At last weekend’s Julien’s auction in Beverly Hills, California, featuring memorabilia from the Beatles, Madonna and Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson reigns supreme.
The King of Pop’s red and black calfskin ‘Thriller’ jacket sold for $1.8 million. The late pop star wore the jacket in a scene with a troupe of zombies who rise from their graves and break into a dance routine in his 1983 zombie-ridden “Thriller” video. The 14-minute clip is considered one of the most influential music videos ever made.
The winning price was exponentially above the pre-auction estimate of $200,000 to $400,000. A portion of the proceeds will go to actress Tippi Hedren's Roar Foundation. The pop star's Bengal tigers, Thriller and Sabu, have been living at the foundation's Shambala Preserve since Jackson left Neverland Ranch in 2006.
The jacket was designed by Deborah Landis, the wife of "Thriller" director John Landis. It was given by Jackson, who died on the 25th of June 2009, to his longtime costume designers Dennis Tompkins and Michael Bush. The inside lining is inscribed "To Bush and Dennis, All My Love, Michael Jackson," and the sleeve is signed "Love Michael Jackson."
Its sale came exactly two years after the then 50-year-old Jackson was killed by a surgical anesthetic called Propofol, which a Los Angeles coroner ruled killed the singer in combination with several sedatives found in his blood.
Darren Julien, president and CEO of Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills, Callifornia, said the jacket was purchased by Milton Verret, a commodities trader and philanthropist from Austin, Texas.
Verret, who also owns the jacket Jackson wore during his Bad tour, revealed that the jacket will be put on display at Dell Children's Hospital in Austin, before sending it around the world to display as a fundraising tool for children's charities in the spirit of Jackson.
Verret has a history of making pop-culture purchases to benefit the less fortunate. He paid $120,000 at auction for a $20,000 2009 motorcycle signed by Jay Leno to benefit a New York children's charity. He spent another $120,000 on eight "Big Guitars" during the 2009 GuitarTown charitable auction in Austin, donating the pieces to the city afterward.
"It is one of the most important pieces of rock 'n' roll memorabilia in history," Verret said.
The jacket wasn't the only piece of memorabilia from the late King of Pop that was part of the auction. The signature fedora Jackson wore during his Bad Tour was sold for $16,250, his handwritten note to Elizabeth Taylor went for $5,625 and a signed pillowcase fetched $3,584. And a bidder paid out $330,000 -- more than 10 times what Julien's had expected to get -- for one of the famous, shiny, crystal-covered gloves that Jackson wore during the 1980s.
Other pieces of history, from other members of music royalty, were also featured at the auction. While gold records and instruments were common items, others were more practical -- like Frank Sinatra's boots (selling for $2,500) and his 1986 Jaguar car ($19,000) as well as the U.S. Army-issued sewing kit of Elvis Presley's that went for $1,536.
The King of Pop's closest competition at the auction was the Beatles, which had a number of items for sale. A signed postcard from Liverpool's finest sold for $5,504 and Paul McCartney's bass guitar fetched $14,080. But oft-diminished drummer Ringo may have gotten the last laugh, with the cape he wore in the movie "Help!" selling for $37,500 -- about five times the estimate.