We celebrated the completion of The Seaview with a party at home, and the next morning packed it into the trusty camper for the trip to California. I can’t remember if it was Santa Rosa, Santa Monica, or Anaheim, but we were off to the NAME Regional Houseparty (aka a miniatures show), where we hoped to find an audience receptive to our work. The logistics of moving a 3-story house weighing around 60 lbs., and measuring 29”w X 40”l X 57”h was part of the voyage. Family and friends all wanted to see what we had made, so the trip included a stop in Goleta, CA to see Noel’s sister and family, and another night in LA where friends held a party for us and the house. Both stops entailed moving the house out of the camper, through doors of varying heights and widths, and back again the next morning. I was more than happy to see it safely settled on the sales room table. A friend at the party had encouraged us to double our price (we were thinking $2000.00), but $4000.00 seemed an outrageous price for a dollhouse, (we still hadn’t quite accepted the concept of miniatures as art), even if it had taken us three months of intense labor. As the doors to the sales room opened, collectors poured in. A mob! Noel said, “Let’s do it–$4000.00.” I panicked—what if it didn’t sell? People flocked to see our house, an unexpected occurrence, so we stationed ourselves at either end of the table to answer questions. At the lunch break we excitedly compared notes—someone wanted the house! Yes! A woman, middle-aged, blondish, we had each talked to her. She would return after lunch to confirm the sale. Noel was busy when the buyer returned, so she and I dealt with payment, and discussed our delivering it to her home in Las Vegas. While we were talking I caught Noel’s eye and signaled him over. It was noisy. I pointed to the customer, showed him the down payment check and told him she would pay us the balance in Las Vegas. I thought it odd it took so long for the good news to sink in. He said, “That’s not the buyer I spoke to.”
Indeed, two different women were vying for the house. As “mine” was there first with the money, it was hers. Number 2 was understanding, if disappointed, and gave us a sizable down payment for our next house. She would also become one of our most loyal and supportive clients. She would also buy the Seaview from its original owner. At the end of the show, with orders for 4 more houses tucked in our pockets, we packed the Seaview back in the camper and headed for Las Vegas. The old Las Vegas.
The customer’s husband was the maitre d’ of a big casino. The lived in the first house I ever saw with double everything in the bathroom, including toilets and bidets, all housed in mirrors and lot of black and gold marble. It was curious and a little wacky seeing so many images of oneself while sitting there, gawking. They treated us like celebrities, and took us out to one of the finest restaurants in town. It was impossible not to notice the near reverence our host was accorded at every stop–everyone knew him. They paid us in cash, plus extra for gas, food and motel–more money than either of us had ever held at one time—extracting a promise from us that if we went out to a casino we were not to take more than $10.00. After they dropped us at our motel, we headed out to cruise Caesar’s Palace, where it took approximately 7 ½ minute to lose the whole $10.00. For the life of me I can’t remember where I stashed the rest (somewhere ingenious, as I imagined someone would figure out we had $$$ and hold us up at gunpoint). I do know I laid awake most of the night in that funky little motel, amazed at where we were, and why, and what had happened over the previous week.
In the morning we drove our cash stash to the nearest bank to convert it into travelers’ checks. There was a line, which gave us the opportunity to observe, first hand, the denizens of a city that never sleeps–the cleaning people heading home with their paychecks, the formally dressed, night-grizzled winners and losers, and the in-betweens, looking desperate for what little cash they had left. It’s always night time in the casinos, and the daylight wasn’t kind to those stepping out.