ONE MAN’S QUEST TO AMASS THE COOLEST MEMORABILIA COLLECTION IN THE WORLD
By Rhonda Reinhart • Portraits by Olivia Ashley Photography
He calls it “Hotel California” – and for good reason. Nicknamed for the Eagles’ 1976 album and hit title track, the 1,800-square-foot backhouse at Rogers Healy’s Dallas home is an ode to his favorite band, plus countless other artists who have entertained and inspired him since childhood.
A music museum of sorts, the unassuming structure is filled, floor to ceiling, with the estimated 3,000 to 4,000 pieces of music memorabilia the 41-year-old CEO of a handful of real estate companies has collected over his lifetime. Ranging from the sweet (a love letter Janis Joplin wrote to her boyfriend in 1965) to the offbeat (the face mold used to create Michael Jackson’s mask for the “Thriller” music video), the items are physical representations of the intangible passion that has consumed Healy for nearly four decades.
“You have some stuff in life that you can’t run from. No matter how hard you try, it’s a drug you can’t clean up from, and mine has always been music memorabilia and sharing the story of music,” he says. “Every day I try to pivot from talking about real estate and bring people in on music because I feel like once you connect on something as powerful as a song or a lyric, then all the other stuff is easy.”
At one point, Healy considered buying a warehouse to store his treasures, but the thought of not being close to them was a deal breaker.
“This is going to sound really weird, but I truly feel like they’re my friends and my family,” he says. “I love being within arm’s distance of these things. I would walk into this room and be surrounded by Don Henley or Freddie Mercury or Axl Rose or David Ruffin or Aretha Franklin, and it truly – as bizarre as it sounds – would give me a really invigorating feeling.”
Healy’s real family is growing (wife Abby is pregnant with their first child), and so is his collection. His goal: to amass the greatest music memorabilia assemblage on the planet. And he doesn’t care how long it takes – because, much like the inhabitants of the original “Hotel California,” the pieces in Healy’s collection can never leave.
“This is something I want to live forever,” he says. “Nothing is for sale, and I won’t trade anything. I believe if something finds its way to me, it’s supposed to be there.”
Here, Healy lets us in on some of the standout pieces in his collection – and the heartbreaking item he let slip through his fingers.
How long have you been collecting?
Since the age of 3, when I got my first autograph. My aunt gave me an autograph from Larry Gatlin of Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers. It was Christmas 1983, and I was so taken aback that someone would give me a piece of them through a pen. I still remember it. I was collecting baseball cards at an early age, too.
What’s the weirdest piece in your collection?
I’ve got John Lennon’s hair, and I have Jimi Hendrix’s hair. I’ve got a lot of weird stuff. I’ve got Elvis’ wart, but that was not allowed in the house. I have Whitney Houston’s divorce decree. There are a lot of strange ones. But the one people always gravitate toward is the hair – rightfully so.
What about the most sentimental?
This is a multiple-answer tie. I’m friends with Marvin Gaye’s family, and for a wedding gift, his sister sent me the tie he wore during his last concert. That really means a lot to me. But the other one that comes to mind is from Billy Joel’s 70th birthday concert. I sat next to Peter Frampton, and I got Billy Joel’s set list because Peter Frampton helped me navigate. Walking out of Madison Square Garden with that, I felt like I had gotten the golden ticket from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
What was the most thrilling?
The first one that comes to mind is a Ritchie Valens piece. Finding his autograph on anything is really, really rare. So for 20 years I’ve searched for it, and I finally found one about a year ago. So I was really excited about that. That’s my number two. But my number one, my holy grail, was an album called Music From Big Pink, which is by the Band, and the artwork is by Bob Dylan. To find an autograph by all of them and Bob Dylan is damn near impossible, and finally, three months ago, I got one. But it’s always the next piece, too, and just getting that rush. There’s always a unique one around the corner.
What’s your holy grail item now?
I’ve gotten really into handwritten lyrics. Any time a Don Henley piece or a David Ruffin piece or a Van Morrison piece comes up, I’ll buy it, as long as it’s not something I already have. Big Pink I was chasing for a decade. But now it’s about finding stuff I didn’t even know existed or was for sale. In a perfect world, I’m able to establish a genuine friendship with the artists and their families, so I can help carry on their legacies through stories and songs.
What piece would you save in a fire?
My first one would be my Don Henley drumsticks from a concert. Second would be – I wrote a song for my wife for our wedding, and a country music singer buddy of mine sang it, and for our wedding I had the lyrics framed. And then I have the only known “Jim Morrison” autograph. He would only sign his name Morrison, but I have the only one that says “Jim Morrison” known to man.
What’s one that got away?
Don Henley, “Desperado” handwritten lyrics, Heritage Auctions, May 2020. I will never forget. I remember sitting there in sheer panic realizing this is not a good use of money, but it had reached the point where logic had been thrown out the window like 20 minutes prior. Then the gavel hit, and I was like, I will regret not buying this. And I did. That will always be the one. I have nightmares about that. I’m not joking. It’s like an open wound that’s just painful to think about.
Do you have any tips for budding collectors or collecting lessons learned?
There’s a saying in real estate: The definition of a good deal is a deal that makes you feel good. And in the world of collecting, there are a lot of emotions involved with it, and as someone who is still bitter about missing out on the Don Henley lyrics, I should have just bought them. The joy it would have brought me over the course of my life versus the loss of a few thousand bucks wasn’t worth it.
To see more of Healy’s collection, follow him on Instagram: @RogersMusicTour.
RHONDA REINHART is editor of Intelligent Collector.