Nov 19, 2013
03:14 PMArts & Entertainment
Bid on a Role in 'The Good Wife,' Help Connecticut's Environment
Laurie Gaboardi/The Litchfield County Times.
Actress Christine Baranski at last year's Housatonic Valley Association auction.
Earlier this month, the iconic arbiter of style and culture Esquire declared in a headline: “The Good Wife: The Best Show on Television Right Now.” Millions watch it every Sunday night, and it’s a safe bet that most of them indulge in a fantasy of being a cast member—alongside the Julianna Margulies character Alicia Florrick, somehow tougher and sexier than ever this season, and the viperous Diane Lockhart, played masterfully by Connecticut resident Christine Baranski.
That TV-stardom fantasy could actually come true—this Sunday afternoon, in fact, at one of the not-to-be-missed events on the social calendar with a conscience that is one of the many attributes of the Litchfield Hills.
When the Housatonic Valley Association (HVA) holds its Annual Benefit Auction at Washington Primary School (in the tony town where Bill and Hillary Clinton stay at The Mayflower), one of the items up for auction is a walk-on role for a courtroom scene on the set of “The Good Wife.” (The 1 p.m. event features both silent and live auctions, and general admission is $50, with options to attend at higher levels detailed below.)
That’s right, you can buy a role and rub elbows with Margulies, Baranski and the rest of the cast—or you can bid on such items as tickets to “Twelfth Night” on Broadway and a backstage meeting with Mark Rylance, a three-day Racing School at Skip Barber, or a week in a restored 200-plus-year-old, three-story stone farmhouse in the French countryside, amid 40 acres of hillside, forest and meadow, surrounded by the rural unspoiled beauty of Provénce. (A limited number of reservations remain available for the auction; those interested in attending should call HVA at 860-672-6678 ASAP. See the website for auction details.)
Such platinum-level auction items come courtesy of generous donors—and the nonpareil opportunity to be part of TV’s “best” show arrives via the direct connection between HVA, an environmental group, and one of its greatest champions, Baranski. (HVA’s roster of supporters is an A-list that also includes such folks as Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair, Denis and Ann Leary, Diane von Furstenberg and retired fashion designer Linda Allard, shown here; see the full list at the bottom.)
Terrific “Good Wife” items—visits to the set, scripts signed by the entire cast—are part of HVA’s auction every year, because Baranski, an HVA board member, serves as honorary auction chair. But she’s upping the ante this year as the environmental steward of the vast Housatonic River watershed faces both more difficult challenges and pursues new initiatives to make a difference.
Lynn, Werner, HVA’s executive director, outlined the good and the bad by phone Tuesday. Noting that HVA is the only organization that’s working from top to bottom on the Housatonic and its entire watershed—all the way over to east of the Naugatuck River—she began by saying, “We feel uniquely obligated/positioned to connect to all the other organizations that are working across the river valley.”
The connections reference HVA’s core mission of focusing on water, land and education/outreach, working not only on research and advocacy but also on connecting with the landowners and stakeholders who hold sway over the fate of a large swath of Connecticut’s natural resources—and parts of the southern Berkshires and eastern New York.
And the challenge just got more difficult in at least a couple of ways; budgets and government funding have tightened up significantly at the same time that HVA’s own research and relatively new data from the Environmental Protection Agency show that the pollution picture for rivers and streams is worsening.
“Water pollution from stormwater runoff is increasingly dramatically,” Werner said, estimating that close to 50 percent of rivers and streams nationwide are in big trouble, with lots of those problems being concentrated in the Northeast.
“We know that parking lots and roads carry chemicals, sediments and nutrients into waterways, but we never had the evidence we do now of the rate at which this is happening,” Werner said, noting that, based on its water quality testing over the last decade, HVA has been working on a “one-stop shopping database and map” that eventually will allow people to “click on your neighborhood and stream.”
There’s a duality in the waterways situation, though, with data showing that the cold-water streams that feed into more troubled waterways are in better shape—to the point that they have hold-over populations of native trout that are reproducing.
Protecting that status is a priority, Werner said, while also beginning work to encourage environmental regulations at all levels of government to evolve to address the current challenges from an overflow of runoff in New England town and village settings.
In the latter vein, HVA has partnered with the Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust, Kent Land Trust and the Pomperaug River Watershed Coalition on an initiative called RiverSmart, which involves working directly with landowners through outreach and education. “The fate of these rivers and streams are really in the hands of these landowners,” Werner said.
For that initiative and all of its many efforts, HVA needs more funding, and that’s where the auction gala comes in. “We can do a lot of work with just a few dollars,” Werner said. “Come have fun to keep these projects going.”
HVA’s 23rd annual auction features a variety of vacation packages, including a two-night stay in a luxury villa at Costa Rica’s Nayara Springs, a new and exclusive ultra-luxury boutique hotel located a few minutes away from La Fortuna de San Carlos and the Arenal Volcano National Park.
There’s also two nights at Wequassett Resort and Golf Club, which, according to the auction release, offers lavish guest rooms and suites, four acclaimed restaurants, two magnificent pools, two extraordinary beaches, boating and water sports and tennis courts. Also included is a Champagne welcome for two in the room, breakfast both mornings, and one deluxe dinner at the resort’s top-rated twenty-eight Atlantic.
A one-week stay or one month (depending on the season the winner chooses) is also offered in a villa with a pool on Hilton Head Island situated on one of three world-class golf courses just two blocks from miles of sandy beaches and meandering lagoons.
Other auction items include a hand-crafted, 20-pound solo canoe made of polyester skin stretched over a frame of red osier dogwood, and four tickets to an American Ballet Theatre performance at the Metropolitan Opera House.
There are different levels at which to attend Sunday’s event, which begins at 1 p.m. with a reception catered by Executive Cuisine in New Milford and live music by Miles of Swing.
General admission is $50.
Honorary Auction Committee members at the Gold sponsorship level ($500) and higher are invited to a special pre-auction reception hosted by Baranski at Community Table restaurant from 1 to 2 p.m. Chef Joel Viehland offers an array of hors d’oeuvres created with local organic produce. Gold level attendees are also seated at an auction head table.
For other levels and benefits available at this point, call HVA or see the website.
Auctioneer Tim Luke of HGTV’s Cash in the Attic, takes center stage at 3 p.m., with his co-auctioneer Greg Strahm, for the live auction.
Joining Ms. Baranski on this year’s honorary auction committee are HVA honorary trustee and fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg; Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter and his wife Anna; interior designer Robert Couturier; marketing guru, author of The Season of Second Chances and president of MEIER, Diane Meier; Irish novelist, journalist and broadcaster Frank Delaney; American actor, comedian, writer, director and film producer Denis Leary; novelist, New York Times best-selling author Ann Leary; Travel + Leisure magazine editor-in-chief Nancy Novogrod; fashion marketing consultant Hamilton South; owner and manager of Second Act Farm in Roxbury, Anne Swift; HVA board member and retired fashion designer Linda Allard; Pam and Jack Baker, owner of Exurban Design and president of Crystal Rock Water Company, respectively; and owner of Klemm Real Estate, Carolyn Klemm.
Auction proceeds allow HVA to fund programs that protect the water quality of local rivers and streams and preserve regionally important landscapes. HVA’s work, throughout the tri-state Housatonic River watershed from its headwaters in Massachusetts to Long Island Sound, includes combating climate change by promoting low impact development, monitoring water quality to safeguard drinking water, protecting significant farm and forest lands and raising awareness of the need for environmental responsibility.