Witch’s hat and Jack Ruby’s gun under the hammer

The items are like a march through some of the most famous moments in 20th-century American history, some of them real, some of them cinematic: from the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald to the filming of Citizen Kane.

But destiny is calling for the owner of the 850 lots that went under the auctioneer’s hammer over the weekend in a casino in Las Vegas.

Anthony Pugliese, an eccentric developer, is planning to build a new town for 100 000 people on 16 600 hectares of land in central Florida.

Pugliese, who has a reputation for wearing alligator shoes with alligator eyeballs still attached, has put his entire collection up for sale partly to finance the new town, which he calls Destiny.

On Saturday it was the turn of his lovingly gathered film relics. Top billing went to the witch’s hat worn by Margaret Hamilton in The Wizard of Oz during the sequence in which Dorothy splashes her with water and she cries out: ”I’m melting!”

The hat fetched $170 000 after 13 bids in person at the Palms Casino and online through eBay.

Then there was the tailcoat worn by Orson Welles in Citizen Kane with a K embroidered on each cuff, which fetched $27 000. Other lots included the late Christopher Reeve’s Superman costumes ($45 000); the steel-reinforced black felt hat that Oddjob used as a deadly weapon in the James Bond film Goldfinger ($110 000); several canes carried by Charlie Chaplin ($4 200 and upwards); and Harrison Ford’s bullwhip in Indiana Jones ($57 500).

Apart from the film memorabilia, politics also features highly in Pugliese’s collection.

The centrepiece of this weekend’s sale was the handgun with which Jack Ruby shot and killed Lee Harvey Oswald two days after Oswald had himself assassinated John F Kennedy.

Ruby bought the gun for $62,50 in 1960, before turning it on Oswald in the underground garage of Dallas police headquarters on November 24 1963. The gun sat in a secure locker for 20 years, the subject of a legal dispute between Ruby’s family and other claimants, before it was sold in 1991 to Pugliese for $220 000.

He was hoping to receive at least five times that much in the auction.

The identity tag tied to the toe of Oswald’s corpse and a lock of his hair were also for sale, as were several handwritten papers, a humidor and a rocking chair belonging to JFK.

Pugliese told the Dallas Morning News that he had decided to sell the gun and the rest of his collection because his thoughts had turned to Destiny. ”It’s a matter of passion. If I do something, it’s a matter of passion, and now I have a new passion.”

Pugliese has been assiduously buying up plots of land in the central Florida area of Osceola County and says he intends to build a ”green, eco-sustainable community” with the proceeds of the sales.

Environmentalists, however, have questioned the value of a new town on relatively undeveloped land that will be largely powered through the controversial biofuel ethanol.

Pugliese may be quite glad to see the back of the Ruby handgun, which has caused him considerable trouble.

Soon after he bought the piece, he dispatched it with an assistant to Washington to appear on the Larry King Live show. The assistant was intercepted by police on Capitol Hill who threw him in jail overnight and threatened to have the gun melted.

It took Pugliese several thousand dollars in legal fees to retrieve it. – guardian.co.uk Â

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