WXEL Florida Forum / Arrowhead Stadium Install

I learned today that I’m to be interviewed on WXEL Public Radio, which I gather is on the north side of Miami, in January. Taped interview, it’s for a program called Florida Forum, which I believe runs on Sundays. Apparently the interview will last close to an hour. Well, we’ll have plenty to talk about.

After that I’ll have some down time before my first signing, so I’ll likely hide in the Keys and work on a new book. Odd, how the first time I went to Key West,in ’79, I hadn’t written any novels yet; only short stories. Now I go back all these years later, and a whole slew of books are behind me. Sure, only one of them is published thus far, but that’s a pretty good start. Didn’t seem possible then. Why do I mention this? To assure you younger writers, and painters, that with a little discipline (or a lot), most dreams can be realized. But baby you have to keep that vision intact; the practical world is adept at despoiling it–if you let them.

I haven’t discussed fiction in awhile–meaning some of my other books. We’ll do that in the next week or so.

Today we installed a sculptural interpretation of a corporation’s logo at their suite in Arrowhead Stadium (note shop photo at top, prior to install), which is where the Chiefs play. Great client. I alluded to them I think in September, when they commissioned three of these pieces, executed in aluminum by the brilliant Erik Beier (logo designed by Kelley Ludwig). So one of these went in the suite, and the other two in board rooms at the company’s headquarters. Client was ecstatic. So was I.

My point? For all you sculptors out there, if you feel like interpreting a logo in sculptural form–regardless of medium–this can be a great source of revenue. As long as you’re juiced by the commission, and see it as an aesthetic challenge, it is still art. Many corporate clients are open to this.

Cold Morning / Theodore O’Leary, Phog Allen, James Naismith / John Kudlacek

The morning was cold here today, grey and leaden. Perfect to make someone special–very special–smile as bright as the sun. How? Easy: a simple gift, an expression of deepest love, and a quiet exchange of trust, all of this touched with an unspoken commitment that is as old as the earth itself. That is how.

I first met Theodore O’Leary here, in Kansas City, in 1995. He had been book critic for the Kansas City Star since 1940, a correspondent for Sports Illustrated for 25 years, and a respected man of letters whose reputation carried all the way to the New York Times. As if that weren’t enough, he’d also played KU Basketball for Phog Allen, and had been one of his star forwards from 1930-1932, lettering in the game. He was one of the last surviving links to the inventor of basketball, James Naismith, whom he knew personally. While at KU, Ted earned a Phi Beta Kappa key for academic excellence. He also resigned from the fraternity he belonged to then, because he found the place a bastion of ignorance and bigotry–and basketball players didn’t resign from frats in those days. I’d never known a man like Ted.

I submitted to him my what I considered my first mature novel, Walk By The Sound, hoping he would give me some feedback. A month later the phone rang, and this ancient voice on the other end said: “Young man, I’m happy to tell you that I feel this is one of the finest books to have ever come from a writer in this region. Would you like to come over for a drink?”

Needless to say, I was floored. Needless to say, that was the first of many drinks in Ted’s wonderful, rambling, beat-up house. It was filled with 10,000 books, most from his reading, many submitted by publishers over the years–including first editions by Hemingway, Welty, Durrell, and the like. He drank martinis, I drank bourbon. I’d fix em, then we’d sit in his old kitchen and talk as he petted his greasy, ancient, feeble cat. Heck, everything there was ancient. That’s one of the things I loved about the place.

Lord the things Ted saw as a journalist over half a century. I’ll tell some of those stories later–many of them glorious, some repulsive, some simply a reflection of the human condition. But baby he’d seen it all. He died in 2001 at age 90. I, and many other writers, still miss him. There was no one else like Ted O’Leary.

The pieces at the top are by John Kudlacek, a skilled ceramist who needs no introduction, let alone an explanation.

Steve Richardson Sculpture

This piece, brilliant in its minimalism and yet dynamic for how the steel was manipulated, is by Steve Richardson. He’s a Lawrence (KS) sculptor who is not afraid to tackle, often single-handedly, enormous plates of half-inch steel–in this case stainless and corten. If you’ve ever done any fabricating, or even picked up a piece of half-inch plate, you know how insane this is. Somehow Steve makes it seem easy, and the result fluid. Haven’t a clue how he does this, but I know it sure ain’t easy.

Phil Jones / Bonnie and Clyde

This is one of my favorite pieces from the Overland Park Convention Center. Quilted piece with slumped glass, I think it speaks for itself. Good old Phil Jones, one of the best fiber artists I’ve ever worked with. http://www.mixedbaggallery.com/fiber/pjones.htm

I have much more to discuss, but right now my kids are waiting for me to sit down and watch Bonnie and Clyde with them. I’ll return to the business of art and literature tomorrow. For the moment, I’m more interested in this pair of misguided Texas hillbillies–who my grandma once watched as they robbed a bank in Oklahoma. Actually Clyde did the robbing; Bonnie sat in the car. Truth is she never participated; just a bored Dallas gal looking for excitement in all the wrong ways. But in the end they blew her away just like him. I suspect that’s how she wanted to go. She was in love with a psychopath, and chose to die with him.

Of the course the movie has nearly nothing in common with the actual couple, and romanticizes a murderous lunatic, but it’s interesting to watch. We live near the locale of one their shootouts (Platte City, MO), on occasion race gocarts near another (Joplin, MO), and climb chat piles near a third (Picher, OK). For some reason, those two have been a part of my family’s lore since my granny saw that holdup. Because one of my great-uncles was a small-time criminal then, and because the others were capable of it had they been pushed the wrong way by the law, a lot of people on the Dorrell side felt a certain sympathy for Bonnie. Clyde? They just thought he was freaking nuts.

David Lean, Peter O’Toole / Brejcha Sculpture

Why is it that once I begin to watch a David Lean movie, especially one of his epics, I am completely drawn in? I think because he understood how to create an “epic” in a way that no one else did at the time (50s, 60s), and because his films were underscored with that wonderful sense of British understatement that communicated, so subtly, all the things that could not be openly shown: sexuality, violence, madness…

I’m not expressing this well. Suffice to say that from the opening scene of the bike wreck in Lawrence of Arabia, where he died on that beautiful Brough, to the closing scene of the emotionally broken Lawrence (Peter O’Toole), being driven away from the desert after the Turks had been defeated (which he had been fundamental in achieving, but which cost him greatly as war costs everyone), with a dispatch rider passing him at breakneck speed, so that the flick starts and ends with a bike–suffice to say that everything that passes in between these two scenes is of epic scope, from the filming to the writing to the acting. Never mind that the movie had little to do with Lawrence’s actual life, this is cinematic art at its best. Omar Sharif was as brilliant as Anthony Quinn, who was as brilliant as Claude Reins, all of it reinforced by O’Toole. Only Lean could have pulled this off, the way he did in Zhivago, the way he almost did in River Kwai. Lord, what a talent.

Went to a client’s house this afternoon to discuss how we are going to hang a Vernon Brecha glass sculpture in his foyer: 150 pieces of glass, 200 lbs. How are we going to hang it? That ain’t my problem, that’s Erin Holliday’s. I hired her for the job. Now it’s hers. I’m sure the result will be brilliant.

Associated Press / Robert McGuire

Had a two-hour interview today with one of the writers for the Associated Press. Fascinating guy, he understands the arts as well as he does sports. In fact he’s working on a novel in his spare time (do journalists have spare time)? He wanted to know all about Living the Artist’s Life, Everybody’s Game, and the novels. So I told him–which took some doing. Don’t know when the article will appear; perhaps January.

Talking with this writer reminded me of another journalist/sports writer/book critic I once knew, Theodore O’Leary, who passed in 2001. I was fortunate enough to have earned his friendship before he departed. Ted’s is a great story, and I’d like to tell it, but tomorrow. Now it’s late; I’ve a date with an old friend and a bourbon on the rocks.

Image at top is a painting by Robert McGuire. Gifted painter, graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute, he now lives in New York which he moved to via Japan. His time in Asia shows in this work.

Richard Raney Show Photos / St. Louis Business Journal

These are some of my favorite shots from the opening for Richard Raney. I think they tell a fairly good story. He is, of course, the punk in the dreadlocks. Shots were done by the exceptional photographer Sharon Gottula: http://www.gottula.com/ Violinist, Rachel Gaither.

An article ran recently in several Business Journals around the country, where I was interviewed on the subject of corporations acquiring art. Here’s the story that ran in the St. Louis Business Journal. http://stlouis.bizjournals.com/salespower/2005/06/17/1.html

And now I gotta go. Promised one of my sons that I’d work out with him tonight–while listening to George Harrison. Then I think I’ll finish Lawrence of Arabia, one of my favorite flicks of all time.

Level of Play / Vernon Brejcha Glass Sculpture

The first novel in my “Cool Nation Trilogy,” aptly called Cool Nation, covers a length of social history from roughly 1963 to 1979. What did I witness during that time to warrant the work? A better question would be, what didn’t I witness? For some reason, I was allowed to see a great many extraordinary things: a riot, violent death, all the excesses of the era, fascinating characters of all races, Vietnam Vets of every condition, and the unfolding of one crazy story after another, which for some reason people have always confided in me. Then there is my own family’s history, from dirt-poor Ozarks to middle-class Kansas City. No, there was no dearth of material in my coming-of-age.

The second book in the trilogy, Level of Play, I describe in the synopsis below:

90,000 words. Set in 2001, Kansas City, Peter McKenna is again narrator. He is now in his 40s, married to a strong woman, the father of two teenagers–a boy and girl. He has been struggling all his life to succeed as a glass artist, blowing enormous works of rare beauty in the studio behind his worn house. But his work isn’t selling. Peter’s always broke, his house always in need of repair, and creditors are forever hounding him. He’s on his last gasp in attempting to make his career succeed, or will have to give it all up and become an office worker. That will kill him inside but he’ll do it for his kids, who adore him.

Peter is like a big kid himself: full of passion, mischief, sexuality, and yet a worldly sort of wisdom. He and his wife, Laurie, are close, and their kids close to them. Their family life is real, open, and admirable for its unusual candor and trust. Also, because of all the insane partying that Peter saw in the 70s, he is able to head off any tendency toward drug use by his kids and most of their friends. This results in some explosive scenes with the latter.

Apart from being a natural as a cool and loving father, he is also a baseball coach for his son’s team. Peter is dedicated to coaching rejected “losers.” He was once such a kid himself; in fact was bullied to the brink of suicide, as his brothers committed suicide. It means everything to this man to build esteem in the rejects of athletic society. But he does more than coach, he changes kids’ lives: comically, endearingly, profoundly.

Early in the season Peter brings on to the team an emotionally scarred boy, Wiley. Peter grows close to this kid, who is fatherless and in need of Peter’s gifts. A tragedy ensues, and afterward Peter snaps, collapsing under the weight of self-blame and a lifetime of artistic struggle. It is his daughter and Wiley’s mother who bring him back, but he will never be the same again.

Through the vehicle of this book, I address the full range of issues that confront all families, and children. It was written to have comic and dramatic impact, at the same time that it inspires.

I guess I could go on and discuss the book after that, but somehow I don’t feel like it. It’s now with the agent in NY, along with the other books.

Did meet with Erin Holliday this evening. She’s going to oversee the installation of the hangingscalpellplture that Vernon Brejcha blew for one of my clients. 150 pieces of glass; am sure it will be spectacular. We install soon; photos later. But at the top there is a shot of one of Vernon’s smaller pieces.

Jim Brothers / Eisenhower / New York Agent

Received an interesting call today from the National D-Day Memorial in Virginia. They want to order a casting of Jim Brothers’ monument of Dwight Eisenhower, the same that we put in the Capitol Building in DC. It’s in an edition of four, the first one having gone to Washington. After we install the one at D-Day, that will leave two, one of which is already spoken for.

When I began helping Jim structure his career, in 1991, we dreamed of the day when things like this would happen. After all the years of sacrifice, insane hours, and knocking on doors that refused to open, how nice that the day has arrived. Jim’s earned it. Me? I’m just the art dealer.

Preparing a packet for a literary agency in NY; they want to see synopses of my novels, screenplay, etc. They’re already reading two books. So the whole shootin match heads for Manhattan tomorrow. If it goes well, I’ll be meeting with them in Jan. If they decline, baby I’ll just keep moving on. Sooner or later this whole thing will click; you can count on it.

Last week I discussed my novel Cool Nation. I think later this week I’ll discuss Level of Play. Seems a good time for it.

Jim Leedy, Father of the Crossroads

Jim Leedy was one of the first artists to open a space in the Crossroads District near Union Station, which used to be a stretch of dilapidated warehouses and forgotten shopfronts, but is now hip, and therefore expensive–like Chelsea, only not as pricey. Jim got in before it was hip, or really even known. His gallery is the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, and there’s no other place like it: www.leedy-voulkos.com

Jim’s taught at the Kansas City Art Institute since, I think, the time of the Pre-Raphaelites (just kidding, Jim), and is a legend not just here, but in Europe and parts of Asia. These days he’s best known for his sculptural work, especially in ceramic.

When I was putting together the collection for the Overland Park Convention Center, I chose this piece from Jim’s inventory. Its raw application of paint, and its raw energy, somewhat concerned my more conservative clients, but they learned to dig it. Jim executed the piece back in the early 80s, I think, and it reflects his roots in Abstract Expressionism (rumor has it he once punched a drunken de Kooning in The Cedar on Long Island, but I don’t think that formed him as an artist), which he later left behind.

Anyway, to put it in more direct language, it’s one cool piece, and Jim one cool guy. To view more of his work, just go here: http://www.jimleedy.com/jl/