Betsy Ashton’s antics at the 2004 Legal Defense Fund Auction during the SPJ National Convention nearly got the best of her.
They certainly got the best of her wallet.
Ashton engaged in a fierce bidding war over four framed photos taken at the 2003 auction of her tackling and putting Steve Geimann of Bloomberg News in a headlock.
The pictures caused another showdown between Ashton and Geimann, an SPJ past president, during which Ashton tried to jump on his back.
Geimann playfully poked her in the face while she attempted unsuccessfully to pour the remains of a glass of scotch on his head.
Finally, a truce ended the battle, and for $1,026, Ashton won the photos.
Geimann won the rights to four more framed photos from this year’s battle.
Geimann and Ashton also waged another battle of the wallets for a director’s chair autographed by convention speaker and former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite.
They faced off in the aisles while the audience of about 200 cheered and laughed. While grabbing another scotch and trying to stomp on Geimann’s feet, Ashton stopped bidding at about $1,000.
“I just got some scotch, and I don’t know where we are,” she shouted.
It took another truce to stop the bidding. Ashton won the chair for $2,100, while she agreed to get Geimann another one if he matched her bid.
But it turned out she wasn’t going to be the keepsake’s owner. Ashton was a “straw man,” bidding on behalf of NBC News anchor Brian Williams.
These bidding wars and others made the 2004 LDF Auction one of the most successful in years, said Christine Tatum, LDF chair and newly elected SPJ secretary-treasurer.
The live auction raised about $18,600, said SPJ Deputy Executive Director Julie Grimes. The live and silent auctions combined raised $26,130.50, Grimes said.
The highest bid for an item at the live auction was $4,200 for a lunch with White House correspondent Helen Thomas.
Other items auctioned included a football autographed by former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino and San Francisco 49er Joe Montana; a VIP package for “The Daily Show;” a director’s chair autographed by Williams; and an autographed self-portrait drawn by Norman Mailer.
Rebecca Neal is a journalism and political science major at the University of Kentucky. The senior covered the SPJ National Convention in New York City for The Working Press.