Mr. Irsay pays a visit

by Dale Ogden, Senior Curator of Cultural History

You may recall from a previous blog post that the Indiana State Museum will host Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay’s NFL Owner’s Party during the week of Super Bowl XLVI in Indy in January. We’re also producing the exhibition, Chaos is a Friend of Mine: Cultural Icons from the Jim Irsay Collection, which will allow us to continue the Super Bowl-related festivities through early May. Famous rock guitars, Colts championship memorabilia, historic documents, and other pop culture artifacts from Mr. Irsay’s collection will be featured in this exhibit.

Jim Irsay rocks out on Jerry Garcia's "Tiger" guitar during a visit to the Indiana State Museum.

Whether he’s jamming with Stephen Stills, accompanying the Colts to Miami, indulging his OCD Twitter addiction, or engaging in any one of his other seemingly limitless pursuits, Jim Irsay can be a hard man to pin down in any one place at any one time. So we were pleased when he agreed to come to the museum and sit with a couple of local journalists to talk about the upcoming exhibition (watch Ray Cortopassi’s Fox59 story!).

Many great actors think they’d make a great rock god. Some museum curators believe they’d make great novelists. A wealthy industrialist may imagine himself as a great poet. One thing for sure, as a classically trained guitarist, Jim Irsay knows his way around an axe. So, of course, the reporters wanted him to break out a couple of random instruments and hit a few hot licks. So while our registrar Kara Vetter and I stood around fidgeting and trembling in our white cotton museum gloves, Mr. Irsay banged out a few bars on Elvis Presley’s ’75 Martin. Not content with acoustic stylings, the press goaded him into plugging in Grateful Dead front man Jerry Garcia’s legendary “Tiger,” one of the most beautiful guitars that’s ever been hand-crafted.

Jim Irsay and Fox59's Ray Cortopassi look at a copy of the first issue of Playboy featuring Marilyn Monroe on the cover.

When, at long last, the reporters tired of Pete Townsend riffs and Bob Dylan lyrics, we moved on to other toys. The Super Bowl XLI trophy was held aloft. We were going to thumb through the first issue of “Playboy” — the one that features Marilyn Monroe, but it had already been prepped for display by our sometimes overly conscientious staff. When asked what he would tweet about the magazine, Mr. Irsay broke up the place with, “I swear it’s not mine, mom. I have no idea how it got under my bed.” We did examine a script from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (“Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries. Now go a-way or I shall taunt you again!”), and a note from General Washington sent to an aide ordering him to recruit spies on Manhattan Island. I became less anxious. Kara continued to sweat.

Come see Chaos when it opens on Jan. 27. It’ll be a hoot.