July 19, 2010

The Wild West in New York!

Last week, the mecca of fine art and gentility that is Christie's New York was turned into a Rodeo town from the Wild West! How could the pristine sale rooms where collectors and galleries have acquired masterpieces of art have been transformed into buckaroo heaven? It was the co-auctioneer of the collection of the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum, formerly of Branson, MO.

American Baby boomers grew up with the "King of the Cowboys" and the "Queen of the West". Their radio and television programs, movies, recordings and live shows made them cultural icons and they created a mythical wild west - a simpler time when men were men who rode the range and women kept the home fires burning.

Although Roy Rogers and Dale Evans achieved enormous success in their lifetimes, they both came from very humble beginnings, made worse by the Great Depression. Roy was born Leonard Franklin Slye in Ohio and moved to California to become a singer. Dale began as Lucille Wood Smith in Texas and also earned a living with her voice. The two were married in Oklahoma 1947 and raised a family while continuing to tour and perform. They were outspoken proponents of adoption and devout Christians despite their showbiz lifestyle. Roy and Dale exuded family values and wholesome entertainment - qualities that are sorely missed today.

But let me get back to Christie's and New York. Due to a steady decline in visitors, the family of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans was forced to close the museum's doors in December of 2009 and contracted with Christie's and High Noon, Western Americana dealers, to disperse the collection of memorabilia. And so, last week the trucks pulled up at Rockefeller Center and offloaded the one and only Trigger (stuffed for posterity), Roy's Bonneville outfitted by Nudie the Rodeo Tailor, Dale's "This is Your Life" charm bracelet, various costumes, guitars, photos, awards, Stetson hats, guns and holsters, riding equipment, and merchandise like lunch boxes and posters. Enough lots to take a day and a half to sell, and net nearly $3 million. Heck, Trigger alone brought over a quarter million dollars, and I have it on good authority that the buyer was waiting to take him away, right then and there, in a horse trailer parked on West 49th Street!

It was a bittersweet occasion to be sure. Although this sale was an opportunity for fans of the couple to acquire a treasured memento, it also marks the end of an era. Today's youth are enchanted by a different cast of characters while their parents dream of a more innocent time where cowboys and cowgirls rode the West. And now, Roy and Dale have truly ridden off into the sunset. Happy Trails To You!

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