Sunday, July 27, 2003

No sale on McGuire Sisters home

By Jeremy W. Steele
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MIAMISBURG - The childhood home of the McGuire Sisters didn't attract a high enough bid to sell Saturday, but there was spirited competition for Hollywood memorabilia connected to the likes of George Burns, Ann-Margret and Liberace.

More than 225 people registered to bid at the estate auction of the women's mother, Lillie McGuire-Long, and hundreds more filtered in and out of the small backyard at 115 S. Main St. to get a look at celebrity pasts.

Here's what some of the items fetched at Saturday's auction:
• 1953 issue of "Cosmopolitan" featuring the McGuire Sisters: $65
• Signed Liberace autobiography: $115
• Black-and-white beaded shoes designed for Christine: $150
• Autographed photo of Ann-Margret: $125
• "I belong to Phyllis McGuire" pet tag: $30
Born in Middletown, the McGuire Sisters - Christine, Dorothy and Phyllis - hit the Billboard charts numerous times in the 1950s and '60s with their sweet harmonies of classic songs. The sisters got their musical start singing at the Miamisburg First Church of God, where their mother was pastor.

"They were our stars of Miamisburg," said Joe Steffen, who graduated from Miamisburg High School in 1954, just a few years after youngest sister Phyllis. "She was always in all the plays in high school."

Steffen, curator of the Miamisburg Historical Society, came to the auction to capture a piece of the city's history. He left after spending $40 for a photograph of the sisters signed by Christine.

The singing group, known for "Sincerely," "Sugartime," and "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight," broke up in 1968, but reunited in 1985 to tour. None of the sisters, who live out of state, attended the sale.

Items up for auction ranged from typical household goods to autographed photos of celebrities.

Many of the photos were made out to "Mother McGuire." One, signed by Phyllis Diller, carried the message, "You brought up three girls to be proud of." It sold for $25 along with another signed photograph.

Other autographed items, such as a signed book by George Burns and an autographed record of Liberace's Greatest Hits, sold for about $100 each.

Miamisburg resident Erma McGeorge Griffith, who knew the sisters' mother, was amazed at the price some items brought.

"A lot of those pictures I have at home," she said before gasping about the price of a pair of beaded shoes at the sale: "$150 for one pair of Christine's shoes."

But not all items sold for celebrity prices. A well-used wall phone sold for $12.50, despite the auctioneer's effort to get $15.

"That's the phone she talked to all the girls on," auctioneer Frank Lewis quipped. "It is - it came out of the kitchen."

And bidding for the 130-year-old, two-story brick home that belonged to this city's most famous trio topped out at $85,000 - a far cry from the $180,000-$190,000 appraisal and too low for the Centerville Christian Fellowship Church. The church had reserved the right to refuse to accept a bid.

The sisters donated the house and the items up for auction to the church, which is affiliated with their mother's church. McGuire-Long, who remarried after the death of husband Asa McGuire, died in March 2002.

Church officials plan to use the proceeds from the auction for a building project.

"We're happy with this," church attorney Vernon Wilson said of the sale, though the house didn't sell. "We've had offers already higher than the bid price here."

The church plans to list the house for $139,900.


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