Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay’s love of music memorabilia and pop culture is so well documented it even has its own dedicated website.
In recent months Irsay has brought his collection to the public, displaying his private artifacts in Austin, Nashville and Washington, D.C.
Now, Irsay will be hosting his biggest event yet at an invite-only gala at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles March 12. The exclusive reception, which will celebrate the hundredth birthday of On The Road author Jack Kerouac, will find several luminaries, including Cameron Crowe, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, David Amran and authors Douglas Brinkley, Anita Thompson and Sean Hemingway reading Kerouac’s work.
The night will also feature a musical component with Irsay being joined by ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons, R.E.M.’s Mike Mills and others, such as iconic drummer Kenny Aronoff, John Mellencamp guitarist Mike Wanchic, guitarist Tom Bukovac and multi-instrumentalist Michael Ramos.
In between the entertainment the A-list guests will be able to view a wide array of Irsay’s most valuable pieces, from the worlds of cinema, music, politics and more, with works from Kerouac highlighting the display. The centerpiece is an extended scroll featuring the original version of On The Road.
While several of the pieces have been displayed in different locations, including the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Library, the history will be palpable seeing them all together in one space.
The list of items, spanning centuries, is extraordinary. And regardless of your area of interest, there will be something there that will blow your mind. For the history buffs in attendance there are signed documents from George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart, Gandhi and others, as well as the Continental Congress declaration of the first National Thanksgiving Holiday, a John F. Kennedy cigar box, NASA first spacewalk official photos, a World War I “I Want You” poster, a signed Apple II manual by Steve Jobs and much more.
For the literature devotees the artifacts are just as bountiful. Outside of the Kerouac works there are first editions, first printings of a trio of the greatest American works of all time — Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher In The Rye. In addition there is a letter from Ernest Hemingway, a Kerouac photo inscribed by Allen Ginsberg, a signed Kurt Vonnegut quote about Hunter S. Thompson and other works.
Though sports and cinema are the least represented at this particular collection the few pieces on display carry a massive gravitas. How else can you describe a game bat used by baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson and shoes worn by “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali during his legendary “The Thrilla In Manilla” fight with fellow icon Joe Fraizer? And from the film side there are two artifacts from Sylvester Stallone — his training shoes from Rocky Balboa and, more impressively, his handwritten script from the original Oscar-winning Rocky film.
Finally, the music component is, as one would expect from a man known for his guitar collection, astonishing. Among the top pieces are pianos from Elton John and John Lennon (his Sgt. Peppers piano), Bob Dylan’s working lyrics for “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” Paul McCartney’s studio lyrics for “Hey Jude,” Jim Morrison’s notebook from Paris and the Beatles’ drum kit from The Ed Sullivan Show.
A portion of Irsay’s guitar collection will also be featured on two walls. Among the artists featured in the 20 guitars are Jerry Garcia, David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, Les Paul, Jimmy Page, the Edge, Lou Reed, Pete Townshend and more.