Schulenberg’s Page: Dancing in the Dark (and the death of the mini-skirt)

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August, 1976: In late July John Lennon had finally been granted a green card allowing him to remain in the United States. And just a few days later, on August 1st, Elizabeth Taylor re-divorced Richard Burton!

In the meantime, there was still a lot of talk about the death of the mini-skirt!

I guess we know how that resolved itself!

My own life wasn’t affected by any of that as I was busy running around Manhattan shopping for fabric and supplies for my fabric jewelry project that was swiftly turning into a business!

Meanwhile at night I’d be working on illustration commissions that were paying for everything! It was nevertheless an exciting time!

This was artwork for a liquor campaign with a photo of the product in the empty square!

I still was aware that illustration was being supplanted by hard-sell photography in print advertising since Nixon during his presidency had lowered the boom on television outlets and popular publications during his vitriolic war on the media. It had begun when TV reports were critical of the Vietnam War, and eventually the White House itself, but it had metastasized into the print media with magazines and publications walking on eggshells with no more lighthearted or whimsical soft-sell visuals in its ads. Those ads were the best sources of income for illustrators and the wildest imaginative ideas were conjoined with products which lent a frivolous and lighthearted mood to the whole!

I was hoping to expand my efforts to other outlets and fashion appeared to be less vulnerable and possibly more profitable!

But it was a lot of work and, as differentiated from illustration, a lot of footwork!

This was art for an allergy medication, “A Drug for 4 Reasons.”

My friend Louie Negin came to New York from Canada for a quick visit and he introduced me to Barbara Cook, one of my favorite performers, and her brilliant accompanist/arranger Wally Harper!

Their collaboration on the song, Dancing in the Dark, was a mind-opening experience for me showing the true meaning of the lyrics by Howard Dietz! For example: “We’re waltzing in the wonder of why we’re here, time hurries by, we’re here then gone …”

It’s normally performed as a lighthearted bit of fluff but Harper arranged it and Cook sang it as a ruminating meditation on existence and survival during questioning times — so appropriate for 1931 when it was introduced by Fred Astaire and his sister Adele in the Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz musical review, The Bandwagon!

(With artwork by John Held Jr.)

There are constantly “questioning times” and the Harper/Cook version is the only consistently valid one for me! (Sorry, Fred and Adele!)

Back to my everyday reality, I was constantly meeting with Rick Mendez who was helping me with the making of the “jewelry.”

I had been introduced to Rick by Beth Rubin and another friend Bruce Patterson since they’d all been together at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Rick, being a master at sewing, had been a godsend!

He and Bruce were sharing an apartment in Chelsea on West 22nd Street.

I picked up Rick and we hit the streets again getting supplies!

On Sunday Mary Milton and I went to The Museum of Modern Art to a screening of two classic French films, Fantomas and Sous les Toits de Paris.

And Sous les Toits de Paris (Under the Roofs of Paris) was the first sound film of director René Clair and the first French film with sound to be a huge success internationally!

The beginning of this film has a wonderful long crane shot over the roofs of a picturesque large exterior set of a working class Parisian street ending on a close-up of a street singer. The movie ends with another similar shot in reverse bookending the fanciful film story.

Clair came to Hollywood and directed some wonderfully imaginative films such as I Married a Witch and It Happened Tomorrow.

As a young kid I loved these fantasy movies!

After the films, Mary and I went to dinner at Charley’s.

Mary is wearing one of my fabric bracelets like the one seen in the photo above.

Needless to say, she had a huge collection!

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