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Celebrity auction turns first page of book gathering Print-ready version

by Jack Cox
Denver Post
October 9, 1995

What do actor Martin Sheen and writer Tom Robbins have in common?

Both name Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" as one of their favorite books, and both have contributed an inscribed copy to a celebrity book auction that will help finance this weekend's Rocky Mountain Book Festival. Some 180 such books will be sold at the Denver auction, which begins at 7 p.m. Thursday in the downtown Embassy Suites Hotel, 1881 Curtis St. Last year's benefit raised $12,000.

Pam Roller, who headed the acquisitions committee, said most of the donated volumes were received in response to letters sent to celebrities around the country, asking them to pull a favorite book from their shelf and inscribe it for a prospective buyer.

Some contributors merely provided autographed copies of books they had written themselves. But many submitted works they had enjoyed as children or had read to their own children, often with a personal message appended.

Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, for instance, sent in a copy of Rudyard Kipling's "Kim," noting that it had been read aloud to her by "the only great teacher" she ever had in school.

"He loved this book and I do too," she wrote. "It instilled in me, at any early age, a thirst for adventure. It made me a better observer. It is spiritual and street wise. It changed my life. And it made a writer and a risk taker out of me."

Talk-show host Sally Jesse Raphael contributed a hardcover copy of "The Bridges of Madison County," observing that "Reading brings instant Romance into our lives ... "

Singer Johnny Cash sent the collected poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay, writing that she "freely expresses pain and joy with no apologies, a mystical depth and height that is awesome."

Sheen and Robbins were equally enthusiastic in donating paperback versions of "Huck Finn." Robbins reported that he was "as delighted as a jitterbug in a hog creek to sign a genuine masterpiece," while Sheen enclosed a handwritten note describing the 19th century novel as "of the greatest importance because he (Huck) rejects both state law and church law by protecting Jim, the runaway slave, and accepts "burning in hell for all eternity' for his choice. What a hero!"

Among the others who responded: Singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith, who sent in "Other Voices, Other Rooms" by Truman Capote; actress Whoopi Goldberg, a signed cassette of her reading "Having Our Say: The Delaney Sisters' First 100 Years"; and writer Studs Terkel, a copy of James Farrell's "Studs Lonigan."

The auction, which also features food and piano music, will be hosted by Channel 4 critic-at-large Greg Moody. Tickets are $25 apiece. For more information, call 273-5933.

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