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Notorious B.I.G.’s $6 plastic crown sells for $594,750 in auction

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At Sotheby’s, the crown is king.

The plastic topper worn by Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace in his last photo shoot sold for $594,750 (including Sotheby’s “buyer’s premium” fees and taxes) during an auction Tuesday night — despite its original $6 price tag.

At the auction house’s first hip-hop memorabilia auction — which featured a one-of-a-kind Def Jam Recordings jacket, a triptych of pioneering DJs painted by Fab 5 Freddy and Judith Leiber’s crystal-encrusted handbag inspired by a boombox — the crown’s original purchaser said he didn’t buy the royal-rig for its gold content and embedded jewels.

“This crown is a novelty item; I bought it at a place on Broadway called Gordon’s,” said Barron Claiborne, a 57-year-old photographer who lives in Brooklyn. Claiborne owned the crown and used it in the stunning Rap Pages magazine cover-photo he took of Biggie in 1997. “Without Biggie, the crown would not be worth [six figures]. I only paid six bucks for it.”

What did Claiborne make of the fact that his crown — along with a pair of prints from the session, plus a photo contact sheet — opened with a quickly met estimate of $200,000 to $300,000?

“Some people have told me that it’s too low,” Claiborne coolly stated ahead of the hammer coming down. “That shows you how strong the symbol really is. I always thought Biggie was a king.”

The crown originally cost $6, said photographer Barron Claiborne.
The crown originally cost $6, said photographer Barron Claiborne.Getty Images

In fact, he admitted the payday is a step up from what he earned for shutterbugging the rapper.

“I’m not sure that I even got paid for it,” he said. “I was mostly shooting celebrities and reportage. I did this because I liked taking pictures of Biggie. The time before, I photographed him in a white suit — instead of the tracksuit that most rappers were wearing back in 1997.”

Amazingly, the royally inspired shot of Biggie Smalls — designed to illustrate yet another one of his nicknames: King of New York — almost didn’t happen. Sean “Puffy” Combs, the owner of Bad Boy Records, the label for which Biggie recorded, was at the shoot and scoffed at Claiborne’s concept.

“He said it would make Biggie look like Burger King,” recalled Claiborne. “But Biggie didn’t listen. He wore it anyway. And nobody’s ever told me that they look at the photo and think the crown is plastic.”

That’s a testament to “the charisma of Biggie Smalls,” he said. “His power cancels out the fact that it is a novelty crown.”

‘Sean “Puffy” Combs said it would make Biggie look like Burger King.’

 – Barron Claiborne

Tragically, though, even bulletproof charisma cannot deflect real bullets. At the time of the photo session, Biggie was in the middle of an East Coast-West Coast beef. Considering that none of the parties involved were, at the time, the types to settle differences in their lawyers’ conference rooms, things were life-or-death fraught. Inside Claiborne’s Grand Street studio, there were whispered concerns about an upcoming trip to Los Angeles.

“People were saying he shouldn’t go to California because of all the tension,” said the photographer, adding that Biggie died from gunshot wounds in LA on March 9, 1997 — three days after the session. “He had to be somewhat worried.”

The murder remains an open case.

As far as whom he thought would pay top price for the crown, Claiborne figured that several hip-hop moguls would be among the high bidders, dropping the names of Jay-Z, Nas and even the once-skeptical Puffy.

“Everybody in hip-hop is really inspired by Biggie,” Claiborne said. “The photo means a lot to people – more than I ever expected it to.”

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Dave Hester’s most bizarre Storage Wars find ever

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The device that Dave found looks like it belongs in a museum of medical oddities, rather than a plastic bin in some random person’s storage locker. It consists of two large silicon domes connected by plastic tubing and attached to a motor of some kind. Although he wasn’t exactly sure what it was, he quickly surmised based on the shape that the machine had something to do with breasts.

He turned out to be right on the money. In a moment of reality TV synchronicity, Dave took the device to Dr. Cat Begovic, a plastic surgeon who currently co-stars on E!‘s reboot of their classic show Dr. 90210. As someone with an advanced specialty in the area, she was able to tell Dave exactly what he had on his hands: a breast enhancement machine.

As Dr. Cat (as she calls herself) explained, the machines were “marketed as an alternative to breast augmentation.” However, her side-eye and the way she spoke about the devices in the past tense should give you a good idea of her concern that the oversized suction cups might put her out of business. Although Dr. Cat admitted that some people still make use of such devices, she noted that Dave’s set was missing the vest meant to hold the cups in place, and that the most he should expect to get for it is $400.

Dave concluded their segment with a very inappropriate joke about the breast enhancement machine. Thankfully, the good doctor was more than capable of putting him in his place.

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TVLine Items: NCIS: NOLA Promotion, Insatiable Alum to Riverdale and More

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Rita Devereaux is putting down roots in NOLA: Chelsea Field, who has recurred on NCIS: New Orleans as the DOJ attorney, has been promoted to series regular for Season 7 — opposite real-life husband Scott Bakula, our sister site Deadline reports.

Rita was first introduced in Season 3, after which she moved back to her hometown of New Orleans as she and onetime boyfriend Dwayne Pride (Bakula) rekindled their relationship.

Field’s previous TV credits include episodes of NCIS proper, Memphis Beat, Without a Trace and Cold Case, plus the 1990 ABC drama Capital News.

Ready for more of today’s newsy nuggets? Well…

* Riverdale Season 5 has added Erinn Westbrook, whose previous TV credits include The Resident, Insatiable and Awkward, in the series-regular role of Pop Tate’s ambitious granddaughter, Tabitha, per Deadline.

* The Young and the Restless has tapped Madison Thompson (Ozark) to play Jordan, a worldly young woman who is more than meets the eye, per Deadline. Her first episode airs in late October.

* Quibi has announced Black Equals Beauty, a four-part documentary series executive-produced by Queen Latifah and promising “a kaleidoscopic approach into how Black women in America have used inventiveness to flip oppressive archetypes through their style, beauty, and behavior.”

* The 14th annual PaleyFest Fall TV Previews will feature panel Q&As for CBS’ B Positive, Netflix’s Emily in Paris, Hulu’s Monsterland, AMC’s Soulmates, NBC’s Transplant and HBO’s We Are Who We Are (all streaming Friday, Oct. 2 on the Yahoo Entertainment Channel); IMDb TV’s Alex Rider, Netflix’s Away, NBC’s Connecting, Fox’s Filthy Rich, Showtime’s Moonbase 8, Amazon Prime’s Truth Seekers and Peacock’s Wilmore (streaming Saturday, Oct. 3); and Disney+’s Clouds and Marvel 616, and AMC’s Walking Dead Universe (streaming Sunday, Oct. 4).

* The Film Independent Spirit Awards will now honor achievements in TV — including Best New Scripted Series, Best New Non-Scripted or Documentary Series, male and female performances and Best Ensemble Cast — beginning with its 36th annual ceremony on Saturday, April 24, 2021.

Which of today’s TVLine Items pique your interest?

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What Time Will ‘The Boys in the Band’ Be on Netflix?

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With Broadway shut down, the Tonys canceled, and many shows that will likely never see the light of day again, 2020 has been a tough year for theater nerds. Thankfully, Netflix is offering a ray of hope with The Boys in The Band, a film adaptation of the 1968 play, produced by Ryan Murphy, and featuring the full cast of the 2018 Tony-winning revival for Broadway.

Co-written by Ned Martel and original playwright Mart Crowley, and directed by Joe Mantello, who also directed the 2018 revival, The Boys in the Band tells the story of a group of gay men in New York City in 1968, who gather to celebrate one of their birthdays. When the play first debuted off-Broadway in 1968, gay men were so widely ostracised that Crowley had difficulty getting any actors to agree to play one on the stage. Which is why, when the revival happened in 2018, the cast of entirely openly gay actors was a pretty big deal.

The Boys in the Band cast includes Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesús, Brian Hutchison, Michael Benjamin Washington, and Tuc Watkins reprising their roles from the stage, offering a front-row Broadway seat to anyone with a Netflix account. You don’t want to miss out on this one, so here’s everything you need to know about The Boys in the Band release date and release time.

WHEN DOES THE BOYS IN THE BAND COME OUT ON NETFLIX? WHAT IS THE BOYS IN THE BAND NETFLIX RELEASE DATE?

The Boys in the Band will begin streaming on Netflix on Wednesday, September 30.

WHAT TIME WILL THE BOYS IN THE BAND BE ON NETFLIX?

New titles are typically added to Netflix at 12 a.m. PT, or 3 a.m. ET, on the morning of release. Therefore, The Boys in the Band will be on Netflix at 12 a.m. PT / 3 a.m. ET on the morning of Wednesday, September 30. (Or Tuesday night, depending on how you look at it.) If the clock strikes midnight on the west coast and you still don’t see The Boys in the Band on Netflix, trying refreshing the page, or logging out and logging back in.

IS THERE A THE BOYS IN THE BAND TRAILER?

There sure is, and you can watch it right here. Simply scroll up and hit play on the video at the top of this article. Enjoy!

Watch The Boys in The Band on Netflix

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