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Doug Irwin update


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Guitarmaker Doug Irwin is looking forward to reopening his guitar studio and getting back to work after selling the two guitars Jerry Garcia left him in his will for $1.74 million Wednesday night at a New York auction.

"I can't wait to start building some more," Irwin said on the phone from his Manhattan hotel room. "That's been the real frustration the past four or five years."

Irwin, who won back Garcia's two prized guitars in a lawsuit settlement with the Grateful Dead in November, was nearly homeless. He is now planning to buy a home on two acres of land outside Visalia and rebuild his workshop.

The guitars were the first two items to go under the hammer at the unconventional auction staged by New York auctioneers Guernsey's at Studio 54. "It was the most raucous, energetic, vociferous audience we have yet to encounter," said Arlan Ettinger, president of Guernsey's.

The capacity crowd was seated at cabaret tables lit with red lamps. The bar was open and a festive mood prevailed, with the audience cheering, laughing and even occasionally booing during the four-hour sale.

Neither of the buyers of the two guitars -- Tiger, which sold for $850,000, and Wolf, which brought $700,000 -- identified themselves.

Other items sold at the auction included the original lyrics to "Uncle John's Band," a leather jacket owned by Garcia, some of his drawings and paintings, posters and various other pieces of Grateful Dead memorabilia. "Not everything went through the roof," said Ettinger, "but many things did."

Guernsey's expects to post the prices realized in the auction on the company's Web site in the coming days, he said.

Irwin stands to keep a large portion of the sale price, provided that a court hearing in Marin County next week holds the estate responsible for his legal expenses and the taxes on the guitars. Guernsey's will charge him a commission, on top of the $196,500 the auction house added to the buyers' bills. Irwin said he was not surprised by the million-dollar price tag.

"It was like going to a horse race where you already know you've won," he said. "You just don't know the odds."

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