"Once upon a time there was a beautiful girl called Cinderella..." That's how the auction of the late actress Suad Hosni’s collectibles began, with the proceeds going to the Children's Cancer Hospital, according to al Ahram Weekly.
The more than 500 film stars, media people and journalists, together with a handful of politicians who had gathered, bedecked in furs and jewelry, made for a rowdy, undisciplined crowd. The organizers and main sponsors of the fundraiser, Arab Radio and Television (ART), had spared no effort in making the event a night to remember. A touching script eulogizing Hosni; a team of bankers taking calls from bidders and donors; engaging video clips (superimposed shots of Hosni weeping as she looks across the screen at young cancer victims); a professional auctioneer; a live orchestra backing singers performing Hosni's best-known songs; and a single rose on each of the tables to commemorate Hosni's habit of sending them to her loved ones on Valentine's day. On top of all of this came a rotating, star- studded roster of masters of ceremony -- including former actress and TV presenter Safaa Abul Suod, TV personality Tareq Allam, actresses Laila Elwi, Mona Zaki and Dina Abdallah, dancer Fifi Abdo and actors Sami al Adl, Hani Ramzi and Ahmed Helmi.
Scenes from Hosni's film career, her songs, pictures of sick children, memorabilia, millions in donations, it was a heady brew. With the food, chatter, clutter, a continuous stream of conversations on mobile phones, it did not, perhaps, have quite the dignity one might have expected at an event celebrating the life of Hosni while at the same time raising money for cancer patients.
After the speeches and prayers, the first item for sale was a faded pink silk galabiya with a huge print of the footballer Mahmoud al Khatib on the front. Bidding began at LE5,000, and ended at an insane $110,000 (the highest bid of the evening) to an anonymous buyer. The audience quickly caught on. When the bid for the golden-thread abaya (cloak) that features in the classic film Shafiqa wa Metwalli (Shafiqa and Metwalli) reached LE25,000, a telephone bidder suddenly switched currencies, quadrupling the price to $20,000. (At the end of the night, though, it was announced that the bid had somehow failed to materialize and the abaya was still for sale). Later, the cartoonist Ramsis, announcing that he had in his possession a handwritten note by Hosni jotted a few weeks before her death on the back of an envelope, promptly framed it and placed it in the auction, where it eventually sold for LE30,000.
Within an hour, the official auctioneer, Adel Farid, had put down his gavel and handed over the floor to the masters of ceremony-cum-auctioneers. They goaded the audience into even greater spending, as supposedly "final" bids were upped.
Alongside the bids came other pledges, in Egyptian pounds, US dollars and Euros. The audience could witness the bizarre sight of Hosni's Ray Ban sunglasses languishing at a measly LE5,000 while the emcees announced the arrival of another LE20,000 donation.
Hosni's 1984 silver BMW, which had not come up for bidding yet, was announced to have been snapped up at the last minute by an anonymous do- gooder for LE85,000: the bright red fake leather dress Hosni wore in Khali Balak min Zuzu (Take care of Zuzu) went for LE30,000, as did the red ensemble worn during the song al Donia Rabie (It's Springtime). Yet other items, including a black mink coat, failed to attract the minimum bid -- LE 40,000 -- and were removed from the stage without further ado.
The ceremony was six hours long, and if it wasn't for ART pulling the plug on the live coverage at 3:00am -- it was broadcast on various Arab and Egyptian satellite channels -- it could have gone on for much longer.
By the end of the night rumor had it that 20 items out of almost 40 had been successfully sold, though ART could not confirm any figures -- including the amount raised -- at the time of going to press.
But a conservative estimate, based on numbers this reporter had been frantically scribbling, could easily see the eventual figure for donations topping LE1.5 million, and the auction raising in excess of LE700,000. Which was reason enough for the loud cheers and applause emanating from the table occupied by the representatives of Hospital – Albawaba.com
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )