True love “begins” at a flea market

Anne-Marie Russell (AMR) and her husband Mike Hein on their tandem bicycle.

Anne-Marie Russell (AMR) and her husband Mike Hein on their tandem bicycle.

Anne-Marie Russell loves linen sheets. But “they’re expensive and take years of washing and wearing to get to the perfect texture and softness.” To indulge, and afford, her passion she scouts estate sales and thrift stores.

About 20 years ago, Anne-Marie (AMR to friends) was browsing the Chelsea Flea Market in NYC. She sorted through a table stacked with old linens, “sensing textures with my finger tips.” Feeling something “perfect,” she began to pull it from the pile. She tugged and tugged but then felt resistance.

Looking up, she found herself staring at a rival tugger. “A stunningly elegant woman. Sunglasses on her head, Hermes scarf, camel hair blazer, jodhpurs, boots. Cool, icy, patrician blonde perfection. Wow, I thought. That looks like Catherine Deneuve.”

And then she realized it was.

“We each suggested the other take the sheets, back and forth in a mix of English and French. She said something like ‘Non, vraiment, je tiens.’ (Roughly, “I insist.”)

“Who says ‘no’ to Catherine Deneuve? Not me. I got the sheets.“

AMR slept on her prized sheets for about a decade. “A decade of 2 large dogs who made their way to the bed on cold nights.” When the sheets became too delicate, they were reassigned to a trunk.

But last year, she says, her Deneuve sheets “found a new calling.”

Then living in Tucson, AMR took the linens to local “dressmaking genius,” Erin Cox, who fashioned them into a long train. “Not every dressmaker would get excited when a client shows up with a $10 Mexican house dress from a thrift store and 50-year-old tattered linen sheets and says: Turn these into a wedding gown. But she did, and it was beautiful!”

AMR married Mike Hein, former City Manager of Tucson, AZ, and recent director of Homeland Security for Pima County. Regarding Mike’s qualifications as husband: “Most important, he loves estate sales, consignment shops and thrift stores as much as I do. Plus, he plays a mean game of tennis.” (Hers was “pretty pathetic” before being sidelined by tennis elbow.)

The couple’s wedding was an art circus fundraiser for the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Tucson. It took place at the museum and involved performance art, trapeze artists, a video opera, a maypole, and more. LA-based artist Vincent Szarek channeled Kris Kristofferson in “A Star is Born” to officiate. The bride and groom stood on top of a sculpture, “Space of Engagement” by Prima Sakuntabhai. “Ascending above the earth put us in a different, magical space/plane. It was very special.”

AMR’s new husband surprised her with a tandem bike hand-painted by Tucson-based artist Henry Kerr. “But the best part of the evening was the moving speech my husband made on the importance of marriage equality.”

I’m happy to say AMR is the new executive director of the Sarasota Museum of Art (SMOA), now under renovation. She and Mike recently moved to SRQ. I met AMR through mutual friend, SMOA trustee Kat Schuetz (see Shaman’s end-of-life journey takes a U-turn with Nonno; April 20, 2015).

Thanks, AMR, for sharing this delightful romantic saga with Godsigns readers. Welcome to SRQ. And Best Wishes.

Anne-Marie Russell AMR and her husband Mike Hein at their wedding ceremony

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4 thoughts on “True love “begins” at a flea market

  1. Linda Golden

    An interesting read as always Suzy. You should write another book, about all the interesting people you have met and interacted with over the years.

    1. Suzy Farbman Post author

      I have really been blessed to meet and interact with so many terrific people. We’ll see if I have another book in me. At the moment, I am having a blast with my blog. Do you have a good story for me?

  2. Henry Kerr

    I never knew the stoory about the sheets . It makes a wonderful beginning to this beautiful life you to have come togather to share. I was very inspired and honored to create the tandem. Miss you both.

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