The auction of furniture and decor from the lavish home of Lilly Pulitzer — a socialite known for her parties, personality, taste and clothing line — was reason enough to fly here on a moment's notice for Cincinnati cookie shop owner Peggy Shannon.
"Lilly Pulitzer is like a mentor to me, even though I never had the privilege of meeting her," Shannon said. "Her attention to detail, the wonder and whimsy in her products, the personal touches like the paper inside the boxes when you bought something, the handwritten notes she would put in with your purchase. So much of that, I've incorporated into my business."
Shannon, who owns Queen City Cookies, bought for $425 a collection of figurines, including an elephant, the mascot of her business..
Pulitzer, who died last year at age 81, had done several prints with elephants, including one with lines of royal-blue elephants marching across a hot-pink background.
Shannon was one of more than 400 fans of Lilly Pulitzer who packed into an auction house in West Palm Beach on Saturday afternoon. More than 600 people also were bidding anonymously online, and some were calling in bids.
Among the items that sold for much more than what the auction house, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, expected was a pair of mint green Chinese vases. Bidding started at $1,000, and ended at $34,000, thanks to an online bidder.
A collection of figurines of monkeys playing musical instruments started at $200 and went for $1,700. Elephant-shaped seats went for $5,500 when bidding began at $250. A Persian rug that started at $200 went for $3,200.
"Because these things belonged in Lilly Pulitzer, they're bringing in unbelievable prices," Hindman said. "She was a very dearly loved lady."
Pulitzer became famous as much for her approach to life as for her clothing line, fans said. Her sprawling Palm Beach home was decorated in colors and patterns as bright as the ones she designed for the shift dresses her clothing lines always featured.
A catalog of the auction items bore quotes from Pulitzer:
"That's what life is all about: Let's have a party. Let's have it tonight."
"It's always summer somewhere."
"Being happy never goes out of style."
Michele Baymor, who traveled from her home in Philadelphia, considered the auction a "YOLO," or you-only-live-once, experience. Two hours into the bidding, she hadn't bought anything yet, but that's OK, she said.
"This is about the theater, not the stuff," she said. She wore a Pulitzer dress in a print called "Booze Cruise."
Her friend, Susan Trader, of Coral Gables, runs the Re-Lilly Group on Facebook, which has more than 40,000 members who buy, sell and swap Pulitzer garments among themselves.
"She's more than a brand," Trader said. "We're fans of her lifestyle, her clothes, her everything."
Some buyers, of course, were more interested in the decor than in the woman behind it.
"It fits with my dining room table," said Wolf Von Falkenburg, a retired land developer, of the walnut side cabinet he bought for $2,800.
Pulitzer was a friend of his, he said, and he has seen the cabinet in her home and knew he wanted it.
"I would have liked it regardless, but it's a memento from her, and that's good, too," he said.
James Berwind, a Palm Beach County man whose family has had a home there for three decades, bought several items, including those elephant seats, a Persian rug and a glass end table.
Decorating with Pulitzer's items is a nod to local history, he said.
"Lilly kind of represents Palm Beach," Berwind said. "I'm building a house, and I think it's great to have some pieces that people in Palm Beach will recognize. It's some great stuff, really quirky, and the fact that it has a history of someone from Palm Beach is even better."
firstname.lastname@example.org, 954-356-4451 or Twitter @ambarkhurst