than six times the upper estimate — it went to a telephone bidder. Churchill was an admirer (as was Stalin, according to Sotheby’s catalog) of the actress’s depiction of Emma Hamilton, the lover of Lord Nelson, in the 1941 movie “That Hamilton Woman.” He gave the painting to Ms. Leigh in 1951.

An altogether different, more contemporary notion of celebrity was represented by the Kardashian pop-up at the Saatchi Gallery on Sept. 22 and 23.

Billed by E! Entertainment Television as “two days of unmissable experiences including: ultimate selfie opportunities, makeup master classes, and more,” the inaugural free exhibition reconstructed the staircase of the six-bedroom, eight-bathroom mansion in California owned by Kris Jenner, whose first husband was the lawyer Robert Kardashian. Ms. Jenner has 17.9 million followers on Instagram.

Though no Kardashian family members were present, nor any of their possessions, the event nonetheless attracted 200 visitors an hour, according to the Saatchi Gallery.

A replica at the Saatchi Gallery in London of a staircase in the six-bedroom, eight-bathroom mansion in California owned by Kris Jenner, whose first husband was the lawyer Robert Kardashian. CreditDave Bennett/Getty

“In some ways, celebrity hasn’t changed, but the ways of accessing it has, particularly the speed with which you can now access information digitally,” said Ms. Wright of Warwick University.

“In the past, you had to wait for a fan magazine. People used to collect autographs. Now we have selfies.”

Will the thrill of taking selfies with celebrities — or in simulations of their hallways — replace the desire to possess objects that had been part of famous people’s lives? Do today’s digital stars have objects fans want to own.

“They will have stuff, and it can be sold, either in live or online auctions,” said Martin J. Nolan, executive director at Julien’s Auctions, a salesroom in Los Angeles specializing in celebrity memorabilia. “The question is whether celebrities like the Kardashians have the staying power of Audrey Hepburn or Vivien Leigh.”

Julien’s coming “Icons & Idols” sale, on Nov. 17, will include a souvenir miniature wedding cake from the 2005 marriage of Donald J. Trump and Melania Knauss. Thought to be one of about 300 such souvenirs of the day, it is estimated at $1,000 to $2,000.

Is the former reality-TV star and current president of the United States the sort of celebrity who can shine in this specialist market?

“We’re about to find out,” Mr. Nolan said.

Inside the Fall of Harry Knowles and Ain’t It Cool News

Ain’t It Cool News founder Harry Knowles exploded into internet glory by ignoring boundaries. But boundary-breaking also hurt him and his site long before he stepped aside this week over sexual assault and harassment accusations.

Knowles practically invented film geek reporting, then drew criticism for cozy relationships with the studios he once critiqued. In the last decade, he has been overshadowed by other fan-focused empires, and studio and networks’ increasingly savvy attempts to harness fandom.

Ain’t It Cool News, like the Drudge Report, gained fame in the ’90s by bypassing traditional journalistic customs and gatekeepers. But Knowles failed to adapt to the new world he helped create. Three former contributors told TheWrap the site lost its way because of Knowles’ ego, lack of business skill and sense of entitlement.

“Bottom line, this has always been about Harry, his celebrity and whatever he could get out of it,” said one of the contributors. “There is not one business person who has dealt with Harry who hasn’t been f—ed savagely.”

“Harry has no personal boundaries, whether verbal or physical,” he added.

The fall of Knowles — who did not respond to requests for comment — is all the more staggering because of his astonishing rise. He came from Austin — and nowhere.

In 1994, he told The New York Times, he bought a computer with insurance money he received after his mother died in a fire. The next year, setting up for a movie collectibles sale, he tripped over a hose, and “everything below my neck went dead for a while,” he told the paper.

“For a half a year or so I just laid here. I was really worried about what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I always had this dream of going into the movie business, and here I was in bed, with no future,” he said.

From his bed, he turned his fascination with movies into Ain’t It Cool News, which sidestepped press wranglers and studio publicists to get inside scoops directly from people in the know — folks on sets who leaked details, members of test audiences who saw early cuts of films.

Full disclosure: Starting in 2002, I was one of his contributors. I dealt with one of his code-named intermediaries, Lobo, and met Knowles at Comic-Con, where his wife Patricia wheeled him around on the wheelchair he sometimes relies on due to his injuries. I did not see him interact with women other than his wife.

At that point, his site was thriving — but cracks had begun to show.

“Metaphorically, you can warn Harry that a train was about to run him over, and even if three other people told him the exact same thing, he would trust his instinct over the most reasoned logic you can give him,” a former contributor told TheWrap.

It was around the time the site was booming — in the late 1990s — that the first of Knowles accusers says he began repeatedly touching her, repeatedly and uncomfortably, without her consent.

Meanwhile, he was starting to face accusations that he had been seduced by the Hollywood insiders he had once critiqued.

“Studios fly him first-class to screenings, set him up in fancy hotels and grant him privileged access to closed sets. The chat shows are hot for him,” Guardian writer John Patterson argued in 2002. “He’s been accused of getting into bed with any producer who will wine and dine him, let him ride in a limo or stand next to Cameron Diaz at a premiere.”

And over the next few years, other film sites gained traction — including,,, and Mainstream outlets like Entertainment Weekly got more involved in deep-dive coverage of geek culture.

And Knowles was getting slow, one of the former contributors said: “I feel like Aint It Cool got lazy. They stopped updating. News stories got up late, if at all.”

Knowles was also focused on other exploits. Besides appearing on the “chat shows” mentioned by Patterson, he also developed TV and film projects. At one point he was attached to “John Carter,” which in 2012 became a box-office failure for Disney. In that same year, he began hosting “Ain’t It Cool With Harry Knowles” for PBS. founder Peter Sciretta told TheWrap: “Harry got pulled in other directions. He wanted to produce movies and he wanted to make TV shows. … I think he spent more time trying to do those things while the staff minded the store.”

But staffers weren’t always happy, in part because of the way Knowles’ friend and business manager, Roland De Noie, failed to take care of business. One of the contributors who spoke to TheWrap said De Noie was routinely late getting staffers the paperwork they needed to pay taxes.

“Roland is the most ineffective and incompetent business manager I have ever dealt with,” the contributor said. “After a press screening once, Harry thought it was hilarious to tell whoever was standing near him that Roland had finally gotten a site contributor his tax paperwork, but that it was all screwed up. Harry found this hilarious because that person had left the site for another job, and to Harry, that made them a traitor. Which is ironic, because in some way or another, Harry has betrayed every person he has ever done business with.”

It was all the more galling, the contributor said, because Knowles lives his life surrounded by movie merchandise, which he keeps stacked, hoarder-like, all around him. Some of it is valuable.

“Harry would rather allow his employees to go unpaid, their families go hungry, and their houses get foreclosed on than sell some of the loads of movie merchandise that literally makes his father’s house a fire trap,” the contributor said.

De Noie did not respond to a request for comment.

He remains the site’s business manager, which is even more remarkable considering that Knowles soon had tax problems of his own. He told The Hollywood Reporter in 2013 that because of De Noie’s errors, the site owed $300,000 in back taxes. The THR story said that while Ain’t It Cool News pulled in $700,000 a year in gross advertising revenue in the early- to mid-2000s, the number dipped to the low-six figures by 2012.

And then the first woman spoke out.

Earlier this month, another Austin film institution, the Alamo Drafthouse, admitted that it had quietly rehired the editor of its film site, Birth.Movies.Death., Devin Faraci, soon after he had resigned because of a sexual assault allegation. Faraci resigned again, but the story renewed interest in sexual assault and harassment in the film-geek community.

Soon attention turned to Knowles. A film fan named Jasmine Baker told IndieWire that she and Knowles had both attended Drafthouse screenings and events in 1999 and 2000, and that on different occasions he rubbed up against her, including against her legs and buttocks, in a way that made her uncomfortable. When she confronted him and told him not to touch her again, “He just giggled about it,” she said.

At least once, she said, he put his hand up her shirt. IndieWire spoke to two friends of Baker who said she had told them about multiple cases of Knowles touching her without consent.

“I categorically deny it,” Knowles told IndieWire, adding that Baker “treated me like a confidante.”

Soon, other women spoke out. “On more than one occasion HK has grabbed my ass and other parts of me. I just learned to not go within grabbing distance of him,” tweeted Austin resident Gloria Walker, 29, who went on to describe other alarming interactions with Knowles.

Austin film writer and ScreenCrush associate editor Britt Hayes, 32, also tweeted. “Harry sexually harassed me. He has sexually harassed other women in this community for years. This wasn’t an anomaly. He is a predator,” she wrote. She says that Knowles once reached out to her online to ask if she wanted to know “the real way” to get into a screening he was hosting, and then told her, “show me your tits.”

Another film writer, who uses the handle “sick__66,” posted a screenshot of messages she says Knowles sent her after they chatted online about film. “Your eyeliner makes you look good enough to eat. Obviously I’m talking cannibalism, baby. You can have my Vienna sausage anytime,” said one series of messages.

And a former Drafthouse employee, Jill Lewis, said Knowles had once “grabbed my arm, asked me to come closer, and then told me he was on mushrooms, and that he and his wife had been talking about wanting to see me naked, and asked me to do just that with them that night.” (IndieWire has more details about all of the accounts above.)

On Monday, longtime Ain’t It Cool News staffers Eric Vespe and Steve Prokopy resigned from the site. “I have known too many women over the years — both inside and outside the film community — who have encountered and survived sexual harassment and/or assault to allow myself to remain involved in an organization where allegations of either are part of the landscape,” wrote Prokopy in a statement.

“Given the recent allegations against Harry Knowles of behavior impossible to defend I can not, in good conscience, continue to contribute to the brand I helped build over the last 20 years,” wrote Vespe.

On Tuesday, Knowles said he would step away from the site to focus on “therapy, detox and getting to a better place.” He said he would hand over operations of Ain’t It Cool News to his sister “while I step away.”

One contributor told theWrap that even though those who worked for the site knew Knowles had issues with boundaries, they went for years not believing he would harass or assault women.

“Frankly, looking back at things, I feel terrible none of us shut it down,” the contributor said.

Freddie Flintoff to host new ITV celebrity contest All Star Musicals

freddie flintoff

West End legend Michael Crawford will be teaching stars how to sing and dance in a brand new ITV celebrity contest: All Star Musicals.

Freddie Flintoff will host the series, in which famous faces will perform an iconic song from a hit musical at the Palladium Theatre in London’s West End.

Sally Phillips, Sir Tony Robinson, Rebecca Front, Denise Lewis OBE, Nicky Campbell, Lucy Fallon and Michael Parr will train up with seasoned performers before debuting their song to a live audience who will decide at the end of the night who wowed them the most.

Their guide will be Tony and Oliver-award winning Crawford who was the original star of Phantom of the Opera and has a West End career spanning five decades, as well as playing the iconic Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em.

Freddie Flintoff may sound like a slightly random choice for presenter, but the former cricketer is in fact making his debut in Fat Friends the musical later this year.

All Star Musicals is set to air on ITV this Christmas.

Jazz hands at the ready…

Who Is Mia Maestro Playing On ‘Hannibal’? Her Character Is A Total Mystery

Even though NBC unceremoniously pulled the plug on Hannibal only three episodes into its third season, showrunner Bryan Fuller doesn’t plan on ceasing to surprise his Fannibals with Season 3’s remaining nine episodes. There are undoubtedly many twists and turns left in store for us as Will Graham & Co. continue their pursuit of Dr. Lecter… and then as the show transitions into its Red Dragon adaptation in the season’s latter half. One such surprise is on its way this Thursday. The press release for Episode 5, “Contorno,” reveals the presence of a very special Hannibal guest: Mia Maestro.

The 37-year-old Argentinian actress is currently starring on FX’s vampire drama The Strain, and is perhaps best known for her roles on Alias and in both halves of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn. Of course, the synopsis stubbornly refuses to disclose exactly who Ms. Maestro will be playing — NBC hasn’t released any promotional pictures of her, either — which means it’s up to us to scrounge from clues amongst the show’s existing storylines and un-adapted characters from Thomas Harris’ novels.

Harris didn’t exactly pack his Hannibal quadrilogy with tons of strong female characters. Apart from the iconic Clarice Starling and Hannibal’s enigmatic aunt Lady Murasaki, women are somewhat hard to come by in the books — so much so that Fuller had to gender-swap a couple roles (Dr. Bloom and Freddie Lounds) just to balance the scales. But, there are a few minor female characters that have yet to make the jump from Harris’ page to Fuller’s screen.

One such is Ardelia Mapp, Clarice’s best friend and fellow cadet at the F.B.I. (portrayed by Kasi Lemmons in Jonathan Demme’s classic 1991 adaptation of The Silence Of The Lambs). Obviously, it would be a bit premature to introduce Clarice’s best friend before the show even has the rights to Clarice… but Fuller has played fast and loose with Harris’ source material before. (Dr. Alan Bloom is a peripheral-at-best character in the novels, who the showrunner has twisted into one of his series’ chief protagonists.) Perhaps a new F.B.I. agent will pop up this week, played by Maestro with the name “Ardelia Mapp” as an Easter Egg for the franchise’s hardcore fans, but otherwise bearing little resemblance to the Ardelia of the books.

Since the first half of Season 3 is adapting Harris’ novel Hannibal, it makes sense to look at that book for clues. One un-adapted character is Evelda Drumgo (played by Hazelle Goodman in Ridley Scott’s 2001 sequel): She’s a meth kingpin who Clarice shoots down in a drug raid. Clarice is traumatized when it turns out that Evelda was holding a baby at the time she was shot, and Dr. Lecter sends his condolences to his favorite F.B.I. agent, inciting the events of the novel. Again, it would require some twisting on Fuller’s part to portray Evelda without Clarice, but it could perhaps be shown in flashback as a foundational moment in the backstory of either Will Graham or Jack Crawford (a la the F.B.I. chief’s Season 1 flashbacks to Miriam Lass).

Curiously, Maestro seems to only be appearing in this one single episode of the show. (At least, IMDb doesn’t have her listed for any more episodes, and none of the subsequent press releases list her as a guest star.) Given that her presence on the show doesn’t last long, it’s not unreasonable to assume that perhaps she ends up on Hannibal’s dinner plate. It’s easy to imagine the exotic Maestro crossing paths with Lecter and Bedelia Du Maurier on their European travels, being lured back to their apartment and… Bon appetite.

The biggest clue to Maestro’s character could lie in the phrasing of the press release. It begins with the following proclomation in all caps: “THE SEARCH FOR HANNIBAL CONTINUES — JOE ANDERSON AND MIA MAESTRO GUEST STAR.” This could just be convenient positioning of the episode’s two cameoing stars… or it could be a hint that Maestro will be somehow involved in Mason’s storyline. (Anderson plays the disfigured Verger, taking over for Season 2’s Michael Pitt.) Maybe she’ll be the vengeful millionaire’s beautiful new nurse, tasked with caring for the noseless man while he pursues his vendetta against Hannibal. Of course, Mason already has a private physician, Dr. Cordell (played by Glenn Fleshler, aka True Detective‘s creepy serial killer Errol Childress), so maybe not.

Even if she’s not Mason’s nurse, Maestro could still be involved in the Verger storyline. (Spoilers ahead!) If Fuller intends to adapt Harris’ Hannibal to its conclusion, then we should be heading towards Mason’s grisly demise at the hands of his sister, Margot. In the book, the Verger sister continues to work for her brother after his horrific abuse because she needs his sperm to bear the Verger heir with her partner, Judy. After Hannibal evades Mason’s death trap, Margot senses her moment and obtains the desired specimen by sodomizing her despicable brother with a cattle prod. After getting what she needs from him, she kills him by shoving his pet moray eel down his throat. My personal favorite theory is that Maestro will play Judy, Margot’s love interest, and will spur her lover to finally take action against her abuser.