OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Roy Rogers and Dale Evans 'spinning in their graves' after this week's auction

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column.
2010-07-17T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Roy Rogers and Dale Evans 'spinning in their graves' after this week's auctionBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, 219.852.4327 nwitimes.com

Just a couple weeks ago, I bought a DVD I knew my parents would enjoy watching.

It featured six episodes of the late Ralph Edwards popular show "This Is Your Life," surprising notable guests like Jayne Mansfield, Lou Costello, Bette Davis, Johnny Cash and Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy with a "walk down memory lane."

But the real reason I purchased this collection ($12.95 from the gift shop at Cracker Barrel restaurant) was because one of the six episodes featured a surprise salute to Roy Rogers and it originally aired in 1953, the year my parents were married.

Watching Rogers, his third wife Dale Evans and their slew of children, most adopted, along with his beloved horse Trigger made for great TV. He even sang his signature song "Tumbling Weeds."

This was a man who had a roller coaster life (both success and tragedy) since his early childhood in Cincinnati, Ohio. His second wife, Arline Wilkins, died of complications just a few days after the couple's son Roy Rogers Jr. was born in 1946. The couple also shared two other daughters, one natural and one adopted. Roy and Dale also adopted four children, one of whom, Cheryl Rogers, later became an actress. Of the others, one of his and Dale's daughters Robin Elizabeth Rogers was born with Downs Syndrome in August 1950 and died in August 1952, another daughter, Debbie died in a bus wreck in 1964 and adopted son John choked to death in 1965.

But through everything, this was a couple who always managed a smile and a song.

I can't imagine they would be pleased with the closing of their museum in Branson, Mo. and this week's auction of their belongings, including the stuffed remains of Roy's horse Trigger and his dog Bullet.

A Nebraska cable TV network paid $266,500 for Trigger at Christie's auction house in New York City on Wednesday.

According to an Associated Press wire story by Eva Dou, RFD-TV's chief financial officer Steve Campione said "Rogers reflects the company's values," since the network airs mainly agricultural, equine and country living programming.

Auctioneer Cathy Elkies said it was the "most colorful, emotional and sentimental" sale she had experienced in her 20 years at Christie's.

Considering Rogers' net worth when he died at age 86 in 1998, I can't imagine why the family didn't save and preserve this collection. In the late 1980s, his worth was estimated at well over $100 million. (Evans died at age 88 in 2001).

According to the Associated Press wire story, Rogers' son Roy Jr. cried at the beginning of the sale as he spoke of the family's decision to auction Roy's belongings.

"We hope you get a piece of Roy and Dale and take it home and you'll get to pass it on to your children," he said.

There also were strong emotions for Jamie Nudie, who flew in from Los Angeles to reclaim a piece of her personal history.

Nudie's grandfather was the "rodeo tailor" who designed Rogers' colorful Western outfits, as well as Rogers' silver-dollar encrusted 1964 Bonneville convertible that sold for $254,500 on the auction block.

The three women have carried on Nudie's Western tailoring business, and they were there to reclaim the Nudie trailer shaped like a covered wagon that the tailor had given to Rogers as a gift in the 1960s.

According to AP, Ream, the niece of another famous singing cowboy, Rex Allen, broke down in tears when her paddle went up and she got the trailer for $3,000 without a fight.

She said some of Rogers' children didn't support the auction, and she didn't think Rogers and Evans would have wanted the collection dispersed either.

"They are spinning in their graves right now," she said.

Other items auctioned Wednesday included Roy's first guitar, which sold for $8,750, compared to an estimated high of $3,000.

The auction continued Thursday with more than 1,000 items, including the Rogers' family dinner table, toy six-shooters, Rogers-themed tin lunch boxes and the Jeep "Nellybelle" from Rogers' TV show.

• The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or 219.852.4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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