Saturday, May 3, 2014

Now We Know Why People Were Sifting Dylan's Garbage: Original Like a Rolling Stone Lyrics May Fetch a Million or Two at Sotheby's

Johnny Carson once had a guest on his who who had been a bus boy at a high end restaurant where important people frequently ate, perhaps something on the order of Bohemian Grove. His novel obsessions, which began in the late 1950s, was the collection of partially eaten sandwiches by famous people. Johnny, of course, found this amusing and was certain his audience would as well.

When asked how this unusual passion got its start the man said he was clearing plates from Richard Nixon's table and noticed he'd not eaten part of his sandwich. Back in the kitchen he wrapped it, and later labelled it before placing it in cold storage in his freezer. Two decades later he had more than 500 such sandwich remnants.

This anecdote came to mind as when I simultaneously considered this week's news about the lyrics of Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" going up for auction this summer and the release of David Kinney's The Dylanologists: Adventures in the Land of Bob. 

We live in a culture where proximity to celebrity imbues value to a thing. I do not know whether those sandwich parcels ever had serious value anywhere beyond the collector's freezer, but I do know that the manuscript for John Lennon's "A Day in the Life" garnered 1.2 million dollars, which is hardly chump change.

I remember reading how when Dylan lived in Woodstock people would sift through his garbage to find relics, or climb up on his roof to catch a glimpse of him as he came out of his house. To say that this would become annoying is an understatement, yet we see now that leftovers from a manuscript or discarded doodles may just happen to contain heritage that someone might indeed attach value to one day, evidence again that "one man's garbage is another man's treasure." I doubt any of these garbage sifters ever kept a half eaten sandwich with Dylan's DNA on it, but you never know.

To be clear I am not condoning celebrity garbage sifting, but I can imagine this kind of upscale dumpster diving might be comparable to investing in lottery tickets. You buy the numbers in conjunction with that fleeting sensation of hope. Naturally this why people like Dylan go to such lengths to maintain their privacy.

As for The Dylanologists, I will be getting a copy to read and review here. Supposedly it's a good read. I do hope, however, that Kinney differentiates between those who write about his music and paint pictures of the man and the fellow who assembles sandwich frags like a butterfly collection.

Some people collect seashells, others experiences. Some are passionate about travel. Some are passionate about Dylan. And some have travelled with Dylan. We all have our passions.

What do you think this Chelsea Hotel stationary with two doodles and the lyrics to "Simple Twist of Fate" will fetch me?

Meantime... life goes on all around you. 

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