31.8.05

Holloway Auction: Celeb items raise funds for search
by JUDY HAISE, Social columnist for the Birmingham News

The "... for Natalee" charity auction was without the usual band and corporate sponsors, although a little pomp would have seemed natural, since Hollywood TV and movie stars Courteney Cox and her husband, David Arquette, asked what they could do to help six weeks ago. They thanked everyone for coming via a video shown at the auction.

Mounds of tiny sandwiches with no crusts and other enticing hors d'oeuvres were scattered about, but there was little grazing Thursday night.

Each of the nearly 500 invited guests wearing a tiny yellow ribbon seemed to have another agenda - to make a donation to the Natalee Holloway Trust Fund and give personal words of encouragement to the family of the Mountain Brook 18-year-old who went missing, May 30, on a graduation trip to Aruba.

Natalee's stepfather, Jug Twitty, of Mountain Brook graciously shook hands with everyone in the main entrance of B&A Warehouse last Thursday night. Natalee's mother, Beth Holloway-Twitty, thinner than many remembered her, received guests inside the main room, stalwartly standing in the same spot for nearly three hours, just hugging and thanking everyone for their support.

Beth was back home in Birmingham for just the second time during the two and a half months she's spent in Aruba searching for her daughter.

Close by was a calming presence, Natalee's aunt Linda Allison from Arkansas. Across the sea of guitars, movie posters and DVDs signed by Hollywood stars was Jug's brother Jar Twitty of Mountain Brook, sharing his stories.

Circulating was Jar's wife, the ubiquitous Marcia Twitty, who along with Sunny Tillman, Betsy Koepsel, Kim Matthews, Heather McWane and a host of friends spent just six weeks - not the usual six months - to plan the fund-raiser.

Even so, more than $110,000 was raised by guests taking home sports memorabilia and fashion and celebrity autographed gifts. There were 34 designer fashions, including a Brian Cook fox boa and Dana Buchman fur jacket.

There were twice as many sports items, including 12 Skybox tickets to the Alabama-Auburn Iron Bowl 2005, four tickets to the Masters, as well as a Boston Red Sox game in Fenway Park, autographed footballs and tennis rackets.

The 94 celebrity-autographed items gathered by Courteney, a Mountain Brook High School graduate, and David, included photos, posters and guitars signed by Sting, Amy Grant and Vince Gill, Clint Black, John Mayer, Alan Jackson, Bob Weir and Brooks and Dunn, Courteney's TV show "Friends" DVDs and tickets to "The View," "Live with Regis and Kelley" and "The Tony Danza" TV shows in New York City.

On top of all that there were some other stunning items, including a hefty John Ager stone cross, Anita Miles' jeweled crosses and gift certificates for a Five Star Plantation quail hunt, wine tasting for 12, portraits and a getaway to Sundance Resort in Utah.

Among the supporters there were many of Natalee's fellow grads from Mountain Brook High School, home from college, wearing yellow "... for Natalee" T-shirts, including Claire Fierman, Madison Whatley and Frances Ellen Byrd. More spotted were parents of grads who went on the trip to Aruba.

Also in the crush were Courteney's mom, Courteney Copeland, Pat Copeland, Elizabeth Branch, Betsy Koepsel, Frances and Miller Gorrie, Francie and Ogden Deaton, Marlene Willings, Holman and Margaret Head, Peggy and Bob Faircloth, Jack Schaeffer, Tim Hennessy, Andrea Carmichael, Ginger and Fletcher Abele, Elizabeth and Bill Wyatt, CeCe and Chris Hughes, Judy Carns, Sara and Wally Nall, Beth Williams, Ellen Gorrie and Jim Walker, Kathy and Matt Whatley, Stephanie and Keith Fierman and Vivian Tucker, who owns Harvest Glen, where Natalee worked part-time, there with Mallie.

"There's no place like home," from Natalee's favorite movie "The Wizard of Oz" was the evening's theme, underscored by Robert Logan's lifesize cutouts of the stars on the warehouse walls.

Beth wore tiny, crystal ruby red slippers pinned to her white blouse and a wishbone necklace like Natalee's and her friends. Beth was home, but not for long. She went back to Aruba and the international media frenzy covering the search Sunday.

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