"Guarding the Mask"

Guarding the Mask

A Review of Sothebys Auction of the Personal Property of Clayton Moore

By Barry A. Woodbridge

September 19, 2000


The Lone Ranger is making one last ride. From Beverly Hills, to London, to New York City goes the mask, the blue two piece western costume with red necktie, boots, gloves, holster, guns, silver bullets and light tan Stetson hat. Everything essential except the Masked Man himself is making a final journey in September and October this year. Then Sothebys will conduct an on-line Internet auction of each of these and many other items of Clayton Moore's personal property. On October 31, they will come to rest with the highest bidders.

To some, the very idea of auctioning off these personal items may at first seem inappropriate, disrespectful, or in poor taste. Why should the unique, irreplaceable personal effects worn by someone who has so lived the values of a cultural hero go to the highest bidder and become perhaps the private collection of any one individual? Why should what was always so much in the public eye, even during the so-called "prohibition years" when the mask itself was temporarily banned, become privatized?

Rest assured, this is not the case. In a written introduction to the collection for sale as well as by her own personal appearance and assurance to fans and visitors at Sothebys in Beverly Hills on September 18, Dawn Moore Gerrity, Clayton Moore's daughter, explained:

"The tremendous love and respect my father felt for his fans was central to his being; he repeatedly turned down financial gain rather than put the Lone Ranger in a situation that compromised the character's moral values. That spirit led to the donation of a substantial number of items to the Smithsonian Institution including one of the three masks from his collection that he wore during the TV series and throughout his career. I am very proud to say that mask is now on permanent display for generations to come.

The decision for me to part with any of these items has been bittersweet, but one my father encouraged throughout my life. Many an evening was spent "debating" which treasures I couldn't live without and which he wanted to share with his fans. [Dawn mentioned in this regard that back in her early childhood she can remember and smell the evenings when Clayton would have his silver polish out, polishing his guns, cleaning his leather, and telling her as a 7 year old that someday these were going to be important items to protect and preserve for others. "But," she reminisced, "what can a 7 year old understand about that? It was difficult enough as an adult a few years ago when we would talk about it."]

I have been privileged to be the 'curator' of these pieces and am so very proud of the man who influenced so many lives as profoundly and fundamentally as my own."

So, there is also a journey to Washington, D.C., which has already been taken. Once before the Masked Man was there in that now famous scene signing into effect the new Peace Patrol program with then Vice-President Nixon. Now, within a mile of the White House in the building on Capital Mall where the Smithsonian houses their collection of American memorabilia, in the same room where the Fonz's leather jacket, where props from the Honeymooners, Ozzie and Harriet, I Love Lucy, and Archie Bunker's old chair are on display, Clayton Moore's original mask and other personal items will belong forever to the public.

And what of the items yet to be auctioned? First, the mask is well guarded. Laura Woolley, one of the Sothebys staff who has been in charge of the archiving and preparation of Clayton's personal items, was discussing the impact these items have had on their staff, who specializes in handling celebrity auctions as an everyday part of their business. She mused how they had no stock mannequin which could fill Clayton's pants and shirt the way he did, so they put out word to all employees that they were looking for someone with his dimensions for a model (Laura got all Clayton's sizes from Dawn and could have made a tremendous Christmas shopping list from them!). They have a "Patrick" on staff who came the closest, but even he couldn't quite fill it the way Clayton did, so the image you see on the web and in their catalogue is a digitally altered image with Patrick's head and arms dubbed out! Goes to show you again there was only one true Lone Ranger! She was also pointing out the plain-clothes guards inconspicuously watching the room. There were more guards present than Sothebys would require, and not because there was any rumor of theft. Recalling how many persons in law enforcement careers today trace their beginnings back to the early influence of the Lone Ranger for truth, justice, and honesty, she had overheard one guard explaining how he had been lucky enough to draw this duty for the evening when everyone else wanted it and how a divisional chief in LAPD homicide had put himself down for this evening's duty.

Secondly, Giles Moon, also working on this project for Sothebys, explained there are many more items which may be bid on by those of us with more average means (the mask itself is being valued at $40,000-$60,000). So, watch their web site at www.sothebys.amazon.com starting October 20, and perhaps you too may acquire an original remembrance. But in the spirit of The Lone Ranger's Creed and what Clayton stood for, wouldn't it be fitting if someone were so financially enabled and benevolent as to purchase some of these items and donate them back to one of Clayton's favorite western collections on the West Coast, the Gene Autry Museum in Los Angeles? Then, on each side of the United States, the public could still visit the mask, see the costume, the hat, the silver bullets and remember what a great difference one life dedicated to such good can create.

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