Auctioneer Charlene Nero, a fixture at community events like the Youth Line’s Line Art auction and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre’s Art Attack, comes by her fast-talking charms honestly.
“My father, who passed away five years ago so all may be safely told, won a share in an auction business in a card game,” says Welland native Charlene Nero. “The guy was a pretty good auctioneer but a pretty bad poker player. Within a year, he had lost the rest of the business to my dad in a series of other poker games.
“When I started out, at age 12, I would run the concession stand and take tickets at the flea market. My dad took me with him on buying trips all over Western New York. I saw all different styles of auctioneers, from the ‘Southern Gentlemen’ with a bow tie, sleeve clips, Panama hats and canes, to the ‘Cattle Callers’ who gargled out barely discernible words in a kind of crazy code that only initiates could understand.”
What’s the toughest tongue-twister she’s ever had to call?
“I had to sell a 15-piece set of vintage Funk and Wagnalls yearbooks, so much a piece. We started with, ‘Who wants to give me 10 bucks a piece for the Funk and Wagnalls books, that’s only a hundred fifty dollars for the whole f**king Wagnalls set.’ The rest as they say was history.”
Nero has two day jobs. She’s a labour relations specialist at an independent trade union and she and her partner run the Bank Café and catering in Creemore. Still, Nero always finds time for the community.
“I’ve been involved in different ways for more years than I care to admit. Way way back in the day, I used to write for Rites Magazine (mid ‘80s, I guess), the Lesbian Dance Committee (another blast from the past). I’ve done work with the Pride committee, lots of LGBT groups in Montreal like Divers Cité and on campus at York and Concordia, and a lot of work with the labour and women’s movements.”
Where did she get her signature rainbow vest? “My partner Natalie is quite an accomplished seamstress. She designed and sewed the rainbow vest for my first Buddies auction. She created various versions of it over the years: rainbow hedgehogs, rainbow stars, rainbow cats (I think that one is still on the cutting table).”
CHARLENE NERO The auctioneer extraordinaire returns to the auction block for this year’s Art Attack at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander St) on Thu, Nov 22. buddiesinbadtimes.com.