Wednesday, November 2, 2016

No Holds Barred: Donald and Dentists

Riding down the infamous Trump Escalator.
by Blair Sabol

It was clearly “The Season of the Witch,” and not just in NYC.  I couldn’t get over how few campaign car stickers, lawn signage, or billboards there were anywhere.  Not in most suburbs (they say people are too scared to display their favorites) and least of all in Manhattan!  But there wasn’t that much Halloween décor either!  It was as if Hillary and Donald were flying overhead on broomsticks scaring everyone out of doing anything.
There wasn’t even a creepy clown, and here I was looking forward to great Fall NYC street attire.  There was nothing!  Maybe Bill Cunningham left at the perfect time.  It’s as if everyone is stylistically holding his or her breath till post-election.

The week I was in New York, it went from a perfect 60˚ to a hot and humid 80˚.  Here I come to New York City to wear a jacket and instead I had to see everyone in worn out tank tops.
Campaign sign in the dessert.
So autumn in New York was flat lined and politically nerve-wracking like everywhere else.  So what I did to calm myself down was to go to the new hot exhibit “Presidential Campaign Memorabilia from the 1960’s to early 1970’s” at the popular New-York Historical Society Museum and Library.  It is on till Nov 27th. The show features some 120 items from the races of Kennedy, Nixon, Goldwater, McGovern, Humphrey, George Wallace, and a touch of Rockefeller

You could feel “the good old days” of real politics from the PT 109 tie clips to the “Gold Water” aftershave lotion. There were Pop Art paper dresses with blown up faces of Bobby Kennedy and Nixon, a psychedelic poster of Nelson Rockefeller, not to mention the Nixon toilet seat.
New-York Historical Society Campaign Boutique.
All of these relics are from the Wright Family Collection.  New Yorker Jordan Wright collected 1.4 million objects of the colorful campaigns between 1960 -1972.  He died in 2008.  His aim was to open a Museum of Democracy in New York – right now most of his collection is in a Queens storage unit.

But his 25-year-old entrepreneur son Austin has done his Dad proud by staging this exhibit at the New-York Historical Society. As he says, “It shows you a time when there was real sparkle and glitter in how campaigns were shaped – you see the whole “Mad Men” era of P.R. and media coming together in these objects.”  There is even some TV commercial highlights and Nixon in his famous debate flop sweat. 
Austin Wright in front of his Family's Campaign Memorabilia show at the New-York Historical Society.
All pre-Twitter and more innocent and pure, you soon see how vintage campaign memorabilia resembles a kind of American Folk Art.  As Austin believes, “It was a more creative, authentic time.”  No bobble heads.  He even pointed out some familiar past campaign slogans – McGovern’s “Make America Happen” and Kennedy’s “Time For Greatness.” Those were the days – or daze!

Austin is still collecting but admits that this election is slim pickings.  “I am having a hard time finding a lot of different items saying, “I’m with Her.”  And there is very little with Trump’s “I’m With You!” And don’t forget there are a lot of people who feel they are with nobody!

Wright felt the better graphics were with Trump.  “I even found a rare toy “Trump Train” online but for this “election of a lifetime, it has been a disappointment.” 
Items from the Wright Collection.
Campaign Buttons from the Wright Collection.
Goldwater campaign button.
Campaign posters in Chinese.
More items from the Wright Collection.
Nixon potty top.
Campaign games and masks.
Campaign print ads.
Campaign toilet paper, psychedelic posters, and print ads.
Campaign Album Covers!?
Iconic Nixon.
Nixon Campaign coffee cup and cigarettes.
Sioux Nation for Nixon?!
Bobby Kennedy Campaign paper dress. Hubert Humphrey Campaign paper dress.
Austin Wright with Frederick Douglass statue in front of the New-York Historical Society.
Austin suggested I go to Trump Tower for a Donald t-shirt.  He had already been to Hillary’s Brooklyn Headquarters and told me there was nothing.  Not even a hoodie. 

What an election merchandising wipeout this year has been.  A sign of our times?

But I decided to head for Trump Tower anyway – there was more Secret Service than press out front.  Though there were plenty of satellite dishes.  The main attraction was a “Trump Fortune Teller” display at the entry spouting out recorded predictions of what he would do to “Make America Great Again – Build the Wall.”  The crowd loved it.
Trump Tower Campaign Headquarters.
The All-Seeing Trump Fortune Teller.
The All-Seeing Secret Service agents outside Trump Tower.
Campaign Media equipment outside Trump Tower.
I ventured into the Vegas-like lobby to have my picture taken on the famous escalator where Trump announced his candidacy.  The lobby was strangely empty and I couldn’t get any guard to take my picture.

Finally an elevator man agreed and I told him my plan of descending, grabbing my own breasts – a kind of “groping homage.”  He laughed, but he missed the shot!

I went to the election boutique called “Sweet” but the long line of people were told they were sold out of all sizing except baby wear. We were told to go online. I was amazed that the Trump boutique didn’t have a mug or even a pin.  Just his ties and books. No takers for that!

I was truly amazed that in New York City two weeks before an historic election there wasn’t some kind of pop-up store along Fifth Avenue or even 42nd Street for any campaign gear.  And I so wanted a vintage HIL or DON t-shirt.  At least!

What does that say about tourism, consumerism, or even pay-for-play fashion?  Remember, both candidates are major New York celebrities.  I was disappointed.
Trump's Sweet Campaign Boutique in Trump Tower.
Trump Ties and Books.
But frankly there was nothing of note happening style-wise – the only thing I saw on one cool New York day was the amount of giant scarves, which men and women were twisting around their necks.  Was this a Middle Eastern influence?  Forget coats and sweaters – all you need are huge wraps of some kind from your nose to your torso.

I ran into Nina Griscom and her stylist pal Cathryn Collins in my hotel bar wrapped in their shawls and they gave me an instant “Shahmina 101” workshop!  Apparently Pashminas are cashmere frauds.  You need a “Shahmina” to bound and gag you this winter, and forget the puffers and leggings.  By the way, you may need 3 Shahmina shawls as the East Coast winter is supposed to be brutal. But isn’t that every winter prediction?
Me with Cathryn Collins of I Pezzi Dipinti in our Shahminas.
One tricky side attraction to my New York visit, I arrived with a throbbing toothache.  Having a medical emergency on a trip is one of my biggest fears and it is one reason I rarely leave home.  But my wonderful and life-saving Uncle Herb Siegel insisted I not “gut it out” and got me into his dentist, Dr. Marc Sclafani, immediately.

Apparently every dentist in New York is “the Dentist to the Stars” and they all have offices on Central Park West. But Dr. Sclafani did one better and was in 800 Fifth Avenue. His dental chair overlooked the Park’s tree-tops (the office service was better than my five-star hotel). 
Dr. Marc Sclafani in front of his Fifth Avenue view.
His nurse held my hand while he examined me – it seems I arrived with 2 cracked teeth and an old damaged cavity.  I called him Dr. “Scalappino” and he didn’t even care and he did what needed to be done in record time.

I was amazed he still had one of those spittoons even though it was a completely chic “state of the art” modern office.  It is true that NYC dentistry is the best!  Even his toilet was a deluxe push-button design that I couldn’t quite figure out. 

Before I left I asked him who he wanted for President, and he conveniently put on his mask and instantly reclined my chair. I felt and heard nothing.
Dr. Sclafani's state-of-the-art spittoon.
When I left I told him I didn’t want to feel any pulsating dental pain as I was headed to a Steely Dan concert and was afraid the loud base beat would end up in my molar.  He assured me it wouldn’t, and then wondered if I had an extra ticket.

This was the same Friday Night as the Desert Springs “Old-Chella” concert with everyone 60 and over going to see Bob Dylan, The Who, Paul McCartney, and The Stones live and wrinkling, so I was going to Steely Dan.

I was never a fan of live concerts even when I hung out at the Fillmore in 1968.  But Donald Fagen was an old friend and I contacted him months ago about my NYC dates.  We decided to have a reunion backstage before his Beacon show. 
Backstage Pass.
We hadn’t seen each other in 30 years.  When I knew him he refused to do live performances and concentrated on recordings. At the time, he was even “separated” from his Steely Dan partner Walter Becker.  Fagen was always known to be mysterious and brilliant, his records always sold above and beyond.

He was right to never tour because he and Becker are now appearing and sounding fresher than ever.  Their concerts are considered “cult” affairs and you are transported into “rarefied air” immediately.
Walter Becker and the Steely Dan Band.
I found him backstage at the Beacon in a closet sized dressing room – no entourage – no giant catered production, just an espresso machine and his laptop.  Bare bones.  It was the same old funny and complex Donald.  We got caught up on who died, who lived, who divorced and our medical disorders (he isn’t losing his hearing “I play piano so I am saved”).  I didn’t ask him anything musically, that’s not how I really knew him, but he laughed about Bob Dylan getting the Nobel Prize for Literature. “I think it’s great what Dylan said when he heard – he said, ‘that’s nice.’”

He told me he played the real Coachella Concert in Indio and it was an awful location.  But I got the feeling that Donald knows the music-touring scene is so massive he doesn’t get upset anymore.  Just point him to the stage with his playlist.  He delivers.
Where Donald Fagen is most comfortable.
Steely Dan's "Dan-ettes."
He was dressed in a simple t-shirt under a button down classy shirt, nice pants and good sneakers; and that is what he went on stage wearing.  Along with his Ray Charles wrap-around sunglasses. No affect for him. Donald always was the personification of “cool” and even more so at 68.

I told him I could only do 40 minutes of his concert, as I had to get to Philly.  I admitted I don’t do live concerts and I am deaf enough.  He totally understood – “I never went to live rock and roll concerts, I only did Jazz Clubs.  Maybe I went to one Frank Zappa concert – that was it.” 

We took a picture, grateful we were still vertical, and I fled to the Beacon lobby to observe.
Me and good pal Donald Fagen.
The audience was of “a certain age.”  No one was in belly shirts or “tramp stamp” tattoos. It looked like a lot of edgy older librarians. Many were seeing all of his weekend performances.

When Donald opened the show, I must say his band sounded exactly as I remembered.  The lighting was stunning, the production was precise, and the volume was loud, but it was pitch perfect. The crowd immediately forgot their ages and started dancing in the aisles – in their big untucked shirts and XL jeans. Steely Dan took them back to a night in 1972!

I immediately raced up the aisle to the lobby boutique and made sure to get a hat and a great t-shirt.  At last I got my “Real” Donald t-shirt and thank God my trip ended up to be “YUUUUUGE!”
My "Donald" t-shirt.