Designer Costumes Worn by Whitney Houston Auctioned After Singer Falls Behind on Storage Fees

Designer costumes worn by Whitney Houston hit the auction block Tuesday, along with some castoffs typically seen on the curb after a yard sale: water-damaged vinyl records and a battered coffee maker.

Those items and 400 other lots were being sold because the Grammy-winning singer, 43, had fallen about $175,000 behind on storage fees for several tons of concert gear, including speakers and amplifiers, used on her 1999 tour.

Figures on the proceeds may not be released due to the litigation that prompted the sale, said Steve Newmark, co-owner of A.J. Willner Auctions.

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Any money earned beyond what is owed for storage will go to Houston's company, Nippy Inc., said Jeffrey Campisi, a lawyer for Speed of Sound, which has been tending to the items.

The auction drew about 200 people to a dim, dusty and chilly warehouse about 15 miles west of New York.

Fair Lawn magician Meir Yedid made $400 disappear as winning bidder for 16 music awards given to Bobby Brown, the singer Houston is divorcing after 14 stormy years of marriage.

"I just collect ephemera," said Yedid, 46.

Most of the early items, including keyboards and synthesizers, went for several hundred dollars apiece, with auctioneer Michael Sklar repeatedly imploring the crowd to stop talking so he could hear the bids.

No such cautions were needed, however, when onlookers hushed as urgent bidding pushed the price of a Yamaha grand piano to $12,000.

That was topped minutes later when a man carrying cash in a plastic bag had the winning bid of $20,000 for a clear acrylic grand piano made by Schimmel.

The winner, clad in snakeskin boots, identified himself to reporters as "an anonymous buyer for resale." The man, who said he was an antiques dealer from Mississippi, said he got a good deal, asserting that a new model of the piano would fetch $121,000.

As for the damaged vinyl records, they were in a lot that included a room fan, gardening gloves and a crumpled poster of some young baseball players and their coaches: the "Whitney Houston Little League Team, Newark, New Jersey."

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