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Gable Celebration Exceeds Expectations

Source:, Monday, February 05, 2001

Click here for photos from Gable Weekend

Last weekend's celebration of Clark Gable's 100th birthday, staged by the Clark Gable Foundation, exceeded even the most optimistic expectations of everyone involved.

Foundation Executive Director Nan Mattern said Monday participation in all aspects of the three-day celebration was "overwhelming." Although Mattern was unable to provide figures Monday, each activity of the event attracted larger crowds than anticipated and attendance at both Friday's reception/memorabilia auction and the Saturday's dinner dance birthday party were high points in the 15 years Gable's birthday has been celebrated in Harrison County.

Admirers of Gable, "The King of Hollywood" in the 1930's and early '40's and fans of "Gone With the Wind," Gable's most famous film, flocked to Cadiz, where Gable was born and to Hopedale, his boyhood home. States represented included Pennsylvania, New Jersey, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, California and Washington, and surely several more. Making it an international event were visitors from England, Australia, Japan and Canada.

Many of the visitors arrived Thursday evening or Friday morning and remained until Sunday afternoon. Others came for part of the weekend, or for just a few hours to participate in the memorable occasion.

The cocktail reception and auction Friday night filled Wallace Lodge at Sally Buffalo Park with an estimated 200 people who brought cash, check books and credit cards to bid on an impressive list of 34 items related to Gable and "Gone With the Wind." By the time the spirited bidding of the evening had ended, an estimated total of $7,500 was forked over for the treasures.

Of that total, over $3,000 was paid for a collection of ceramic mugs, crafted by Gable's only son, John Clark Gable for the occasion. The mugs are inscribed, "Clark Gable Foundation, 100th Birthday, Feb. 1, 2001." They were sold in lots of 10, bringing prices ranging from $100-160 per piece. The first was purchased by Darlene Littleton of Mt. Pleasant, who let John Clark make the selection for her. The other purchasers each selected their own mug from an assortment of colors.

John Clark Gable was accompanied for the weekend by his statueque wife, Lex, who works with him in his ceramics business in California. John Clark and Lex Gable were married two years ago on the 98th anniversary of Clark Gable's birth.

The top price in the auction was $650 for a check signed by Gable June 8, 1950, which was purchased by Norman and Joyce Lambert of Westerville. Norman Lambert is an avid Carole Lombard admirer and collector who donated an extensive collection of Lombard memorabilia to the Clark Gable Museum last year. The collection was displayed at the celebration's Friday and Saturday forums.

Lambert was intent on purchasing the check (in the amount of $106.67) because it was made out to Jean Garceau. Former Foundation President Michael Cope had pointed out to bidders that the check was significant because Garceau was Gable's personal secretary. But, Lambert knew that Garceau was originally personal secretary to Lombard even prior to Lombard's marriage to Gable, and remained as Gable's secretary after Lombard was killed in a tragic plane crash.

Other significant purchases included $325 paid by Melanie and David Snedeker of Columbus for a framed "Bonnie and Her Beaus" photo collage prepared by Patrick Curtis, and $325 paid by Anne Knowles of Steubenville for a framed set of matted and framed postal cachets issued for the Foundation celebration of the years 1997 through 2000.

The photographs in the collage were of scenes from "Gone With the Wind" involving Cammie King (Conlon) as "Bonnie Blue," and both Curtis and Mickey Kuhn as "Baby Beau." The piece was signed by Conlon, Curtis and Kuhn, all of whom attended the celebration as guests of the Foundation.

Robert Myers of Cadiz was an active bidder throughout the auction. Myers was the successful bidder at $240 for a "Gone With the Wind" theater program. A second program, donated on the spot by a first-time visitor, brought a successful final bid of $260 from Cindy Trampower of Canton. Myers also purchased a "Moonlight and Magnolias" tapestry throw donated by GWTW collector/dealer Faye Bell of Plant City, Fla., which Myers donated to the Foundation for display in the museum. Bell then donated a second throw, which was purchased by Ron Fisher for $160.

Myers also donated to the museum a framed photograph of four GWTW cast members taken at a Foundation birthday celebration in 1989. Myers purchased for $260 the item, which featured Curtis, Conlon, Fred Crane and Butterfly McQueen. Myers was recognized Saturday by the Foundation for his donation to the museum last year of an extensive collection of Gable/GWTW memorabilia collected over the years by his wife, the late Virena Baker Myers and her brother Dean Baker, a boyhood friend of Gable.

Forums held at the Scott United Methodist Church Friday afternoon and Saturday morning and afternoon also were extremely successful, with an estimated 150 persons attending Friday and over 200 Saturday. The room was filled with a steady 100, or so, people Friday and a steady 150 on Saturday,Many of the visitors remained all day for presentations by Gable, Curtis, Conlon and Kuhn, as well as GWTW author and collector Herb Bridges and Gable biographer Chrystopher Spicer. In addition, GWTW aficionados Kathleen Maraccio of Royal Oak, Mich., and Barb Keifer of Cincinnati participated with an exhibit and presentations.

Several additional exhibitors, including Lambert, and dealers added to the atmosphere with a large variety of Gable, Lombard and "Gone With the Wind" memorabilia and collectible items.

The dinner dance, held at the Hopedale Social Hall, attracted some 400 persons, including a number who were too late for dinner reservations, but came for the program and dance. Mattern said the party atmosphere was "indescribable." As usual, the invited guests made brief comments, the entire crowd joined Shirley Marker in a singing a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" to Gable, and a parade of costumes featured incredible reproductions of gowns as seen in the GWTW film.

"There was such a fantastic turnout, and they were having such a good time, they didn't want to leave," Mattern said.

Mattern said business was brisk for special Sunday museum tours and gift show hours at the reconstructed Clark Gable birth home, which also was busy during the day on Friday and Saturday. Approximately 45 persons each watched showings of Gable's last film, "The Misfits," and the only film for which Gable received an academy award, "It Happened One Night."

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