John Lennon’s Epiphone / The Roxy / The Viper Lounge

Today my younger son and I went to Musician’s Friend, a freaking warehouse of a joint down in the East Bottoms, to find a hard case for his guitar. He has an Epiphone similar to what John Lennon played, with a wide hollow body finished in red. Beautiful instrument. Curious thing is, my boy plays like he’s 21–and he’s only 15. Kid’s a natural, as his teacher tells me. He practices all the time, is dead-serious and yet in a light way. Fully intent on making it in the music world. Knowing what I went through as a writer, and how the odds are similar, I keep my counsel for now. Also there are legions of phonies, dopeheads and parasites in rock n roll, and those people often destroy the art, whether they’re corporate leeches or “hip” sycophants; he has to stay above that. We’ll take it one year at a time.

Later we stopped by the gallery to buy coffee for the chicks at the interior design place, Terbovich, down the block. I’d promised them, and anyway they’re always so sweet. Later we got on the web to check out Sunset Strip. My son wanted to know about The Roxy, The Whiskey, The Viper Lounge, all those joints. Sure their history is interesting, but insubstantial compared to what the music’s supposed to be about. Still he’s very curious. Maybe I’ll take him someday. I remember what those places were like in the 80s–big hair on both the dudes and chicks, coke everywhere, more decadence than talent. Interesting to observe, but very destructive. I ain’t in a real hurry to take him.

Much later we had a damn good game of football with all of my son’s buddies. They’re mostly musicians, but decent with a pigskin. Everyone played well, everyone made tackles, broke tackles, and everyone scored (I made sure of that). I like a game when we all leave the field muddy, winded, and every person feeling like a winner.

Tonight? My wife and I head to a friend’s for a New Year’s Eve party. My older son, 17, will be holding the fort at our house. Yeah he’s having a party. Yeah I’ll pop in for a surprise visit. I ain’t stupid. No one’s leaving my place drunk.

What’s this got to do with art and literature? Nothin. But it was a nice way in which to end the year. Now for a bit of bourbon, then some champagne, then mischief later. Art again on Monday. Much to discuss.

Liam Daly / Dublin, America, Greece / Post 9/11

What can I say about Liam Daly, except that his interpretations of his homeland–Ireland–are like none that I’ve seen anywhere else. He does them in acrylic, on canvas, and is shy about no combination of color.

He isn’t shy about adventure either. He’s ridden his bicycle across Europe, through the Balkans in the 90s (during the war in Bosnia), through Greece and Turkey, across America literally from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and has even bicycled across parts of Cambodia. Has all this informed his painting? I’d say so, almost as much as the occasional pint.

Worked late tonight–8:00–putting a master plan together for a client in Virginia. You know, deciding which walls they want to use for art, which areas for sculpture, which to leave alone (less is always more), also making lighting recommendations to capture the work well. Moderate-sized job, I’ll present it to them soon.

Do I dig working this late on a Friday night? Hell no, but sometimes that’s what it takes to provide opportunities for artists, especially in this post-9/11 era. Yes, we’re still dealing with the effects of that, and will be for awhile. That, the war, the hurricanes, and gas prices have all had a negative effect on the art market. But as for now, baby, it’s nearly New Years. I’ll have the whole freaking weekend off. Now I head for the sauna, later a bourbon, and much later…ah, we’ll stop there.

Noelle Stoffel / Romanian Orphanage

Noelle Stoffel is one of the kindest people I know, quite selfless, and also an exceptional abstractionist. This piece I think bears my point. It reflects a very intelligent and yet passionate application of acrylic on paper. She’s underpriced as an artist, being rather young (31), but we’ll change that with time–I mean the pricing not the age. You can view her work on my gallery’s site, or on her own:

Noelle also went, on her own nickel, to Romania last year, where she employed a variety of art therapy techniques in working with kids at an orphanage. The kids had never experienced such a thing before, and I could tell from the photos she showed me that they responded to Noelle with warmth and acceptance. She went with a medical mission made up of physicians and surgeons. I hold great admiration for people who do these sorts of things at their own expense, but then those are the sorts of folks that Noelle would hang with.

Matt Kirby’s “Tuning Forks” / Kansas Speedway / The Legends

Got Matt Kirby a commission the other day to execute a series of oversized “Tuning Forks” for a major developer. These will be installed in a project called The Legends at the Kansas Speedway (NASCAR). Initial drawing posted above–and this shows little of how the pieces will look. Yes you can actually play them by thumping them with your hand. Made of stainless steel.

Leave it to Matt, and his endless sense of humor, to come up with something like this. He was given an AIA Award for design in 1994, and it sure weren’t for nothing. If you think this is cool, wait until I show you his monumental sculpture design for the Speedway. Now THAT is cool, but later.

I haven’t discussed fiction in awhile. Well it’s the holidays, and I’m a bit preoccupied with revelry, but I’ll get back to that soon. Unavoidable with me.

Eric Dinyer/Erick Warner Wall Sculpture

All you have to do to learn about Eric Dinyer is Google his name, and you’ll discover that he’s one of the most lauded and innovative illustrators working today. Or go to his site: He’s done work for scores of magazines, publishers, recording artists. But he’s also an exceptional sculptor.

In this piece, which he created in concert with Erick Warner, Dinyer worked with found objects, objects that he carved himself, and then a carefully finished shadowbox to frame the assemblage. The result, in my opinion, is a masterful piece of understatement. Is it a bit bleak? Sure it’s a bit bleak. That’s where his head was at when he created it, also meaning the piece is human. Those sorts of things help keep the art world in balance.

Christmas Deliveries / Michael Ferris

Since my kids were 8 and 10, each year on Christmas day they have gone with me to deliver Christmas meals to elderly people in the inner city. We’ve always done this late morning, after opening presents. Why? To remind my kids, even when we were broke and the gifts rather spare, that there were more important things than worrying about whether or not you got what you wanted. It was one way for me to counteract the excess of Christmas in America; it reminded them of how fortunate we were; and it taught them the joy of giving to someone who truly needed it.

Most of these people live in fairly dilapidated conditions in the East Side ghetto, along streets like Indiana or Cleveland or Prospect. But whenever we show up with the meals, and a surprise gift, man you should see them smile. It seems to mean a great deal to these folks, since many of them are lonely–as indeed many elderly people are lonely. Now that my sons are teenagers, these visits mean a great deal to them too. They’ve come to understand the importance giving–year-round, not just at Christmas. Well, that was part of the plan.

The piece above is by Michael Ferris, one of the best young portrait painters I’ve ever met. The sensitivity and intelligence of the painting speaks for itself, as does the sensitivity and intelligence of the subject. I placed it in the Overland Park Convention Center’s permanent collection because the OPCC is in an area that is mostly white (honkeytown, in other words), and I felt it needed a little racial balance. My client, the city administrators, agreed.

At least in America today, if a region remains primarily white, this is more a result of market forces than overt discrimination, such as I witnessed as a kid in the 60s. But it still ain’t good. Hence anytime I oversee a civic collection, I keep these things in mind. I’m sure my reasons are obvious: art can open doors of perception within the individual viewer like nothing else. I’d say that’s a pretty cool thing.


This one’s easy: may we all know gratitude for what we have, and extend love to those around us–especially those most in need.

Happy Holidays.

Mr. and Mrs. Bridge / Merchant and Ivory / Evan Connell and Paul Newman

Mr. and Mrs. Bridge. A Merchant & Ivory flick, they filmed it here in ’89. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were in it. She’d optioned the rights to the Evan Connell novels on which the movie was based; in fact she’d optioned them way back in the early 60s, and waited for the right time to produce them. He told me this once in Santa Fe, when I met him for drinks at the La Fonda. Quiet dude, eloquent, and at the time enjoying the considerable success of his book Son of the Morning Star, a biography of Custer. It couldn’t have been more different from the Bridge novels, but that’s a reflection of Connell’s talent.

Unfortunately this movie doesn’t have the wonder of other M&I films (A Room With A View, The Remains of The Day), and is frankly tedious in many places. But perhaps that’s the point: the tedious lives of tedious little minds who happen to have money. The books were set in KC, where Connell grew up, so they filmed the movie here. I worked briefly on the set as a gopher. I had a BMW Cafe Racer at the time, and they thought I’d be able to go and fetch things very quickly for them. I could, and did; the people were charming, and always kind; but the pay sucked, so after a day I quit and went back to cutting trees.

Newman was great in the movie (reminded me of many businessmen that I knew as a boy); so was Woodward (reminded me of certain wives of those businessmen). Did it capture the attitudes, prejudices and inhibitions of the time–or as those things related to the Upper Class in the 1930s Midwest? Yes, I’d say it did. Would I see it again. Sure, someday.

But I have to be honest. Had I been raised at that time, in that world, would I have been any less narrow-minded? Probably not. Either way, I’m grateful to live in this time.

Jerry Moon / Thomas Hart Benton

We sold a fine painting by Jerry Moon today, posted it above.

Jerry’s one crazy dude. When he first came to me, in 2000, he was painting only in egg tempera. If you dig this medium, then you know that you have to break eggs, remove the whites, beat the yokes, then apply water and powdered pigment for each color. The result is brilliant color in an extremely durable medium.

This was the medium of the ancient Greeks. It was also that of Thomas Hart Benton, who painted some of his best-known murals in egg tempera. Particularly he painted “The Social History of Missouri” in tempera (using thousands of eggs). This enormous piece, which surrounds one great chamber in the State Capitol Building, illustrates Missouri history–its sacrifices, its violence, its nobility, its corruption–with stunning candor. Of course it freaked out the politicians of the day (1935), who were not the least interested in truth (not that they often are now either), but Benton didn’t give a damn. He painted what he wanted, how he wanted. They threatened to not pay him, he told them to got to hell, they paid.

Jerry Moon painted in this rare medium that requires such utter discipline and focus. But it took him so long to finish one freaking painting, with those tiny brushes that he used, that at last I talked him into switching to oil. The mixing of colors was faster, and simpler. So he switched, and the painting above reflects the result. Notice the hint of the curvature of the earth in the piece, and how that gives it–along with the perspective–a feeling of enormity, even though this work is only an 18 x 24.

Nice job, Jerry.

Theodore O’Leary and anti-Semites / Union Station Massacre / Harry Truman and J. Edgar Hoover

Ted O’Leary, the book critic I discussed two days ago, married young, as people often did in the 30s. He was fresh out of college, still a basketball legend at KU, and a cub reporter at the Kansas City Star. In fact he was working at the Star in the summer of ’33 when the Union Station Massacre went down–the tragedy that allowed J. Edgar Hoover to rise to power, which many considered a tragedy in itself, given his tendencies toward megalomania (whether cross-dressing or no), and the many lives he ruined in his quest for power. I felt it said a great deal that both Roosevelt and Truman always avoided him; in fact I think Truman refused to meet with him even once.

But I digress. Ted was working at the Star that June morning, and through the open windows could hear the Thompsons open up, the firing that went on, some say, for nearly a minute, but that research indicates was likely closer to 30 seconds. Still that was plenty long. When it was over 2 cops had been slaughtered, 2 FBI agents, and one con. Others were badly wounded. Ted wasn’t assigned to the story, much to his regret. But a young woman who were worked for the AP (which had offices at the Star then) did get the assignment, and in her white shoes and white dress, she went down to cover the story. Ted told me that when she returned, her shoes were splashed with crimson, so thick had been the blood. That was his first year at the paper, but this has nothing to do with his wife.

I don’t remember her maiden name, but her first name was Emily, and he met her while giving tennis lessons at one place or another, since Ted was an exceptional tennis player. She was Jewish, he was Catholic, and neither one cared. So they married, and after their honeymoon, they did what any tennis-playing couple would do: they applied for membership to one of the local racket clubs. But good old Kansas City in those days (like Chicago, like Philly, like so many other cities except NY), had strict rules about who could join private clubs, and who could not.

Ted was told that he could join, but that his wife couldn’t. He was told this by several clubs–a practice that went on far longer than I would care to discuss, not that I give a damn about belonging to tennis clubs, but I do care about my city, my country, and the occasional backwardness of both. Anyway Ted told the managers at each of those clubs to go to hell, and I think offered to punch a couple of them. In the end, he and Emily joined one of the Jewish clubs, and that was the only club they played at for several decades, until later joining a new club that didn’t care what race, or creed, their members were made up of.

When he told me this story in 1996, quietly in his kitchen over drinks, he was 85, a widower, crippled with arthritis, but with eyes that still burned with passion. And he was still angry about it, in fact pissed off. But he and Emily had kept their dignity during those years, while you can be sure that the self-important WASPS who barred them didn’t know the meaning of the word. Even so it still angered him that anyone so feeble-minded could treat his wife this way. He felt he was an enlightened soul in a forest of morons. Perhaps he was. But he died a dignified giant in my eyes.