"A master recording comes along every once in a while," confides Amoeba auctioneer/standup comedian Brently Heilbron, tongue firmly in cheek, at one of the Hollywood store's ongoing Saturday afternoon fun fueled auction-for-charity events. Brently is holding up above his head the long out-of-print Canary Training Record, a limited pressing 7" EP released some years back "by Howard's Mountain Bird Seed Company," he informs the clearly amused crowd gathered at the store for this auction that is unlike any other auction.
The novelty item is just the latest from a stack of items on the Amoeba auction block being sold to make money for several worthy charities. Items sold range from the quirky, to rare record label promotional items, to collectable artist-signed CDs/records, to sought-after concert tix for the Hollywood Bowl, etc. The one-hour Saturday afternoon Amoeba auctions, which have developed somewhat of a following since they began back in September 2005, started out initially as a direct response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and a way to help the victims in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in its aftermath. Since then the auctions have continued but the causes have broadened to benefit numerous other needy local and global relief efforts. Perhaps most noteworthy is the fact that Amoeba not only hosts these events and donates most of the items on the auction block, but additionally matches every winning bidder's donation, up to $1,000.
The star of these events is Amoeba employee Brently Heilbron, whose unique wit and sense of humor got him voted Austin’s Best Comic. Brently is also the creator of Richard Simmons Mysteries and star of Trapped in the Closet Live! Yesterday I caught up with the eternally funny auctioneer (check out some of the videos on his MySpace for further proof) to ask him about the Amoeba auctions, and what was the most memorable or funniest moment over the past 3 years? "Funniest moment? That's a tie," replied Brently. "It's a real blur up there and the very first auction I got into a haggling match with a customer over something like Slayer underwear. I was urging her to buy it and maybe it would change her life and make her a success. She bought it. Later someone told me it was Kelly Clarkson. So hey, I guess things worked out for her!"
"I also enjoyed a random heckler, drunk out of his mind yelling "shut the F--- up!," recalled an amused Brently. "How could you argue with that? Maybe he was pissed off about the lack of Slayer underwear for him." Other memorable auctions for Brentley included the packed ones right before the Paul McCartney and Daniel Johnston instore gigs. "Both were very very surreal experiences," he said. I asked Brently if he notices many folks who attend the auctions on a regular basis. "There are a lot of 'em," he replied. "Once I even got a random love letter. It was from an 80 year old man but I'll take the groupies I get. But I do see the same faces from all walks of life. Everybody needs a carny in their life."
As for Brently's outside Amoeba career? His CD Phantom Parade Of Love on Vaudevile Heart Throb, which was recorded live on the Comedy Central stage, is currently available at Amoeba and other outlets. Plus he informed me, "I just wrapped up a show directed by Woody Allen and am back doing stand-up in January." For information on Brently's upcoming shows and dates check out his website
In the meantime, if you are in the LA area this weekend, head over to Amoeba Hollywood on Saturday (12/20) afternoon at 4PM for the last auction before Christmas -- the perfect way to do holiday shopping while simultaneously helping out a good cause. Plus, as Brently reminded me, most of the items go for real cheap prices. And this just in: according to Amoeba Karen, this Saturday will be some extra special goodies on the block: "Some of this week's booty has been signed by David Lynch. There's DVDs, concert tickets, and Kiss, Simpsons, & Beatles memorabilia," among other goodies -- so be there. Saturday 4PM - 5PM at Ameoba Hollywood. More details on Ameoba Auction here.