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  How (and why) actor Cary Grant flew something to the Moon on Apollo 14

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Author Topic:   How (and why) actor Cary Grant flew something to the Moon on Apollo 14

Posts: 968
Registered: Jan 2002

posted 07-27-2008 08:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for rjurek349   Click Here to Email rjurek349     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
While doing some online research, I came across some period articles from 1971 discussing a unique auction in Las Vegas at the Vegas International Hotel on behalf of the American Cancer Society. It gained rather widespread newspaper attention, because the winner of the auction -- which would allow the person (pending NASA approval I would imagine, even though it said in the article that NASA approved the auction idea) to fly an item to the moon on Apollo 14 -- was the actor Cary Grant. He won the auction for the tidy sum of $17,500...but then, didn't know what to send. So he asked for newspaper reader help and suggestions.

It is an amazing story that I had not heard before.

In the January 14, 1971 edition of the Arizona Daily Sun, it is reported by Bob Considine (a New York reporter) that the auction was held "some months ago" at the Vegas International. It was attended by "a large number of astronauts, headed by Neil Armstrong." Following the charity dinner, there was an auction -- which was attended by many Hollywood celebrities, including John Wayne, Bob Hope, Cary Grant and the like. The auction, according to Considine, included the sale of flags flown to the moon aboard the command modules on both Apollo 11 and 12.

Considine writes "the bidding was surprisingly modest." But then he argued, it wasn't the best night for an auction, as it followed after several other fund raisers the night before.

The final item up for bid that night? The "unprecedented" opportunity to be granted permission to send something to the moon aboard Apollo 14 "something of the high bidders choice. NASA had approved." A comedian, who was MCing the event, said to John Wayne it would be a chance to send his horse to the moon -- which got Duke and the audience laughing. The reporter noted that the bidding slowly got to $15,000 and then just sort of "hung there." Until... Wayne muttered, after the horse joke, that Pepsi "would give a half a million to put a bottle on the moon." Grant was sitting nearby and overheard this, and called out "Seventeen, five!" for a bid.

According to the reporter, Grant thought this would move the bidding along to the much higher number, but then, for the next five minutes, silence (except for the auctioneer), took over the room. The auctioneer gave up, and shouted: "Sold to Cary Grant!" Grant did not think he was going to win... and didn't know what he wanted to send. At first he thought about sending something up for his very young daughter Jennifer to treasure for the rest of her life, to show her friends in school -- but then realized that he would not get the item back. It would go to the moon and stay there. So he had asked the readers for help, via the writer.

It's an amazing story. It amazes me that Armstrong would take part in an auction of memorabilia -- even a charity event, and that NASA would allow an item to be flown to the moon as a charity item. I searched a few more articles around this time and found a Gossip columnist in California (at the Long Beach Independent) named Earl Wilson who reported that "at an auction at the Vegas International to send a memento to the moon via the Astronauts, Cary Grant bid $17,500 to send a bottle of Faberge." I guess he decided to go with the ultimate throw-away vanity item.

Anyone else EVER hear this story? Like I said, it was picked up in a number of newspapers in January of 1971 -- but I've never seen it written about anywhere else. Just thought it would be fun to share here.

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 30714
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 07-27-2008 10:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This was a new bit of history for me, and in all honesty, had I not seen one of the articles (courtesy Rich), I would have thought this an urban legend.

If indeed Grant received the suggestion to fly Faberge from an Arizona Sun reader, then he had just about two weeks to receive the suggestion, obtain the bottle and ship it to NASA to be placed aboard the spacecraft. Talk about your rush deliveries!

Assuming at least part of the article is true, there had to have been a photographer present for that dinner. Somewhere, someone has photos of Grant, Hope, Wayne and the others hobnobbing that evening with the Apollo astronauts...


Posts: 968
Registered: Jan 2002

posted 07-27-2008 10:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for rjurek349   Click Here to Email rjurek349     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

Thanks. Yes, I find the timing odd, as well. Follow up articles by the author, just a day or two later, include a bunch of suggestions like "send my bills" and other such items. So there was indeed follow up -- but was the idea of Grant needing "help" just a ruse to write an article? Did it really happen?

Again - by the follow up articles I found --a couple gossip columns pointing out the bottle of "faberge". I personally find the item "sent" to be probably wrong. But Grant probably did win something. The only question is: what?

I did track down another article, independent of the talk of Grant's auction win, that verifies the auction took place.

This one is from The Greeley Tribune in Colorado, from June 15, 1970. It is actually reprinting an article from the Washington Post titled "Embassy Row."

It confirms the auction took place. And it confirms the auctioning of the flags. And it confirms that Grant and Wayne were there. It was focused on the buyer of one of the flown flags, as her husband is quoting on it, months before the Grant/help article.

Still, the prices were anything but "modest", as suggested by the writer of the Grant piece. I quote: "Movie stars Cary Grant and John Wayne recently lost out in their bid for an American flag which went to the moon and back with the Apollo 12 astronauts. They were outbid by the wife of Las Vegas publisher Herman M. Greenspun. Barbara Greenspun paid $25,000 for the small flag. She had been saving the money to buy herself another emerald. SInce then, she has been offered $40,000 for the flag. But it's not for sale. Barbara got a couple of extra dividends with the flag. Both Cary Grant and John Wayne kissed her after she outbid them. Greenspun talked about his wife's coup when he was in Washington a few days ago...The auction had been held in Las Vegas for the benefit of the American Cancer Society."

That's a heck of a bid for one of the flown flags!

So the mystery continues - but like you, I'd love to find an article or picture from that event and find out if this Grant story is, indeed, true. And if true, what did he really send to the moon? I have a feeling the truth is going to be a lot different than the fantasy - but still, it is an very interesting story!



Posts: 861
From: Virginia
Registered: Apr 2002

posted 07-28-2008 06:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mensax   Click Here to Email mensax     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What a great story Rich, thanks for sharing.


John Charles

Posts: 316
From: Houston, Texas, USA
Registered: Jun 2004

posted 07-28-2008 08:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for John Charles     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Using, I also found articles about that auction, dated June 1, June 10 and June 29, 1970. In two of them, Grant is reported to have paid $17,500 for "...the Apollo 14 package that includes a trip for two to Cape Kennedy to watch the next moon mission depart".

But none of them say anything about him sending anything to the moon via Apolo 14.

I wonder if that was just astory idea that columnist Bob Consodine adopted for a couple of newspaper articles.

Despite his quotes from Cary Gant, it occurs to me that this was not a serious effort: as late as Jan. 27, Consodine was writing as if the search was still underway. But that was only 4 days before launch, probably far too late for much of anything to be approved for flight. (How late were the astronauts' personal preference kits packed and stowed?)

Incidentally, Grant apparently attended the launch, along with Kirk Douglas, Robert Goulet and Bob Hope.

John Charles
Houston, Texas


Posts: 616
From: South Carolina
Registered: Jul 2006

posted 07-28-2008 09:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Originally posted by John Charles:
I wonder if that was just a story idea that columnist Bob Consodine adopted for a coupe of newspaper articles.

That wouldn't be terribly surprising, as Considine was known for these kinds of stories that have amazing or strange twists to them. He was very good at being "firstest with the mostest words," but his work (well, like that of any journalist from the past) bears some checking-up on.

(whose job it is to know about Considine and his contemporaries!)


Posts: 968
Registered: Jan 2002

posted 07-28-2008 09:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for rjurek349   Click Here to Email rjurek349     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Good catches on those articles, John. I just went and checked them out. It is also interesting that these earlier articles mention that it is Stafford, and not Neil Armstrong, hosting the event, which makes me also question the writer's facts on the later piece. Given the uproar over the A15 covers, I found it rather incredulous, except that Considine's piece got picked up in a number of outlets, and others followed up on it....and he goes on and on about Grant's dilemma. Bizzare to be just made up, you know? One thing is for sure, however: this Hollywood fund raiser dinner and silent auction in Vegas did take place -- including the selling of the flags, and Grant and Wayne and others were there. The flag prices quoted are astounding. It makes me wonder what else might have been up for silent auction. Or what else might have been "included" in the Grant package. (And who knows: maybe Grant was pulling a fast one on the writer, ala George Clooney style humor. I just don't see NASA greenlighting it.)


Posts: 968
Registered: Jan 2002

posted 07-28-2008 10:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for rjurek349   Click Here to Email rjurek349     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

Using (what a great site), I found a piece from the Union Town, PA Morning Herald on June 10, 1970 that talks about the dinner and the auction. It is by a writer named Ed Sullivan and datelined for Vegas. It is more of a gossip column as well, but the appropriate passage is as follows: "Yesterday was a thrilling day in this colorful Nevada city. Astronauts Gene Cernan, Gerry Carr, Jack Swigert, Ron Evans, Joe Engle, Bruce McCandless, and Bill Pogue were cocktail-partied by the Dick Damers of the Hughes organizaton. Actually, they had started the previous night, at the American Cancer Benefit, at which astronaut Tom Stafford and Hollywood's John Wayne were guests of honor. This was particularly fitting because both Stafford and Wayne had been cured of cancer. A special feature of the evening was auctioning off by Cary Grant and Wayne of five mementoes of space flights contributed by the astronauts. Mrs. Barbara Greenspan, wife of the Vegas Sun publisher, successfully bid $25,000 for the American flag that went to the moon on Apollo 12."

No mention of the Grant winning bid, but there are new names of more astronauts at the benefit. (I go back to Robert's comment - it would be cool to see a photo from this event.) And also the fact that 5 lots in the auction were "mementoes" of space flight. I'd love to know that the other 4 were.


Robert Pearlman

Posts: 30714
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 07-30-2008 01:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Courtesy J.L. Pickering comes these great photographs! He writes:
Attached is a shot of the crowd in the VIP area. Grant can be seen in the inset photo. You will also note that Kirk Douglas was at the Apollo 14 launch as well.
This is the full view... Grant is just behind the guy in the middle standing up with his left hand on his head.
And the close-up shows Grant with the black rimmed glasses and white hair.
And here is Kirk Douglas and family at the walkout...


Posts: 680
From: West Midlands, UK
Registered: Jun 2005

posted 07-30-2008 04:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
OK so after those photos of Kirk Douglas were posted above I decided to go to the Apollo Image Gallery at and try to see him and his family at the Apollo 14 walkout. Take a look at image KSC-71PC-68 and he can clearly be seen.

Ken Havekotte

Posts: 2033
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 07-30-2008 03:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I do recall hearing something about the Grant story way back when. Meanwhile, I do have some astronaut-signed items from The American Cancer Society's fundraiser that was held at the Vegas International Hotel on May 29, 1970. Is this the same function, "An Evening with the Astronauts," referred to? Those astronaut that I know attended were Cernan, Pogue, Evans, Carr, and McCandless. If my memory is correct, it was probably hosted, or co-sponsored, by a former Vegas resider that I am still in contact with. Let me make a call or two within the next few days and I'll report back hear if anything developes.

New Member


posted 07-30-2008 05:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for StarDome   Click Here to Email StarDome     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Does anyone have any pictures of John Wayne at these events then? Please post them if you do or email me the hi-res versions. My friend actually owns and lives in the house in Orange County, Santa Ana that John Wayne built and I'd like them for his home history files. Cheers Andy. PS, it's an amazing house!


Posts: 2778
From: Netherlands
Registered: Nov 2001

posted 08-03-2008 06:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for heng44   Click Here to Email heng44     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

Here is another picture of Cary Grant at the launch of Apollo 14. He is approximately halfway between the woman in the red dress and the woman in the blue dress.



Posts: 55
From: sherman Oaks
Registered: Apr 2007

posted 08-03-2008 02:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for keelerphoto     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Most or all charity functions had programs of the nights events and auction programs at the tables, those attended got one. Also most charities had goodie bags from sponsors that were given when they left the functions. Hope this helps,


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