Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' jacket goes for $1.8 million
The jacket Michael Jackson wore in the groundbreaking "Thriller" music video sold for $1.8 million on Sunday at an auction conducted the weekend of the second anniversary of his death.
Who would buy such a thing, and pay such a price? One Milton Verret of Austin, Texas, who said he planned to send the jacket on tour to be used as a fundraising tool for children's charities.
Verret, a commodities trader and philanthropist, 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. (See Verret hanging with Leno and that bike in the video below.) He spent another $120,000 on eight "Big Guitars" during the 2009 GuitarTown charitable auction in Austin, donating the pieces to the city afterward.
A portion of the proceeds from Jackson's "Thriller" jacket, which had been expected to bring $200,000 to $400,000, will go to actress Tippi Hedren's Roar Foundation. The pop star's Bengal tigers, Thriller and Sabu, have lived at the foundation's animal sanctuary since Jackson left Neverland Ranch in 2006.
Another animal-rescue group, the Gentle Barn Foundation, benefited earlier this year when an online casino paid $40,000-plus for a signed box containing a lock of Justin Bieber's hair and added that treasure to its touring collection of oddities, which includes William Shatner's kidney stone, a plate from the Titanic and a grilled cheese sandwich with the image of the Virgin Mary. Bieber and Ellen DeGeneres had teamed up to put the item up for sale.
Jackson died on June 25, 2009, at age 50. His sparkling white Motown-special glove sold in 2009 for $350,000, when $50,000 had been expected, and a glove from the "Bad" tour sold in 2010 for $330,000. This weekend's auction featured other MJ items, as well as memorabilia from Bruce Springsteen, Les Paul, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain, to drop only a few names.
Even so, as thrilling as Jackson's $1.8 million may be, the King of Pop still has competition from Marilyn Monroe: Her subway dress from "The Seven-Year Itch" brought $4.6 million last week at an auction of Hollywood memorabilia collected by Debbie Reynolds.
-- Christie D'Zurilla
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Photo: Darren Julien, left, president and chief executive of Julien's Auctions, poses with Michael Jackson's jacket, actress Tippi Hedren and winning bidder Milton Verret of Austin, Texas, who paid $1.8 million for the "Thriller" keepsake in Beverly Hills on June 26, 2011. Credit: Reuters