Drama of a ball of string

Performance: Like so many other historical events, the auction of Haussner's famous ball of string is the subject of a re-enactment.

February 17, 2000|By Carl Schoettler | Carl Schoettler,SUN STAFF

We've had myriad re-enactments from Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg to the Shootout at the OK Corral, but performance artist Laure Drogoul no doubt scores a first tomorrow with the re-enactment at School 33 of the auction of "Haussner's Famous Ball of String."

Drogoul, a sculptor, impresario of alternative culture and founder of the 14 Karat Cabaret at Maryland Art Place, considers the original auction one of the major historic events of the end of the millennium for Baltimore, hence her re-enactment. Certainly the Haussner experience seems never- ending.

"I'm telling a story in a way," she says. "It's regional history and it should be celebrated. People have watched it grow. It's a fascinating Baltimore object, and I'm an object maker."

She's already started her performance, so to speak, by re-enacting the roll-up of the 825-pound string ball that used to grace the grand old art-filled Highlandtown restaurant, now gone forever. She has tried to replicate the famous ball very accurately knot by knot, string by string.

She did a lot of measuring, took photos and made a video, all of which are on display at School 33, at 1427 Light St. in South Baltimore.

"Put it this way: It's kind of like a sculpture of a ball of string, which is a ball of string," she says. "It's pretty darn close to the original. The world of string is something I got interested in through this piece."

The actual Haussner's Famous Ball of String was bought in December for $7,500, plus a $750 buyer's fee, by Bob Gerber and Bob Jansen, who are partners in the Antique Man shop at 1735 Fleet St. The ball remains in majestic splendor in the shop window, and it won't be on hand for the auction re-enactment. The owners expect they might be there.

Dick Horne and James Taylor, co-directors of the American Dime Museum, will take their places as underbidders on the Haussner ball. They still regret their loss.

For her free re-creation of the public sale of the 337.5 miles of string Haussner's balled up, Drogoul has enlisted Richard Opfer, the auctioneer who actually sold the original ball with a substantial portion of the Haussner collection at a series of auctions.

"This evening of delightful entertainment and repartee is free and open to the public," Drogoul announces. The whole thing gets under way at 7 p.m. and lasts till 9 p.m.

"Seeing is believing," she says.

And her ball of string is going to be sold. But she's not sure how yet.

"I'm still trying to work that out," she says. "I'm trying to reinterpret."

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