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Ojai Orange | The Column of Lasting Insignificance March 29, 2008
John Wilcock - January 5, 2008


  The column of lasting insignificance

also posted:

November 26 2011
November 19, 2011
November 12, 2011
November 5, 2011
October 29, 2011
October 22, 2011
October 15, 2011
October 8, 2011
October 1, 2011
September 24, 2011
September 17, 2011
September 10, 2011
September 4, 2011
August 27, 2011
August 20, 2011
August 13, 2011
August 6, 2011
July 30, 2011
July 23, 2011
July 16, 2011
July 9, 2011
July 2, 2011
June 25, 2011
June 18, 2011
June 11, 2011
June 4, 2011
May 28, 2011
May 21, 2011
May 14, 2011
May 7, 2011
April 30, 2011
April 23, 2011
April 16, 2011
April 9, 2011
April 2, 2011
March 26, 2011
March 19, 2011
March 12, 2011
March 5, 2011
February 26, 2011
February 19, 2011
February 12, 2011
February 5, 2011
February 5, 2011
January 29, 2011
January 22, 2011
January 15, 2011
January 6, 2011

December 25, 2010
December 18, 2010
December 11, 2010
December 4, 2010
November 27, 2010
November 20, 2010
November 13, 2010
November 6, 2010
October 30, 2010
October 23, 2010
October 16, 2010
October 9, 2010
October 2, 2010
September 25, 2010
September 18, 2010
September 11, 2010
September 4, 2010
August 28, 2010
August 21, 2010
August 14, 2010
August 7, 2010
July 31, 2010
July 24, 2010
July 17, 2010
July 10, 2010
July 3, 2010
June 26, 2010
June 19, 2010
June 12, 2010
June 5, 2010
May 29, 2010
May 22, 2010
May 15, 2010
May 8, 2010
May 1, 2010
April 24, 2010
April 17, 2010
April 10, 2010
April 3, 2010
March 27, 2010
March 20, 2010
March 13, 2010
March 6, 2010
February 27, 2010
February 20, 2010
February 13, 2010
February 6, 2010
January 30, 2010
January 23, 2010
January 16, 2010
January 9, 2010
January 2, 2010

December 26, 2009
December 19, 2009
December 12, 2009
December 5, 2009
November 28, 2009
November 21, 2009
November 14, 2009
November 7, 2009
October 31, 2009
October 24, 2009
October 17, 2009
October 10, 2009
October 3, 2009
September 26, 2009
September 19, 2009
September 12, 2009
September 5, 2009
August 29, 2009
August 22, 2009
August 15, 2009
August 8, 2009
August 1, 2009
July 25, 2009
July 18, 2009
July 11, 2009
July 4, 2009
June 27, 2009
June 20, 2009
June 13, 2009
June 6, 2009
May 30, 2009
May 23, 2009
May 16, 2009
May 9, 2009
May 2, 2009
April 25, 2009
April 18, 2009
April 11, 2009
April 4, 2009
March 28, 2009
March 21, 2009
March 14, 2009
March 7, 2009
February 28, 2009
February 21, 2009
February 14, 2009
February 7, 2009
January 31, 2009
January 24, 2009
January 17, 2009
January 3, 2009

December 27, 2008
December 20, 2008
December 13, 2008
December 6, 2008
November 29, 2008
November 22, 2008
November 15, 2008
November 8, 2008
November 5, 2008
November 1, 2008
October 25, 2008
October 18, 2008
October 11, 2008
October 4, 2008
September 27, 2008
September 20, 2008
September 13, 2008
September 6, 2008
August 30, 2008
August 23, 2008
August 16, 2008
August 9, 2008
August 2, 2008
July 26, 2008
July 19, 2008
July 12, 2008
July 5, 2008
June 28, 2008
June 21, 2008
June 14, 2008
June 7, 2008
May 31, 2008
May 24, 2008
May 17, 2008
May 10, 2008
May 3, 2008
April 26, 2008
April 19, 2008
April 12, 2008
April 5, 2008
March 29, 2008
March 22, 2008
March 15, 2008
March 8, 2008
March 1, 2008
February 23, 2008
February 16, 2008
February 9, 2008
February 2, 2008
January 26, 2008
January 19, 2008
January 12, 2008
January 5, 2008

December 29, 2007
December 22, 2007
December 15, 2007
December 8, 2007
December 1, 2007
November 24, 2007
November 17, 2007
November 10, 2007
November 3, 2007
October 27, 2007
October 20, 2007
October 13, 2007
October 6, 2007
September 29, 2007
September 22, 2007
September 15, 2007
September 8, 2007
September 1, 2007
August 25, 2007
August 18, 2007
August 11, 2007
August 4, 2007
July 28, 2007
July 21, 2007
July 14, 2007
July 7, 2007
June 30, 2007
June 23, 2007
June 16, 2007
June 9, 2007
June 2, 2007
May 19, 2007
May 12, 2007
May 5, 2007
April 28, 2007
April 21, 2007
April 14, 2007
April 7, 2007
March 31, 2007
March 24, 2007
March 17, 2007
March 10, 2007
March 3, 2007
February 24, 2007
February 17, 2007
February 10, 2007
February 3, 2007
January 20, 2007
January 13, 2007
January 6, 2007

December 30, 2006
December 23, 2006
December 16, 2006
December 9, 2006
December 2, 2006
November 25, 2006
November 18, 2006
November 11, 2006
November 4, 2006
October 28, 2006
October 21, 2006
October 14, 2006
October 7, 2006
September 30, 2006
September 23, 2006
September 16, 2006
September 9, 2006
September 2, 2006
August 26, 2006
August 19, 2006
August 12, 2006
August 5, 2006
July 29, 2006
July 22, 2006
July 15, 2006



March 29, 2008

The diaries that follow, are ones that I wrote
and handed out in Soho thirty years ago.
Along with many others, they appear in the serialization of Manhattan Memories on this website.


Saturday, March 10, 1978: Leo Castelli muttered something about me tying him up with the Shah’s art collection in my last newsletter.  Later I met him walking down West Broadway with his famous Dalmatian Paddy (as patrician as Leo himself).  He was accompanied by a startlingly beautiful, frizzy-haired blonde and her BP male escort.  Leo asked why single him out among all the dealers who sold to the Teheran Museum of Modern Art and who had helped him assemble its vast collection of contemporary art which at this very moment the Ayatollah is demanding be covered up to its eyebrows.

At Landmark Milly Brower introduced me to painter Jean Davidson who said he’d just acquired a 1750 square foot loft at 19th and 8th Avenue.  Milly said she’d deafened most of the day by police sirens.  “The police have just bought a new one from Federal Sign & Signal” she said, “that is guaranteed to penetrate buildings.  They want people to be aware of their omnipresence”.  New ambulance sirens, explained Milly, tested at 110 decibels, almost double what’s comfortable.

Milly’s old house—from ’52 to ’64—was a $85-a-month carriage house at 132 East 27th Street, whose two 10’ x 16’ rooms were connected by a spiral staircase.  In which William (The Recognitions) Gaddis met his wife and Norman Mailer offered me my first joint back in 1955.  (I declined).  Milly, whose green, yellow and lilac blouse (“an explosion in a diamond factory”) was purchased at an off-season sale in Palm Beach, stood in sharp contrast to the plain, black number worn by Landmark’s bubbly Victoria Oscarron.  Her solitary touch of color—scarlet lipstick—recalled Kurosawa’s movie High and Low, in which a single puff of orange smoke interrupted an otherwise totally black and white movie. 

Cynthia Mailman, in from verdant Staten Island by VW bus, confessed she’d been invited to take part in a March 30th panel at Landmark on the “art and technology aspects” of contemporary images.  It had mysteriously been titled “The Literal Image” into which Cynthia’s stark rear-view mirror images would seem to fit.  Henry Rose whose recent celebrations to mark the 11th anniversary of his The Old Reliable Fish House (in Provincetown) was marred by a citation from the health inspector recalled for us Some Famous Openings we’d all attended.

The kitchen was filled with melodious chimes from Dennis Oppenheim’s visionary Tune Towers, which, as he suggests, would do a lot to civilize the drab industrial reaches of New Jersey.

Segueing into evening parties I met up with Vernita Nemec, Sharon Wynbrandts and Marty Fine who’s trying to soften his image as a loft lord.  He promised to hire Sharon to paint what he described as “the mirrored hall of Versailles” in his elevator at 644 Broadway.

Sunday, March 11, 1978: A few gallery openings but it didn’t seem worth turning out on a bitterly cold day.  Sometimes I think that instead of subsidies there should be grants made to artists to perform some honest-to-god real work.  There are far too many paintings, sculptures, and artifacts of all kinds already and who needs more?  Another bit of philistinism which always seems to provoke people is my suggestion to sell all the masterpieces from the world’s museums to eager private collectors and replace them with the excellent reproductions that constantly seem to fool the experts.  That way some of the mystique could be removed from “art”, the museums could become educational—their presumed major function—and all that expensive security, not to mention insurance would become superfluous.  Or more probably become the responsibility of the paintings’ proud owners who would doubtless guard their possessions at least as well.

Friday, May 5: Everybody’s a performing artist these days, whatever else their specialty might be, and there was grim evidence of this at the Grand Street opening of Bill Rabinovitch’s paintings, some of which looked liked a medley of Picasso and Matisse. But while the deceptively mild-mannered Rab welcomed his friends upfront, the menacing Ear Inn Mob took over the rear room to yodel, spin metal balls around glass containers (the sound of centrifugal force?) and act generally like a bunch of clowns. Fleeing home to my TV set I observed Channel 5 News was over at the New York Times interviewing Sovietologist Harry Schwartz. As he spoke, a procession of lady journalists passed back and forth behind him—a presentation that looked suspiciously as though it had been choreographed (probably by m/e Abe Rosenthal) to bolster the paper’s image as a champion of women’s rights. Which, some critics complain, it definitely is not. Of course, certain malcontents claim that the main thing wrong with poor old Abe is that he never found the time to get stoned on some excellent ganja during his struggling years as the Times’ man in India. And that if he had he wouldn’t have started his reign as m/e by commissioning a slanted, full page attack on the ‘dangers’ of the killer weed.

Saturday, May 6: Tried to call my friend Catherine about her apartment to find she now has an unlisted number. What a dumb thing to do! Who on earth do these unlisted paranoids think is going to call up and harass them? Surely communication should be a two-way thing with people being refused telephones to make outgoing calls if they are not prepared to receive incoming ones.

On WBay, original Larry Rivers drawings were being sold for a dollar apiece. They are color Xeroxes made by the artist to benefit the Little Red Schoolhouse. Rivers, one of the first major artists to see the potential of the color Xerox, made some of his early experiments at the Soho Media Co-op whose director, Buddy Wirtschafter, has taken the art of forging party invitations to new heights.

A charming show of ‘books’ you’ve never seen before was intriguing visitors to Franklin Furnace: books on rollers…on trips of paper inside bottles…in moebius loops, on scrolls…even a ‘Helicopedia’ on its way to becoming a bicyclopedia. The viewer sits on a stool inside this and reads the words on a cylinder that revolves around the head. Pedals to turn the cyclinder automatically have still to be added. Filmmaker Kay Hines (who sneaks me into Guggenheim openings when the museum forget to invite me) is also a writer, but admits that her words in the show aren’t getting much attention. Form over substance and all that.

Sunday, May 7:  The Robert Freidus gallery on Lafayette Street is actually somebody’s luxuriously furnished apartment, so openings there always have the aura of intimate parties. Today the roof was open, displaying a selection of sculptor Jay Kelly’s constructions, most of which drip, squirt of spray water. The artist, who  makes simple sundials that look like metal spinning tops, tripped and scattered a bagful of ice cubes all over the floor which diverted my attention from a comely lady who had just told me that her name was—no kidding--Skye Vermont; a poet, as who wouldn’t be with a monicker like that. At the Broome Street party later, somebody told me I’d missed yet another of Sharon Wynbrandt’s performances (she’s doing seven, on successive Monday nights) at her White Street loft. “You should certainly have come this time; she was nude”. Sharon turned up at the party and amplified: “Yes, it was lovely. I did my Dance for Red Laser and Trumpet with the laser beam caressing my body all over. My children were in it, too”. Next, I got into conversation with an actress who said she worked part-time as assistant cook in the executive dining room at one of the networks. “Boy”, she said, “talk about naked power; I’ve seen it all”.

Monday, May 8: Screw’s Al Goldstein is about to launch a monthly tabloid, Death, which will have honest obits, listings of the lowest rates for funerals and articles aimed at the terminally ill. “It’s the only publication in existence devoted to the subject”, explains the Printz of Porn, “and it definitely will be bizarre”. Uncle Al, just back from photographing the cemeteries of Switzerland, was about to leave for LA to have dinner with Hugh Hefner as I arrived at his barricaded 14th Street office. He pointed to his latest acquisition, an ornate coffin with which he co-stars (dressed as an undertaker) in the commercial he just shot to appear on his cable show, Midnight Blue.

Tuesday, May 9: In response to my card, Catherine called to explain that having an unlisted number was a hangover from the time when she had appeared on the cover of a national magazine. Now she was struggling as a freelance writer and had recently sold a piece about “Foods of the Future” which had made her feel strangely optimistic. I asked if I could come over and take a look at her apartment as I was thinking of moving into the same block, and she said sure, make it tomorrow.

An unprecedented five-hour opening took up most of the evening at the Shepherd Gallery on E 84th Street. Guests roamed through four rooms cluttered with paintings and sculptures of Victorian England: horses, landscapes, fairy paintings, portraits and numerous works by seven rebellious young artists who came to be known as the pre-Raphaelites (1849-53).

“I love that period, it’s so romantic” sighed lovely Rozelle Cooper, who works for Barry Friedman, a dealer so exclusive you must make an appointment to see his wares. Ms. Cooper said that seven of her personal collection were in the show and pointed proudly to her name in the catalog

Blond Charmian Stirling had arrived in New York for the first time only a few hours earlier. She said she was here to draw half a dozen portraits which usually took about six hours apiece. “Men fall asleep and women look worried when being drawn” she added. Painter Walter David and I discovered we had a mutual friend, Sam Middleton, another black artist who lives in Amsterdam. “He influenced me a lot” Walter confided. “I’ll always remember his horizon painting—a thin blue line across an otherwise blank canvas. Who influenced Sam? Well, Romaire Barden for one. Miro probably, and…oh Matisse. And they must all have been influenced by jazz. Walter was wearing a red blazer, checkered shirt with tie and neatly pressed slacks.

“Last night I had on T-shirt and jeans” he said. “Thelonious Monk once said, ‘We don’t play the same music so we don’t have to dress the same”. Colette, who has always been uniquely attired at any event at which I’ve seen her, never dresses the same. Tonight she sported the Victorian punk look with pink jacket, Chinese print dress, shimmering pink shoes and bloomers. “I’ll be on view in Fiorucci’s window on 59th Street next week” she revealed.

Wednesday, May 10: Douglas Durst, whose family owns most of the midtown property between 40th and 47th Streets, never goes anywhere without his pocket CB, so most of the time we visited with Catherine on W43 St, he kept getting calls from his assistants working on renovation projects in the area. The Durst Organization operates anout 500 apartments so I jumped at the chance to inspect one occupied by my friend in company with the man who’s already her landlord and might become mine. We sat in her cozy garden pad, sipping jasmine tea, smoking and talking about how interesting it was to watch an area develop and undergo rehabilitation. Across the street about three quarters of the heavily-subsidized Manhattan Plaza are theatrical types and many of the area’s old churches are being converted into theaters.

“It’s pleasant, it’s vibrant and it’s an area that’s almost ready for its own newspaper,’ Catherine commented. “Why not come and live around here and start one?”

In the evening, the first person I met when I crashed MacMillan’s party for the John Gruen biography of Giancarlo Menotti was the program director of WNCN, Matt Biberfeld, who observed he felt a bit out of place but was there because Gruen did a weekly talk show (about dance) for the station. “WNCN is what painters turn to when they get to their studios and begin work” declared painter Jane Wilson, Gruen’s wife Gruen himself, joyfully greeting friends, said he thought he had rotten billing on the invitation for the party. It had emphasized MacMillan, the Schirmer company and Menotti in huge type, mentioning the author almost as an afterthought. “I grabbed the head of the company as he went by” the velvet-suited author joked, “and thanked him for inviting me to my party”.

“Ooh” chorused publicists Raye Linday and Ricka Canter, “that would be Mr. Hagel he was talking about. He’s chairman of the board and travels around in limousines a lot. He’s very rarely seen, in fact tonight is the first time we’ve ever met him. What does he look like? He’s a small man who looks a little like…ha,ha..a bookkeeper”.

Thursday, May 11: Back in the news once again is the Village Voice whose editor Marianne Partridge has apparently been axed without warning, causing the usual staff upheavals and divided loyalties. Of course, what the paper really needs—apart from being physically split into different sections—is a completely new, slimmed down staff and a whole new direction. But then who could work with Murdoch and his sycophantic lieutenants, most of them strangers to the very city they’re supposed to be covering? One almost infallible rule is that a publication has a specific lifespan and it is difficult, if not impossible, to turn it round and get a new readership once its natural life has ebbed away.

Cosmopolitan was about the only exception to this rule in recent years; Esquire, for example, was not.  (Another iron-clad rule about publishing that Murdoch has mastered, is that there is always room at the bottom—i.e. any publication that has even more degraded tastes than the already-existing lowest one, is bound to be a success).

Sentimentalists think fondly of earlier Voice days when Ed Fancher was publisher, but they overlook the fact that—in the grand tradition —publishers are invariably rip-off artists who get rich underpaying their writers while constantly pleading poverty. All the publishers I have ever known in New York—Fancher, Lyle Stuart, Barney Rossett, Ralph Ginzburg, Bob Guccione, Arthur Frommer, Michael Goldsteinhave been like that, and they’ve always been courted at the beginning by writers who’d give anything (and willingly accept nothing)to have their names in print, and then reviled their ‘benefactors’ later on. It’s almost as though Goldstein at the Soho Weekly News had decided that, seeing as it was inevitable he’d be hated eventually, he might just as well be as unpleasant as possible to begin with, and still rip everybody off in the way that publishers always have.

John Wilcock is currently visiting Zurich




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