1972. President Nixon announced that secret talks that included a cease fire were underway and a Japanese soldier who’d been hiding since WWII was accidentally discovered on Guam!
And Nixon made his historic trip to China.
I’d become fascinated by the photographs of Walker Evans, one of the photographers hired by the Farm Security Administration to document visual aspects of the Great Depression. Because it was so similar to my own interest I was particularly drawn to his subway photographs.
Another photographer I was attracted to was Berenice Abbott. She documented architecture and life in Manhattan’s streets. I had been living in New York for a decade which was enough time to realize that the city was changing before our eyes! When I arrived in 1960 some parts of midtown’s architecture hadn’t changed much.
Old buildings were beginning to be demolished but the pace quickened as time passed! The ’60s were as dynamic as were the ’20s!
My yearning for an exciting cultural zeitgeist during my younger days in the self satisfied, bland Eisenhower ’50s was being realized although I hadn’t accounted for the nostalgic loss of familiar environments like the beautiful apartment building on Park Avenue in the mid-forties — the one with an interior landscaped garden courtyard and fountain. It was soon replaced by a very unsentimental but utilitarian office building; one that had as little distinction as any of the glass and steel behemoths littering that part of Park Avenue.
I began noticing quirky details around town and wondering how long they’d be around. It was as if all of midtown were ephemeral and temporary and I started taking notes as to where and what they were with the intention of returning to photograph them.
Sad to say I never got back to do anything about photographing any of it. Or if I did make a point of going back it had already changed or in fact disappeared! I’d suddenly become so busy with work that any spare time was spent catching up with with friends or attending some event.
I often thought about developing some of my subway drawings into paintings like Daumier did.
After all, we were dealing with similar subject matter although as an illustrator Daumier’s work was largely political.
But with the advent of very creative photography it really didn’t seem worth it! After Picasso, the Post Impressionists and the further advances of photography, a true to life reproduction of reality seemed to be a rather unoriginal occupation. Pretty, maybe, but not as exciting as in the past. So even though I had a UCLA degree in painting I put it aside for illustration!
I contented myself with sketchbook drawings of the ever changing city knowing that every moment might be memorable!
On a Wednesday evening I went with friends to a performance of the Joffrey Ballet having had a meeting with Redbook art director Bob Ciano earlier in the day.
I love ballet and consider it an ultimate mix of theater, visual art, music and athleticism!
And on the weekend, my close friend, photographer Bob Stone and his beautiful model friend Chandrika Angadi made the bus trip with me to Easton, Pennsylvania and the taxi ride to Alpha, New Jersey for the calming atmosphere of the farm.
Sunday came too quickly and we were back in Easton waiting for the bus to Manhattan. It was always a thrill to be going to the farm on a Friday and an equally exciting experience to be recharged and going back into Manhattan with the nighttime streets buzzing with activities!
Having the option of both worlds had been a very good idea!
Back in the city there was still a lot of talk about Nixon’s visit to China and his meeting with Chairman Mao and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and the “opening up” of China! After joining the United Nations China immediately demanded the return of Hong Kong.
But people still have to go out and eat(!), so on Monday evening Neal Hanslik and I went to dinner at the Acapulco Restaurant.
The week was busy with deadlines but the following Monday I had a bit of a break and went shopping with my friend Sharon Powers whom I’d known since I was at UCLA. She had been in 1776 that had closed on Broadway in February and now, thinking of doing cabaret work, she was looking for a clothing identity — something that would be appropriate for the stage but also for daily life.
After a not too successful day, in the evening we went to a concert at the Central Presbyterian Church on Park Avenue for a performance of the Organ Concerto by Francis Poulenc, one of my favorite works by one of my favorite composers! There was also a performance of the gorgeous Requiem by Maurice Duruflé, another favorite, and Sharon being a classically trained singer was transported — as was I.
With the addition of a piece by Messiaen everything in the world seemed so much more optimistic!
So optimistic that we finished the evening with ice cream at Rumpelmayers!
After ice cream we were still talking and so we decided to go for coffee.
I had been hearing about a different kind of mind game. There were so many around after The Beatles popularized meditation after going to India with the Maharishi.
The one that sounded the most interesting to me was one called Silva Mind Control! I was describing to Sharon everything I knew about it — that it had rather a paranormal aspect to it that fascinated me and that some very prominent people had signed up for it! In fact I’d heard that Wingate Paine, a famous New York commercial photographer had retired from photography to teach it!
That really impressed me as I admired his work! He was professionally considered the third in the trilogy of Irving Penn, Richard Avedon — and Wingate Paine! Not too shabby!
He had photographed the 1959 Volkswagen ad that has been described by Ad Age as the best ad of the Twentieth Century — the ad that changed advertising forever!
Aside from advertising Paine had produced a book of (tasteful) erotic photographs called Mirror of Venus with commentary by Francoise Sagan and Federico Fellini! That was prestige personified!
He was also a member of a Mayflower family and somehow if nothing else had done it, that gave the Silva group a credibility and sobriety that other supposedly disciplinary groups lacked. It didn’t sound like just a popular fad!
Even after leaving Sharon I kept thinking about Wingate Paine teaching a mind expansion technique!
But the next day I was back to work with an appointment at Joseph Bartolone Advertising.
It was a small agency and I didn’t know anything about them — but I hoped they represented an important client and that I might get to do a job for them that would be interesting — and fun!
But Mind Control!