Inside an unremarkable warehouse in an industrial Los Angeles neighborhood sits a throne fit for a king.
The massive red velvet chair is adorned with gilded cupids, birds and other decorative flourishes.
But that's not all.
Steps away, a dozen statues of laughing, frolicking children linger. And against one wall lean the iron gates to Neverland Ranch, Michael Jackson's famed 2,700-acre amusement park of a home.
This warehouse in a location kept secret to avoid prying eyes and paparazzi's flash bulbs houses a curious mix of artifacts from the life of Jackson, the international megacelebrity whose peculiarities and personal problems have in recent years overshadowed his musical talent.
Now, L.A. auction house Julien's Auctions is preparing to sell off the throne, statues and some 2,000 of Jackson's other personal effects to the highest bidders April 22-25 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
"He's a very eccentric and eclectic collector," said auction house owner Darren Julien, who gave the Business Journal one of the first looks at the items. "His tastes are really diverse."
Julien has made a name for himself as one of the top entertainment memorabilia auctioneers in the business. The 40-year-old entrepreneur has arranged sales for Barbara Streisand, Cher, Jerry Seinfeld and a host of other celebrities.
His six-year-old outfit raised about $12 million last year at its auctions. The auction house is already booked solid through 2010 with 10 auctions in the works. And at a time when the economy is forcing even the wealthiest to cut back, Julien projects sales to top $20 million in the coming years.
Now, with the Jackson auction projected to raise $1.5 million to $3 million alone, the company finds itself with a much higher profile than it has ever experienced.
"To work with somebody as iconic as Michael Jackson, that is absolutely massive for a firm like us," said Martin Nolan, 46, executive director of the company and Julien's right-hand man.
Rise and fall
The auction, featuring items all taken from Jackson's Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos near Santa Barbara, will not be lacking for spectacle. The eccentric pop star's eclectic taste will be on full display in items ranging from the mundane to the ornate to the simply bizarre.
There are dozens of arcade games, flight simulators, pinball machines and nickelodeons; the 1954 Cadillac Fleetwood limousine used in the film "Driving Miss Daisy"; multiple suits of armor; ornate, 10-foot-tall candelabras; go-karts, bumper cars, buggies and all-terrain vehicles; and a selection of British military uniforms. A variety of antiques, paintings and statues are also going on the block.
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