The Effect of Natalie Wood at Bonham’s Celebrity Auction

In the 1960s, Susan Porper was a starstruck 15-year-old growing up in New York’s Westchester County. The object of her adoration was Natalie Wood, who won over audiences with roles in such classic movies as “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Splendor in the Grass” and “West Side Story.”

On Monday, she was reunited with those teenage dreams. This time, the setting was a sale of Hollywood memorabilia and art at Bonham’s auction house on the Upper East Side. Included in the sale were pieces from the young Walt Disney, a “golden ticket” from “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” and a dress Judy Garland wore as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.”

But for Susan Porper, now Susan Goldfarb, the real draw was a piece once owned by Natalie Wood. It was Item 57, a delicate bracelet made of rubies and 18-karat gold.

“Ever since I’ve known her, Natalie Wood has been her favorite actress,” said Susan Goldfarb’s husband of 50 years, Jonathan. “We came yesterday to the showroom and she tried it on. My wife told me it was made for her.”

The actress drowned in 1982 off Santa Catalina Island in California at the age of 43.

“When Natalie Wood died, I just cried my eyes out,” Susan Goldfarb said.

Susan Goldfarb and her husband Jonathan Goldfarb.
Susan Goldfarb and her husband, Jonathan. (Photo: Jen Rosenzweig)

The bidding started at 1 p.m. in a room packed with potential buyers.

As the auctioneer went through the sale list, the Goldfarbs listened intently. Buyers were not only bidding in person but also on the phone, online, and with bids submitted in advance, a common practice at high-end auctions.

By the time the bracelet came up for sale, the highest price had been $4,000 for Natalie Wood’s Golden Globe for “Rebel Without a Cause.” That meant that there might be other Natalie Wood fans waiting to scoop up the bracelet.

As the auction hammer fell for Item 56, signaling a sale, Susan Goldfarb leaned on her walker and stood up. She was not discouraged by the high price paid for the Golden Globe.

“I just won a lot of money gambling, so I’m okay,” she said.  “It was $145,000. I’m a very good gambler.”

She was determined to nab her prize. “It fit me like a glove yesterday,” she said. “It went on me and clicked.”

The bidding for the bracelet started at $1,100.  The contest was between Susan Goldfarb and an online buyer.

The numbers got higher and higher: $2,500, $5,000.

Everyone in the room watched as she held her auction paddle high, a sign that she was still in the contest. It didn’t matter that her knee hurt; she was in it to win.

The numbers got even higher.

“Susan, it’s at $9,500,” Jonathan Goldfarb shouted.

“I don’t care,” his wife replied. “You just bought me a Tiffany’s necklace for $10,000 and I don’t even wear it!”

Goldfarb shrugged.

After eight minutes of bidding, the price was $15,000 and Susan Goldfarb was still standing.

The bidding continued: $19,500, then $20,000.

The online buyer folded, but Susan Goldfarb was still standing with her paddle held high. People in the room started clapping. They hadn’t clapped for any other sale.

Susan Goldfarb said the money was irrelevant. “Twenty thousand dollars won’t change nothing,” she said. “We just bought a second house. Didn’t it fit me like a glove?”

As she left to pay for her piece, her husband smiled at her. They met on a blind date and decided their romance must have been fate because they were both delivered by the same doctor. And now, he just wanted her to be happy.

The final tally was $27,200, which included taxes and a $200 commission fee. But for Susan Goldfarb, it was a small price to pay for a piece of a dream.