The strikes by the US writers’ union, the WGA, and the actors’ union, Sag-Aftra, grind on in Hollywood, bringing nearly all television and film production to a halt while everyone waits for the studios to play ball. The strikes also affect crew members who find themselves out of work. There have been a few attempts to find a workaround – late-night talkshow hosts signed a podcast deal with Spotify, with all proceeds going to help their crews, and The Drew Barrymore Show is returning to air without writers – but none has been as beautiful as the Union Solidarity Coalition’s eBay auction.
It is a truly wonderful idea. Writers and performers have contributed objects and services to be auctioned to benefit a crew healthcare fund. Not only is this a lovely gesture, but it also gives us valuable, much-needed insight into the minds of the celebrities who have taken part. Here are the categories to look out for.
As you might expect, this makes up the bulk of the auction. Some very nice people have signed some stuff, and it can all be yours for the low, low price of hundreds of dollars. There is plenty to choose from here, too. Steven Soderbergh is auctioning his personal working script of The Limey, Riley Keough has signed a Daisy Jones and the Six album, Mark Ruffalo has signed two Funko Pop Hulk figurines. And you shouldn’t consider this simply as a memorabilia auction, either. Someone is selling a chair from The Dropout. Not a show that a lot of people watched, and not a particularly dramatically significant chair. But it is a nice chair and, with bidding at $202 as I write, it may end up going slightly cheaper than buying a normal chair of its style. Bargain.
Parkey Posey’s stuff specifically
Now, while everyone who donated to this auction deserves nothing but good things, a special mention should be made of Parker Posey, a woman who hasn’t picked something to donate as simply run an arm along one of her shelves and donated whatever fell to the floor. One lot contains a Dazed and Confused poster, along with a tin box from the premiere and a bunch of Party Girl promotional material including confetti, Tylenol and a condom. Another item is a bust of Lost in Space’s Dr Zachary Smith that she was given at some point. From this, we can assume that Posey is either an incredibly generous woman, or that she has just read the Marie Kondo book.
There are a couple of lots designed to help aspiring creatives. A 30-minute “virtual story basics session” with Spike Jonze and Lena Dunham, and three one-hour virtual directing coaching sessions with Ally Pankiw from Black Mirror. Both are nice gestures, although it does feel weird to charge people thousands of dollars for professional advice at a time when no creatives in the film and television industry are earning any money.
Lots of celebrities have offered to give up some of their time to have a one-on-one conversation with someone over Zoom. Barry Jenkins is offering his, as are the cast of Bones for some reason. The best options are the most specific – Rosemarie Dewitt and Ron Livingstone have offered to adjudicate your relationship spat, for example, while Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rachel Bloom has donated a “virtual coffee”, whatever that is. However, it does pay to read the small print with some of these. One lot offers the winner a Zoom with the cast of New Girl, but on closer inspection it is only 15 minutes long and features everyone but Jake Johnson, the only member of the New Girl cast that anyone would want to talk to. Also Sarah Silverman’s Zoom comes with the qualifier “Don’t be weird!”, which seems important to note.
The good stuff
Then there are the real draws. The once-in-a-lifetime lots where celebrities have gone over and above with their time. And there are a few of them. Ann Dowd will take you for lunch. Bob Odenkirk and David Cross will take you to dinner. The cast of Bob’s Burgers will improvise a song just for you. But then, a level above, there are even more incredible lots. John Lithgow will paint a picture of your dog. Busy Philipps will give you a pottery class. Lena Dunham will spend five hours painting a mural in your house (“expect colour, whimsy and an uncontrollable urge to paint flowering vines up any door frame”). Adam Scott will walk your dog for one hour, and you don’t even have go with him.
And, in what might be the greatest lot ever put up for auction on eBay, Natasha Lyonne will help you solve the New York Times Sunday crossword. Important to remember: Lyonne will not solve the New York Times Sunday crossword. She might not even be very good at crosswords for all anybody knows. She might just sit there offering a succession of terrible and obviously wrong answers. The whole thing might be an enormous waste of everyone’s time. The lot description suggests that the prize will take the form of an “existential conversation with Natasha Lyonne and her dog, Rootbeer”, which sounds like the last thing anyone needs while they are trying to do a crossword. Insanely, this is only the eighth most popular lot in the auction. This urgently needs to be rectified.