What a "Thriller": Michael Jackson's jacket debuts in Austin beforeinternational charity tour
The pristine red leather jacket is one of two worn in the groundbreaking “Thriller” video (the other, caked with dirt and set aflame during the original shoot, is on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) and was recently purchased for $1.8 million by Milton Verret, a self-identified Austin investor and entrepreneur. Verret is also the founder of gold coin dealership U.S. Money Reserve, an Austin-based retail venture.
Dean Leipsner, U.S. Money Reserve’s current CEO, had the honor of unveiling the jacket for a private audience which included hospital workers, patients and members of the press. In a flurry of flashbulbs and applause, the jacket – which celebrates its 30th birthday next year – looked right at home in front of a velvety, airbrushed tapestry featuring some of Jackson’s most recognizable roles.
"The designers asked Michael if he could freely dance in a jacket like this, and he responded, ‘Have you seen the ‘Thriller’ video?’”
Prior to auction, the jacket was owned by costume designers Michael Bush and Dennis Tompkins, who received the piece from Jackson himself. It was both a gift and a guide – he loved the look so much, he instructed them to base future designs off it.
The designers asked Michael if he could freely dance in a jacket like this," Leipsner said, “and Michael responded, ‘Have you seen the ‘Thriller’ video?’”
This acquisition is the latest in a string of charitable efforts for Verret, who has a particular interest in non-profits benefiting children’s health and wellness. His projects tend to promote perennial giving through ongoing campaigns – in this case, he’ll be sending Jackson’s jacket on the tour circuit, with proceeds going to the Austin-based charity, Superhero Kids.
“Superhero Kids is a donor-designated fund at the Children’s Medical Center Foundation,” organization founder Samia Joseph explained. “Our goal is to improve the quality of life for all the children and the families who are going through cancer treatment here at the Children’s Blood and Cancer Center."
“Several months ago, I knew the jacket was going to be up for sale, and I was going to buy it,” Verret recalled. “Then, four weeks before the jacket sold, I took a tour of Dell Children’s Hospital, because we were getting involved with the CowParade (an upcoming Austin event) to raise some money for them. After that I kind of made it my mission to get the jacket. I knew that this is the most important piece of rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia history. Ever. There’s nothing that can touch it. With that much awareness, you can raise millions of dollars.“
Fourteen year-old cancer survivor Kayla Sweet, one of the Superhero Kids who inspired this donation, was on hand to witness the unveiling. After the applause died down, Sweet and Joseph were presented with a very special gift.
“We made a deal with the designers prior to buying the jacket,” Verret said, “that they would donate some money to Superhero Kids as well. Here’s a surprise for you...” he paused, posing with an oversized check for $100,000.
“It’s just beginning,” he promised.