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Golden in the eye of the beholder for Blago auction folks
By Burt Constable | Daily Herald Columnist

After his bid of $20,000 fell just short of being able to buy this life-size Elvis statue owned by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a relieved J.R. Bramlett found a much, much cheaper deal.


Jamie Sotonoff | Daily Herald

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Published: 8/31/2010 12:01 AM

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Caught up in the moment, J.R. Bramlett bid $20,000 for a life-size Elvis statue owned by Rod Blagojevich - and fell short of the winning bid by just $500.

Now he has the opposite of buyer's remorse - a runner-up's exuberance.

"God looked over to me," says Bramlett, 67, who lives in Orland Park. The owner of a towing company in Calumet Park, Bramlett thanks divine intervention for what ends up being his $18,600 savings and then some. Bramlett found identical statues, and various other Elvis poses, on sale in Texas.

"I bought two brand-new Elvis statues for $550 each. One with a guitar and one with a microphone," says Bramlett, who notes that even after paying for shipping, he got twice the Elvis rush for only $1,400.

Blagojevich, the impeached Illinois governor and Elvis buff, was convicted Aug. 17 on one felony charge and will be back in court after New Year's on 23 other counts in which the jury was deadlocked.

On Aug. 19, after Blagojevich's campaign organization failed to pay back rent at Boyer-Rosene Moving and Storage in Arlington Heights, the contents of its storage space sold at a public auction.

The ex-governor's wife, Patti Blagojevich, "called an hour before the auction," says Joe Saverino, chief financial officer for the storage facility, who adds that as a result some family photos, cuff links, old report cards and term papers of Blagojevich's and "anything that was personal" were hastily pulled out of the bidding as a favor to the family. The auction was a last recourse only after the campaign fell "tens of thousands" of dollars behind on rent during the last eight years and no one from the organization or family responded to notices, Saverino says. The good news, he says, is that it appears the winning $20,500 statue bid by Keith Rich, owner of Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, helped the auction take in more than $30,000, which will be donated to Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, a favorite of Boyer-Rosene owner Paul Lombardo.

A Northwestern University librarian told an Associated Press reporter that some of the 18 boxes he bought at the auction contained confidential legal documents from Blagojevich's pre-political days as a lawyer. Most of the other boxes of stuff that the Friends of Blagojevich abandoned in the storage facility might have seemed like a hunka, hunka junk more suitable for burning.

But Bill O'Neill of Elgin remains pleased with his purchase.

O'Neill shelled out $600 for a framed photo of Abraham Lincoln that used to hang in Blago's office, but he's having more fun with the three box of mostly unmarked video tapes he bought for another hundred bucks.

"It seems this guy taped himself every time he was on TV, every single time," says O'Neill, a 52-year-old photographer. One box appears to be nothing but TV commercials Blagojevich made during his successful campaign for governor.

"They're pretty funny," O'Neill says. "He just drives home the point of honesty in government and how he was tired of crooked politicians."

A plaque proclaiming Blagojevich winner of "The Superhero Award" meshes perfectly with O'Neill's Blago-bashing blog and website, which features our ex-governor as a cartoon superhero named "Testicular Virility Man." O'Neill says he hasn't watched all the tapes yet, but has plans for all those videotapes of Blago in his pre-felon period talking about his desire to throw out the crooks and restore honesty to Illinois.

"I've been rattling this guy's cage for so long," O'Neill says, adding that he hopes to edit the tapes into one humorous bit. "I'm going to use this to make fun of this guy for the rest of his life. I want him to watch it. I'll put a TV on my car and park in front of his house to make him watch it."

While his statue bid fell short, Bramlett did pay $1,000 for several boxes that he says he hasn't had time to review. He promises to return any sentimental items such as family photographs, but is hoping to find something of value.

"Blagojevich said he's got something golden here," Bramlett says in politely paraphrasing the ex-guv's depiction of rewards to be made from an empty Senate seat. "Well, I might be the one with the gold."

If not, ownership may be its own reward.

"It's history, you know," O'Neill says, "as goofy as it is."