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Before the bidding began in the Oct. 24 live auction of Party Animals, Mayor Anthony A. Williams delivered a pep talk to the crowd of about 700 prospective owners. “You guys are so sedate,” the mayor said, standing in front of a red banner reading: “Celebrate the Arts—D.C. Commision [sic] on the Arts and Humanities.” Hoping to boost excitement—and goose bid prices—Williams appealed to the District’s municipal pride. The event, he said, demonstrated the city’s rich culture. The mayor then took a swipe at New York Times columnist Frank Rich, who bashed the District in an Oct. 6 New York Times Magazine essay. “Eat your heart out, Frank,” Williams declared.

But the results of the auction did little to advance the District’s civic credibility. Whereas New York’s 2000 CowParade auction raised $1.35 million, D.C.’s Party Animals event brought in a mere $310,650. “I did excellent in New York,” says artist Naomi Campbell, whose work led off the auctions in both cities. “My cattle sold for $24,000.” This time around, Campbell’s elephant School Party, painted with cartoon fish, attracted only $5,500. —Chris Shott

Animals Come to Animal Photographer

Sitting in the anteroom to the Party Animals auction, Elena Bonafonte-Vidotto rifles through some 200 snapshots stacked neatly in a clear plastic dish. Bonafonte-Vidotto, a painter who has lived in the District since 1975, spent a good part of her summer on a photo safari, with the goal of compiling a complete visual inventory of Party Animals. During the auction, she sought to track down artists to autograph the backs of the photographs, eventually corralling a modest eight. “They couldn’t believe that I had gone all over town taking the photos,” Bonafonte-Vidotto says.

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If the artists were elusive, the statues were not. After weeks of trekking through the District to locate Party Animals, Bonafonte-Vidotto suddenly found the donkeys and elephants gathered right by her doorstep: She lives on Woodley Road NW, just up the street from the Marriott. “If I had known that they would all end up here, maybe I wouldn’t have done it,” she says. But Bonafonte-Vidotto says she has no regrets about her earlier statue-hunting exertions. “I had never been to some places like Anacostia and all the way up on Georgia Avenue,” she says. “I sort of discovered half of the town that I didn’t know.” —Josh Levin

Third-Party Message Still Unwelcome

The D.C. Statehood Green Party lost a court bid this past spring to get its symbol, the sunflower, included among the Republican elephants and Democratic donkeys in the Party Animals. But the feud resurfaced the day of the auction, as the party’s “Statehood Now” stickers appeared on 18 of the statues being displayed on the south lawn of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. “Poor sports,” artist John Bledsoe remarked, peeling a sticker off the back of his DonkeyXote. “I’m all for statehood,” he says, “but why pursue it this way?” Added Strom artist Chad Alan: “How the fuck do you paint a sunflower?”

The D.C. Statehood Greens deny any involvement in the defacement. “We don’t engage in or sanction any kind of vandalism,” says spokesperson Scott McLarty. “It could be a party member who doesn’t share the respect for artwork the rest of us have,” he suggests, “or it could be somebody that got hold of a bunch of stickers who is not very friendly to us.” —Chris Shott

Elephants Outsell Donkeys

Democrats may dominate the District’s voter rolls, but the bidders at the Party Animals auction preferred Republican elephants. Twenty-two full-sized pachyderms went up for auction, and they sold for a combined $159,250 (average price: $7,239). The 19 donkeys, meanwhile, fetched $83,150 (average price: $4,376). Eight miniature elephants, made as artist’s models, outraised the same number of reduced-size donkeys, $32,250 to $21,000. Four of the full-sized elephants went for more than $10,000 apiece, topped by America the Beautiful at $25,000. No donkey went for more than $8,500, and donkey Fire in the Belly drew the lowest price in the auction, at $1,500. Arty Party I and Arty Party II, a pair of half-donkey, half-elephant pieces, were sold together as one lot, garnering the second-highest price of the night, at $15,000. —Chris Shott

Real Animal Alarmed

by Party Animals

The sight of Party Animals littering the south lawn of the Marriott complex drew mixed reactions from the living animals that usually walk in the grassy area. Her owner said that Isabelle, a golden retriever, was “initially petrified” by the sight of her inanimate counterparts—”They were too big.” Teddy Roosevelt, a 6-month-old English cocker spaniel, was more interested in the artists’ reception on the site than in the donkeys or elephants. “He had no interest in the Party Animals,” says his owner, “but he liked the party.” —Josh Levin

University Grants Residency to Exiled Animals

With the World Bank/IMF protests looming in September, many downtown Party Animals were moved to American University for refuge. Since then, the school has apparently grown attached to the animal asylum-seekers. “They’ve been on the campus, and everybody loves them,” says AU senior Melissa Mazzarella. “They were a great piece of D.C. that wasn’t going to be around much longer.” So Mazzarella and Nicole Gyorfi, representatives of the university’s class of 2003 gift committee, purchased two of the animals: Awareness Donkey for $6,000 and the elephant Monumental Washington for $6,500. The purchases were placed on AU’s credit card, but Mazzarella says the seniors already have enough money to reimburse the university. Last year, the class of 2002 raised more than $40,000, which was used to create a plaza dedicated to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and to make a charitable contribution. This year, Mazzarella and Gyorfi say, in addition to buying the statuary, the class of 2003 will use its funds to create a suitable habitat for the Party Animals and will give the remainder to campus organizations. —Josh Levin

Donkey Inspires Poetry

The following handwritten poem, dated Oct. 21, was found sitting on the base of Chad, a Party Animal papered with faux ballot leavings that was displayed on the grounds of the Marriott:

Dear Chad,

I love you more than you know

Even more than 90210

I love that you are bright and shiney

Even though you have a big hiny

I love how our friendship is true

I love your sparkles that are blue

You are a wonderful donkey, you are no baboon

I hate that someone else will own you soon

They better be nice and treat you right

Because I will pray for your happiness every night

I cherrished our time we spent together

I know our friendship will last forever

If you ever need me just nay or call

You are the best party animal of them all

Good luck handsome. I love you, Chad.

Love Always,

Katie Herman

Your Best Friend

—Josh Levin