On last Saturday’s penultimate performance of “Romeo and Juliet” on Broadway, after Orlando Bloom was resurrected for the curtain call, the cast gathered on stage for an auction benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDs. This is standard practice around this time of year, with most productions offering signed posters or CDs, except Bloom had a special item up for bid: the white shirt off his back.
The auction, moderated by his co-star Justin Guarini (yes, of “American Idol” fame) started at $500 and quickly escalated (accompanied by “oohs” from the crowd) to $3,000 between two determined fans. In the end, they were both winners. Bloom, who promised to match the top bid that night, said he had two shirts — one that he wore in the first act and another in the second act, which he signed backstage.
In total, Variety has learned, Orlando Bloom’s auctioned shirts from roughly a dozen performances raised $71,000 for the charity devoted to HIV and AIDS fundraising. Bloom said the idea to sell his shirt was his own. “I would have auctioned off everything,” he told Variety this week after his play closed on Sunday. “They’d come backstage and we would we’d make a big summit downstairs. We got a Polaroid camera, and they could take my shirt off. And then I’d sign it as Romeo and Orlando. It was cute.”
Over the years, a few other heartthrobs have also auctioned off personal belonging for the charity. Hugh Jackman started the trend in 2004, when he sold the audience his sweaty towel from “The Boy From Oz.” In 2009, during “A Steady Rain,” both Jackman and his co-star Daniel Craig auctioned off their shirts. Daniel Radcliffe regularly offered his bowtie from “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and the blue jeans he slipped off in “Equus.” And last year, during select performances of “Evita,” Ricky Martin auctioned his pants.
These speciality items only make up a fraction of the $250 million Broadway Cares has raised since launching in 1988. This year, during six weeks of auctions, theater patrons donated $4.3 million at 56 New York stage shows — including “Kinky Boots” and “Wicked” — that for the most part didn’t offer celebrity memorabilia. But the trend will continue as long as Broadway lures A-list talent from TV and film.
It only sold for $100.