Milton Berle was “Uncle Miltie” to the first generation of Americans to own televisions. And to a generation of comedians, Berle also was the father of joke thievery.
Having his private joke files on the auction block in Los Angeles means we may chance upon rare artificats that once and for all reveal where every other comedian’s jokes ended and where his began.
Bonhams is hosting the estate sale auction, which include original scripts, paraphernalia and more. “Milton Berle was one of the most influential comedians of the 20th century, performing successfully in every medium from vaudeville to the legitimate theater to the concert stage, to radio, film, and most memorably, television. He was also a friend and associate of other great 20th century figures like John F. Kennedy, Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe. Quite literally, Milton is a legend,” said Catherine Williamson, Bonhams director of entertainment memorabilia.
Featured items from Milton Berle’s estate include:
- His literary archive of a working scripts from his entire career, spanning vaudeville, radio, television, and film ($80,000-100,000)
- His private joke file (est. $10,000-15,000)
- Complete bound sets of scripts from the “Texaco Star Theater” and other career high points (estimates vary)
- One of the Powder Puff props from his television show (est. $1,000-1,500)
- His working script from the Marilyn Monroe film “Let’s Make Love” (est. $800-1,200)
- A signed photograph of JFK and Jackie Kennedy, inscribed to Berle (est. $1,500-2,000)
- A selection of early vaudeville costumes and props (estimates vary)
- A selection of humidors and cigar paraphernalia (estimates vary)
- A group of Friar’s Club awards and memorabilia (estimates vary)
- A sterling silver humidor by Tiffany with an engraved presentation from Mike Todd Jr., Stepson of Elizabeth Taylor (est. $5,000-7,000)
- An original watercolor portrait used on the cover of “Time Magazine” in 1949, with copy of the printed cover (est. $1,500-2,000)
- A collection of photographs by Philippe Halsman (estimates vary)
- A sterling silver cigarette case presented to Berle by Sinatra on the occasion of JFK’s inauguration in 1961 (est. $2,500-3,500)
- Frank Sinatra’s telegram to Berle, outlining the plans for Kennedy’s Inaugural Gala performance (est. $300-500).
You can review the illustrated auction catalog for “Entertainment Memorabilia including Animation Art” here. The official preview happens May 3-5, with the auction on May 5.