You know a man by the company he keeps, according to Aesop. But you can also get to know a man by his divorce auction catalogue.
On Saturday, Russell Crowe is celebrating his birthday and his wedding anniversary (Crowe and Danielle Spencer split in 2012 after being married for about nine years).. And he’s auctioning off what he calls “stuff” – hundreds of items including film costumes and props, modern Australian art (he has an excellent eye), sporting memorabilia (cricket and rugby league feature strongly), women’s jewellery (well, it is a divorce auction) and guitars.
Crowe’s auction at Sotheby’s in Sydney has the official title The Art of Divorce and has a picture of the actor on its catalogue. But what lies inside those pages? Which of the 227 lots are must-haves for your mantelpiece?
Browsing through the catalogue is a strange experience. Watches and cricket caps, motorcycles and diamond rings. There is also one of the most impressive collections of 20th century Australian art, including paintings by Charles Blackman and Sidney Nolan.
But looking at the movie memorabilia one gets hurled down a Rusty rabbit hole. Yes, all these things are just stuff, but they trigger memories – beautiful memories – of Crowe at all his ages and stages.
Lot 2: boots from Romper Stomper
Melbourne looked so grim in the 1992 classic – like parts of London with graffiti and tower blocks and angry dogs. Even the sex scenes were confusing, dirty and violent.
A pissed-off looking Crowe in white overalls and his skinhead friends lived in smashed-up warehouses – which now probably cost millions of dollars. But his boots won’t – they are estimated to fetch $10,000-$15,000 (£5,500-£8,200). They are neo-Nazi skinhead boots that stomped on heads. How can you resist?
Lot 4: cloth ‘angel’ doll from The Sum of Us
Forget Gladiator, Crowe was at his physical peak in in this 1994 film. Youthful, sweet, face like a golden scone with bright blue currants for eyes. But why did he keep the cloth angel doll from the set? Was it significant?
Lots 10-19: Gladiator trophies
Gladiator codpiece, chariot, armour, plus prop horses that look both frightened and frightening.
Many critics say Gladiator was Crowe at the height of his powers. But for me, Crowe’s standout performance was in LA Confidential. Crowe was all subdued menace and complicated tenderness playing Bud, the cop caught up in a love triangle with Kim Basinger and Guy Pearce.
This was Crowe’s true breakthrough role, yet the only LA Confidential memorabilia is Lot 6. In the auction catalogue photo it looks like a selection of pamphlets and is described cryptically as ephemera.
Estimate: $1,500- $2,000.
Lot 23: stadium jacket from Cinderella Man
It’s 2005 and Rusty was in the big league, riding high on a run of good choices and juicy roles.
But just at this high point he did something really weird. He threw a telephone at a hotel clerk in New York because he was frustrated he could not get through to his wife in Australia.
A media circus ensued and when released, the New York Times reported: “Mr Crowe, wearing stubble, aviator sunglasses and a jacket bearing the name of his new film, Cinderella Man, was hustled into a police SUV, which raced away with a patrol car and two police scooters in tow, their lights and sirens running.”
Could this be that jacket?
Estimate: a bargain – between $200-$300.
Lots 66 to 84: guitars
These are the 30 Odd Foot of Grunts lots. As with everything to do with Crowe, there is a story behind the story.
In 2006, the Sydney journalist Jack Marx published a strange and sensational piece about being courted by Crowe to write positive stories about his band.
Says Marx of listening to Rusty’s music: “It’s fair to say Russell’s music was a surprise. Where I had expected a lumpen, tuneless racket, what I heard instead was something far less remarkable – the colourless strums of a subway busker glazed with the deodorised slick of Christian rock. The most charitable thing I could feel about it was that it wasn’t complete crap.”
The relationship between the pair was weird from the start and disintegrated. Hence Marx’s 13-page mea culpa.
30 Odd Foot of Grunts never received the critical acclaim that Crowe craved – but at least we have the guitars. Or you have the guitars.
Bids start at $300 for a Truetone L21 Tobacco Sunburst acoustic guitar, inscribed by Les Paul, circa 1960s.