PROVINCETOWN — Filmmaker John Waters has issued a formal dinner invitation to 10 still-undetermined people: Meet me at the Provincetown dump. We’ll eat scavenged food prepared by a New York City chef, on tables set with damaged place settings and dead flower arrangements.
That “once in a gastronomical lifetime” evening in July is the marquee item in the Provincetown Film Society’s winter online auction, which opened on Wednesday, raised more than $15,000 in bids in less than 48 hours, and concludes Sunday.
There are more than 100 items on offer, and while numerous Cape Cod nonprofits hold fundraising auctions, the vast majority of items in this virtual event are connected to Provincetown and/or the film society — and the brush with the town’s celebrities, art, great food, quirkiness and sense of fun that can mean.
“It’s Provincetown items celebrating the businesses and restaurants and people and things in Provincetown that are always supporting the nonprofits and have generously donated to us,” explained auction co-chair Julia King. “It’s Provincetown, Provincetown, Provincetown — anything we can do.”
Last year’s auction: Closed Provincetown cinema offers private parties, starry auction
While required opening bids vary at biddingforgood.com/ptownfilm, the estimated value on many unique items — including Waters’ dinner — is listed as “priceless.”
What is the Film Society auctioning?
For example, award-winning film/stage/TV actress Kathleen Turner is for a second year offering to record a phone message in her distinctive voice. A similar recording offer comes from actress Beth Grant (“Donnie Darko,” “Sordid Lives,” “The Mindy Project”), along with a Zoom chat.
You can have a coffee hour with paranormal expert Adam Berry, who co-stars on Travel Channel’s “Kindred Spirits” or get signed copies of his “Ghost Hunting” book; take a private food history tour of Provincetown with restaurant owner John Yingling, and make a pizza with him at Spiritus Pizza; or get a private tour and business-advice meeting with Canteen restaurant owners Rob Anderson and Loic Rossignon.
You can get a one-hour virtual architecture tour with David Dunlap, author of “Building Provincetown”; stay a couple of nights with dinner at the historic Mary Heaton Vorse House; or get a personal, eight-page story written about you by novelist Martha McPhee and poet Mark Svengold.
‘Nice to see people back’: 2021 Provincetown Film Festival
Connections through those endeavors are allowing first-time auction items this year of one-on-one Zoom calls with people in the film industry, King said, including producers, a film editor, a casting director, actors or a production designer. Plus up for bid are Zoom calls with Tony Award-nominated Broadway librettist/lyricist/director Bill Russell (“Side Show,” “Pageant”).
The auction also includes tickets to top Broadway musicals (including “Six,” “Company” and “Hadestown”); gift cards to local restaurants, concert venues, clubs, health classes and businesses; vacation lodgings in town and around the world; and choices of local art and collectible posters.
Dinner for two with John Waters
And then there’s that dinner with Waters, the colorful director/author/actor/artist and part-time local resident who has been a longtime supporter and host for the film festival.
“It’s fun every year to come up with a concept that both makes fun of the whole process of charity auctions and at the same time raises money for them,” Waters said in a call this week from London. He chose the Provincetown dump because of “location, location, location” — and appreciates the link to the famous Bette Davis line of “What a dump!”
2021 film fest: Provincetown film fest to honor Oscar nominee Richard Linklater
“I love the dump! … I like the idea of elegance in a very low place and I think ‘the dump’ just has a good ring to it,” he said. “Everybody in Provincetown knows about the dump and … a dump is a place where all people meet, to find things and throw away things they’re embarrassed by.”
Waters said he appreciates the collective theme about his dinner auction item that draws in other Provincetown talent. Chef Jake Hetnarski — who worked at Waters’ favorite New York City restaurant, the now-closed Prune, and is starting a Provincetown catering business — will literally go dumpster-diving at businesses around town to find ingredients for the meal, Waters said.
Designer and friend John Derian will supply the “damaged” plates, and Garden Renovations Nursery is in charge of the dead flowers.
“The Provincetown Film Festival to me is incredibly important,” Waters explained about his support of the auction. The 24-year-old festival, where Waters plans to hold a signing this year for his new book “Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance,” is a “great week in June where the best people come to town for it and everything, so I’m excited about (the auction). I’ve been involved with (the festival) from the very, very beginning.”
How the money helps Provincetown
Waters’ help is much appreciated: King said she expects there could be a bidding war for those dinner-at-the-dump seats in the last hours of the auction, as there was last year for Waters’ item. That was to take winners on a tour of the notorious historical public-sex spots around Provincetown, then go out to dinner.
That experience alone last year raised almost $20,000 of the $70,000-plus – more than twice the society’s original goal – that the auction brought in to fund the cinema, festival and institute at a time when all had been so challenged by COVID-19 concerns about public gatherings.
Get out to a museum & more:6 ideas for where to add Cape Cod art to month
The auction “was a way to raise some money to at least keep (the cinema) open,” King said, as well as fund the other programs and pay year-round staff. “We do feel there is a year-round community in Provincetown that honestly seems to be growing now that more people can work remotely … (and) we think it’s an important thing to keep the cinema open all year-round.”
Last year was the first time the society changed its usual fall fundraiser to the winter auction, in a switch that King said was to try to avoid competing with other nonprofit fundraisers in town. Organizers were thrilled with the result, and Waters’ part in it, and hope for such success this year.
The unusual nature of the dinner at the dump helps to get the word out about the auction, while celebrating “all of the things of Provincetown and his love of Provincetown. We’re really excited about it,” she said. “John has been so supportive of the film society over the years.”
A bonus last year, she said, was that many of the people who won the bids to take Waters’ tour had never been to Provincetown “and ended up loving it. So it’s kind of our way of introducing people to Provincetown that don’t know it as well.”