Thursday, June 30, 2011
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
The Reward of Waiting Three Decades
In 1979, I first saw a three or four paragraph mention of the Japanese group Yellow Magic Orchestra in a magazine sidebar. They had recently played in California, and I rushed out to get their first two albums.
The next two hours whizzed by magically with hits from the late 1970s to more recent experimentations. Decades ago, I gave up home that I would ever see these guys live. Keeping ever hopeful finally paid off. It was a real high being surrounded by grandparents singing along with their grandchildren, and we all knew every word.
Monday, June 27, 2011
MAGPIE TALE: The Colors!
Our weekly contribution to the Mapie Tales
Ralph Rengdorff was never a fan of art. "It's all to arty," he would say, but when he saw the exhibit Endeavor by Lino Tagliapietra at the Columbus Museum of Art, his head started spinning. "The colors!" he exclaimed.
He got on the phone the second he and Bark Cantrell motored back north to Rocky River. He couldn't wait to tell his wife Lurelle what he had just seen and how it was going to change their lives.
The phone rang for what felt like an eternity until he finally heard Enoch Light playing in the background and finally a dainty voice saying, "Wah, wah dah." It was Lurette, Ralph's youngest, not quite able to form complete words yet, but she just loved to talk on the phone.
"Lurette, can you hand the phone to Mommy?" Mommy and big sis Adele were in the crafts room where they were trying on new matching blouses that Lurelle had made using a Simplicity pattern on her Singer. Smashing and sparkling with just the style of color Ralph wanted to restyle their home. "Lurette, if Mommy's not there, let me talk to Billy."
Billy wasn't there. He was over at Kirk Craven's house. Kirk sure liked art and theater and was so kind to take Kirk cultural events. They had just gone to see a matinee of "Gigi" which Kirk had seen three times already and thought was just smashing. Billy always came back full of vigor and vim after an outing with Kirk, and he always came back freshly showered. That Kirk was one heck of a guy.
Lurelle sometimes wondered why a fellow as handsome and cultured as Kirk never got married. He sure seemed to have a lot of bachelor friends, though. Seemed you'd always find him walking up to some striking gentleman at the train station and introducing himself. "That Kirk never knew a stranger," folks would say.
Just in case anyone got the wrong idea, Lurelle would point out that Kirk did like the ladies. In fact he and his buddy Stretch Johnson were always seen out on the town with Lillian Lushmore. Lillian said she was the luckiest gal in Cleveland to always have two handsome escorts. "Think you'll ever settle down with one of those handsome bachelors?" people would ask. "Settle down? Oh, I don't want those boys to ever settle down," Lillian would say, arching her left eyebrow.
Now that Ralph had fallen for the arts, he was looking forward to discussing it with Lillian. Hey, maybe he might give Kirk a call. Kirk had said for the longest time he would love to take Ralph to see "The Red Shoes".
Labels: Magpie Tales
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Carson, Pirie & Scott
Standing at the important address of 1 South State Street, the Carson, Pirie, Scott & Company Building is not unlike Sullivan himself -- providential and a mass of contradictions. Modern and ancient, urban and reflecting nature, massive and delicately intimate, comforting and foreboding.Built in 1899 as the Schlesinger & Mayer Department Store, it housed Carson, Pirie & Scott until 2006 when the store closed. Word is that it will now become a Target, Chicago's first in The Loop.
The building has been stripped of much of its original detail through the years, but an amazing amount has survived.
Now referred to as the Sullivan Center, it has managed to survive various attempts at "modernization" or demolition.
Perhaps my favorite detail is the LHS -- Louis Henri Sullivan -- signature.
Monday, June 20, 2011
MAGPIE TALE: The Marking Down of Beauty
Our latest contribution to the Magpie Tales seriesWe all knew Latrice Williams would come back one day when 20 years ago she swaggered out of Joliet to seek her fame and fortune. How fitting that she is now working the fountain counter at the same Woolworth's where photos of her are stacked 10 high in the remainder bins next to LPs of Milton Berle singing Yellow Submarine and dakron aprons with rooster patterns.
She has even reverted back to her original name, Agnes Blanchburn.
Edna Cosgrove and Coeta Healdton whisper over the lime aids and pimento grilled cheese sandwiches Agnes serves them. They can remember the days when Agnes was better known for "putting on airs" after she came back from elocution and posture lessons from a tutor in Evanston.
Agnes always tried to present herself as the artistic type ever since she won the contest of Miss Studebaker of Kendall County and that artist from Ann Arbor breezed through town and painted so many portraits of her. He said he was going to submit some of them direct to the Studebaker designers and insist that her likeness should be used in the design of the hood ornaments for the 1932 model. Agnes had visions of dozens of chrome versions of herself coming down Michigan or Park avenues, glistening in the sun.
It was Detroit not Hollywood that came calling for Agnes when she entered the contest for Miss Buick 1935 but came in only fifth place but was featured as Miss August in calendars in the men's rooms of dealerships in the Upper Midwest. It was then that she adopted the name Latrice to avoid too much scandal back in Joliet. Soon she was actually off to California and making films, but in Encino not Hollywood or Culver City.
She adopted a number of other names -- Lillian Lushmore, Bernice Babcock, Colleen Coobaugh -- as she made a series of increasingly squalid potboilers. And before she knew it, she was 35, a marginally employed "actress" who primarily supported herself working at Van de Kamp's. Finally, she got a speaking role, albeit one line ("I think he went that way.") and in a B-picture, Revenge of Tarzan.And now, here she is back in Joliet. "This job at the counter is just transitional," she tells Coeta and Edna who nod in polite albeit mock understanding as they struggle to quiet their condescending giggles. "I think I will either teach acting or piano lessons. And I still have my ceramics. I could always pursue my craft in ceramics. I find glazing much more rewarding than the glare of the spotlight these days."
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Although they collaborated for only a few years, the careers of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright were forever entwined. Clearly, I greatly favor Sullivan whom I consider the far more talented and romantic and who more successfully merged nature and architecture.
There are not that many clear collaborations between the two, but perhaps the most terrific is the Charnley Persky House at 1365 Astor Street in the Gold Coast, essentially Chicago's version of the Upper East Side. Today it houses the Society of Architectural Historians. Unfortunately I was not free on the days they did tours during my visit but got to see it from outside which is glorious in its own way.
Many debate how much is Wright and how much is Sullivan. I think the lines of the overall structure are clearly Wright, and the ornamentation is obviously Sullivan. One of the key things I got from my Sullivan tour given by George Paldo of Chicago Savvy Architectural Tours is that Sullivan is unique in designing soffits, and there is no example quite like Charnley.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
And I went to Chicago...
And I had a glorious time. My primary purpose was to attend the Basenji Rescue and Transport (BRAT) convention which was very helpful in building my skills to be a better foster for Audrey and Shaka
However, my greater purpose was to do some architecture tours -- Wright (meh), Burnham (okay) and Sullivan (the master). The Sullivan tour was clearly the highlight. Where to begin?
Why not at the end, at his last building on Lincoln Avenue, the Krause Music Store.
Built in 1922, two years before his death, it is relatively small. Barely 20 feet wide and two stories -- a shop on the lower level and a residence above.
The man who invented the American skyscraper ended his career in poverty, not able
to pay his AIA dues and living in a small rented room, though he created the nation's greatest structures of the late 19th century.
If the Auditorium Theater and Tower are a symphony, this one is a jewel box/chamber piece like the incredible banks he designed during the same period.
These photos are but the tip of the iceberg, and I will be posting many others. But they are like an homage to the master, who would face a sad end but went out with a blaze of glory with thei building.