Tag: Hindman Auctions

Bill Zwecker’s Stars

       Could Be Yours


Bill Zwecker




By Megan McKinney


Bill Zwecker, who for decades has reported on some of the greatest stars of our time, is of course a star himself. Hindman Auctions knows this and will stage an online auction of Bill’s large collection of memorabilia from Thursday, October 28 until Friday, November 19. https://hindmanauctions.com/digital-bid-room.

The approximately 200 lots will include many one-of-a-kind items from the worlds of Hollywood, Broadway, Fashion, Sports and Politics.

Letters to Peg Zwecker from Joan Crawford are among the auction items.

The sale will include contributions from Bill’s late mother, the popular newspaper columnist Peg Zwecker, whose lots include correspondence with famous fashion designers, film stars and political figures ranging from President and Mrs. Nixon to Robert Kennedy and Lady Bird Johnson. Bill’s collection features historic pieces connected to Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, the “Harry Potter” films and the Chicago 7 trial.

Michael Jordan signed his book, For the Love of the Game to Bill as a 50th birthday present. This could be a once in a lifetime Christmas gift for the basketball aficionado in your life—well worth the $500-700 estimate.

Oprah will never forget that “when other people were kicking me in the teeth,” she was “lifted up” by Bill’s kindness. What a steal–if the gavel comes down within the $200-300 estimate, which we seriously doubt. There are at least six ladies on Classic Chicago‘s Facebook page alone who would kill to be able to hang this treasure on the boudoir wall.

Now this one is amazing. A personal, hand-signed letter to Peg Zwecker from Former President Richard M. Nixon regarding the health of his wife, Pat. According to the estimate, it could be yours for a mere $200-300.

Additional serious history: during the Trial of the Chicago 7, WMAQ-TV courtroom artist Verna Sadock made this original drawing, which she signed to Bill Zwecker. Estimate: $200-300.

The above items you can find in Hindman’s auction catalog with estimates, but we talked with Bill and poked around on our own to find other surprises in the sale.

Tom Hanks won an Oscar nomination for his role in Cast Away as the Federal Express employee who survives a plane crash at sea.  During four lonely years on a desert island, his only hope is that a plane will fly over and see his pathetic HELP message written in the sand.

During that time the poor guy’s only friend is a volleyball named Wilson (well, it’s written right there on the ball). Here’s the star holding a miniature of the ball given to media members.

But then yesterday Hindman sent over a shot of the ball Tom signed for Bill, with HELP! in the big letters above his signature. No estimate here, but it has got to be a favorite.

Actor Jeff Bridges is known to Hollywood insiders for shooting candid photos on sets of the films he makes, working between takes and behind the scenes. After the film is finished, the shots are published in privately printed books, which he gives as gifts to cast, crew and special friends—like Bill Zwecker. Above is a candid of Toby Maguire with Director Gary Ross from Seabiscuit. The Seabiscuit book and others, including one from the filming of The Contender, are in the November l9 auction, as well as, below, his book from The Big Lebowski, the acclaimed Coen Brothers film starring Jeff with Julianne Moore and John Goodman.

The auction, Seeing Stars: Property from the Collection of Bill Zwecker, will be held online from Thursday, October 28 and continue into November 19, when live online bidding will take place  through the Hindman Digital Bid Room. https://hindmanauctions.com/digital-bid-room.

Bidders can also bid on the Hindman app, which can be downloaded and used on iOS or Android. The Hindman app can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play


Edited by Amanda K. O’Brien

Author Photo: Robert F.Carl




Hindman Auctions: John Fornengo Properties







The Hindman Auctions catalogue for January 19-20 European Furniture and Decorative Arts auction, including property from the estate of John D. Fornengo, unfolds in a magnificent fashion. Photographs of Fornengo’s Gold Coast home, long a symbol of resplendent hospitality planned by one of Chicago’s most beloved people of all time, are accompanied by a tribute from his longtime friend interior designer Allesandra Branca.


Fornengo Entry Foyer

Fornengo Library

Branca notes, in part:

“John and his wife DeeDee were our dearest friends for over 40 years, and together we shared the love of collecting.  Their natural eye for quality and beauty was evident as early as our college years. Those instincts, combined with an infinite amount of curiosity, led to the creation of beautiful homes as well as wonderful collections to furnish them.  They filled their homes with beautiful objects, and, most importantly, centered their homes around the cherished time spent with their adored children and dear friends.  They did not collect to show off but rather to enjoy the objects…. their understanding of quality came from a discipline of study and experience, along with an innate knowledge of what was best.

“There are so many pieces that traveled from place to place through the years… a beautiful bronze sculpture of a young man that John bought as his FIRST piece (even when they did not own a stick of furniture) to the wonderful 18th century portraits and landscapes that were mixed in with DeeDee’s inherited family heirlooms.  Every item was beautiful unto itself and was incorporated into carefully curated, chic interiors DeeDee created for her family.  Now this collection of art and objects can be shared with others who will no doubt enjoy them for the same reasons John and DeeDee did, and will give them a continued life in new environments.”

Fornengo Dining Room

Fornengo Living Room

The auction features 44 pieces from the Fornengo estate as well as subsequent auctions on March 26, April 23 and June l.

Jay Krehbiel, CEO of the Chicago-based Hindman Auctions, writes of the auction:

“We are honored to include the property from the Estate of John Fornengo in our European & Decorative Arts auction this month.  John was a friend of mine, as well as a friend of our founder, Leslie Hindman.  Leslie and John worked together in the very early days of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, and I hope we are able to honor his life and legacy, as well as his love of collecting, with this sale which highlights his beautiful art and objects.” 

A French Porcelain and Gilt Bronze Mantel Clock 19th Century the dial signed Lieutand Paris, the movement stamped FRANCE and numbered 336. Height 9 3/4 x width 7 x depth 4 inches. Property from the Estate of John D. Fornengo, Chicago, Illinois Estimate: $800 – $1,200

 We spoke with Corbin Horn, Director and Senior Specialist for Furniture and Decorative Arts for Hindman, about the items at auction, and he shared:

“John Fornengo’s collection really demonstrates the way that one is supposed to collect for a historic home – you don’t acquire solely on your own impulse; you let the house dictate what you should collect. Every room in John and DeeDee’s house, it felt, was built around a theme. There was a completely different mood from one room to the next, so it would have been great fun for a guest to wander from one to another. These were people who knew the history of design, traveled extensively and saw the great houses of the world, and appreciated historic architecture. It is evident in everything they collected.”

A Pair of Louis XV Style Parquetry Marble-Top Side Tables Late 19th Century Height 30 x width 17 1/2 x depth 14 inches. Property from the Estate of John D. Fornengo, Chicago, Illinois Estimate: $800 – $1,200

“The word ‘exuberant’ could easily be used to describe John and DeeDee’s rooms – what fun. They used daring colors and whimsy and surprises in every corner. I knew John but I never had the pleasure of meeting DeeDee. I’m not sure whether the humor in their taste was more his touch or hers – I suspect a bit of both. These were people who lived formally but knew not to take themselves too seriously. They wanted everyone who came to their home to be delighted.”

A Pair of Chinese Chippendale Style Giltwood Wall Brackets Italy, Early 20th Century Height 36 x width 16 inches. Property from the Estate of John D. Fornengo, Chicago, Illinois Estimate: $800 – $1,200

A Louis XVI Style Marble-Top Mahogany Bouillotte Table 19th Century Height 30 x width 25 1/2 x depth 25 1/2 inches. Property from the Estate of John D. Fornengo, Chicago, Illinois Provenance: Richard Norton, Inc., Chicago Estimate: $400 – $600

“I have many favorites among the furniture and works

of art that we will offer from the Fornengo collection, but high on my list are a pair of ‘Chinese Chippendale’ style wall shelves (lot 3) that exemplify both the whimsy and exoticism that you see throughout their collection. I also love a simple mahogany bouillotte table (lot 10) that at first glance is rather low key, but the top is made of brocatelle violette d’Espagne, one of the more exotic and one of my favorite marbles. There is a fabulous red secretary desk (lot 16) that, while not of the George III period, is a stellar reproduction and would make such a statement in anybody’s living room or library.



A Georgian Style Painted Secretary Bookcase 20th Century Height 98 x width 37 x depth 19 inches. Property from the Estate of John D. Fornengo, Chicago, Illinois Note: Gilt chinoiserie decoration was hand-painted by Simes Studios, Chicago, 1999 Estimate: $200 – $400

A George II Carved Giltwood Cartel Clock Mid-18th Century the dial inscribed Hutchinson Norwich, the reverse numbered V1241 in pencil. Height 46 x width 22 inches. Property from the Estate of John D. Fornengo, Chicago, Illinois Provenance: Sotheby’s, New York, A Celebration of the English Country House, April 9, 2009, Lot 97 Estimate: $2,000 – $3,000

 I also have to mention a very fine 18th century Georgian cartel clock (lot 21) that is phenomenally carved and topped with – wait for it – a crowing rooster. Too funny. Lots 29 and 29A, are a matching set of paintings depicting exotic birds, in the style of the Hungarian painter Jakob Bogdani, that are getting a lot of attention from bidders in advance of the auction.”

After Jakob Bogdani (Hungarian, 1658-1724) 19th Century Exotic Birds in a Garden oil on canvas laid to board unsigned 45 3/8 x 32 1/8 inches. Property from the Estate of John D. Fornengo, Chicago, Illinois Provenance: The Closson Galleries, Cincinnati, Ohio Estimate: $500 – $700

After Jakob Bogdani (Hungarian, 1658-1724) 19th Century Exotic Birds in a Garden oil on canvas laid to board unsigned 45 3/8 x 32 1/8 inches. Property from the Estate of John D. Fornengo, Chicago, Illinois Provenance: The Closson Galleries, Cincinnati, Ohio Estimate: $500 – $700

“Curating the sale of such a larger-than-life figure is an enormous honor and an enormous responsibility. Our firm always strives to tell the story of a person’s collecting legacy; we are great at marketing special collections and we make sure the collector’s personality can be seen and felt through our catalogues. There are a lot of moving parts when we approach a project like this, and when the collector was so beloved by so many, it makes our work more complex, but also more rewarding.”

A Pair of Victorian Mother-of-Pearl Inlaid Étagères 19th Century Height 47 x width 25 x depth 16 inches. Property from the Estate of John D. Fornengo, Chicago, Illinois Provenance: Sold Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, December, 2004, Lot 135 Estimate: $400 – $600

“John and DeeDee loved having people over. I encourage everyone who is looking at the collection to also view the photos of their rooms which are published in our catalogue and online. It is so important to appreciate the objects and works of art in that context. And for anyone who is interested in a copy of the catalogue as a memento, they are available for purchase and the staff at Hindman are ready to assist.”

A Louis XVI Painted Settee 18th Century Height 34 x width 63 x depth 30 inches. Property from the Estate of John D. Fornengo, Chicago, Illinois Provenance: Estate of William Nicholas Roos, Fort Lauderdale, Florida Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, December 5, 2010, Lot 53 Estimate: $800 – $1,200

A Pair of Louis XVI Carved and Gray-Painted Side Chairs Late 18th Century Height 33 1/2 x width 18 1/2 x depth 17 inches. Property from the Estate of John D. Fornengo, Chicago, Illinois Provenance: Sotheby’s, New York, Property from the Estate of Brooke Astor, September 25, 2012, Lot 715 Estimate: $400 – $600

We asked Horn if they are expecting any records to be set?

“We do not expect records to be set, but one never knows! There has been a great deal of interest in several of his items. The market responds favorably to a single-owner collection, and John Fornengo was well-enough known as a collector that we are seeing even greater enthusiasm for his property.”

What items in particular have generated much attention?

“Several lots from John’s collection are getting especially high attention; primarily among his paintings, but also the clock with a rooster which I mentioned earlier. Other than the clock, by far the lots getting the most attention are the paintings in the style of Bogdani (lots 29 and 29A). We have received inquiries about them from all over the world. Exotic birds are always popular subject matter, and these works are highly decorative. I expect them to sell for more than the estimates.”

What makes this sale particularly timely?

“It is a great time to sell works of art and decorative arts at auction. Throughout the entire pandemic period, our sale prices have been 10-20 percent higher than normal. People are thinking about their homes and keeping busy by acquiring, now that fewer of us are able to travel and so many are working from home. Real estate sales are booming, and the real estate market is closely related to the auction market, for obvious reasons. It will be exciting to see how the Fornengo property performs in this climate.”

A George III Gilt and Lacquered Tall Case Clock Late 18th/Early 19th Century Height 86 x width 19 x depth 9 1/2 inches. Property from the Estate of John D. Fornengo, Chicago, Illinois Estimate: $1,500 – $2,500

Maggie Porter, Hindman’s Vice President of Sales Strategy, added:

“Hindman was thrilled to see such strong bidding engagement in auctions across all collecting categories in 2020, especially during such a uniquely challenging year. We were so pleased by how bidders responded to our thoughtfully curated sales throughout the year. As we move into the new year, we are eager to share the Digital Bid Room, our new online and mobile bidding platform, which will create a far more streamlined experience for all of our clients. This platform is designed to create a more streamlined experience and is directly synced with clients’ accounts. Clients will now be able to live stream auctions and place bids from anywhere in the world. The unveiling of this platform builds on Hindman’s growth strategy by expanding the auction house’s digital capabilities.”

A Louis XV Style Gilt Bronze and Porcelain Clock Garniture Late 19th/Early 20th Century the movement stamped Paintre France/ No Adjustments/ 13 Thirteen Jewels/ 2856. Height of mantel clock 13 1/4 x width 12 5/8 inches. Property from the Estate of John D. Fornengo, Chicago, Illinois Estimate: $800 – $1,200

John Fornengo showed his gift of kindness to everyone he met.  He was a founding advisor of Classic Chicago Magazine, and in an article we wrote at the time of his death in August 2019, so many people said he made everyone feel that they were his best friend. We quoted one of his dear friends and Classic Chicago columnists, Mary Ellen Christy who said:

“John looked like David Niven, dressed like Cary Grant, danced like Fred Astaire and played the piano like Peter Duchin.

“But he had a heart of gold.  He never forgot the things he learned growing up in central Illinois and it was the rich black dirt of our heartland that flowed through his veins.  There was never anyone quite like him, the kindest of men.

“Quite simply, John was the best, proudest and more joyous father around with his children Daisy, Augie and Ally.”

The Hindman auction will bring back such fine memories for countless friends blessed by his hospitality amidst the beauty of his collections.

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