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Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' jacket: The original is for sale

June 06, 2011|Christie D'Zurilla | Los Angeles Times

If you wanted a Michael Jackson "Thriller" jacket in the 1980s, all it took was a trip to the mall. Now, owning the jacket Jackson wore in the groundbreaking 1983 "Thriller" music video means a trip to an auction house and a minimum bankroll in the neighborhood of $400,000.

The red-and-black calf leather "Thriller" jacket is the featured item in a music memorabilia auction to be held June 25 and 26 in Beverly Hills. It was given to Jackson by his longtime costume designers, Dennis Tompkins and Michael Bush, and the singer brought it back to them to be used as a costume reference for the subsequent "Thriller" concerts, according to Julien's Auction Gallery. It is inscribed on the inside lining "To Bush and Dennis, All My Love, Michael Jackson," with the sleeve also signed "Love Michael Jackson."

The auction gallery expects the jacket to go for $200,000 to $400,000, with a portion of the proceeds earmarked for the Shambala Preserve, where MJ's Bengal tigers, Thriller and Sabu, have been living since he left Neverland Ranch in 2006.

Shambala has its own celebrity heritage: The refuge is supported by the Roar Foundation, created in 1983 by actress Tippi Hedren, star of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" and mom to actress Melanie Griffith.

So, will the "Thriller" jacket actually sell for $400,000? That price might be a bargain, given that Jackson's sparking 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.

Other MJ memorabilia up for sale includes the wig he wore at his "This Is It" London news conference on March 5, 2009, expected to go for $4,000 to $6,000. Jackson died on June 25, 2009, of acute propofol intoxication. He was 50.

Other items hitting the Julien's block: a denim jacket worn by Bruce Springsteen onstage during his Born to Run tour and on the December 1984 cover of Rolling Stone (estimated to sell for $2,000 to $4,000), a broken guitar neck and smashed guitar stand styled that way in concert by Nirvana's Kurt Cobain (estimate $2,000-$3,000), a contract rider signed by Janis Joplin (estimate $200-$300), a harmonica signed by Steven Tyler (estimate $300-$500) and a Les Paul guitar signed by none other than inventor Les Paul (estimate $5,000-$7,000).

MJ's video has been re-created many times since its debut, by inmates in the Philippines, in movies including "13 Going on 30" and recently by the gang at "Glee." In the latter part of "Boogie Nights," fashions inspired by the jacket and its many knockoffs practically screamed "We're in the '80s now." A memory booster, for readers who may not have been born in 1983, as to why "Thriller" was such a big deal: Back then, music videos barely had story lines, much less screenplays.

So will you be bidding on the MJ jacket or -- your secret is safe with us -- do you have one already, something evil lurking in the dark at the back of your closet?

Read more entertainment news at the Los Angeles Times' Ministry of Gossip blog.

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