I love eBay as much as the next person, but I wouldn't want to see the day when pointing and clicking replaces live auctions. While online bidding is great for reinforcing belief in your fellow man (would we have guessed, before it began, that some guy with a username like StreetHustler would actually send you a pair of vintage Air Jordans just because you mailed him a check?), live auctions are fantastic entertainment. Where else can you watch someone drop $1,500 on one of Tom Douglas' coconut cream pies? And where else can you see Mardi Newman in action? An independent contractor who frequently works with Kip Toner Benefit Auctions, Newman is a dynamo, a crackerjack, a powerhouse—and she can sell a bottle of wine for more than most people would pay for a used car. Just give her a microphone. Actually, live auctions are great for reinforcing belief in your fellow man, too. In her 11 years of auctions, Newman has helped raise millions of dollars for Seattle schools, hospitals, and worthy organizations like the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters Burn Foundation, the Women's Funding Alliance, and the Humane Society. "A charity begs and cajoles to acquire donations for the auction and then rewards the donors by charging [them] to come back and buy the items at a higher value. It works so well!" she says. While Newman stubbornly insists that the credit belongs to the charity, its volunteers, and the passion that their work inspires, anyone who's witnessed her tirelessly sling autographed baseballs and box seats for the opera for three hours knows that she has more than a little to do with an auction's success. "Don't let a little thing like money stand in the way of your happiness," she'll chide, or, "Remember, the more you pay for wine, the better it tastes." And when a $5,000 bid gets away from you, trust that she'll remember your face and what table you're at. "I know you have $5,000 burning a hole in your pocket," she'll say when she comes
back to you with another item. And she'll make sure you spend it. When Newman set out to become an auctioneer, she did it because, after 12 years of volunteering with PONCHO, she had only encountered one woman in the field. (This is a lady who, while growing up in Seattle, was the first female in her high school to take the electricity class. A local reporter did a big exposé: "Local Girl Takes Shop Class!") She's the kind of person who really can't stand to let a good challenge pass her by; she's climbed Mount Rainier twice, as well as every other major mountain in the state, and two days a week she works as a surgical nurse at the Seattle Surgery Center. Newman's goal has always been to help make more money for the organization than it made the year before—and it almost always happens. Overseeing 44 gala auctions a year, her work has an amazing impact in the community. Says Newman, "I love going home at the end of the night and thinking about how they'll face the dilemma of how to spend all that money. What a great problem to have."
Mardi Newman's Picks
Best Meal Out:
Serafina on Eastlake, or the Ruins near Seattle Center.
Best Meal In:
A potluck on her houseboat, serving Kathy Casey's recipe for Thai lime ginger prawns.
Best Dress Shop:
Ropa Bella in Madison Park.
Red Apple in Madison Park. "They have the best deals on cut flowers and potted plants."
Best Celebrity Toast:
The one she gave photographer Josef Scaylea for his 90th birthday.
Best Spiritual Message:
Anything from the Rev. Kathianne Lewis at the Center for Spiritual Living.
Best Ultimate High:
"A massage with Kasmin at the Salish Lodge exceeds one's capacity for feeling wonderful."