Gil Perez had his eye on lots 82 and 158, both Roy Rogers' shirts from back in the day. He decided how much he was prepared to bid, and then Gil went back to his post at the door to the venerable international auction house, Christie's.
"This is a once in a lifetime thing. Roy Rogers! You're never going to see it again in the world," exulted Gil (everybody calls him by his first name and he says he's memorized thousands of Christie's clients' first names, the better to greet them all). Gil's been opening the doors on 49th Street for 32 years, as iconic in his world as some of the celebrities who walk in past him.
"I had no idea what an auction was," before taking the job back in 1977, he said. "I'm just a little guy. I didn't grow up in that environment," he added. Now though, Gil is an ambassador for the erstwhile haughty auction world in the universe of working folks on limited budgets.
He says he's "won" 30-40 paintings, porcelain figures and glass art objects over the years. His highest winning bid ever? $2,000.
That wasn't good enough at the July 14-15 sale of the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans museum collection. Highlighted by auction of the 1950s TV star's silver-adorned Bonneville ($254,500), Rogers' taxidermist-preserved horse Trigger ($266,500) and Trigger's opulent saddle (sale high $386,500), bidders exceeded pre-auction estimates by more than double. Gil didn't get the shirts.
But he got something perhaps more valuable: recognition from Roy Rogers Jr. The legendary entertainer's son opened the two-day event by saying Christie's had treated his family like the company's own. "Gil the doorman, Gil's even been wearing some of my father's clothes."
Indeed Gil modeled a few shirts (perfect fit) on the sales floor. They must've looked amazing on him. One, estimated to bring no more than $1500, sold for $3500.
"Gil is New York's best doorman," said Jim Cummins, a rare book dealer and a Christie's client. "He makes you feel comfortable and he remembers your name."
The doorman invariably greets visitors not only by name, but also with the words "good luck today." At the Roy Rogers sale, it was both successful bidders and the Rogers family who came away lucky. The sale brought a total of $2.9 million, overwhelming a pre-auction high estimate of $1.2 million.
"Sometimes you just don't get luck," Gil said about losing out on the Rogers memorabilia. "But it's all good. It's a chance at history. I want a piece of the action, so I'll have something to pass along to my kids and my grandson."