By Kellie Ell
San Francisco State University
Photos by Roger Meissen
Tension was high in the crowded ballroom as SPJ members put their wallets on the line for charity. Amongst the mini-bar and the chips and salsa spread, attendees kept a close eye on the competition.
More than $3,800 was made at the live auction while another $2,485 was raised in the silent auction conducted in the J-Expo Thursday and Friday. LDF funds are used to provide legal and financial assistance to journalists in need.
“Stop eating at the buffet table. The buffet table is closed,” Chicago Headline Club member Ben Bradley said to open the live auction. “You guys got your wallet?”
And then the fun began.
Beth King, SPJ communications manager, did a perfect rendition of Vanna White, strutting around the room with the hot items.
Steve Geimann, president of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, dropped $800 on six bottles of wine, the highest bid in the auction.
“It all goes for a good cause,” Geimann said. “Defending journalists in trouble, that’s one of the things we do.”
Getting the wine wasn’t easy, though.
New York resident Betsy Ashton, vice-president of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, put Geimann in a headlock during a heated battle for the wine. The battle lasted several minutes, drawing attention from everyone in the room.
Instead she took home four bottles of wine for more than $200.
“It’s going to be a marvelous hostess gift,” Ashton said. “I’m going sailing next week.”
The two have a long-standing friendly rivalry, going back more than five years. At the 2005 convention in Las Vegas, Ashton threw a glass of scotch in Geimann’s face.
“We never know what’s going to set us off,” Geimann said.
He credits his vast appreciation of wine for the scramble to out bit Ashton.
Andrew Del Greco, of Santa Rosa, Calif., walked away with next summer’s Playboy Jazz Festival for $450, including two nights worth of partying with the bunnies.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Del Greco said. “Even celebrities have a hard time getting into the Playboy Mansion.”
Del Greco was surprised the item went for less than $1,000.
Dan Gainor, director of the Business and Media Institute, battled Del Greco for a chance to party with the playmates, but lost.
“When it was under $400, I thought it was going to be a piece of cake,” Gainor said. “But clearly he wants to go more.”
Art Hughes, of Minnesota, took home the highest bid item in the silent auction, two tickets in the city of his choice to A Prairie Home Companion, for $200.
“It’s all for the cause,” Ashton said.