$25,100 to be in Cell

Posted: September 19, 2005, 23:39
OK, the auction for naming a character in Cell is over. The winner paid $25,100 and as it turned out it was a present for her brother (talk about the perfect gift) and the name you should look for is Ray Huizenga. Read more about it here:

Fort Lauderdale woman wins eBay auction to name character in Stephen King book

SAN FRANCISCO -- Stephen King's new horror story focuses on a set of rampaging zombies controlled by cell phones. As of Sunday night, one may bear the last name Huizenga.

King fans from Romania to Australia spent much of last week on eBay, outbidding each other in an online auction organized by prominent authors selling the right to name characters in their new novels. Initially conceived as a creative fund-raiser for the First Amendment Project, a struggling nonprofit that defends the free speech rights of writers and artists, the auction quickly became the Internet site's most watched item.

As the online auction's first round closed Sunday night, Pam Alexander of Fort Lauderdale spent the last nail-biting minutes pledging $25,100 to name a character in King's zombie novel, CELL. That money, plus an additional $50,000 in proceeds from other auctions, will go directly to the First Amendment Project.

"I thought it would be a great gift to give to my brother to have his name in the book,'' said Alexander, who won the auction as a gift for her brother, Ray Huizenga, a fishing captain and longtime King fan. "It's definitely extravagant but it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and he's worth it.''

Alexander beat out a disappointed Paul Stegman, of Papillion, Neb., who was poised to take out a credit line on his house to buy a way into King's head.

"How many times do you have the opportunity to purchase immortality?'' said Stegman, who owns 300 King books and bid on a borrowed computer he felt would increase his "winning karma.'' "This was very out of character for me, because my general rule of thumb is to be cheap whenever possible. I thought I was the only person crazy enough to spend that much money.''

On Sept. 1, eBay Giving Works, the site's dedicated program for charity listings, went live with the electronic auction. Since then, hundreds have been bidding 24 hours a day to insert names into their favorite writers' books. The auctions already have fetched well over the non-profit's fund-raising goal of $50,000.

It's also became the "most watched'' item on eBay, an internal marker the company uses to gauge popularity, and has warranted so much attention that eBay Italy requested organizers translate the entire auction into Italian.

"We can safely say we're not going to close now,'' said David Greene, executive director of the Oakland-based First Amendment Project, which was founded in 1994. "I'm thrilled.''

Greene said that money raised by the auction will go to support the organization's pro bono work representing clients being sued over free speech, free press and freedom of expression.

The auction's second phase, which will allow bidders to vie for the chance to name a character in books by John Grisham, Dave Eggers, Neil Gaiman and others continues through Sept. 26. The benefit was the brainchild of Gaiman, who approached Pulitzer prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon with the idea when he heard the group was running out of money.

It has become the single largest fund-raising event for the First Amendment Project, whose lawyers are currently defending a publisher who produces a magazine distributed in prisons and a former sailor seeking information from the U.S. Army.

Some of those bills may be paid through the generosity of science fiction writer David Brin, who joined the cause last week. In the next round, he'll auction off the right to name a rogue moon, an exotic and gruesome disease or an entire species of extraterrestrials in his new book, which he said he wrote, thanks to First Amendment freedoms.

"Only a knowledgeable, empowered and vocal citizenry can perform well in democracy,'' Brin said in an e-mail interview.

For San Francisco author Andrew Sean Greer, the tone and structure of his new book gave him so much to think about that he hadn't even begun to figure out how to fit a fan-designated name into the plot line.

"I'm happy to try to please whoever wins the bid and give them prominent placement,'' said Greer, who sold the chance to name a creamery for $895 but didn't know yet what the winning bidder had in mind.

"Usually a soda shop isn't called Englebert Humperdink, so they'll have to content themselves if it gets reworked,'' Greer added. "We're trying to make this like a secret, a little Easter egg in the novel, not a hurdle for the writer to overcome.''

King, meanwhile, appears to be busy writing CELL, a novel he warns will read "like cheap whisky ... very nasty and extremely satisfying.''

"He's been busy,'' said Marsha DeFillippo, his personal assistant. "He just didn't have time to follow the auction that closely.''

Thanks to Bev Vincent.