In his 35 years as an auctioneer, Tony Achord has handled big sales of heavy equipment from closed plants and auctioned off the estates of plenty of wealthy families — but never the belongings of a movie star, much less one he grew up admiring on TV.
“We’ve done bigger sales financially,” he said, “but I’ve got to tell you, I was a super fan. ... I was in love with Elly May Clampett. A lot of guys my age were because she was absolutely drop-dead gorgeous.”
The beautiful but tomboyish blonde Elly May was played on the hit 1960s show “The Beverly Hillbillies” by the late actress Donna Douglas, a Pride native who died in January 2015. Her estate was auctioned on Saturday at Achord’s Southern Heirs Auction Company in Denham Springs.
Though the auction floor was mostly filled with knicknacks from the two Zachary houses Douglas owned, a few items had connections to her TV character. She portrayed the daughter of Jed Clampett, who moved Elly May, her Granny and cousin Jethro Bodine from the Ozarks to California after striking oil on his land.
Even after hitting it rich and going to Beverly Hills, the clan held onto their hillbilly ways, striking a chord with millions of amused television viewers.
Recovering from a recent bout of walking pneumonia, Achord had a bit of trouble Saturday quieting down the chatter of hundreds of people packed into the auction house as they waited to bid on items like a baby grand piano, dressers, jewelry and artwork from Douglas’ and three other estates, not to mention several guns from the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office’s evidence locker.
Between 250 and 300 items were up for sale on Saturday, Achord said. But only one — a black mink coat that several women stopped to try on and pose for photos in — actually appeared on the “Beverly Hillbillies.”
“They were going to move back to the hills, and Mr. Drysdale, the banker, was trying to convince (Elly May) to stay and gave her a mink coat,” Achord said. “That coat, she kept all these years.”
Just like Elly May Clampett, Douglas had a rags-to-riches story, having left the farm she grew up on near Pride as a young woman looking for acting work, eventually landing her seemingly meant-to-be role on “The Beverly Hillbillies.” People at the sale remembered both the character and actress as friendly and admirable.
After Douglas moved back to the area nine years ago, she became involved in the community, often appearing as a guest speaker at local churches, Achord said.
Douglas’ kind nature paralleled the good-humored backwoods characters on the show she starred in, drawing in viewers like Elizabeth Depaula-Worthy, who watched it as a child. The hillbilly Clampetts thought the doorbell of their new mansion was music that mysteriously played from inside the walls, and Elly May initially preferred Beverly Hills’ “critters” to its men, who she was willing to “rassle” if they made a wrong move.
“She was so ... naive, and it was hard to believe that somebody could be that naive, but sometimes she reminded me of me,” Depaula-Worthy, of Hammond, said with a laugh as she tried on a wide-brimmed pink hat.
“Anything with pink on it” probably belonged to Douglas,” auctioneer David Bowman told bidders asking about details of items.
In her later years, Douglas was usually seen wearing pink, and from the looks of the auction lot, apparently had quite a few pink household furnishings and objects, like a set of chairs with pink cushions and a pair of tall pink flamingo statues.
Prices of some items quickly rose to hundreds and thousands of dollars during bidding.
Many people at Southern Heirs on Saturday were auction regulars, like Ann Fletcher, who always reserves a seat in the front row. Prospective bidders have to call weeks in advance to get a seat at an auction selling hot items, like those from the estate of a celebrity, she said.
Darrel Jacob, another seasoned auction-goer, brought along a photo of himself with Douglas taken in downtown Baton Rouge at a dog show just a few months before her death in 2015.
Douglas was an animal lover and “used to make all of the dog shows,” Jacob said.
A Lutcher resident who said he’s more an autograph collector than “Beverly Hillbillies” fan, Jacob had heard Douglas might be at the dog show, so he made the drive to Baton Rouge and got Douglas to sign the cover of a magazine she appeared on.
“She told me she was still cutting grass with her John Deere tractor,” Jacob said.
Lisa Stevens, of Geismar, remembered singing along to the show’s theme song and getting Douglas’ autograph when she was young. Looking over a table stacked with coloring books and other souvenir freebies near the auction house’s door, Stevens said Elly May’s authenticity was the show’s greatest quality.
“Things were simple then,” she said.