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October 4, 2015

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Church charity, ‘Pawn Stars’ wrangle over value of a copy of ‘Godfather’ screenplay

The Al Pacino-autographed copy of the screenplay found its way into church thrift store


Christopher DeVargas

Diane Hutton, director of retail operations for Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, holds an authentic leather-bound script of “The Godfather.” This rare screenplay was found among thousands of books donated to the organization.

Pawn Stars: Diane Hutton

Las Vegas local Diane Hutton tries to strike a deal for her signed movie script.

Diane Hutton

Diane Hutton, director of retail operations for Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, shows an authentic leather bound script of Launch slideshow »

Gold & Silver Pawn

This is how Diane Hutton, who runs one of the largest thrift store operations in town, ended up on the hit cable TV show "Pawn Stars" on Monday night.

A while back she was explaining to one of the workers in the warehouse at Catholic Charities how to spot valuable books. The fellow was staring at six months’ worth of donated books that had yet to find their way onto the shelves at the charity’s main store on North Rancho Drive near Vegas Drive.

Yes, she told him never to judge a book by its cover.

“I showed him how to flip through the pages and look for money. I’ve found lots of cash in books,” said Hutton, director of retail operations for Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada. “And I told him to be on the lookout for old, first-edition books, and for anything signed by an author.”

The conversation was prompted because Hutton had realized the worker had thrown away a set of 18 Dr. Seuss books — first editions from 1953 and 1958. “He said he thought they were just junkie kid books,” Hutton said. Oops.

She retrieved them and will display them behind glass, for sale, at Catholic Charities’ newest thrift store, opening Saturday at Rainbow and Charleston boulevards.

“And then I told him to open the cover and look to see if it was signed by an author, or if there is a note in the book.”

A little while later, the worker approached Hutton with a book in his hand. “Like this?” he asked.

He handed Hutton an inch-thick book, bound in burgundy leather, with “The Godfather” and the name Robert Evans embossed on the front. She quickly flipped it open (there was no loose cash) and found the title: “The Godfather: Screenplay by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola.” At the bottom of the first page, a typed note read, “Third Draft, March 29 1971.”

At the time, Evans was head of production at Paramount Studios, where the epic 1972 film was made.

Hutton went back to the inside cover page, then turned to the next page. There was a note: “Bob — It cost me a lot ... but there’s one thing that I got ... ulcers — Thanks — Al.”

One of the stars of the movie, Al Pacino?

There was no way of knowing who dropped off the screenplay at the charity, and whether it was donated intentionally or unwittingly, Hutton said.

“I told people around me, ‘Let’s see if we can find anyone who can authenticate the signature,’ and one of the girls said we should take it to Pawn Stars.”

So with the 158-page screenplay in hand, Hutton and three others drove to Gold & Silver Pawn on Las Vegas Boulevard, where “Pawn Stars” is filmed. “The others were curious to see what the place looked like,” she said.

After all, the two businesses — the Catholic Charities thrift shop and the pawnshop — are competitors of sorts, trading on stuff — even if one is certainly nonprofit and one is decidedly for profit.

Hutton is not allowed to discuss any behind-the-scenes details, but suffice to say she found herself talking to Rick Harrison (“He’s the bald guy,” Hutton clarified) and Austin “Chumlee” Russell (“He’s the tattoo guy”).

Harrison beckoned an expert to check on the authenticity of the document and the suspected Al Pacino note, and the expert offered his endorsement.

Hutton hoped the book might bring a couple thousand dollars — money that would help feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and find jobs for the unemployed.

Harrison, mimicking Marlon Brando, told Hutton: “I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse.” It was $500.

Hutton did refuse, saying she hoped she’d fetch at least $1,000. So that was that. And the draft copy of “The Godfather” screenplay — with Al Pacino apparently complaining that the filmmaking gave him ulcers — is still for sale.

Hutton said she may hang on to it for a silent auction in February during the charity’s Hearts of Hope awards banquet.

“But maybe the Mob Museum will want to make us an offer,” she said.

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