Hybrid guitar auction raises money for eye disease

AP News
|
Posted: Apr 20, 2011 12:22 PM
Hybrid guitar auction raises money for eye disease

When his young daughter developed Uveitis, an eye disease that's the leading cause of blindness among American girls, Twisted Sister guitarist Jay Jay French decided he wasn't gonna take it.

The band is playing a benefit concert next week to raise money for research into Uveitis _ though it's a one-of-a kind guitar auction that will generate the real funds for the project.

French got most of the world's leading guitar and amplifier manufacturers to make versions of their classic instruments _ all in nuclear hot pink like his own guitar _ to be sold to the highest bidders May 1 in Boston.

His daughter, Samantha, 17, has had the disease since she was 6 years old. It's an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye that can lead to blindness if left untreated.

"After one of the umpteenth doctor visits, where you're walking out the door and punching the air in frustration, I started asking myself, 'What can I do?'" French said. "I felt so helpless. I said I would give everything I own if she could not have this disease anymore."

French, a New York City resident who founded Twisted Sister in 1973, got an idea to ask different guitar makers make their own copies of his Gibson Les Paul "pink sunburst," with hot pink trim around the edges surrounding a softer shade of pink in the center. He thought maybe he could photograph them for a calendar he would sell, to raise money for Uveitis research.

But first there was the matter of getting the manufacturers _ fierce rivals _ to agree to break down competitive and legal barriers for a one-time collaboration.

"It was like asking Ford to use the same paint as GM, or asking Lamborghini to copy Ferrari," he said. "They just don't do that."

Yet one by one the guitar manufacturers _ Gibson, Fender, Gretsch, Epiphone, Paul Reed Smith, Ruokangas and Martin, agreed to build one-of-a-kind custom guitars with the same paint scheme as French's guitar, along with specific features he wanted included on particular guitars, such as a particular type of wooden fretboard.

Next up were amplifier makers, who are just as competitive with their own designs and outer coverings. French located a company that does the amplifier covers for most major manufacturers, under individual contracts and specifications unique to each brand. The owner of that company told him Marshall amplifiers had commissioned a hot pink amplifier skin several years earlier but never actually built them. Marshall agreed to do three amps in pink and let its competitors use the rest of the material for the charity project.

French says it would have been easy to get someone to knock off copies of the guitars the way he wanted them. But what makes them attractive to collectors is the authenticity of knowing they came from the manufacturer. Certificates from each builder will accompany the instruments: 13 guitars and 12 amps.

Soon the calendar idea was out the window and French decided to auction the items, which will never be made again. Advance bids are being accepted at the Skinner Auctioneers website.

Twisted Sister is playing a benefit concert April 29 at New York's Best Buy Theater. Money from the concert and the guitar auction will go to the Ocular Immunology and Uveitis Foundation.

"The cause is worthy because there's just not enough research money floating around for this," he said. "I'm trying to help my daughter and 30,000 others like her, and bring some light to this situation."

___

Online:

The Pinkburst Project: www.pinkburstproject.org

Ocular Immunology and Uveitis Foundation: http://www.uveitis.org

Skinner Auctioneers: http://www.skinnerinc.com/buy-sell/howtobuy-pinkburst.php