Money Bags From the Teachers' Union Ex-Chief

Bought with embezzled funds, now up for auction.
Bought with embezzled funds, now up for auction. (Courtesy of Sloan and Kenyon)
By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Monday, November 5, 2007

One woman's booty is another's bargain: The ill-gotten treasure chest of former Washington Teachers' Union president Barbara Bullock went on display Saturday in advance of this weekend's live auction of the luxury goods.

Bullock, now serving a nine-year prison term, spent approximately $800,000 on these designer purses, furs and pricey knickknacks with money embezzled from the union. The seized items sat in an FBI warehouse until this past summer, when Stephanie Kenyon of Sloans & Kenyon in Chevy Chase sent a truck to collect them for auction, with the proceeds going back to the union. "This stuff is new, high-end, glitzy, luxury, status-symbol-type of material," she told us. "Some of the Fendi purses are really wild."

The purse-obsessed Bullock spent tens of thousands on Chanel, Hermès and Judith Leiber handbags, which are estimated to sell for $500 to $800 at auction. (That's about a quarter of their original price; ditto for the minks and jewelry.) The top lot: a 288-piece Tiffany sterling silver flatware service (Chrysanthemum pattern) purchased for $100,000-plus and estimated to sell for $25,000 to $35,000. Too much? Well, the Buccellati sterling wine cooler is expected to bring just $3,000 to $5,000. The feds also seized electronics that will sell at another auction -- except for the TV that union officials kept for headquarters.

Absentee bidding already started on eBay; the live auction begins Saturday.

The Real 24

The thin line between reality and TV blurred even further yesterday when Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff dropped by the "24" set to meet Kiefer Sutherland. Chertoff, a huge fan of the show, got his picture taken with the actor and watched Jack Bauer and FBI agent Renee Walker (Annie Wersching) repeatedly drive up to the Willard Hotel back entrance and go inside -- presumably to find bad guys. No Chertoff cameo? "I think he was happy to observe," Fox's Chris Alexander told us. After Chertoff left, Sutherland (blue shirt, black slacks, khaki jacket) spent downtime in a tent (playing chess and smoking) and chatting with the crew.

Charitably Speaking, There's Nobody Bigger Than Bono at Tysons

Bono's got the juice. Resistance is futile. The intense Irish rocker has become the face of hip global charity -- or, as YouthAIDS founder Kate Roberts put it Friday, "the God of all activists." We think he's more 21st-century Napoleon: charismatic, intense, short and determined to take over the world for good.

The U2 frontman (black suit, blue shirt, purple tie, cognac-colored sunglasses, two-day stubble, gold hoop in his left ear) was the white-hot attraction in a room packed with VIPs (Nancy Pelosi, Ashley Judd, Susie Buffett, George Soros, Sheila Johnson, Queen Noor, Padma Lakshmi) for the YouthAIDS "Hollywood Meets Bollywood" $1.5 million gala at the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner. Adoring fans lined up 10 deep for a word or touch while Bono's bodyguards did their best to control the love.

"Well-meaning, upstanding rock stars like me should do more singing and less talking," he told the crowd, then went on about Pelosi's advice to him: " 'Inside maneuvering with outside mobilization.' I have it tattooed on my butt." Really? We tried to ask, but got body-slammed by an autograph-seeking grandmother and headed for the bar instead.

Another Talking Head Bolts to New York City

David Byrne at the show of his art here Friday.
David Byrne at the show of his art here Friday.(Jessica Naresh)
Sorry to those of you who thought you'd meet David Byrne at the opening of his "Furnishing the Self -- Upholstering the Soul" show at Hemphill Fine Arts. The former Talking Heads singer fled to N.Y.C. before Saturday's public event. "I have to be back to see a show," he said. ( Sufjan Stevens, it turned out.)

Only a few dozen art world types got to see the man himself (lean, shy, 55, a shock of white hair) at a private party held Friday amid his photos and sculptures -- including a stump made of paper pulp (selling for $20K) and a chair made of macaroni ($15K). Says Byrne: "I've been obsessed with chairs for a long, long time." Something about the legs and arms of a chair, he told our colleague Rachel Beckman, remind him of people. Huh. Byrne's also still making music, lately with Fatboy Slim and Martha Wainwright. Should we be lining up for a Heads reunion tour? "I wouldn't do that," he said with a laugh.

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