Thursday, March 10, 2016

Schulenberg's Page: New York, Part L

Jack Godby pencil-twirling while driving to Patchogue.
Text and Illustrations by ©Bob Schulenberg

My friend Jack Godby had been a well known drum major in college and was frequently invited to judge baton twirling contests!

He'd been invited to an event on Long Island at Patchogue and when he told me about it, I thought it might be something amusing to draw. Tom Wolfe had just written his article, "he Kandy-Colored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby" for Esquire magazine and his writing had launched a new interest in another aspect of pop-culture, car-culture!

I thought a baton-twirling competition might be something to present to Esquire and baton-twirling seemed to fit the pop-culture bill! For me it also had a lot of camp value, the whole idea! Baton-twirling. In a competition! So we drove to Patchogue.

It was exactly what I was hoping to see.
There were accordion-playing musicians and tiaras on some of the competitors while some of the parents were elegantly dressed befitting something as important as "Miss America Baton-Twirler!" Or something.

It was all very elegant.
Jack's favorite and someone he had known was Star Miranda who'd been a baton-twirling winner and who was quite respected.
We were invited to a dinner after where we met Star Miranda's beautiful mother, Ann. She was very proud of her daughter.
Star's father, Vinnie, was good looking, too. They were a glamorous couple; I had to continually remind myself this was a grand dinner after a baton-twirling competition!
And I had to assume that Harry Weiss was Star's boyfriend.
I couldn't think of any way to make a meaningful article out of this so I never showed it to Esquire.

A few days later at Jack's apartment, he was explaining the intricate details of baton-twirling and the fine points of judging a competition.
None of us could think of any questions.
That night, I met with Don and Fran Werner. Don was from Fresno, California where I'd spent my teenage years and was now affiliated with the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers.
He had been a brilliant decorative designer and had been in charge of all the decorations of an elegant Fresno women's store, Rodder's Mademoiselle, which was the closest thing I've ever seen to a smaller version of Henri Bendel!

Don was like Christian Berard and once did a circus campaign highlighting the Fall French couture collections where the whole store was decorated in a circus theme!

The front windows had large-scaled giraffes, lions, tigers and elephants lingering with the mannequins wearing Dior "New Look" and Jacques Fath designs and the animals' heads were protruding out of the front display windows.
It was magic and since my family had just moved from Los Angeles with its movie-Golden Age glitz to Fresno, an agricultural capitol with its ... its ... well ... I was nostalgic for movie-glitz and even at a young age the stimulation of a large city.

So I made a point of visiting Rodder's Mademoiselle and its glitzy glamour every time my mother went shopping. Years later I spent an unhappy summer working there in display under the autocratic control of a friend of my family who was at that time the head of advertising and everything visual about the store.
But Don had gone to bigger things in New York. The store owner, another friend of my parents, had hired me and it seems that Mr. Jackman, the immediate family-friend-boss resented me and thought that I had been spoiled with unearned privileges!

Everyone working in the store noticed the way I was treated, which was comforting.
But here I was now, more than a decade later, returned from living in France and much wiser and even more spoiled, with Don and his wife, Fran.
They invited me to meet Mary Walker Phillips, a well-known textile artist who was originally from Fresno but was living in Greenwich Village.
She was celebrated for knitting as an art form, and was starting what The New York Times would call "the knitting revolution of the Sixties" and her work is still in many collections and museums, among them, MOMA, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and The Art Institute of Chicago. She liberated knitting using paper, wire and even adding small objects to her pieces. She also wrote books about knitting as art.
The Times said while knitters traditionally worked like classical musicians "from a score," Mary "knitted jazz!"
A few weeks later, I met with Mary again and we went to dinner with Jack Godby and friends, Freddy Albert and Mary Anne Harrison.
I had seen the short 1961 film by Robert Frank, "The Sin of Jesus" and at Emilio's I recognized the actress who'd been the lead character in it, Julie Bovasso. She went on to become well known and make a lot of movies, "Moonstruck," "Saturday Night Fever," "The Verdict," and others.
And Robert Frank is best known for his book, "The Americans," which is said to have changed the face of American photography!
I felt that I really was in the middle of a lot of change, creatively and politically; New York was bursting with it.


Anything seemed possible!
Contact Bob here.
Click here for NYSD Contents