Hollywood memorabilia and rock & roll take ‘center stage’ at Bonhams & Butterfields auction

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Jefferson Airplane original painting created by artist Ron Cobb for their album jacket "After Bathing at Baxter's," 1967

A star-studded line up of Entertainment Memorabilia including Animation Art was offered and sold at auction on June 16 in Los Angeles.  Within the spotlight of the Bonhams & Butterfields sale’s top lots was property related to Hollywood icons Marilyn Monroe, Rudolph Valentino, Lucille Ball and Heath Ledger and music industry greats such as Jefferson Airplane and John Lennon. 

The top lot of the sale was an original painting of album art for Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 album After Bathing at Baxter’s.  The work was created by artist Ron Cobb, a former Walt Disney studio artist turned cartoonist/director/writer, for the band to use as the front and back images for their third album After Bathing at Baxter’s, 1967.  After a round of spirited bidding, the gouache, oil paint, pen and ink work brought $24,000. 

A two-page John Lennon and Neil Aspinall signed contract for Yer Blues, 1968, also highlighted the June sale. Dated the "15th day of October," the document outlines the publishing rights for the song that appeared on the Beatles’ White Album.  Signed by Lennon and Aspinall, the contract sold for $8,400.

New collectors, seasoned bidders and movie fans alike filled the Bonhams & Butterfields salesroom in Los Angeles to vie for items from silver screen icons and rock & roll legends.  The auction catalog’s cover girl, Ms. Carol Lynley who starred in Under the Yum Yum Tree (1963), The Pleasure Seekers (1964) and Harlow (1965), among many other films, was in attendance for the auction and was introduced to the assembled collectors by the auctioneer Margaret Sullivan. Ms. Lynley was greeted with a dynamic round of applause by the energetic saleroom and most attendees were genuinely happy to see the talented actress in person.

The highly competitive sale garnered international collector interest with dynamic bidding both on the telephones and in the Sunset Boulevard auction room.  "It was a fun summer sale that showed the strength and continuing interest in Hollywood and music memorabilia. We saw strong participation from around the globe, including private collectors and public institutions," said Margaret Barrett, Department Head, Entertainment Memorabilia at Bonhams & Butterfields. 

Several items related to and owned by Marilyn Monroe were also offered.  Featured lots included a pearl-gray wool sweater, 1950s, once owned by the icon (sold for $6,000); a 1959 essay received by Monroe written by Arthur Miller, her husband at the time, brought $4,500; a striped cotton sleeveless dress trimmed in red and white from the 1950s fetched $4,200; a set of Erno Laszlo make-up products and hair conditioner, circa 1962, sold to an international institution for $3,900, while a second set of Erno Laszlo make-up products in boxes, circa 1962, brought $3,000, both far surpassing their estimates of $500-$600. 

Additional items connected to Monroe and her Brentwood, Calif., home from the 1950s-1960s included: a 1950s strapless brassiere (sold for $3,300); a pair of black mesh fishnet stockings with seams up the back (sold for $3,000); a rustic-style footstool with wooden legs and woven straw top, 1962 (sold for $3,000), and a small metal pencil holder decorated with a pencil-design motif sold for $3,000. 

The general public had never before seen many of the June lots pertaining to Monroe. According to Barrett, "The Entertainment Memorabilia Department was excited to offer several pieces related to the icon. This was an extraordinary opportunity for collectors, connoisseurs and fans of Marilyn to acquire a piece related to her."

Originally sold in the 1926 ‘The Estate of Rudolph Valentino’ auction, a belt buckle made of metal and ornately decorated with colorful enamel, semi-precious stones and turquoise brought $4,680.  According to the original 1926 estate auction catalog, this item was possibly used by the actor in his last film, The Son of the Sheik, in 1926.

Approximately 100 receipts from Lucille Ball’s personal and professional life dating from the height of her television career (early 1950s to the early 1960s) sold to a delighted client for $3,300 after a round of competitive bidding. Nearly all of the receipts noted the star’s name (or her husband’s, Desi Arnaz) and came from businesses she patronized such as: Schwab’s Pharmacy, Gordon’s Satyr Book Shop, Robinson’s, Bonwit Teller, Beverly Hills Laundry, and countless other places in Los Angeles and New York.

Other sale highlights included: a huge collection of vintage black and white photographs of nude models seen in classic ‘cheesecake’ poses (sold for $8,400); a Heath Ledger director’s chair from the Academy Award®-winning film Brokeback Mountain, 2005 (sold for $1,680), and a pastel drawing of actress Carol Lynley from The Pleasure Seekers, 1964, by Jean Negulesco, consigned by Tom Mankiewicz, son of Joseph Mankiewicz (sold for $1,020).

Also on offer at Bonhams & Butterfields was a diverse selection of Animation Art, including illustration and comic art. Featured lots sold to strong bidding, such as a celluloid from the1940 Disney classic animated film Fantasia depicting Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice (sold for $6,000) and another celluloid depicting the main characters in The Jungle Book brought $3,900. According to Bonhams & Butterfields Specialist Dana Hawkes, "The demand for works by revered comic and animation artists is still strong and Bonhams & Butterfields looks forward to bringing more desirable examples of classic animation art to auction in the future."  

The film poster section of the sale was highlighted by a framed half-sheet from the MGM classic sci-fi film Forbidden Planet, 1956 (estimate $5,500-$6,000, sold for $6,000); a large collection of half-sheets, 1940s-1960s (estimate $500-$700, sold for $5,640); two inserts from the film noir classics The Blue Dahlia (estimate $500-$700, sold for $1,680) and This Gun for Hire (estimate $400-$600, sold for $2,160), both films starred Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. 

More Images:

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A Marilyn Monroe striped cotton dress, circa 1950s
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A Marilyn Monroe pair of fishnet stockings, circa 1950s
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A Marilyn Monroe set of Erno Lazlo make-up products and hair conditioner, circa 1962
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A Rudolph Valentino belt buckle originally sold in the auction titled "The Estate of Rudolph Valentino," 1926
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A Heath Ledger director's chair from "Brokeback Mountain"
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An insert film poster from the 1942 Paramount film noir classic, "This Gun for Hire," starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake.
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An insert film poster from the 1946 Paramount film noir, "The Blue Dahlia," starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake.

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