Elton John’s Steinway piano captures $915K at Heritage
DALLAS – It was the auction that made headlines throughout the weekend, as Indianapolis Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay announced Saturday it was he who purchased Elton John’s touring Steinway during the second day of Heritage Auctions’ July 16-18 Entertainment & Music Memorabilia event. “Just added to the collection,” he tweeted of the $915,000 purchase, which traveled with Elton John from the mid-1970s until the ’90s.
For Irsay, a world-renowned collector of instruments played by the likes of John Lennon, Prince, Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, the piano was the latest addition to an estimable assemblage that has been displayed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and toured around the world. As Irsay noted in a statement issued Saturday, “When I started this collection, my goal was to preserve important pieces of American and world history so we could protect them and share them with future generations. Whether an instrument, an original manuscript or another piece of Americana, these items continue to be a source of inspiration and joy for so many. I am only a steward, so I want to make sure people from all walks of life are able to experience and learn from this array of artifacts.”
For Heritage, the July 16-18 Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Signature Auction was one highlight among many in the Dallas-based auction house’s most significant entertainment and music memorabilia event yet: a $7.5 million sale that saw more than 1,300 historic, noteworthy and iconic items find new caretakers.
That figure shatters the previous high for an entertainment auction at Heritage, which was set in 2011 when the house offered memorabilia from the estate of John Wayne – an auction that realized $5.4 million.
“This weekend set records in all areas,” says Heritage Auctions Executive Vice President Joe Maddalena. “And this is just the beginning of the beginning, as we are looking forward to bringing more iconic items to market this fall.”
This was the first entertainment auction at Heritage under the auspices of Maddalena, who spent more than three decades growing his Profiles in History into the world’s largest auctioneer of Hollywood memorabilia and popular culture keepsakes. That designation now belongs to Heritage.
Last weekend’s auction included $1.28 million worth of items connected to Marilyn Monroe – more than two dozen lots ranging from screen-worn outfits to personal drawings to hand-annotated scripts and personal photos. Not surprisingly, topping the list was the ensemble she wore as Cherie in 1956’s Bus Stop, which came from the vaunted collection of Gene London and sold Friday for $399,000.
The two-piece, olive-green-mesh-and-black-
The Bus Stop ensemble opened at $150,000 – then skyrocketed after a heated round of bidding. That happened again and again during the Monroe portion of the auction, proving, as Gloria Steinem wrote in 1986, that Monroe “is still better known than most living movie stars, most world leaders, and most television personalities.”
Monroe was responsible as well for one of the auction’s most prized possessions: a self-portrait she made during her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller – something far more intimate and revealing than any photo of her that appeared in Playboy. The work is titled Myself Exercising and was painted in 1956 during production on The Prince and the Showgirl, which co-starred Laurence Olivier, who appeared in the original stage production of Terence Rattigan’s play The Sleeping Prince. Monroe donated the work to the Actors’ Orphanage Fund (now the Actors’ Children’s Trust), which sold it at a charity auction – with Olivier serving as auctioneer and Rattigan as the work’s winning bidder. The self-portrait sold Friday for $125,000.
Monroe’s outfits weren’t the only gowns to garner attention in this auction. Grace Kelly’s gown from 1956’s The Swan, also from the London collection, sold for $87,500, as did Judy Garland’s instantly recognizable jumper and blouse she wore as Dorothy Gale during the first two weeks of filming on The Wizard of Oz under its initial director Richard Thorpe.
Another stunner hit the transporter Friday: one of only two original-series “hero” phasers known to have survived Star Trek’s three-season run in the late 1960s. Designed by Trek‘s first art director and production designer Matt Jefferies, the man responsible for the U.S.S. Enterprise, this Type-2 phase is called the “hero” with good reason: It consists of three components: the palm-sized Type-1 phaser inserted into the Type-2 pistol, with the brass handle that doubled as a power pack (as seen in the episode The Omega Glory). It’s a hero, too, because it sold for $250,000.
Another valiant piece also sold for six figures Friday: The Mark 42 helmet worn by Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark in Iron Man 3, which realized $115,625. Fellow Avenger Thor’s weighted Mjölnir hero prop hammer from Thor: The Dark World sold for $78,125 to one worthy winner. And a stunt lightsaber used by Mark Hamill in Return of the Jedi used the Force to fetch $68,750.
Heritage was also honored to offer last weekend items from the personal collection of Willis O’Brien, the father of the modern blockbuster as creator of King Kong. One lot in particular from the stop-motion pioneer roared to an epic number when 297 vintage original photos from the production of the 1933 film sold for $75,000.
A private collection of more than 40 never-before-seen handwritten letters by actor and martial arts legend Bruce Lee, providing direct and candid insight into the martial arts legend’s ascent to icon status, and newly exposed use of cocaine, psychedelics and painkillers at the height of his superstardom, sold for a combined $462,500 Friday. The revelatory letters, offered individually in a special catalog, sold for more than twice than the expected amount, purchased by collectors across the United States and around the world.
Heritage Auctions’ next Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Signature Auction is set for Nov. 5-7. Consignments are being accepted through Sept. 7.
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