Home: A Boy’s Life: Auction Hero

A stunning peek inside the selling off of a celebrity estate

I am a voracious reader. This is a gift I get from my parents.After dinner most nights when I was growing up, both of them would stake out spots on our sectional sofa (hey, don’t hate on the ’70s!) to read their respective books. So it was inculcated in me from an early age that this was what adults did at night: They read.

My father favored spy novels and world history, but my mother’s tastes swung more to “sweeping sagas” and potboilers. (Typical cover copy: “HE was the rogue with a million dreams. SHE was the wild heart he couldn’t tame. TOGETHER they forged a dynasty!”) Mom

gobbled up the best-selling authors of such fare — names like Judith Krantz, Harold Robbins and, when there were hoopskirts involved, Fred Mustard Stewart. She also boasted a

considerable collection of work by Sidney Sheldon. I loved Sidney. When I was old enough to begin reading adult fiction, I devoured his juicy, salacious, scandalous tales of characters with expensive clothes and perfect teeth who galloped from continent to continent as they led lives of limitless adventure, sparkle and wealth. The heroines all seemed to be slightly different variations of Jaclyn Smith, rotating through the hotel suites and baccarat tables of the jet set. (Smith would star in two mini-series adaptations of Sheldon books.) The novels had titles like Bloodline (nefarious doings at an international pharmaceutical firm), Master of the Game (the world of South African diamonds) and Rage of Angels (a legal thriller, Carrie Bradshaw as written by John Grisham).

My reading tastes matured, but my Sidney-reading years instilled a piquant fascination with the lives of rich people. Before his death last year, I read an interview with Sidney in which he proudly stated that he had eaten at every glamorous restaurant, been in every glamorous city, and sailed on every type of glamorous yacht he’d ever written about. What, I wondered, was living like that really like?

So when I heard that Sidney’s possessions were being auctioned off in Lambertville, I decided I had to go. Here was my chance to see how The Other Half lived, to peruse the Picassos, Chippendale chairs and silver cigarette cases that had surely defined La Vida Sheldon. Perhaps I could even bid (Me! Bidding! At an auction!) on a trinket Sidney had left behind, something by which to remember both him and the bookish days of my adolescence. Maybe an old Sheldon script from The Patty Duke Show? A marked-up manuscript of The Other Side of Midnight? Or how about what was surely to be the Holy Grail of Sidneypalooza: the bottle Barbara Eden slept in on his most famed TV creation, I Dream of Jeannie?

The Rago Arts and Auction Center, located at the edge of town in the antiques haven that is Lambertville, is a well-regarded auctioneer of fine art and furnishings. But on the rainy day I park in the lot of the CVS across from it, I confess to being slightly … disappointed.