Thursday, January 05, 2012

Existing in the New York City Police State: They Are Dropping Dead All Around Me

Foto by tgw, New York City 2012
Death, the Inevitable Savior

I read the Wikipedia Death List every day. Usually I don't know most of those who are listed as dying on it--a lot of soccer players, football players, motocross motorcyclists, Latin American and Croatian actors, and old rock stars listed, but recently I've been seeing people die who were very contemporary in terms of my growing up, education, and learning process.

Like Helen Frankenthaler died a couple of days after X-mas (I can never refer to it as Christmas--I hate Christians--there, I've said it). Around 1970, I went over to Rutgers University in New Jersey and attended a Robert Motherwell show where I purchased a limited-edition print of his. My authentication cert said Robert himself was going to pull it and sign it while it was still damp. I paid $80 for the print. When they finally sent it to me, it had a fold drop-dead across its middle. I sold it a couple of years ago for $300. What's this got to do with Helen Frankenthaler? She was at that show at Rutgers. I met her. Plus, I'm not sure, but I reviewed an art exhibit held way back when at the U of Illinois in Champagne-Urbana and I'm almost sure she was exhibiting at that show.

When I met her at this Rutgers show, I knew her as Clement Greenberg's former mistress; I had no idea she was Robert Motherwell's wife. Both she and Robert were privileged little rich kids and were known in New York City cultural and social circuits as "the Golden Couple," a title which they constantly gave legend to by giving extravagant parties and such, though this best-and-brightest couple eventually corrupted itself into decadence and the marriage ended. Helen, used to Manhattan Upper East Side glamor and plenty of money, then married a stock broker who she lived with until his death a few years ago. She was a devotee of Hans Hoffmann and Jackson Pollock. Now she's R.I.P. at 83. Helen Frankenthaler, 83, American painter.

Helen Frankenthaler

And this week Ratso Rizzi died. I knew Ratso through a guy who had grown up with him in Brooklyn, my friend and next-door neighbor for 5 years, Matty Quick, the rock 'n roll drummer. Matty had a large collection of Ratso's 3D creations around his apartment, gifts from Ratso or things Matty grabbed off Ratso's studio floor. All of us at that time called him Ratso; his real name was James. 3D cutouts were his metier. I've been around Ratso a lot as a sideline participant especially during the 1970s days I wrote about in my on-line 33-chapter tome called One Spring Morning Off Spring Street, a piece of writing mainly devoted to my remembrance of rock journalist and would-be rock star, Lester Bangs, whose band, Birdland, was actually Matty Quick's band, the Rattlers--but I never really knew Ratso.

How parallel-line coincidental is it that our own thedailygrowlerwomantrumpetplayer's first big love affair was with Ratso! She could tell us things about him that might curl our toes--certainly, he must have curled the WTP's toes. Here's Ratso's Website for those of you who'd like to delight in his presence and art once more before he's lost to his own archives:

Also among the recent dying is Don Mueller. I remember hearing on the radio as a very young kid that famous game between the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers. It happened October 3, 1951. This game happened after the Dodgers went into the end of August 13 games up on the Giants only to be caught and tied by the Giants by the end of September resulting in this play-off game, the winner going on to the World Series. Mueller was in that game and he was vital in it, too, except the game turned out to be tragic for Big Don.

From Don's bio: "With New York trailing the Brooklyn Dodgers, 4–1, in the ninth inning, Mueller singled Alvin Dark to third base. With one out, Whitey Lockman doubled to score Dark, but Mueller broke his ankle sliding into third. He was carried from the field, and missed both Bobby Thomson's game-winning home run that followed Lockman's hit and the 1951 World Series."

Don Mueller was what was called a heavy hitter. He consistently hit in the .300s; during the 1952 season, Mueller came in second to teammate Willie Mays for the National League batting title.

Others who died that I recall, though they weren't that important in my life were Ralph McDonald, the percussionist--he used to live around the corner from me in Mount Vernon, New York; and jazz drummer Clem deRosa.

Death Quotes:

From The Daily Growler Hall of Fame Actor Errol Flynn:
Any man who has $10,000 left when he dies is a failure."

Somerset Maugham:
"Death is a very dull, dreary affair, and my advice to you is to have nothing whatsoever to do with it." From one of Maugham's books, I learned how if you are drowning to go ahead and get it over with--just lay back and open your mouth--you'll be drowned, according to Maugham, in less that 3 minutes.

Edward Munch:
"From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity." My ex-wife, the Choctaw-Mexican-Welsh beauty, had her ashes put in a hole and a tree planted in them. I would love having a huge tree growing out of my ashes. (Yes, I'm a cremationist.)

J. Robert Oppenheimer [one of the creators of the Atom Bomb]:
"I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."

Willa Cather [the best quote, I think]:
"I shall not die of a cold. I shall die of having lived."

for The Daily Growler

The Art of Ronald Searle
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

1 comment:

Marybeth said...

Ratso, may he rest in peace, was never a BIG love of mine, though he was a lover of mine and a sweet man. We were friends and neighbors who had casual sex. In the spring of '77 I lived on Bleecker and had a lousy job as a waitress in a dive luncheonette in the financial district. I would walk home, after my shift, back up to Bleecker Street along a route that would take me past Ratso's live/work studio on Sullivan near Prince. I often would visit with him in the afternoon, just the two of us. We had nice, warm, quiet, peaceful visits. I was always dressed in my white waitressing uniform with nylons and white shoes and a silly red apron. One afternoon, as we sat shooting the breeze, me with feet up on one of his tables and him sitting by my side, he slid his hand up along my leg and.... It was no big romance for either of us but it was sweet and I am sorry as hell that he is dead at only 61. I liked the man a lot. He was warm and gentle and kind. He was easy to hang out with. Just a very pleasant and receptive presence. I still have a bunch of bottles of his paints, a type of watercolor that he turned me on to. Well, as the Irish say "It's a small thing that doesn't outlive a man."