There's a big plaster duck in the driveway of Rick Orr's mobile home. If you know Rick Orr, you know this can't possibly be just any plaster duck; it's almost certainly one of the world's rarest plaster ducks, probably worth tens of thousands of dollars and crafted by some dead guy no one's ever heard of but whose work is deeply coveted. And given the duck's placement, about halfway between the door of Orr's house and the bumper of his big, beat-up Ford van, you — if you know Rick Orr — would have to assume the duck is about to be delivered by Rick to some rich guy who's waiting anxiously for the duck's arrival. Someone who will peel several large bills from a thick roll and hand them to Rick Orr. And you'd be right about everything but that last part. The duck is inestimably rare, and it is on its way to the home of a local gazillionaire. But the rich guy won't be paying thousands of dollars to Rick Orr — who's spent his whole adult life schlepping rare artifacts from other people's driveways to the homes of wealthy collectors; whose lifelong knack for finding fine art in dusty attics is so renowned, it's the subject of a new documentary film — for the plaster duck. He'll be paying Orr a couple of bucks for fixing the duck's beak. Because Orr, who's made his living for nearly 40 years hunting for treasure among other people's trash, is presently making money as a handyman to the rich people to whom he used to sell million-dollar paintings.

If he's lately reduced to repairing expensive lawn ornaments, Orr is still known among the art collectors and dealers who've heard of him — and they are legion — as the King of the Pickers. At the height of his game he was, according to Benjamin Storck, an art dealer in Palm Springs, "the single most impressive finder of fine art and important furnishings in the country. Perhaps in the world. He was the picker."

Orr prefers to think of himself as a treasure hunter, but he'll cop to "picker," the term used in the antiques and fine art worlds to describe men and women who scout out valuables at yard sales and then mark them up and sell them to dealers, who in turn mark them up again and sell them to us.

For old-school art pickers, the thrill is fading — and so's the payoff.
Jamie Peachey
For old-school art pickers, the thrill is fading — and so's the payoff.

Orr’s version of the untitled Picasso painting that started it all.
Jamie Peachey
Orr’s version of the untitled Picasso painting that started it all.
Be it ever so humble: Orr’s new home in an East Valley mobile home park.
Jamie Peachey
Be it ever so humble: Orr’s new home in an East Valley mobile home park.
Among the few pieces Orr has kept over the years are this hand-carved wooden bull and a Herman Miller pine bench.
Jamie Peachey
Among the few pieces Orr has kept over the years are this hand-carved wooden bull and a Herman Miller pine bench.
In better days, Orr didn’t have time to store paintings; they flew off his walls.
Jamie Peachey
In better days, Orr didn’t have time to store paintings; they flew off his walls.
“I lived in a furniture gallery growing up,” says Orr’s daughter, Shannon.
Jamie Peachey
“I lived in a furniture gallery growing up,” says Orr’s daughter, Shannon.
This Anthony Palazzo painting is among Lesko’s favorites of Orr’s finds.
courtesy of Kenneth Lesko
This Anthony Palazzo painting is among Lesko’s favorites of Orr’s finds.
Orr bought this Francesco Ruschi painting from a slum in Glendale and sold it to a museum in Italy.
film still from Picking for Picasso
Orr bought this Francesco Ruschi painting from a slum in Glendale and sold it to a museum in Italy.
Orr found this Lon Megargee painting for gallery owner Steve Stoops.
Jamie Peachey
Orr found this Lon Megargee painting for gallery owner Steve Stoops.
Gallery owner Benjamin Storck bought this rare 1930s Warren McArthur aluminum armchair, which originally resided in the Arizona Biltmore, from Rick Orr.
courtesy of Benjamin Storck
Gallery owner Benjamin Storck bought this rare 1930s Warren McArthur aluminum armchair, which originally resided in the Arizona Biltmore, from Rick Orr.
Orr with RED Modern Furniture owner Jonathan Wayne, who calls Orr “an anomaly in this industry.”
Jamie Peachey
Orr with RED Modern Furniture owner Jonathan Wayne, who calls Orr “an anomaly in this industry.”
Pick me a winner: Orr at work.
Jamie Peachey
Pick me a winner: Orr at work.
Jamie Peachey
On the road again: During leaner times, Orr has lived in his Ford van.
Jamie Peachey
On the road again: During leaner times, Orr has lived in his Ford van.

Call them what you like (and some call them vultures), pickers are a dying breed. eBay, the Internet auction site, has seen to that. As has Craigslist. And other Internet auction houses. And PBS's Antiques Roadshow.

"They're killing us off," Orr says. "Nowadays Grandma dies, and her kids put the china on eBay, and they overprice it because they saw some poor slob get a thousand bucks for a teacup on TV. Instead of sticking stuff into a yard sale for $5, they're putting it on eBay for $150. It's the death of my industry, man."

These days, the King of the Pickers would gladly trade his kingdom for a decent oil painting.

He's had them, too. Highly prized Expressionist paintings and dead-mint Alexander Calder rugs and Georg Jensen bracelets, too. Some he's found in galleries or antique stores, then marked up 700 percent and immediately resold. Most he's discovered at flea markets, thrift shops, and estate sales, those halfway houses for fine art that no one recognizes: "ugly" paintings he buys for $50 and resells for $50,000.

It's that Picasso that Orr remembers most, though, the untitled painting that Orr calls Three Wise Men. It's the painting that ignited his career as a picker, in 1979. He thinks about it every day while he's out treasure-hunting, hoping he'll find something as rare and beautiful as that painting, which has an estimated value of $20 million and which, at that estate sale, was priced at $500. The story of the painting that got away is the backdrop of Orr's new no-budget movie, Picking for Picasso, about the fate of the American picker. Both the movie and Orr's story have a happy ending, although neither narrative may be entirely true. At the moment, Orr isn't saying.

"What is true," he says, patting the plaster duck's head as he heads toward his truck, "is there might be treasure out there today. And I'm going to go find out."


Time was, finding treasure at tag sales and junk shops was as easy as getting into your car and heading for them. Michael Robertson, who did most of his own picking for the antique shops he once owned in Phoenix and San Diego, recalls having to get up at 4 in the morning to stand in line at better estate sales, which Robertson calls "a kind of an indoor yard sale, where usually the homeowner has died and everything in the house, even the aspirin in the medicine chest, is for sale.

"It was insane," he recalls of picking's glory days. "The estate company would open the doors to the pickers, and they'd charge in. Leaping over sofas, knocking each other down. I'd see Rick in that line, usually toward the front, and he'd just calmly walk through and point to things. 'I'll take that and that and that.' He had a good eye, and he was polite, but I think people were put off by him. He's very intense and quiet, and — how can I say this nicely? Rick doesn't really look like most other pickers."

Indeed. With his trademark head rag — he has a seemingly endless supply in various shades and patterns — wraparound sunglasses, and carefully sculpted, graying facial hair, Orr looks more like a Central Casting biker than a man in search of a Stickley dining suite. Think Bruce Willis without the swagger. Mickey Rourke before the plastic surgery. Pickers, one imagines, would be slender, effeminate men and better-than-middle-aged housewives with an eye for Hummel figurines, not gruff, articulate, middle-aged dudes with a droopy goatee and a voice like gravel frying in brown butter.

The dealers Orr sells to aren't paying for appearances. They want his eye for rare stuff. "You can't buy what Rick has," according to Jonathan Wayne, who owns RED Modern Furniture in Phoenix and has bought from Orr for nearly 10 years. "You can't train people to know what he knows. He's an anomaly — a fair businessman with amazing knowledge about art and furniture."

It's knowledge Orr's refined over a lifetime of picking. He built his secondhand empire buying big-deal paintings for $5 and reselling them for thousands. He started as a kid, growing up in Hollywood and raised by a mother Orr describes as "a hippie with little ambition." Dad was small-time movie actor Greg Benedict (you can see him in the 1963 Troy Donahue picture Palm Springs Weekend), whom Orr rarely saw.

"My stepbrother and I would go pester this old guy in our neighborhood named Junkman Jack," Orr recalls. "He'd go out picking, be gone for a week, and come home with these great stories and a truck full of stuff — Tiffany lamps and cool old furniture. He gave me a glimpse into a world most kids wouldn't care about."

Orr cared. Deeply. He dropped out of school at 15, scrounged up enough to buy a used truck, and became consumed with picking. Eventually, treasure-hunting took its toll on Orr's personal life. When he was married, he saw his wife only once a week; when he was home, he was on the phone brokering art deals. Time spent with his daughter, Shannon, usually involved camping out overnight in front of estate sales so Orr could be first in line when the house opened the next morning. Eventually, his wife left him.

He might have picked for a few more years, then moved on to something else — perhaps opened a gallery in Los Angeles or become a dealer himself — if he hadn't spotted that Picasso hanging over the mantel of a spec home in the desert north of Scottsdale where Orr had come to scrounge.

"The house was crammed with all kinds of sculpture and studio pottery and fine art," he remembers. "The sellers didn't know what they had, so everything was priced cheap. I turned the corner, and there was this Cubist painting of three figures. Lots of bright colors. It was beautiful, and it was priced at $500 — more money than I had in the world at the time. I was paying for my stuff and this lady walked up with the painting under her arm, handed the seller cash, and left."

A few days later, leafing through a book on Spanish painters, Orr spotted a photo of the painting he'd just missed owning. "It was a Picasso," he says with quiet despair. "It got away from me, and I've been chasing it ever since."

The one about the valuable painting procured from a garage sale is an oft-told tale — and more often than not, it seems, the painting is one by Picasso. Last year, an early watercolor by the famed painter was found in an attic in Dorchester, Dorset, England. The year before, a Carolina Beach, North Carolina, couple bought a Picasso for a dollar at an estate sale. And just this past October, a Shreveport, Louisiana, woman paid $2 for a Picasso at a yard sale. "It just kind of caught my eye," she told a local news reporter. "It looks like a woman, holding a guitar or possibly a baby."

Orr doesn't begrudge these folks their yard-sale Picassos. "The guy was prolific," he says, laughing. "He paid bar tabs with paintings. And then there are the copies — good ones, too. That one in Shreveport doesn't look right to me. I've seen fakes, but I'm not fooled. I keep right on going."

Orr is holding out for the real thing. It's a quest that once made him a very wealthy man — and, more recently, an extremely poor one.

"I have a decent head for business, but when things were going great, I lived large," he admits. "I'd drive by a Mercedes dealership and see a car I liked and go in and write a check. I drove a Rolls and a Bentley. I had homes here and in L.A. I had huge years where I could afford to live like that. I didn't know it would end. I figured, people will always die; they'll leave behind valuable stuff I can buy and resell. I thought I could always make good money."

He was apparently mistaken. Orr sold his last Mercedes, a G-500, in 2007; he needed the cash for picking. He lost his home, and he had to sell off his personal possessions as the Internet gobbled up his business, putting him and many other pickers mostly out to pasture.

These were losses that Orr sustained with good grace. There's an excruciatingly obvious but unavoidable irony in Orr's life: He's a minimalist.

"You get jaded, being in the stuff business," he offers. "I have a couple of cool things I've kept through the years because they had stories behind them that meant something to me, but when business took a dive, I sold them off. My rule is, 'Everything is for sale.'"

No one knows this rule better than Shannon Narron, Orr's 27-year-old daughter. She lived with her dad through her teen years, and remembers on more than one occasion coming home to find the sofa gone.

"I grew up in a gallery of constantly rotating furniture and artwork," Narron says with no trace of bitterness. "Nothing stayed long. If he got a good price for it, it was out the door."

She's proud of what her father made of his life, she says. Her childhood taught her to roll with punches, helped her grow a tough skin. She needed one, growing up in Scottsdale.

"My friends' dads were lawyers and doctors," she explains. "Nobody I knew even knew what a picker was. I couldn't have a sleepover because the beds might have been sold the day before. Or because there was no place to sleep over at, because we weren't living anywhere."

It was embarrassing, she says. But there were good times. "Dad would get a big score, and we'd go out to dinner and have fun and he'd be real happy. Then there were weeks where he wasn't finding anything, and it was macaroni and cheese and hanging around the house. Which was okay, too."

Narron remains bewildered, she says, by her father's ability to survive without what she considers essential comforts. "I always ask him, 'How can you not have a toaster?' I go to see him, and he has this great piece of art, but there's nothing to sit on."

"I have always been mystified by the value of things," Orr says. "I've sold quarter-million-dollar paintings to guys who just bought a signature on a piece of old canvas. I've sold valuable paintings to people who have said, 'Can you hold the check until payday?' I'd want to say, 'Are you shitting me? You're spending next week's paycheck on a painting instead of food?' But I'd be like, 'Okay. Whatever. I'll hold your check for $10,000.'"

Those days are long past. Earlier this year, one of Orr's most reliable clients, an art collector in Maui, returned to Orr a canvas he'd been considering for some weeks. "The guy loved the painting," Orr says, "but he said, 'I can't buy it because I lost $10 million on the stock market last week.' You know you're in trouble when billionaires are passing on your stuff."


The world's most famous picker is on the prowl. It's nearly lunchtime on a Saturday in early fall; Orr has been driving around the many cities and towns that make up metropolitan Phoenix since before 8 a.m. — practically the middle of the day for a professional picker — looking for posterboard signs pointing to estate sales. In the old days, he'd have left the house before the sun rose. "And," he says, jabbing a thumb behind him at the empty interior of his van, "this truck would have been packed with amazing things. Packed."

Monday used to be Sun City day; Tuesday he'd have headed to Apache Junction. He drove farther, too: to Prescott once a week, to Flagstaff every other week. A weekly haul from Las Vegas always netted him an unusual amount of Mid-Century Modern furniture. He knew on what day each thrift store in Los Angeles and Orange County put out new merchandise. Most shops held items for him, based on what he'd bought from them the last time he was there. Once his van was full, he'd head home.

"When I was pounding hard, I was covering an entire half of the Valley in a day," he says. "There was plenty of competition back then, but if some other guy got something I'd missed, I thought, 'Eh. There's so much crap out here, I don't even care.'"

Today, he barely slows his van as he cruises past the umpteenth north Scottsdale estate sale of the morning. He can tell, he says, whether there's anything interesting inside based on what's for sale on the driveway. "Piles of baby clothes out front," he explains, "means flatware from IKEA in the kitchen."

Orr pulls up in front of a tract home draped with a banner announcing "Susie's Estate Sales!" and disappears inside. The house smells like adult diapers and despair. A cheerful woman clutching a cash box near the door calls out, "We're makin' deals today, fellas!" A handmade sign behind her reads, "Hi-Fi not for sell."

With a little coaching from Orr, it's easy to spot the other pickers: They're quiet, moving quickly through the house. They're not the gals chatting while they paw through a box of soiled linens marked "$2 each, firm!" or the fellow considering the dented cookie press for 75 cents. One picker holds up a Fiestaware disc pitcher, and his companion rolls her eyes and whispers, "Repro!" The two head for the door.

Orr is already outside, grabbing a quick smoke before moving on. He can case a house in less than a minute, pausing only briefly to touch an oil painting or squint quickly at a tabletop sculpture. "She had crap paintings marked $330," he grouses, climbing into his van. "She figures, 'Okay, it's an oil painting, it's got to be worth at least $100.' It's junk. Today she's selling this garbage for half-price, and tomorrow she'll end up donating it to Goodwill."

A sale around the corner offers more of the same. "It can get nasty sometimes if it's a house full of good stuff," Orr cautions. "There's a notorious picker named Michelle who will trip you to get to a wall sconce."

Picking is highly competitive. "Very few of us are friends. We don't network," Orr says, snorting out a quick laugh. "There are a couple of guys I talk to, we help each other out from time to time. But it takes a long time to form that kind of relationship. There's not a lot of camaraderie."

Orr stops his car to let a little girl on a tricycle cross the street. He waves at her as she passes, then points to a sign hanging from a nearby tree. "Yard Sale Every Sunday Beanie Babies," it reads.

"The whole damn world is selling stuff," he says. "They're living the dream, man."


The art dealer Benjamin Storck remembers the moment he suspected pickers might go the way of eight-track tapes and carbon paper.

"I was at a smaller store in Palm Springs," says Storck, who operates art and designer furniture galleries in New Jersey and Los Angeles and has been buying from Rick Orr for years. "And when the seller saw that it was me buying things, he told me everything I was interested in was already sold." Shortly after, Storck found the items for sale on the Internet for a higher price. "The seller figured if I wanted them, it was to mark them up for resale. He wanted my markup for himself. It was a very sad 'Aha' moment."

Orr didn't see the slump coming. "Then one day I got a call from someone selling a Guy Rose painting." he recalls. "I get there and the seller starts pulling out auction records and computer printouts. And he's like, 'The last Guy Rose sold for $50,000, so we want at least that much.'"

Joel Hamilton, owner of Phoenix's Antique Artisan Marketplace, blames Antiques Roadshow, the snoozy public television series in which average Joes are told the value of ephemera from their attics. "In one episode, Doris brings her cuckoo clock to the show, and surprise! It's worth $25,000. And then antique dealers get to spend the next three months explaining that not every cuckoo clock is worth that much. Yours is worth seven dollars."

Hamilton doesn't much like eBay, either. By making rare objects immediately available, the site has decreased the value of pretty much every collectible, while erroneously inflating the price on even worthless junk.

Orr wishes he'd exploited Internet auctions when he had the chance. "I was too old-school about picking," he admits. "There were guys who jumped right on the eBay bandwagon, and now they're doing all their buying and selling on the computer. In their pajamas, man! I tried selling stuff online, but I thought it was a trend."

In fact, it turned out to be the beginning of the end. "Every year got a little worse until there was nothing left," Orr says. "Up until about three years ago, I could still find a $40,000 or $50,000 pick. Two of those a year, all in cash, and I was set. Now even 89-year-old women are computer-savvy, and they're online selling the contents of their basements. And I, to put it politely, am screwed."

Ken Lesko of Cleveland's Kenneth Paul Lesko Galleries is even more polite. "People simply do not care about the death of the American picker," Lesko says. "Well, some dealers care. But by and large, collectors are thrilled that the Internet has made things easier to obtain. What's gone is the kind of knowledge that someone like Rick brings to this business. He could stand across the room from your painting and tell if it was a copy. Can eBay do that for you?"

Lesko, who was himself a picker for 35 years before opening his popular gallery, met Orr in the 1980s on a trip to Phoenix. "He had this little vacuum cleaner shop where he sold antiques and art. I walked in and introduced myself, and he ended up helping me find a rare and valuable Kazimierz Zieleniewski painting that I only recently sold. He's been a great friend — another service eBay can't provide."

Being a good friend doesn't pay the bills. "I've got to start making money again," Orr says. "I can't just keep existing. I need a Plan B."

Actually, Orr has a Plan B, although he's not quick to admit it. He's secretly hoping that the little homemade movie about his life will wind up on the film festival circuit, generate some buzz, and land him some Hollywood dough. Maybe some film mogul will option it and reshoot it with actors, and Orr can live off royalty checks.

The story (as told by Rick Orr himself) goes that, while Orr was scrounging around, trying to make a living picking in a post-eBay world, he was approached by a couple of college kids who wanted to make a movie about his life. Orr declined, but the film students kept after him until he finally relented. On one condition: He'd do all the filming himself. The young men agreed and, a few months later, Orr returned their camera and the several "rolls of film" from which Picking for Picasso was culled.

The direct-to-DVD film, in which Orr is the only person seen, is riveting in a serene, sluggish way. Orr chats amiably about picking while driving around town in search of treasure. He looks straight into the camera that's wedged onto the dashboard of his van and reminisces about his glory days: the time he found a stack of rare Helmut Newton photos; the 350-year-old Francesco Ruschi painting he bought from a slum in Glendale and sold for six figures to a museum in Italy. We watch him broker a deal for a small, unimportant painting, purchase a William Saltzman canvas at an auction, drive past his recently foreclosed house in Scottsdale. ("I came home last week, and they'd changed the locks," he tells the camera. "There was a note on the door from the sheriff telling me not to go in.") There are lots of shots of Arizona desert rolling past his van window; stark footage of jumbled junk shop interiors; an endless parade of Orr's many head rags.

"If this movie sucks you in," says Steve Stoops, owner of Stevens Fine Art in Phoenix, "it's because Rick's depression is so contagious." Stoops, who's known Orr for 15 years, recently showed the movie to houseguests who have no interest in art or antiques. "And they were spellbound, because it's a movie about a world most people don't even know exists. It's a captivating story."

It's also a vaguely disingenuous one. The one-sided phone conversations — a testy one with a client who owes Orr money; an emotional one with his daughter, who's too busy to see him — seem staged and stilted, and some of the speeches about waiting for that big find seem rehearsed. The film commences with Orr telling the story of that first Picasso, and ends with him, on his way to check out a storage unit full of junk, running out of gas. He walks the rest of the way to the appointment, and the film wraps up with a montage of newspaper headlines (e.g., "Man Finds Lost Picasso for the Second Time") suggesting that, among the pots and pans and other ephemera in that storage unit, Orr discovered — and bought — the very same Picasso painting that breathed life into his career.

But a little quick digging on the Internet (that 21st-century scourge of the picker) turns up absolutely no evidence of such a news story, a story that would certainly have merited a column inch or two. And, of course, there's the obvious question: If Orr actually did again find and resell the painting he calls Three Wise Men, why is he presently living in a mobile-home park?

Orr caves in immediately when asked about the veracity of his biopic. "I never meant for the movie to be taken as completely autobiographical," he says. "That's why I never say my name in the film. It's more a movie about a guy very much like me, but with a more hopeful ending to his story."

Okay. What about the college kids who made the film? "That part's made up, too," Orr confesses. "I shot it with my own camera, and I hired a guy off Craigslist to edit it for me."

All this truth-bending might make one wonder just exactly how much of Rick Orr's life story is invented, if it weren't that he's so forthright about being a loser.

"Why the hell would anyone make up a story about a guy who's spent his life doing nothing but driving around," he asks, "pawing through other people's junk?"


Rick Orr has been driving around pawing through other people's junk all day long. All he's come up with today is a pair of small seascapes by the German painter Otto Nautschmann, for which he paid $35 at a yard sale. "I'll probably get $100 for them," he says. "It's not big money, but it's something. It keeps me motivated, keeps me hopeful that there's still something left out there."

Orr makes one last stop at a downtown thrift. The owner greets him at the door with a hug. While they chat, Orr circles the store, touching canvases as if the texture of their dried paint can tell him about their value. His phone rings, and he excuses himself to talk to a client.

The client is calling to say she has cancer. She's recently purchased a piece of Paolo Venini glass for $12,000 and is trying to sell it to help pay her medical bills. She'll take $6,000 for the piece, which is among her favorites. Orr tells her he's sorry. He calls her "Hon." He says that not only is her piece of glass only worth a couple grand in today's market, but he thinks she should sell it for whatever she can get. Her health, he reminds her, is more important than Italian glass.

"It's the economy, man," Orr says, hanging up and heading for his van. "People have lost their jobs, and they're looking at their collections of crap crammed into a half-million dollar house in Gainey Ranch and they're going, 'Man, I wish I had a one-bedroom condo and a bunch of money in the bank right about now.'"

He's headed home now. Along the way, he pulls into the parking lot of a dentist's office on Thomas Road. "This was my building here," he says of the low, flagstone-covered building by lauded modernist architect Al Beadle. "My daughter and I lived in the back, and I had a storefront where I'd meet dealers. Those were good times."

Good times are pretty much gone, Orr fears. He can't manipulate the end of his real life the way he did the movie version of himself. He's thought about opening a gallery, but even if he had the capital, he's not cut out for sitting still long enough to run one. "Anyway, I hate the idea of all that schmoozing and party-throwing and telling people how great they look," he says, pulling into his driveway.

What he really wants to do is walk into an estate sale and find a Picasso hanging over someone's mantel. And if he does, will he use the proceeds to retire to a sunny cottage near the sea?

Rick Orr squints through his windshield at the plaster duck staring at him from just outside his front door.

"The truth," he finally says, "is that even if I never found another thing, I'd want to spend the rest of my life picking."

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9 comments
PhoenixPicker
PhoenixPicker

There are still places to make money, you just have to know where to find them!

Gai1959
Gai1959

I knew your dad. Gary @gai1959@aol.com

helentroy4
helentroy4

Read this story when it first came out. He better speed up the production of his film because tonight I saw a commercial on one of the cable stations for a new show about "pickers." On the History Channel I believe. It's called "American Pickers."

Looks like his "Pablo 15 minutes of fame" has already been given to someone else.

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Robert W. Gately
Robert W. Gately

I would be remissed if I did not tell Rick Orr that his film would be totally enjoyed by Himself, Dennis Hopper, a man made clean and sober by his dad, Owen Orr, as indeed his Dad did tell me the story.

I was living with Owen at an apartment house he was manager of for and owned by the Directors Guild of America behind their Sunset Blvd headquarters. Owen burst in on me one afternoon and said, "Come on, I need you to ride shotgun." I got off the bed, threw some water on my face and said, "Wha ?"...He explained that some East El Aye punks had broken into Dennis Hoppers agent/managers Mercedes and snatched his briefcase with four signed, sealed and delivered movie deals. We drove down the Strip to the agent/managers office and were delivered right in where set a discolate Dennis Hopper and his main man. The deal was that we were to go down to the Watts neigborhood corner the banditos had directed him to and he was to pass a grand ($1000) and get the briefcase back.

We drove down in Owens puke smelling Cadillac to the corner and parked across the street from the drop zone. There was a gang of , what did we call them, Niggers hanging there and we were like standing out like white narcs at a bust about to happen.I pointed out to Owen that their were eight of them and only two of us and we didnt have even a tire iron to confront them with if the deal went wrong...The agent/manager pulled up, took down his right side window and we saw him and the nigger pass an envelope and the briefcase...the deal was done as the agent/manager checked to see the papers were there. Whew ! We drove back to Hollywood wondering what ta fuck we would have done if the niggers had jumped the agent/manager, took the dough and closed the show. We'll never know as it all turned out just fine. One can only wonder how dem black boys knew that them papers was worth a grand ?

We could go on and on as our adventures with Owen Orr continued, Ricks father was a never ending source of wonderment to all of us who knew him well, and didnt...You could look into his burning Irish eyes and see hell didnt have a chance and he did indeed teach us all how to dance beyond the demons rums trance....Blessed are the Owens who would take us to a place we could not get to without them....

RWG

Robert W. Gately
Robert W. Gately

Yeah, Rick Orr is a pure picker, seeking treasures in other peoples recycled treasures. I too am a picker, I pick among obscure books and newspapers to hopefully find a gem or two that can be recycled in my memoirs. In ,"Chasing Pablo: For Old School Art Pickers, the Thrill is Fading...and so's the Payoff", I was gifted with finding the son of one of the most towering people in my life, his father, Owen Orr, aka, Greg Benedict, the actor. Thank you Robert Pela for bringing my ole pals son to our attention and consideration.

Owen Orr was indeed a towering figure in my high school days in Riverside , California. At 6'4" and with a face that could have been chisled by Michaelanglo,the story on his arrival was as a Bad Assed Mick that could lick any bully that dare bugged his Buddies. He was Old World Irish it was said, a fighter and an actor who would not only drink you under the table but then karate chop the table down on top of you. He came in from out of the blue, or was it the emerald isle, became the Pal of my Pals, Gordon Whitmer and Stephen Dale Squires and the other rowdy boy's of 1950's Riverside.

On graduation he disappeared into Hollywoodland and would come back with tales of the starlets he had fucked and the stars he was shucking and jiving with. It was pure Irish bullshite and we knew it, but, later we learned that it was all true and that he was running with the Brat Pack that included, Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, Troy Donahue, Dean Stockwell and a host of others with tabloid names and fame.Although he did not become a leading man in the movies, he became more a leading man in life, lifting countless alcoholic drunks from the gutters of El Aye and leading them back into a productive life. Those drunks included the aforementioned, Dennis Hopper, Troy Donahue, Dean Stockwell who would tell you to this day that Owen Orr was their savior when they hit the bottom and he was the only one with the way up out of the shitholes they were wallowing in when it was cool to be a drunk punk puking on your best Buds girlfriends floor.

The day they kicked me out of Betty Fords for passing funny paper (nsf check) on the former First Lady, it was Owen who rode out on his big bad Kawasaki and drove me at 80 miles per hour through rush hour traffic on the Ventura and San Diego Freeways to my first AA meeting in El Aye, the Beverly Hill Stag. I had never seen so many badd assed dudes in my life as was assembled in that room that day. Owen plunked me down in a seat on the first row and went over to the leader of the meeting, said something to him and pointed at me. Opps, I knew I was in for something an sure enough the leader introduced me first after the serenity prayer and I had to get up , go to the mic and announce that my name was Bob and I am an alcoholic and was bounced that morning from Betty Fords when my deposit check to the former First Lady had indeed bounced. The applause and gaffaws was thunderous as the 200 plus drunks in the room related to my fuck up. If I'd of had a tail it was between my legs as I returned to the seat in the front row.There was a guy standing in what would be considered the stage door who looked familuar, Jeez, it was Troy Donahue headed then right to me with open arms. He gave me a great bear hug and said, "Keep comming back, you'll get it." God bless, with Owens winds in my sales, I got it and stayed sober with him as my mentor, guide and best Bud for the next several years.

There is much I could tell Rick Orr about his Dad, the days up in Aspen when he tended bar at the Motherlode, the restaurant our pal, Gordon Whitmer ran for some 30 odd years. How Owen after getting sober told Gordon that he had tapped the till and owed he figured eight grand to The Lode. He paid it off and at his wedding at the Riverea Country Club we all came together to praise our high school Buddy and wish him well in his days ahead. And , he had many a fine day that followed him.

So Rick and Robert, thanks for the memorys, they will be indeed included in my memoirs of a life in music, art, entertainment and hospitality. To be Orr, Orr not to be, that is a good question

Robert W. Gatelyrwgately@yahoo.com(520) 424-8658

Dusti
Dusti

Great movie, I bought a copy off of pickingforpicasso.com and really enjoyed this man's story. I wish there were more films like this.

Bob
Bob

While everyone would love to make that great find, there is always somebody else on the other side of that find who was just ripped-off. Pickers are preying on the uninformed.

Steve Weiss
Steve Weiss

The film from this story PICKING FOR PICASSO will screen this Saturday,December 5 at Space 55, 636 East Pierce,Phoenix AZ 85004 at 7 pm (doors at 6:45)with tickets at $6.00.

Very surprised it wasn't mentioned in the article, but you can get more info at http://www.nofestivalrquired.w...

 
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