Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois on April 22, 1977 · 17
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Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois · 17

Chicago, Illinois
Issue Date:
Friday, April 22, 1977
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(thicago Tribune Friday, April 22, 1977 . Section 2 Bargains Turning old junk into new treasure By Deborah Homsher WARM WEATHER signals the opening of a new hunting season, and an attentive ear can pick up the sounds of early morning preparation. Wild-eyed hunters, armed with classified ads, maps, and shopping bags, rouse their sleepy spouses, wolf down quick breakfasts, check the "ammunition" in their wallets, rev up the station wagon, and head out into the wilds of suburbia, determined to be the very first at the very best garage sale. The hunt for garage sales can make enemies out of former bridge partners, tigers out of polite old ladies. It can also provide inexpensive furniture for a young couple, cheap clothing for growing children, tools and kitchen appliances at a fraction of the retail price, fun junk to brighten windowsills, antique bargains, a Saturday afternoon adventure, and an environmentally sound method of recycling objects that might otherwise be discarded. The broad term "garage sale" used here to include apartment, house, and basement sales, also generally describes the sale of one's belongings by the individual, rather than by a professional auctioneer or estate consultant. Garage sales are traditionally held when a person is either moving or just "cleaning-out." The seller profits by receiving money for things he doesn't want, and the buyer benefits when the need to get rid of his belongings makes the owner sell cheaply. There's no overhead in the prices. These advantages have sparked a garage sale epidemic. Sales can be fun. Noel and Sandy Berry claimed they met mire of .their neighbors during the two weekends of their New Town apartment sale than they had in three years of living there. STILL, THE TIGHT economy provides the Impetus for the sales. One near North Sider noticed that young singles often bought objects that had no value, but the "older couple with a kid, they buy things that they really can use, like a swimsuit or a coffee pot." Randy Law-' rence lives in a 26-floor high-rise in Hyde Park, and furnished her apartment largely from the sales constantly being held above and below her. A man in River Forest said garage sales especially were good places to find dining room sets, often sold by people leaving spacious old houses for apartments or condominiums. Sellers said many people do buy clothes, especially children's clothes, and take time to try on the shoes selling for 50 cents. "You could tell some people were more frugal, really poor. They were shopping for things they needed," said one seller in Oak Park. The economic pinch affects buyers and sellers: Becky Valenti of Oak Park arranged her garage sale to help pay the gas bill. Yet, it seems the majority of garage sale junkies are not driven to the habit by pure necessity. Observed Mrs. Valenti: "They went straight for the junk, trinkets, and things to hold plants." i Said Noel Berry, "People bought unexpected things, especially knickknacks. We thought the air conditioner for $75 would go right away, but we've still got it. "Little things they want. Stuff you never think would sell. We weren't even going to put some of the things out, but those were the first to go. Somebody came in and even bought this old scrapbook full of Sidney Harris newspaper clippings." THERE IS A spirit of barter, of surprise, and especially of rebellion in garage sales. In these days of high prices, a person can pick up small plants, handy dishes, or occasionally even blenders and humidifiers with the loose change in his pocket. Tired junk becomes something new to someone new, and the hunt may take a shopper through streets he has never seen, into backyards and basements he never imagined, and among various classes of fast-fingered people. Buying cheaply comforts the conscience: You may not have needed it, but it was cheap. "That's what makes a home the junk," said Jeanette Schott, who was visiting her daughter in Chicago. "Until I started going to garage sales, I really didn't have a home, just a house. In the '60s, everything matched. You hired a decorator. Now everybody combines things. You find a frame, then maybe later you 7 y " . j r ,:. 'M. llllllilll&. . I find a picture to go with it, or you take a lightbulb from one lamp and a cord, and put it on a third lamp. People always leave in the lightbulbs that's like getting 50 cents off. Christmas ornaments are good. And damask tableclothes or napkins. "When I see a garage sale sign, my car just shifts into automatic. ... I can't stop it. It drives right in. And now that my children have apartments, I'm going to go to even more. It's true, they aren't as good as they were five years ago, too many people are doing them. Don't buy for resale, it's not worth it. Don't buy unless you can use it. And be sure to take a bag along." BUT GARAGE SALES have become big business for some, headaches for others. A frequent follower of sales often will recognize the same faces, even the same pickup trucks, at the front of the line every Saturday. The Oak ParkRiver Forest, Evanston, and North Shore areas are favored by antiques hunters. Those who have had garage sales say they received calls and visits days before the sale was supposed to begin. One woman listed only her address, but at 7 a.m. got a phone call. She found out later that the dealer who called had used a cross-reference book to match address with number. Usually, those people who call early, show up Tribunt Graphics repeatedly at sales, and go straight for the potential antiques are "professional pickers" rather than dealers. Professional pickers are the middle men and women who do not own shops, but make money by buying antiques and reselling them to dealers. Marge Sissulak, owner of Friendship House Antiques in Oak Park, described one picker: "Her hands move like greased lightning. She'll take a pillowcase with her and grab everything, then she'll go sit down, see what she has, and just drop anything on the floor that she doesn't want." Some have begun their own off-the- Continued on page 4 How buyers and sellers get together IF YOU plan to hold a garage, house, or apartment sale, but have never attended one, spend a Saturday morning visiting a few so you can get some idea of pricing. Prices are your decision you may want to lower them toward the end of .the sale. Talk with your neighbors. They may want to bring some of their junk for you to sell. Consider a block or group sale it can save work but be sure to get an OK from your city hall. Check with your city hall to see if there are limits to the duration of a sale. You may need a permit, or be required to notify the city of our intentions. Ask if there are any regulations about posting signs. Have all clothes laundered or cleaned. YOUR AD is important. If you want to attract the hoards, include such words as "collectibles" or "beautiful old things." Mention specific items. Most ads are placed in local papers, and many of the papers will furnish a free garage sale sign in return for an ad. Ask your friends which papers they check for house sale notices. You may prefer not to include your phone number, or if you want to screen the shoppers, you might include only your number. If you don't ,want to be bothered by the day-early hunters, post a sign on your front door stating such, and then don't let them in. They'll be back. A smooth house sale requires some planning. Invite relatives or friends to help with the early rush, and have "sale" tags ready for them to pin on. There can be trouble with shoplifters if you have a large house and too few supervisors. Rope off or post signs on the doors of rooms you do not wish entered. The ideal arrangement is a "circulation system": Have one entrance door and an exit door where the cashier is. If you think your house, neighborhood, and valuables win attract a real crowd, you may give out numbers at the door, or limit the number you ' let in at a time. ' DECIDE BEFOREHAND whether you will accept checks and for how much. With expensive items, you may want either to 1) take a cash deposit and ask the buyer to bring the balance later in cash, money order, or cashier's check, at which time he may pick up the merchandise, or 2) accept a check, but do not release the merchandise until the check has cleared. Don't leave a large amount of cash in the house at night. The police departments of Oak Park and Chicago said they haven't had an increase in burglaries corresponding to the increase in house sales, and reasonable caution probably will keep it that way. The unpredictable flow of people during a sale seems to discourage daytime burglaries, but it is best to have at least two people on the "sales force" at all times. IF YOU'RE planning to hunt garage sales, find out from friends which newspapers are best for sale notices in your .vicinity. Garage sales are like fishing after a few hours of sun, the furious activity declines. You can prepare a list of addresses, but if you're really serious about the chase, pick your first sale carefully, and get there early. Oak Park, River Forest, and the North Shore are prime areas, as are Evanston and Hyde Park, where the universities produce a wide range of people, high rate of turnover, and fairly frequent moving sales. Take a bag with handles along. Take a friend. DON'T BE discouraged. If the sales are fiercest at the beginning, they are also interesting toward the end, when the desire to clean out lowers prices. House sales can be good places to find unexpected Christmas presents, birthday presents, anytime presents. Consider any odd friends who like odd things. Talk to people. A bullish, head-down approach to garage sales can destroy an exciting day among interesting and unfamiliar people. Deborah Homsher Movies Carney works bis magical art on us again Nil : m LILY TOMLIN has little to do with the success of "The Late Show," a marvelous comedy about an aged Los Angeles private eye and his zany client. That's not a knock on Tomlin's abilities as a comedienne. It's just that she isn't a polished film actress, and the praise for her current nightclub act threatens to obscure the main reasons for the success of "The Late Show": the offbeat direction of screenwriter Robert Benton ("Bonnie and Clyde") and a flawless performance by Art Carney. Carney, 59, plays Ira Wells, a wheezing old private eye now forced to wear a hearing aid and to consider his blood pressure before chasing crooks. His Alka-Seltzer is as important as his gun. He wears plain black suits, cheap white shirts, and thin black ties. He is a boarder in an old lady's bungalow. To make a long description short, Carney is playing Philip Marlowe from "The Big Sleep" as an exhausted old man. AS THE FILM begins, Wells attends the funeral of a crony. Walking along a wall of white marble crypts, he is approached by a low-life tipster (Bill Macy, the husband of television's "Maude") who asks Wells to handle a friend's problem. The problem belongs to young Margo Sperling (Tomlin). She has lost her cat. Once considered "the best in the business," Wells can't believe his life has been reduced to looking for a cat. But before long he is looking for Sperling's kitty as part of an ever-changing crime story that involves multiple murders, armed robbery, and cheating spouses. While working for $50 a day plus expenses, Wells bumps into an assortment of Los Angeles low-lifes: an irrepressible fence, a lying wife, the fence's thick-skulled "enforcer," and a pair of Hollywood & Vine opportunists. The whole world of this film is paint- TRIBUNE MINI-REVIEW Let us now praise Art Carney "THE LATE SHOW" Written and dlracttd by Robtrt Btnton: photographed by Chuck Realtor; adllad by Lou Lombardo and Patar Appltton: muilc by Kan Wannbarg; products by Robert Altman; Wirnar Broa. rataaaa at Wataf Towar Plac and outlying Ihaatara, Rattd PQ. THE CAST . Art Camay Ira Wall Margo Sparling Ulyl Charlla Hattar Bill Macy Ron Blrdwall Eugarw Roc ha Laura Blrdwall Joanna Caaaldy Lamar John Conaldln Harry Ragan... Howard Dull Mr. Schmidt Ruth Nalaon Sgk Drayton John Oavay peeling hallways, shoeshine stands, and garish Los Angeles apartments. At the same time he's looking for criminals, Wells is wandering into a strange partnership with Sperling. They are an unlikely pair. He's into cholesterol; she's into astrology. She also deals grass, designs clothes, and manages nightclub acts anything to pay the rent. The plot's main strength is that there are two stories: the crime story and the Ira-Margo friendship. If you lose track of or interest in one, there's always the other. WHEN YOU COMPARE their performances, Carney triumphs. Tomlin plays a variation on one of her high-energy, wacko nightclub characters, which' is too intense for the big screen. You can see her working. By comparison, Carney is effortless. His Ira Wells is fresh, although I suppose he is borrowing from his Academy Award-winning performance as a 72-year-old widower in "Harry & Tonto" (1974). Both men are scrupulously honest professionals who are out of place in today's trendy world. Carney's skill isn't apparent until you leave the theater. Unlike Tomlin, you don't see him working. He's content to be the bedrock of this picture. For years he fooled us as Ed Norton in television's "The Honeymoon-ers." We thought that was who he really was a nice but thick clown. That's why he caught us by surprise in "Harry & Tonto." He has done it again here. The other star of "The Late Show" is writer-director Benton. I don't know if he's responsible for casting Carney and Tomlin, but those offbeat choices mirror the whole tone of his movie. Though "The Late Show" may be described in advertisements as a comedy-mystery, it' is nothing like other recent comedy-mysteries such as "Murder By Death" and "Murder on the. Orient Express." Those were shot-in-a-studio productions packed with gag lines. "The Late Show" is a character study of a talented, tired old man having one last but maybe not the last stab at -collaring a crook. The murders in this film are more bloody than you might expect in a comedy, but they are not exploitive. It's quick, abrupt, and messy violence. ' , ONE LAST WORD about the film's title: I think it's called "The Late Show" because the story occurs late in Ira Wells' life and because of his habit of coming home late at night and turning on the tube's late movies for companionship. But there's another reason. If "The Late Show" were shot in black-and-white, it could qualify right now for TV's "Late Show." It's an old-style film full of character, a genuine throwback to Hollywood's best efforts. . Gene Siskel Gene Siskel reviews the movie scene Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on Channel 2 News at 10 p.m. r . ..V r. ; fii. jk'? 's:; ,: is. : fcVvj : : x - s. '.v-1 , , , . ix v A . f f " I J ' r. Art Carney and Lily Tomlin are an unlikely pair in "The Late Show:" He's into cholesterol and she's into astrology.

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