Archive for October, 2012

The Post About Nathan, Andy, and Shoes

Friday, October 26th, 2012

One of my favorite people from the old days at AIGA was Nathan Gluck. I never quite understood Nathan’s role. He seemed to be the archivist and keeper of the stories of AIGA’s history. When I met him, he must have been in his 70s. Nathan was like your friendly uncle who knew all the family gossip. When I’m older, I plan on writing a tell-all book. By then everyone Nathan gossiped about will be long gone, and I won’t care if everyone hates me.

We were all star-struck by the fact that Nathan worked with Andy Warhol on his shoe drawings. It was hard to imagine lovable and disheveled Nathan as part of the beautiful people Factory scene, but there you have it. Long before Warhol became a pop icon, he worked as an illustrator. He won awards from the Art Directors Club, and illustrated pieces for AIGA. In the mid-1950s, Warhol made most of his income with shoe illustrations for I. Miller. When he started, the shoes were represented faithfully. As the work evolved, they became increasingly fanciful. Nathan worked for Warhol as an assistant. He drew the shoes, and then Warhol made corrections and refined the illustrations.

In 1955, Warhol published a self-promotional portfolio, A la Recherché du Shoe Perdu. The portfolio capitalized on the increasing fame of the shoe illustrations and combined a shoe poem by Ralph Pomeroy. Warhol’s mother handwrote the poems in a careful and ornate script. When she became too ill to continue, Nathan took over, imitating the style perfectly. I spend a great deal of time explaining that reality is irrelevant, perception is everything. In other words, it doesn’t matter what a shoe actually looks like. That it is presented powerfully and dynamically is more important.





Lot’s Wife and Mushroom Soup

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Sausages and nifty type

Over the weekend, I saw a television program about torture methods through the ages. One of these was forced feeding of large quantities of salt. This usually made the victim incredibly thirsty, or killed them. I know what this is like. My grandmother was a terrible cook. Everything was unbelievably salty or overcooked. Mushroom soup seemed to be the base of any recipe, and she deemed crisp vegetables undercooked and unhealthy. Her taco salad was of particular terror. As she aged and lost her sense of taste, the taco salad became increasingly salty. We would never be impolite and not eat it, so a large carafe of water was always needed.

I recently found her recipe for the taco salad. It is in a Better Homes and Gardens book, Jiffy Cooking, published in 1967. I am especially keen on the cover type. I need to find this font, or redraw it. I may be seeing things, but this cookbook is heavy on the phallic imagery. There are sausages, pickles, and other penis shaped foods on almost every page. I also like the spread for a teen party. Ice cream and pickles are featured. Here is a word of advice: if you have a teenage daughter and she requests ice cream and pickles, worry. If the sausages, heavy cream, and canned mushroom soup don’t kill you, there is always the cake with multiple balls of butter for everyone.



again, with the "pickles"


see what I mean?


The butter ball snack


very, very salty taco salad


groovy type

The Bad, The Powerful, and The Beautiful

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Lewis Thornton Powell, 1865

At lunch a few weeks ago, Paula Scher asked me if I had any criminals in my family history. The British considered most of them criminals and traitors during the revolutionary war. During the Civil War, some ended up in Union prisons. The most notorious family member was Lewis Thornton Powell, a distant cousin (we have common ancestors on the Lewis, Thornton, Powell, and Harrison lines). Powell was convicted and hanged with the other conspirators in President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Otherwise, the family scandals or rumors of unorthodox behavior were of a romantic nature.

William Christian Bullitt married the noted communist and ex-wife of John Reed, Louise Bryant (played by Diane Keaton in Reds). She slowly went mad, had an affair with Gwen Le Gallienne and died alone in Paris. Amelie Rives Chanler Troubetzkoy divorced her first husband; Astor heir Archie Armstrong Chanler, then married Prince Pierre Troubetzkoy. Troubetzkoy was described by the women of New York and Newport society as “a fine specimen of a man.” Lucy Page Mercer Rutherfurd was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s true love from 1915 until his death in 1945. She was with him the day he died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, Georgia.

The most controversial story is about the nature of cousin Joshua Fry Speed’s relationship with President Lincoln. If nobody ever discussed Lucy Mercer and FDR at dinner, you can imagine that the Lincoln and Speed issue was never mentioned. The facts are these: Lincoln moved to Springfield, Illinois as a young attorney. Upon his arrival, he went to Speed’s store to inquire about a room. Speed suggested Lincoln stay with him, as he had a large bed. Lincoln moved in and they lived together for seven years. Speed eventually returned to the family plantation, Farmington, in Kentucky to marry Fannie Henning. Lincoln had a nervous breakdown and went to Farmington to recover. He then returned to Springfield and married Mary Todd. Speed and Lincoln remained best friends, although a cooling occurred during the civil war. Speed was a southern Democrat and opposed the Emancipation Proclamation. He made many confidential trips to Washington to visit Lincoln, and saw him two weeks before the assassination (refer to Lewis Thornton Powell above—see how convoluted this all is). Speed’s brother, James served on as Attorney General in Lincoln’s administration.

Now whether this friendship was platonic or more isn’t particularly important to me. Who knows? Who cares? What matters to me is that this is now an interesting anecdote to be told at cocktail parties.

Joshua Fry Speed, 1840s


Abraham Lincoln, 1848


William Christian Bullitt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt


Lucy Page Mercer Rutherfurd, 1930s


William Christian Bullitt, Paris, 1940s


Louise Bryant, 1918

Louise Bryant, Provincetown, 1916


Amelie Rives Chanler Troubetzkoy, 1900

Amelie Rives Chanler Troubetzkoy


Prince Pierre Troubetzkoy


Attorney General James Speed, 1860s

When Illustration Takes a Holiday

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Holiday, September 1952

The first image we recognize as human beings is a face. Babies can recognize parents and mimic expressions within days of birth. We operate as social animals by identifying other people we know. The human face is the first place we look. It gets our attention. This is why every magazine cover is an almost life size image of a face looking at the viewer. It works to get our attention, but not particularly exciting or unexpected.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Frank Zachary was the art director at Holiday magazine. He hired relatively unknown illustrators for the covers. Most of these star illustrators later. The illustrative covers never fail. They are light, often funny, beautiful, and smart. Holiday’s photographic covers, however, have been relegated to history’s sloppy seconds. Perhaps it is due to the surplus of photographic covers now. The illustrations seem completely fresh and new. But, why do I keep going back to the photos on the covers?

First, they are not the standard big head staring at the viewer. Second, the scale, point of view, and overall composition are often unexpected and odd. Third, the subject matter is never the obvious. An issue on Park Avenue has an abstract image of car lights. No attempt is made to show Park Avenue clearly. The issue covering the Caribbean’s photo is shot from a bird’s eye view, minimizing the bathing suit clad woman in the hammock. I especially love the September 1952 issue on Colorado. At first glance, it’s a standard portrait of a young woman and her horse. But, look closely. The young woman is not focus on the center of the page. The horse is. This is a beauty shot of a lovely horse.

Holiday, April 1953

Holiday, June 1953

Holiday, December 1953

Holiday, November 1962

Holiday, November 1954

Holiday, January 1956

Holiday, March 1957

Holiday, February 1967

Holiday, June 1958

many of these covers are from

Seven Thousand Pelts in the Bins

Monday, October 15th, 2012

The Knockabout Club Alongshore by C.A. Stephens, 1883

At lunch today, we discussed which fiction books changed each of our lives. People talked about Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Play It as It Lays by Joan Didion, anything by Walt Whitman, and The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald. When the group asked me to list my top three, I admit I was ashamed to admit the truth. “Hmm, well, hmm,” I said in a scholarly tone, “I’m quite fond of anything by Raymond Carver. And, of course, Grace Paley.” I did not tell the whole truth. Yes, I do like Raymond Carver, but one of my favorite books is one I had at my grandparents’ house. It’s The Knockabout Club Alongshore by C.A. Stephens. It doesn’t have interesting symbols, metaphors, or complex narrative structure. It’s a standard issue boy’s adventure book about “The adventures of a party of young men on a trip from Boston to the land of the midnight sun.”

I know every page and spent hours as a kid staring at the maps of Nova Scotia and etchings of sailing adventures. The Knockabout Club was published in 1883. No, I did not read it when it was first released. When you’re eight, and there are icebergs, polar bears, Vikings, and the northern lights the publication date doesn’t matter.

            The deck—when we were able to catch sight of it for “skulps” (seal cub scalps)—was almost slippery with gore.

Lines like these are thrilling to any young boy. No worries, I do recognize now that clubbing seal cubs for scalps is not okay. I look at the book now, and am impressed with the actual design. The bright cover screams sailing adventure. I love the detailed initial caps, or in some instances, initial words. For years, I’ve wanted to go to Antarctica. Now I know the genesis of this desire. I am, however, a little confused as to why my grandparents gave me a book from 1883 to read while my friends were reading Deathwatch.

The Knockabout Club Alongshore by C.A. Stephens, 1883


The Knockabout Club Alongshore by C.A. Stephens, 1883

The Knockabout Club Alongshore by C.A. Stephens, 1883

The Knockabout Club Alongshore by C.A. Stephens, 1883

The Knockabout Club Alongshore by C.A. Stephens, 1883

The Knockabout Club Alongshore by C.A. Stephens, 1883