Las Vegas Sun

August 15, 2022

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UNLV film worth $2.6 million? Negative

Remember those hot tub photographs showing players from UNLV’s national championship basketball team cavorting with a convicted sports fixer that got Rebels coaching legend Jerry Tarkanian in so much hot water with his administration nearly two decades ago?

Well, they have resurfaced on eBay with a hefty price tag — the purported owner of the negatives is asking $2.6 million for them.

That’s right — $2.6 million.

One bid came in a little under that.

“I wouldn’t give 2 1/2 dollars for them,” Tark said of the photographs that led to his ouster as UNLV coach in 1992.

The photographs published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal show former Rebels Moses Scurry, Anderson Hunt and David Butler sitting in a hot tub with Richie “The Fixer” Perry, who was convicted of helping to orchestrate the Boston College point-shaving scam of the late 1970s.

Tark says he knew Perry only as Scurry’s AAU coach (Perry also claimed to have had a relationship with Lloyd Daniels, the controversial former UNLV recruit who got Tark sideways with the NCAA in the first place), and that when he learned of Perry’s true identity, he banned him from hanging around the program. Stay away from that guy, Tark told his players.

Nobody knows when those photos were taken, or by whom. But in the eyes of former UNLV President Bob Maxson, who had an ax to grind with Tark, and the NCAA, which had three axes to grind with him, they didn’t look good, regardless of the time frame.

Perhaps had he been known as Richie “The Educator” Perry or Richie “The Good Guy Only Trying to Help Out One of His Former Players” Perry, things might have turned out differently around here, and there would be more than one national championship banner hanging from the rafters at the Thomas & Mack Center.

But that’s all water under the bridge. Or at least down the Jacuzzi drain.

That’s why it’s hard to believe anybody would ask $2.6 million for them — or be willing to pay that much.

In 1963 Abraham Zapruder sold his film of the Kennedy assassination to Life magazine for $150,000, the equivalent of about $1 million today. Zapruder was paid in six installments of $25,000, the first of which he donated to the widow and children of slain Dallas police officer J.D. Tippett, who was murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald before he was taken into custody.

There’s a humanitarian side to the owner of the hot tub photos, too. The scoundrel — er, guy who turned them over to the other newspaper for publication — says the dummy — er, collector — who purchases the negatives also must agree that $50,000 be donated to UNLV or another school of the collector’s choice.

At least that’s what the Negative Guy’s representative told me.

I used my own eBay account to send Negative Guy a note, saying I’d love to talk to him about those photos. I didn’t tell him that if I had that much money, I’d rather spend it on a Honus Wagner baseball card, but his rep responded anyway. We had two off-the record telephone conversations, which might as well have been on the record, because Negative Guy’s pal didn’t disclose a whole lot.

The middle man said Negative Guy, a family friend who lives out of state, was indifferent toward the Rebel basketball program. Those photos, he said, are just a small part of a more sensational cloak-and-dagger story that has its origin in Hollywood and involves famous people, some of whom are no longer living.

I told him I was all his ears. He asked what would an interview be worth. I told him that on second thought, I’d rather hang on to my money for that Honus Wagner card. And that’s basically where we left it, although, I must say, Negative Guy’s pal seemed like a real nice guy, for whatever that’s worth.

But his kindness and that bigger story — which Negative Guy supposedly will share with the buyer — probably aren’t worth $2.6 mil, even if you throw in the Honus Wagner card and the rights to David Hasselhoff’s next home video.

“That’s just a number,” said Negative Guy’s pal.

If somebody actually were willing to pay the $2.6 mil, it would be the second-largest sum of money ever exchanged for a photograph.

In 2001 a photo by Andreas Gursky called “99 Cent II Diptychon” fetched $3.3 million at Sotheby’s London auction.

“Why not just ask $3.4 million for the hot tub photos and set a new record?” I asked Negative Guy’s pal.

“Slow economy,” he said.

Gursky’s photo shows aisles of a supermarket. It’s a two-part photo, the second of which has been digitally altered. It’s very colorful, but not as colorful as the LeRoy Neiman poster of the Leonard-Duran fight hanging in my den.

Beauty is eye of the (filthy rich) beholder, I guess.

But I gotta side with Tark on this one. Unless those negatives show the former Rebels on the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza clutching winning betting tickets from that Duke game, I think I’ll just leave my print of “Dogs Playing Poker” hanging right where it is.

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