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Christie's to offer Trigger's remains in Roy Rogers museum auction

Friday, July 9, 2010 | 3:32 p.m. CDT

NEW YORK — The smell of horses and hay permeated the marble-floored galleries at Christie's in Manhattan on Friday as potential bidders previewed items including the preserved remains of movie cowboy Roy Rogers' famous horse Trigger.

The auction house is selling items from the now-closed Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in Branson on Wednesday and Thursday.

Unlike the fine furniture, paintings and jewelry that Christie's is famous for, the centerpiece of this auction is a stuffed and mounted horse rearing on its hind legs. It also will feature another type of horsepower — Rogers' 1964 Bonneville convertible adorned with collectible silver dollars and its door handles and gear shift replaced by silver-plated pistols.

The car is estimated to draw $100,000 to $150,000. Trigger is expected to fetch $100,000 to $200,000.

Other items for sale include: Rogers' and Evans' performance outfits; the preserved remains of Rogers' dog, Bullet; about 60 pairs of cowboy boots; the Rogers family dining table; and the Jeep "Nellybelle" from the Roy Rogers TV show.

Michel Bettigole, 70, a prospective buyer who attended the preview, called Rogers one of his heroes and said he grew up watching him chase down bandits on the big screen.

"But there was never any violence," he said. "He always shot the gun out of the bad guy's hand. It was good morals."

Hundreds of items will be offered for sale, many of them with estimated prices in the low hundreds. Hand-drawn music for the theme song "Happy Trails" has a pre-sale estimate of $300 to $500. So does a grouping of two Rogers' guitars.

Bettigole was skeptical about some of the estimates.

"A Roy Rogers watch that Roy Rogers wore for $400? Forget about it!" he said.

Cathy Elkies, Christie's director of iconic collections, said the estimates are based on the intrinsic values of the items, but prices could go much higher.

"What someone wants to pay for something Roy Rogers had, that's the wild card," she said.

Christie's has been overwhelmed with calls from everyone from museum representatives to Roy Rogers fans who wanted a piece of the King of the Cowboys, said Linda Kohn-Sherwood, who is helping oversee the sale. Part of Rogers' appeal was his charitable image outside the studio. He and Evans adopted several children and started a foundation for children in need.

"They were the Brad (Pitt) and Angelina (Jolie) of the time," Kohn-Sherwood said.

Near the entrance at Christie's Friday, doorman Gil Perez, 58, got to be the famous cowboy for a day. Perez wore one of Rogers' red, embroidered performance shirts and toted a Roy Rogers guitar as he welcomed visitors to the gallery. He said he got his lucky break because he was about the same size as Rogers.

"I'm so honored, because I grew up watching him," he said. "But there's no way I'm trying to imitate him, because there's only one Roy."


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