Being a good friend doesn't pay the bills. "I've got to start making money again," Orr says. "I can't just keep existing. I need a Plan B."

Actually, Orr has a Plan B, although he's not quick to admit it. He's secretly hoping that the little homemade movie about his life will wind up on the film-festival circuit, generate some buzz and land him some Hollywood dough. Maybe some film mogul will option it and reshoot it with actors and Orr can live off royalty checks.

The story (as told by Rick Orr himself) goes that, while Orr was scrounging around, trying to make a living picking in a post-eBay world, he was approached by a couple of college kids who wanted to make a movie about his life. Orr declined, but the film students kept after him until he finally relented. On one condition: He'd do all the filming himself. The young men agreed, and, a few months later, Orr returned their camera and the several "rolls of film" from which Picking for Picasso was culled.

Orr with Red Modern Furniture owner Jonathan Wayne, who calls Orr "an anomaly" in this industry.
Jamie Peachy
Orr with Red Modern Furniture owner Jonathan Wayne, who calls Orr "an anomaly" in this industry.
"I lived in a furniture gallery, growing up," says Orr's daughter, Shannon.
Jamie Peachy
"I lived in a furniture gallery, growing up," says Orr's daughter, Shannon.

The direct-to-DVD film, in which Orr is the only person seen, is riveting in a serene, sluggish way. Orr chats amiably about picking while he drives around town in search of treasure. He looks straight into the camera that's wedged onto the dashboard of his van and reminisces about his glory days: the time he found a stack of rare Helmut Newton photos; the 350-year-old Francesco Ruschi painting he bought from a slum and sold for six figures to a museum in Italy. We watch him broker a deal for a small, unimportant painting, purchase a William Saltzman canvas at an auction and drive past his recently foreclosed house in Scottsdale ("I came home last week, and they'd changed the locks," he tells the camera. "There was a note on the door from the sheriff telling me not to go in"). There are lots of shots of Arizona desert rolling past his van window; stark footage of jumbled junk shop interiors; an endless parade of Orr's many doo-rags.

"If this movie sucks you in," says Steve Stoops, owner of Stevens Fine Art in Phoenix, "it's because Rick's depression is so contagious." Stoops, who has known Orr for fifteen years, recently showed the movie to houseguests who have no interest in art or antiques. "And they were spellbound because it's a movie about a world most people don't even know exists. It's a captivating story."

It's also a vaguely disingenuous one. The one-sided phone conversations — a testy one with a client who owes Orr money; an emotional one with his daughter, who's too busy to see him — seem staged and stilted, and some of the speeches about waiting for that big find seem rehearsed. The film commences with Orr telling the story of that first Picasso and ends with him on his way to check out a storage unit full of junk, running out of gas. He walks the rest of the way to the appointment, and the film wraps up with a montage of newspaper headlines (e.g., "Man Finds Lost Picasso for the Second Time") suggesting that, among the pots and pans and other ephemera in that storage unit, Orr discovered — and bought — Three Wise Men, the same Picasso painting that breathed life into his career.

But a little quick digging on the Internet (that 21st-century scourge of the picker) turns up absolutely no evidence of such a news story, a story that would certainly have merited a column inch or two. And of course, there's the obvious question: If Orr actually did again find and resell Three Wise Men, why does he live in a mobile-home park?

Orr caves in immediately when asked about the veracity of his biopic. "I never meant for the movie to be taken as completely autobiographical," he says. "That's why I never say my name in the film. It's more a movie about a guy very much like me, but with a more hopeful ending to his story."

OK. What about the college kids who made the film? "That part's made up, too," Orr confesses. "I shot it with my own camera, and I hired a guy off Craigslist to edit it for me."

All this truth-bending might make one wonder just exactly how much of Rick Orr's life story is invented, if it weren't that he's so forthright about being a loser.

"Why the hell would anyone make up a story about a guy who's spent his life doing nothing but driving around," he asks, "pawing through other people's junk?"

Rick Orr has been driving around pawing through other people's junk all day long. All he has come up with today is a pair of small seascapes by the German painter Otto Nautschmann, for which he paid $35 at a yard sale. "I'll probably get $100 for them," he says. "It's not big money, but it's something. It keeps me motivated, keeps me hopeful that there's still something left out there."

Orr makes one last stop at a downtown thrift shop. The owner greets him at the door with a hug. While they chat, Orr circles the store, touching canvases as if the texture of their dried paint can tell him about their value. His phone rings, and he excuses himself to talk to a client.

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