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Elvis hair generating buzz at Chicago auction house
CHICAGO -- The King may be dead, but that doesn't mean it's too late to run your fingers through his hair.
Elvis Presley's hair, at least a clump of hair that Presley may have lost to an Army barber when he went into the service back in 1958, is going on the auction block this Sunday at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago.
The hair is part of a collection of more than 200 items that belonged to or are associated with Presley. There are clothes he wore, scarves he threw to screaming fans -- who judging by the yellow sweat stains, never washed them -- and Christmas cards he sent. And there are lots of records, some he kept in his own juke box, and other sorts of memorabilia ranging from Elvis dolls to Elvis Pez dispensers.
All the items belonged to Gary Pepper. Pepper was not only a huge Presley fan and president of a Presley fan club, but a close friend, as many of the photographs of the two together suggest.
Pepper, who had cerebral palsy, died in 1980, three years after Presley, and left his collection to his nurse, and that is who is putting the items up for auction, said Mary Williams, of the auction house.
But it is clearly the hair that has generated the most buzz.
Like a lot of the items in Pepper's collection, the hair was a gift from Presley to Pepper, who in turn sent a strand or two to appreciative Presley fans from time to time but didn't come close to exhausting his supply.
Williams said Pepper died without telling anyone exactly where the hair came from or when it was cut, but she said it appears that it was clipped during Presley's stint in the Army or around that time.
Williams did acknowledge that there has never been a DNA test done on the hair. But, she said, the auction house did take it to "somewhat of a hair authenticator" who compared it to his own sample of Presley's hair and concluded it was the real deal.
"I'm very careful with the hair I authenticate," said John Reznikoff. A Connecticut collector of such mundane items as stamps and documents, Reznikoff also has samples of hair that once sat atop some of the most famous heads in history, from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon, Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe. He even says he has some of Michael Jackson's hair that was famously singed during the filming of a Pepsi commercial in 1984.
"I have a high resolution scan and I took mine [Presley hair sample] out and the coarseness and color of it, they all match," he said.
"I did say short of a DNA test proving otherwise," he explained.
What that kind of testing means to collectors remains to be seen. But while the hair as it's displayed on white tissue paper may just look somewhat like the aerial view of Moe Howard, it could be worth a lot of money.
Williams said she doesn't know what to expect, saying that the best estimate is that the hair is worth $8,000-$12,000. But, she quickly added, a few years back some of Presley's hair that had been collected by his barber was put up for bid and sold for $115,000.
"The industry of hair collecting has blown up," she said.
So, who would want it?
"There's an interest in owning a piece of a celebrity," she said.
Or perhaps make one of your own.
"There's a possibility that people think you could clone people from hair," she said.