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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Jazz HQ: Dizzy Gillespie's New Jersey Estate May Fetch $1 Mln in Auction

Jazz HQ: Dizzy Gillespie's New Jersey Estate May Fetch $1 Mln in Auction Dizzy Gillespie's New Jersey Estate May Fetch $1 Mln in Auction

Late jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie's trumpet, Grammy award, record collection and handwritten sheet music may raise more than $1 million when his estate in northern New Jersey is sold at auction this week.

Gillespie, famous for his blowfish-like cheeks and bent trumpet, lived in Englewood from 1965 until 1993, when he died of pancreatic cancer. Gillespie's wife, Lorraine, died last year, and she wanted family, friends and charities to inherit the proceeds from an auction of their estate, said Harris Stratyner, co-executor of her will.

More than 3,000 items will go on the block in the Sept. 14 sale, said Kathy Nye, whose Dawson & Nye auction house is running the event. Nye estimates that Gillespie's 1975 Grammy statue for best jazz performance will fetch $2,000 to $5,000. She puts the total value of the mementos at a ``conservative $1 million.''

``It's the Dizzy factor,'' Nye said. ``He's most certainly an American legend and his belongings are a piece of American music history.''

The musician, born John Birks Gillespie in South Carolina in 1917, earned the nickname ``Dizzy'' because of his zany onstage antics and deadpan humor. ``Dizzy would often say to the audience, `Now ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce the musicians,' and then introduce them to each other,'' Stratyner recalled.

Bent Trumpet

In the 1950s someone fell on Dizzy's trumpet at a party and bent it, according to biographies. Gillespie played it, liked the sound, and from then on had trumpets made for him in that shape.

Gillespie ran for president in 1964 against Lyndon B. Johnson and Barry Goldwater, announcing that his first official act would be to rename the White House ``The Blues House.'' Gillespie later withdrew before the election. Memorabilia from his presidential run are for sale, including a ``Dizzy Gillespie for President'' red whoopee cushion.

He and Lorraine Gillespie, a former chorus line dancer and dance teacher, were married for 53 years. One item for sale is a black-and-white photograph of Dizzy holding a trumpet, inscribed ``To my wife Lorraine -- the only breath of fresh air that has ever entered my life. Your Dizzy.''

Other pieces include hand-written letters to Dizzy from musician Louis Armstrong, singer Ella Fitzgerald and every U.S. president from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton; a pool table from the basement of the Gillespie home, and one of Gillespie's trademark bent trumpets.

The Gillespie estate also features rare albums, a script from the Muppet Show episode featuring Dizzy, a Hollywood Walk of Fame plaque presented in 1995, and a six-foot-high banner covered with autographs of people who gathered for a celebration of Dizzy's 75th birthday, which he was unable to attend because of his illness.

Town Hero

Englewood, a town of 26,000 in Bergen County, named Gillespie one of its most distinguished residents and designated a downtown area in his honor. Actors John Travolta, Sarah Jessica Parker and Eddie Murphy have also called Englewood home.

The Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, where Gillespie was a patient, renamed its cancer center the Dizzy Gillespie Cancer Institute. In response to a request from Gillespie, the hospital established a memorial fund in his name that covers the cost of medical care for jazz musicians ``who were not as fortunate as him,'' said Margaret Bridge, executive vice president of the Englewood Hospital Foundation.

``We recognized Dizzy's value to the community,'' Bridge said. ``He considered this hospital his hospital, which from a public relations point of view was a wonderful thing for him to do.''


Lorraine and Dizzy had no children, and before they died they helped establish several charitable foundations. They also contributed to the Baha'i Faith, a religion that originated in what is now Iran in the 19th century and emphasizes unity and acceptance, which Dizzy practiced; and the Christian faith, which Lorraine practiced, said co-executor Stratyner.

``A lot of jazz players were poor, but not Dizzy,'' said Stratyner, 50, whose father was Gillespie's accountant for more than 40 years. ``Dizzy was a very successful man, I like to say, because he had a good accountant.''

The Gillespie auction will take place at Dawson & Nye's 13,000-square-foot gallery in Morris Plains, New Jersey, 20 miles west of New York City. Bids will be accepted in advance of the sale. During the sale, people can bid in person, by phone and through EBay Inc. live.

Dawson & Nye, run by Kathy Nye and her husband John, has handled the estate of singer Perry Como and soap-opera actress Ruth Warrick. The Gillespie auction is their most famous, said Kathy Nye, who expects a couple of hundred bidders.

This is an unreserved auction, Nye said, which means that every item sells to the highest bidder without any minimum price. Lots may sell for as little as $50, she said.


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