It's not often you can mention KISS, Jay Leno, Donald Trump and the Toronto Maple Leafs in the same sentence, but it's all part of the fun and festivities surrounding the 16th annual Royal City Jewellers Tie Day silent auction.
First started in 1996 by Howie Isman and loans manager Ken Basso, the auction has raised thousands of dollars for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.
Last year, more than $7,500 was raised, and as Basso notes, that actually means more than $22,000 of food can be bought, as the organization's buying power allows it to buy $3 worth of food for every dollar donated.
Howie Isman passed away in 2010 and Basso has continued the tie day tradition, working with Howie's son Michael in procuring innovative and unique ties for each year's auction.
This year's offerings run the gamut from a boatload of B.C. Lions past and present, including Shawn Gore, Geroy Simon, Jamie Taras, Keron Williams, Paul McCallum, Wally Buono, Andrew Harris, Mike Benevides, Korey Banks, Cameron Wake, Angus Reid and Travis Lulay, to world famous stars such as Donald Trump, Jay Leno and chef Gordon Ramsay.
"I'm pretty happy to get Gordon Ramsay to sign a tie for us this year," said Basso. "And Michael did a great job in Las Vegas getting the guys from Pawn Stars to sign a tie for us. . Jay Leno has always been good, as has Donald Trump. We're pretty lucky to have as many different people sign ties for us."
Basso and Michael Isman make it easy for celebrities to sign ties. Basso mails the tie to the celebrity or his representative and once signed, the tie comes back to New Westminster, where the Royal City Jewellers staff frame it and package it with an accompanying item.
For musical artists, that item might be a CD, or for athletes, it might be a trading card or photograph.
"That's what we call adding value to the tie," joked Basso.
The tie auction, which began at the beginning of November, runs until 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 24 and includes a party at the Royal City Jewellers location at 515 Columbia St. Not only will Global meteorologist Mark Madryga be hosting, Vancouver Whitecaps legend Carl Valentine is also scheduled to be there and there's also a bonus: a silent auction for four exclusive items that will only be on offer during the Nov. 24 party.
The items include three hand-painted Gary Weston ties, including a Trevor Linden/Vancouver Canucks creation, and an oldtimers' hockey jersey signed by Cliff Ronning, Theoren Fleury and Bryan Trottier.
But back to the regular tie auction, which is being conducted at www.rcj. ca/tieday/. The minimum bid is $20 and there's a little something for everybody.
If you love horse racing, then Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Mario Gutierrez has signed a tie you can bid on.
If you love football or Dancing With The Stars, then Emmitt Smith is your guy.
Or if trashy television is your vice, then a tie signed by the Real Housewives of Vancouver, Season 1, is certainly right up your alley.
Add in hockey players and coaches such as Don Hay, Scotty Bowman, Pat Quinn, Bill Ranford, Trevor Linden, Darryl Sittler, Johnny Bower and Kirk McLean, or baseball slugger Jose Bautista and boxer George Chuvalo and you have an all-star team of athletes who've signed ties for the auction.
Basso said most of the credit for the auction goes to the man who's no longer there.
"Mr. Howard Isman, he was my friend and my boss and I still miss him big time," said Basso. "I can still see him coming up with big ideas and throwing out ideas on who else we should be trying to get to sign a tie. Now Michael has really stepped up, as has the rest of the staff here and it's all one big team working on this."
Basso said the original idea behind Tie Day had nothing to do with celebrities and everything to do with a friendly bet between himself and Howie Isman.
"We agreed to each donate $5 dollars to the food bank for every staff member who wore a tie," said Basso. "And while we raised some money, we wanted to raise more and that's when we came up with the idea of celebrities signing ties."
Basso called in some favours and had Wayne Gretzky sign a tie and Isman worked his celebrity connections and so began the tradition that has endured for 16 years.
"I remember that first year, we were so happy to have Lui Passaglia and Bro Jake sign," said Basso. "And then we got artists like Robert Bateman and Ross Penhall contributing original art work. ... We've raised more than $180,000 since 1996."
As for the two ties he remembers most during the past 16 years, Basso said actor Kirk Douglas and Canadian Space Agency president Steve MacLean are his personal favourites.
"I know it's not easy for Mr. Douglas to autograph stuff, but he took the time and I really appreciate that," said Basso. "And Mr. MacLean, he's such a busy guy and for him to write back a letter with his tie, that really makes me feel good."
The Royal City Jewellers 16th annual Tie Day auction runs until 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 24. For more info or to bid, go to www.tieday.ca.
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