Thursday, January 29, 2015

Young Girl Sunday Blues

Los Angeles Playday

Yesterday was a play day. Ken, Leslie and I headed up to Los Angeles to see some sights in the big city.

Our first stop was Nikon on Wilshire, Ken needed to service a lens. Nikon shares a building with a bunch of accountants and the National Enquirer.

We were in the neighborhood and we were hungry so we went to Cantor's, a favorite of Leslie and Ken. I had a tongue and corned beef fresser.

I confided to my wife that I had once broken off a relationship at Cantors when the girl I was seeing at the time insisted on talking to me while I read my newspaper and drank coffee in the morning. Long time ago, sorry, S____.

Very colorful city, Los Angeles.

Afterwards we headed over to Samy's Camera where I oogled equipment I can't really afford and don't really need. They didn't have the video camera Ken was looking for so we hit Culver City, which is really looking good these days.

After Ken scored his new camera at the Culver City Samy's we headed up to the Getty Center.

There is an incredible exhibit by the Czech expat photographer Josef Koudelka showing currently that you should definitely catch if you can.

Koudelka took powerful pictures of Gypsies, Prague Spring, the dispossessed and the general detritus of civilization. Some of the prints were quite large. Great stuff.

Josef Koudelka - for Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi - Prague 1964

Josef Koudelka - Prague

I snapped a couple shots before the guard told me it was not allowed in that gallery. Oops.

We wandered through the various galleries, looked at fabulous canvases by Degas, Rembrandt and Monet, a murderer's row of old masters.

Of course the most interesting things to see in museums are the humans and yesterday was no exception.

You really get a nice view of the city and skyline from the Getty.

© robert sommers 2015

I met some interesting people on the patio. There were a large group of Indian muckety mucks being closely guarded and whisked around. I was drinking tea and started up a conversation and it turns out that one of the men, quite affable, was Dr. Dimri, the Director of Archaeology at the Indian Ministry of Culture. We talked about his mission to repatriate some of the objects that had been illegally taken out of his country and exchanged cards.

Visited a pretty uninteresting exhibit at the Research Institute on war imagery and then we headed over to Burbank.

The real purpose of our day was to attend a talk by Amelia Davis on the late photographer Jim Marshall. To call Jim Marshall a rock photographer is a grave misnomer that does not begin to lend justice to the breadth of his life's photographic work and output.

While Marshall certainly captured some of the most iconic images of rock, his career stretched through the beatnik, jazz and civil rights movements. He took pictures of poets, of the drug scene, of straights cruising the Haight staring at the hippies. He was more rightly a chronicler of the sixties and the counterculture, in all its various emanations.

The presentation was held at the Clickers and Flickers meeting at the Castaways in Burbank. Clickers and Flickers is a group of photographers and movie people active in Los Angeles that have been meeting for years. Ken is a member and sometimes I tag along as they have fantastic speakers and incredibly talented members.

It turns out that when Marshall died he left about a million images behind from his trusty Leica, many of them never before viewed or printed. Amelia Davis worked with him for over a decade and now manages the archive.

We saw images last night that most of the world has probably never seen, Janis and Grace together, Hendrix shots from the Monterey Pop rehearsals, great candid shots of Dylan and Johnny Cash. It is obvious that Marshall's legacy is in very good hands.

Amelia Davis gave the same presentation we saw in Germany at Photokina to a rousing response. Very cool indeed.

Marshall was a favorite of both Coltrane and Miles Davis and we saw some pretty phenomenal shots of them. Miles even smiling!

Amelia finished a book Marshall had started sketching out on the Haight. We bought a copy and I am looking forward to going through it. We heard a lot of tasty anecdotes regarding the Stones Beatles and Woodstock shots, among others.

My friend John Morris was a longtime confidant and friend of Marshall and actually granted him exclusive access backstage at Woodstock which worked out quite well considering he got dosed. Davis recounts that he had a fear of heights but the acid allowed him to climb the scaffold and get classic shots of Santana.

Many people felt that Marshall was an irascible prick and it is said that you didn't want to get on his bad side. Leslie and I spent a very pleasant afternoon drinking with him before the Papa John Creech memorial and he was both cordial and wonderful. That was the night that the airplane played after David LaFlamme and Merle, Grace walked in and tore up the room with a blazing set sometime after midnight. Oh, the memories!

all photos © Jim Marshall Photography LLC

Monday, January 26, 2015


Joe Btfsplk

Just got my boxes out of the truck. Cam called and it turns out my inner calendar was off, I don't have the extra week of respite I thought I had so very soon the road will beckon me onto its potholed paved expanses once again. Need to put new tires on the front end, things are getting a tad squirrelly. Broke a tooth on a skittles in the hotel room the other night so there goes the meager lucre I managed to drum up this weekend.

An heiress type person that I know told me that she really loved the blog because it was oodles of fun watching me avert financial disaster all the time. My honor to amuse and entertain you, madam. Heloc matured this month, could never get the banker on the phone, turns out he was out sick, there goes another thousand every month. Hysterical.

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It seems that terrorists are now competing with each other for recruits and perpetrating ever more macabre crimes. Now, need I remind you, the 20th century was defined by the civilized world struggle to develop the rule of law as an alternative to chaos, disorder and dictatorship. And today we are witnessing nothing more than a form of criminal anarchy, a nihilism which illegitimately claims an ideological and religious foundations. Against this enemy, we are increasingly organizing and fighting back, but in doing so we also have to keep our heads. Obviously, the biggest error that we could make would be to blame Muslims collectively for crimes not committed by Muslims alone. Crimes that the overwhelming majority of Muslims oppose. Crimes that their faith utterly rejects and that Muslim leaders themselves have the greatest ability to address. Religions don't require adherence to be raze villages and blow up people, it's individuals with a distorted and an even ignorant interpretation of religion who do that.
I could riff on a lot of stuff but don't have any gas left in my tank. Love Obama and Kerry falling all over themselves not using islamic and terrorists in the same sentence since everybody knows that it is only a bunch of misguided nihilists who have nothing whatsoever to do with Islam who are responsible for all the mischief. People have to have a good reason to act like assholes, if we would only try to understand them... Except what about Major Nidal and the state sponsored terrorists and the people who are killing children and educated women and preaching for a worldwide caliphate and sharia law in europe and support beheadings and flogging and honor killing and...they aren't necessarily kids or individuals, some of them are even promulgated by certain islamic countries? Folly of some idiots, ascribing theological motivations to people that bomb synagogues and kosher supermarkets. Never mind, fuck it, I'm not going to get myself worked up.

We know who Obama thinks the real bad guy is, Israel, and the left is merrily following along. Heard some nasty shit on MSNBC the other day, liberals Israel bashing with glee. Obama is shifting the deck, he is triangulating the bad jews, (the one's that support Israel) and is purportedly ready to exact extreme vengeance on Bibi, a guy who admittedly is a real double dealing asshole. But also the guy responsible for keeping his people alive when the next door neighbor has repeatedly pledged to annihilate them. I personally think the muslims would be creating worldwide havoc even if there was no Israel. It's in the original creed. Read it.

American hostage in Iran
Pardon me and the Israelis for not putting much stock in Barack's promises. He drew a red line in Syria too and the mofos laughed as they jumped right over it. The puta didn't move a muscle. Now he is supposed to be trusted to cut a deal with the Persians. Lot of great Iranians I know, but no betting man would place a wager as to how the internal dissension in their country will finally shake out. Hate to rely on their word with their record.

Iranians burning the american flag - 1979

Don't think Obama personally resonates real well with the yids. Except maybe for Rahm, I guess. His affinity lays nore with his early indonesian schoolmates and perhaps Reverend Wright, not that there is anything wrong with that. Kerry and his wife's sympathies aren't so hard to divine either.

The line of Kerry's that I can't quite grok is this one: Obviously, the biggest error that we could make would be to blame Muslims collectively for crimes not committed by Muslims alone. Who else is he referring to here? The Lutherans? Psychopathic killers? Is this merely a gratuitous throw in or worse, is he trying to make some arcane case of moral equivalence? But with who?


The Keystone thing is kind of interesting. Great optics to have a major benzene spill in the Yellowstone River while this whole thing is going on. A foreign country suing americans for eminent domain so that they can build a pipeline that is estimated will create 35 permanent jobs located over an aquifer to ship canadian oil to the chinese faster. I love this country! FYI, my bladder cancer was said to have been benzene related. Why are we making work anyway for americans? Isn't that socialism?

The President does seem to have been stimulated of late and finally finding a little passion in his game. Who knew that his strength was playing defense? What a wasted opportunity.

Today is Auschwitz memorial day, seventy years past. My Grandmother Pessa Shkarlat's family from Wyszkow all exterminated in the camp. Nine brothers and sisters, only one other sister, Malka, made it out. Light a candle. They say never again but we know it can always happen again.

"Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste-- nothing escapes them." Joel 3

Cisco Houston - Pie In The Sky (when you die)

Art Young

I saw my friends Glenn Bray and his wife Lena Zwalve in Los Angeles the week before last. Glenn is a collector of comic art of the highest echelon, I met him many years ago through my late friend Rick Griffin. He has one of the finest eyes I have ever encountered in my many years buying and selling art.

Last year Fantagraphics published a book featuring his remarkable collection, which you can find hereThe Blighted Eye: Original Comic Art from the Glenn Bray Collection.

Glenn sent me a note about a new addition to his collection that I found interesting. He has added a considerable amount of material to his collection of works by the late cartoonist Art Young (1866-1943.) He now has about 650 of Young's cartoons and drawings.

Young was a socialist firebrand artist active in the early part of the twentieth century. He had a rather pithy sense of social commentary and was repeatedly jailed for what some considered seditious tendencies. His line work reminds me much of Daumier.

Young initially studied at the Chicago Institute under Vanderpoel. He made his way to europe and studied for a time at Academie Julien in Paris.

Young worked for various newspapers and magazines, including Puck.

Eventually he fell under the influence of John Sloan and he moved to Greenwich Village in 1910, working for a leftist screed called The Masses.

Young ran for a seat on the New York  Assembly in 1913 but was unsuccessful.

In July 1913, the magazine published Young's cartoon 'Poisoned at the Source,' which depicted the AP's president, Frank B. Noyes, poisoning a well labeled 'The News' with lies, suppressed facts, slander, and prejudice. The cartoon was a response to the lack of national news coverage on the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek strike of 1912 in Kanawha County, West Virginia. The strike had lasted more than a year, and was characterized by deadly clashes between miners and militia hired by the coal companies. The coal companies were successful in having the Federal government declare martial law under a military tribunal, an egregious act according to the editors of the Masses.
The fact that little had been heard about these occurrences outside of West Virginia troubled those on the magazine's staff. Young's cartoon and Max Eastman's editorial, published in the same issue, claimed the AP had willfully suppressed the facts in order to aid the coal companies. The AP responded in kind with two suits of libel against Eastman and Young on November 1913 and January 1914. Both suits eventually were dropped after Young and Eastman's attorney subpoenaed the records of the AP's Pittsburgh office, possibly out of fear that the testimony and evidence would be damaging after becoming public through the legal proceedings.

Young's work is very powerful. Some of the issues that piqued him are obviously still endemic in today's world.  I look forward to seeing the balance of the collection one day and learning more about this artist.

after one war, they started raising babies for the next...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Retta Scott

Painting in the Arroyo
I bought a small but interesting cache of watercolors out of an estate in the Bay Area this week. The artist is named Retta Scott (1916-1990) and she had a long and illustrious career. She has somehow largely escaped notice in the booming California Watercolor / California regional style market. She is not listed in Gordon McLelland's book California Watercolors 1850-1970 but she had an illustrious career that I believe deserves both acclaim and recognition.

Problems at the dock
Scott was a Disney artist and has the distinction of being the first woman to crack the celluloid barrier and receive animation screen credit at Disney. She was hired by Disney in 1938. Only one of my watercolors is dated, the chinatown piece is from 1933 and I have no way of knowing when the other works were completed.

From Wiki:

Scott was born in Omak, Washington.[1] She graduated from Seattle's Roosevelt High School in 1934. She received an academic scholarship from the Chouinard Art Institute, so she moved to Los Angeles, California. She spent much of her free time sketching wildlife at the nearby Griffith Park zoo. Her ambition was to mold a career in Fine art.[2]

As she readied to complete her Institute training, the Institute's director encouraged Scott to apply at Disney Studios. She was hired in 1938 and assigned to the Story Department, where the ambitious Bambi project was being developed. Her stunning sketches caught the eye of Disney himself,[3] so when the film went into production she was assigned[4] to animate scenes of hunting dogs chasing Faline. This was a significant coup for the young woman, since at the 1930s-era Disney studio, women were considered only for routine tasks: "Ink and paint art was a laborious part of the animation process, and was solely the domain of women . ." [5] She worked under the film's supervising director, David D. Hand,[6] and was tutored by Disney animator Eric Larson.[7]
Scott worked on a host of Disney features besides Bambi, including Fantasia and Dumbo as well as some Donald Duck cartoons.


 I missed out on a wonderful beach scene but am very happy with the pieces I did manage to acquire.

Santa Anita Stop

I do have a question. Any Angelenos around that can tell me where this grand deco building is or was located?

Some of these pieces are double sided and a few lack signatures. Will be tough to decide what to frame. Hope that you enjoy her work as much as I do.


Olvera Street
Postscript: Boy, you guys are good. One day. Top honors go to Tom Meriwether with honorable mention to Barb Finwall who sent this letter:
Voila !  (maybe)
The Park Plaza Hotel
You would see this from Mac arthur Park, which is where the bridge is.

Barbara gets extra credit for the Chouinard patio but since she was a student there one would expect it…
she also sent this picture of said patio. 

Thanks to all you Blue Heron sleuths out there!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sha la la la la

I called my brother in Toronto this morning. "Hey Buzz," I say. There was a long and pregnant pause on the phone. "Buzz?" Finally a few moments later I heard his voice, dripping with the usual sarcasm. "You haven't eaten one freaking sandwich this week you can write about?"

Buzz is a lawyer turned chef/ restauranteur who is dealing with some unfortunate health issues at present and now gets to eat around courtesy of his older brother, somewhat cathartically as you may guess.

I have, of course, been ensconced in the sprawling metropolis to the north all week and the blog has been pretty much out of commission. My buddy Steve and I did the Los Angeles Art Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center for the second year in a row.

I did reasonably well, haven't matched last year's number but the figure was fairly respectable, for these times anyway and come to think of it, a lot of last year's totals came weeks after the show with call backs. Perhaps the fat contralto has not yet sung?

We stayed at the old Hotel Figueroa, a moorish affair quite popular with the young, hip and freshly scrubbed. Old belter styled wooden divans decorated with paisley and peacocks, crude faux arabic gilt patterns stenciled on the walls and trim. We are repeats there, it allowed us to walk to the show and we stayed out of our cars and on our feet whenever possible.

The rooms are small but functional. Steve and I had an identical complaint; the pillows were too full, we like a big pillow to be accompanied by a smaller pillow that you can scrunch for under the neck. You have too fold a corner of one of the big beastly pillows over and slide it under your neck and it almost does the trick.

I had the overpriced and pedestrian buffet one morning and amused myself watching the similarly checked young couple across from me ignore each other over their coffee.

I like the Figueroa, hope the upcoming grand remodel doesn't screw up the overall funkiness of the place.

I don't know if I should talk about food or art so I will try to mix the two up a bit.

It was a two day setup. A gruff teamster barked at me from the top of the ramp and there was a whole barrage of passes we had to obtain and license plate numbers they had to jot down.

I twiddled my thumbs in an uncomfortable chair for what seemed like a mini eternity before the lady from the Palm Beach group deigned to take my check and give me a badge. A large check, I might add, this baby is expensive to do.

We went minimal so setup was a breeze. Had the same fantastic booth as last year, right by the entrance.

The show really looked different. Our historic section had really contracted this year, perhaps some politics involved, all I know is that a lot of the normal dealers were missing, Goss, Karges, Trotter, David, etc. Nary a single impressionist painting to be found anywhere, very little early California, with very few exceptions. The worm has turned and where it's going, god knows?

M.S. Rau had its normal Rockwell and Corot, didn't look quite as amazing as last year but they still had some pretty heavy firepower and I am sure turned several trillion ducats.

Chris Beetles from London brought some amazing original Beardsley and Rackham drawings. Tom French had a small Bellows oil and a Hopper drawing which I never got a chance to look at. Steve and I focused on mid century abstract, I had early works by Goings and Thiebaud and people were I think, quite impressed although not to the point where they were forking over large wads of cash yet. Steve's Staprans was I think the hit of the show.

The contemporary section dwarfed our own and didn't impress me all that much. Arcadia brought great stuff, but not quite as nice as last year and somewhat more somber. I liked the Frostig collection of small portraits. Some of the work in the section was derivative, designed to shock and occasionally even rather shoddy. But hey, it's a big world and it takes all kinds.

If you lack inspiration you can always sell off chunks of the popular culture.

The crowds were incredible, most people I have ever seen at a show in 20 years. Waves and waves of them. Thousands, injecting themselves into the room in a strange peristalsis.

I tried to engage everyone with my customary incessant patter but it was like the chinese flooding the korean dmz, too many bodies, I finally gave up. Thousands of people swarming, I had to leave the booth several times just to come up for air.


Of course, I was in La-La land and the people watching was fantastic. The woman standing in front of the Picasso in my booth above is Mrs. Beverly Pink from Pink's hotdogs fame. Lovely woman, very friendly, her family has been selling the dogs with the snap for over 75 years.

Los Angeles has a lot of very snappy dressers and I snapped a bunch of pics. Men and women dressed up like peacocks and peahens, the males in the species perhaps even more flamboyantly decked out than the females.

It was a lot of fun meeting the great multitudes of art lovers and engaging them in conversation.

This woman had quite an earful.

We even met the original Gidget, Kathy Kohner Zuckerman.

Frankly, I need a new cell phone. The camera on my HTC sucks and sometimes it is all I have. Here is a terrible picture of two old geezers who walked into my booth. One of the guys was wearing a red cap with a pot leaf. I asked him if he had any stash to share and he said I would have to pony up some cash first. Funny dudes.

We met all sorts of people. Beautiful people, not so beautiful people, kept women, kept men, songwriters, bartenders, actors, thespians, lesbians, thespian lesbians, lots of artists that wanted representation (sorry, I would explain, only handle the dead ones with two exceptions. not emotionally cut out for it…) photographers, bankers, wealthy, poor, tall, short, we saw them all.

Lots of friends stopped by, Jill and Byron, Genser, Linda and Joe, Gary, Bob, Roy, John Morris, of course, Glenn and Lena Bray, Joe and Cindy K, Michael Stutz and his mom, Lance and Donna Jost, Gordon Mclelland, Mark Hilbert, Eric B with George Barris son, Helen and Buzz, Rich Levendoff, who else?  Genser says the blog is a little bit overkill, he knows way more about my life than he needs to!

Found out that my Ed "Big Daddy" Roth drawing was not done by Wes Bennett as I thought. According to his son Dennis, it is an extremely rare piece by one Richard Ash, who went on to work for Stanley Mouse. Asheye. They say it is quite valuable.

And some of the people were indeed wonderful. The two girls from Seattle, and the songwriting chanteuses above, the adorable artist girl from NOLA who was tired of tending bar and waiting tables and is just looking for a fucking break. Really enjoyed the people this week, even though some of them confided that they were actually miserable and lonely. Los Angeles can be a tough city.

We saw great outfits and great sticks (legs.) Lots of checked patterns, which I didn't know were suddenly so popular. This gay designer is like Hello- it's been two years already! Always the last to know… Steve got stopped on the street for his pendleton jacket which I guess are collector's items now. Live long enough, it all comes back.

Oh yeah, food. It's all starting to melt together and I can't vouch for the chronology but here goes. First
night we drove over to Chinatown and ate at Mrs. Ha Ha's Mayflower restaurant. I can't say it was great but it wasn't bad. The salt and pepper shrimp were fantastic. Delicious duck wonton soup, if a little sparse with the duck. Very ordinary pork fried rice.

Talked the parking cop out of giving us a ticket after dinner. Or I should say, Steve did.

Next day lunch we drove to Montrose to meet Robert Bijou at La Cabanita, my favorite mexican restaurant in the world. Instead of my customary chuletas (thin pork chops cooked in a pasilla chili sauce with sour cream) I had a large and flavorful bowl of red posole and a chicharron taco which was crunchy and simply amazing!

Steve had sopas, one chicken, one pork and one picadillo.  Not sure about Robert, ordered what I thought were pedestrian sounding tacos. Not going to lecture him, his lovely wife Irma is Mexican and he certainly knows his way around the cocina.

The next morning we had breakfast at Phillipes. What a place, going back there with my film camera, it is a trip into the distant past. Coffee prices have gone up, now it will set you back 45 cents for a cup of joe.

Where else did we eat? Well we had sushi around the block at the place on Flower that was decent. Went to Langers one morning for a great breakfast. Salami omelet pancake style and rye bread. Steve had lox, eggs and onions.

Jodi, a great wisecracking waitress who gave as good as she got. Langers, the only deli that I know of with a James Beard award.

On the way back we drove down Broadway and marveled at some of the old theaters. I am going back with my photo group to take pictures next month. Most impressive was the Million Dollar Theater, built by Grauman in 1918.  Did a little research and discovered that its wonderful monumentation was sculpted by the famous California southwest artist Jo Mora.

Wild stuff!

We ate at the Pantry the last day. Terrible. Made the mistake of ordering steak and eggs. Poor cow lived a sad life. Beware. And staff with attitude.

Steve and I also ate at El Cholo one day. My mother was raised in a home next door to the original El Cholo on Western
and I wanted to eat a meal in her honor now at the end of her road.

A fantastic meal, we both had burritos filed with lobster, scallops and shrimp in a chipotle cream sauce. Mom would be proud. I am going to find her picture in front of the restaurant and post it soon. Service was fantastic, margarita and food at El Cholo were simple but excellent.

Bopped over to Arcadia one night to see Bill W. and Cam. We ate at an old warhorse near Santa Anita Racetrack called Peppers. I opted for the pear salad, feeling slight pangs of guilt for the week of gluttony. At some point you have to mix in a salad.

I enjoyed the city this time. Need to come up here and shoot. Planning on taking some guys, hope it doesn't screw me up.

That's pretty much my story. If I can think of anything else I will add it and you'll probably never know. Peace. A nice week, learned a lot and met some great folks, ate some decent grub. Sold some stuff and bought some great stuff. Thassit!