Monday, Feb. 6, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Last summer, Diane Hutton was offered $500 by the fellows on the cable TV show “Pawn Stars” for a leather-bound copy of the screenplay for the blockbuster 1972 movie “The Godfather.”
She thought she could do better, and turned them down.
Thanks in part to the resulting publicity from Hutton’s TV appearance, bidding on the screenplay, signed by the producer, is now up to $7,500. And it may fetch even more money for Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, where Hutton works, by the time the gavel drops Thursday during the organization’s Heart of Hope Award luncheon at the Mirage.
Today is the last day to buy tickets for the event, but if you want to make a bid for the screenplay, no worries: it can be done online until 11:30 a.m. Thursday. The auction website posts the latest bids.
If someone collects Hollywood memorabilia, this would make a dandy addition: “The Godfather” won three Academy Awards — best picture, best actor (Marlon Brando, a no-show at the awards show) and best adapted screenplay (Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola).
It’s a copy of that screenplay you could take home and put on your coffee table.
How the screenplay ended up at the Catholic Charities’ donation warehouse remains something of a mystery. It might have been purposely donated, or unwittingly dropped off along with other donations by the previous owner, whoever that might have been.
Hutton, manager of warehouse operations for Catholic Charities, remembers the day the screenplay was discovered. She was giving instructions to an employee about how to sort through boxes of donated books, and what to look for that might make one more valuable than another.
Inscriptions and autographs, she said, can be huge bonuses.
“Like this one?” the worker asked later, handing her the screenplay for “The Godfather.” Inscribed on the leather cover was the name Robert Evans, who headed production at Paramount Studios at the time.
The inscription read, “Bob — It cost me a lot ... but there’s one thing that I got ... ulcers — Thanks — Al.”
Because Al Pacino starred in the movie, it was thought it was his signature. To authenticate it, Hutton took the screenplay to Gold & Silver Pawn, where “Pawn Stars” is filmed http://www.history.com/shows/pawn-stars for the History Channel.
The show brought in a signature authenticator, who said it was Pacino’s. But later, after news of the screenplay circulated, Al Ruddy, the movie’s producer, contacted Catholic Charities and said he wrote the note. And that made sense; Ruddy was the one spending the money and getting the ulcers.
(The signature authenticator apologized to Catholic Charities for the bad call and donated $1,000 to the organization.)
About this time, a person claiming to represent Robert Evans called the charity, saying Evans would like it back. But there was no further contact from the man. Ruddy, in the meantime, says he is so thrilled that the screenplay will make money for Catholic Charities that he is throwing in studio photos of the making of the movie and other goodies, and has taped a message congratulating the winning bidder, whoever it will be.
How much will the screenplay make for the charity? Pat Falvey, spokeswoman for the organization, said she expects it will go for more than the latest bid of $7,500. A man who bid $4,000 has indicated he will show up at the event, and there is an indication, Falvey said, that the top bidder would be standing by ready to offer still more money to get the screenplay.
All of this is great fun for the charity, which is taking online bids for four other high-end prizes and is conducting a silent auction on Thursday for 70 other items.
Besides the fundraising effort, the luncheon will recognize John Mowbray of the law firm Fennemore Craig, and Southern Wine and Spirits of Nevada for their support of Catholic Charities.
But it's a sure bet all eyes will be on the auction of the "Godfather" screenplay, which thrills Hutton.
"Who would have thought that teaching a warehouse worker about what to look for in discarded books would have led to a $7,500 auction bid?" she said. "I'm grateful that 'Pawn Stars' got the ball rolling on this -- and for our supporters who have really stepped up."