Thursday, March 07, 2013

That Boy Could Sure Eat Some Beets

My old friend Michele Litzky celebrates the 25th anniversary of Litzky Public Relations, her eponymous marketing machine.  Which is alarming, given that she and I worked together prior to her starting her agency, and that makes me feel old.  I can tell you from experience that her public relations skills are as sharp as Johnny  B. Goode ringing that bell -- if you catch my drift -- and if you, dear reader, are in a position of authority in some God-forsaken marketing department for some massive corporate entity somewhere off in the distance, I would urge you to hire her.  The website is this.

Note:  Having inspected the website, I'm not sure financial PR or investor relations are her strongest suit, but I'm sure, if you paid her enough money, she'd pick it up.

Anyway, she, me and a guy named John Bailey worked at a small PR firm years ago.  I'd give you my frank assessment of the firm itself, but that would likely end in anger, tears, recrimination and libel suits.  Enough said.  Besides, celebrating Michele's milestone really just makes me think back fondly to the adventures I had with my old buddy John.  And it's hard enough to stay positive doing that.

Brief aside:  Part of the fun of owning a blog as big as TYOMP is that you completely forget half the stuff you posted in, say, 2009.  Moments ago, looking for a photo of my old iPod, I typed the word 'beets' into the search box and found this ...

It's from a portrait I did of Julian Schnabel called Nipple/Schnabel.  The reason being -- and don't ask me to explain beyond what I'm about to say -- I did a pretty large portrait of the guy for an upstate show I was doing, and at the time I was very into dividing the paintings into one-foot squares and attacking them in a square-by-square manner.  With Schnabel, who is sort of annoying, I decided to cut small holes at the intersecting lines of the grid and poke baby-bottle nipples through from the back.  I then lightly illuminated the painting from the back, hung it on a wall, and the rest is history.

Anyway, years later, John and I used to go to the Gramercy Tavern on rainy winter afternoons and sweet-talk the hostess into letting us sit at the round table for five right in the front window and quietly make spectacles of ourselves.  Our general MO was quite a bit of chardonnay, a dozen oysters each, and then something else.  JB loved the roasted beet salad, and really, who could blame him?  They also had a braised pork belly that was so magnificent it became both world-famous and the foundation block upon which Tom Colicchio built his entire empire.

One tough piece of meat, cooked slowly for a long time on a low heat and suddenly you're famous.  God bless the man.

One of the things John and I did, once the chardonnay had kicked in, was compose one-liners we wanted written on our gravestones.  I don't remember mine, but I remember what we came up with for him.  He'd just inhaled his roasted beet salad and one of us looked at the other and said "That boy could sure eat some beets."  At which point we started laughing so hard the other patrons looked at us askance.  The hostess, who was extremely attractive, looked at us the way beautiful women can look at you and make you want to be a better man.  For her.  Surely you know the feeling?  Eyebrows raised, if you will?  That passed quickly, though, and we continued to giggle through what was left of the lunch.

Then, not a year later, 2003ish maybe (but who knows?  I'm not a linear thinker), I was sitting at my desk, reading the paper when a call came through  from John's boss.  Odd, I thought.  And he was calling to tell me that John had died the night before.  Which made me damned sad for a damned long time.  Honestly, to this day I read or see something peculiar or funny and think to myself that JB would have gotten a kick out of it.

I missed his memorial service.  His wife and I loathed each other, and I knew she'd never go for that whole "sure could eat some beets" thing, so I side-stepped the whole thing and had a couple of oysters and a beet salad at the GT on the day of.

Hey, we all grieve in our own way.

Back in those days, if you ordered an iPod from Apple directly, they'd engrave something on the back for you.  A couple of months after John died I bought one and had them write this ...

You really are a massive softy, aren't you?
Yes I am.
Yet most people think you're fierce and dark.
But really I'm like snowflakes in the sunshine.

It's an interesting picture:  an early iPod in front of an iPad shot by an iPhone, which you can see, along with the top of my head, reflected from the back of the iPod.

JB was an extraordinary man.  He was an irascible, sarcastic son of a bitch, but the gentle, loving way he talked about his young son gives me a lump just typing this.  He also told me that in college he could recite the entirety of Desolation Row.  Which goes, if memory serves, something like this ...

They’re selling postcards of the hanging
They’re painting the passports brown
The beauty parlor is filled with sailors
The circus is in town
Here comes the blind commissioner
They’ve got him in a trance
One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker
The other is in his pants
And the riot squad they’re restless
They need somewhere to go
As Lady and I look out tonight
From Desolation Row
Cinderella, she seems so easy
“It takes one to know one,” she smiles
And puts her hands in her back pockets
Bette Davis style
And in comes Romeo, he’s moaning
“You Belong to Me I Believe”
And someone says, “You’re in the wrong place my friend
You better leave”
And the only sound that’s left
After the ambulances go
Is Cinderella sweeping up
On Desolation Row
Now the moon is almost hidden
The stars are beginning to hide
The fortune-telling lady
Has even taken all her things inside
All except for Cain and Abel
And the hunchback of Notre Dame
Everybody is making love
Or else expecting rain
And the Good Samaritan, he’s dressing
He’s getting ready for the show
He’s going to the carnival tonight
On Desolation Row
Now Ophelia, she’s ’neath the window
For her I feel so afraid
On her twenty-second birthday
She already is an old maid
To her, death is quite romantic
She wears an iron vest
Her profession’s her religion
Her sin is her lifelessness
And though her eyes are fixed upon
Noah’s great rainbow
She spends her time peeking
Into Desolation Row
Einstein, disguised as Robin Hood
With his memories in a trunk
Passed this way an hour ago
With his friend, a jealous monk
He looked so immaculately frightful
As he bummed a cigarette
Then he went off sniffing drainpipes
And reciting the alphabet
Now you would not think to look at him
But he was famous long ago
For playing the electric violin
On Desolation Row
Dr. Filth, he keeps his world
Inside of a leather cup
But all his sexless patients
They’re trying to blow it up
Now his nurse, some local loser
She’s in charge of the cyanide hole
And she also keeps the cards that read
“Have Mercy on His Soul”
They all play on pennywhistles
You can hear them blow
If you lean your head out far enough
From Desolation Row
Across the street they’ve nailed the curtains
They’re getting ready for the feast
The Phantom of the Opera
A perfect image of a priest
They’re spoonfeeding Casanova
To get him to feel more assured
Then they’ll kill him with self-confidence
After poisoning him with words
And the Phantom’s shouting to skinny girls
“Get Outa Here If You Don’t Know
Casanova is just being punished for going
To Desolation Row”
Now at midnight all the agents
And the superhuman crew
Come out and round up everyone
That knows more than they do
Then they bring them to the factory
Where the heart-attack machine
Is strapped across their shoulders
And then the kerosene
Is brought down from the castles
By insurance men who go
Check to see that nobody is escaping
To Desolation Row
Praise be to Nero’s Neptune
The Titanic sails at dawn
And everybody’s shouting
“Which Side Are You On?”
And Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot
Fighting in the captain’s tower
While calypso singers laugh at them
And fishermen hold flowers
Between the windows of the sea
Where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much
About Desolation Row
Yes, I received your letter yesterday
(About the time the doorknob broke)
When you asked how I was doing
Was that some kind of joke?
All these people that you mention
Yes, I know them, they’re quite lame
I had to rearrange their faces
And give them all another name
Right now I can’t read too good
Don’t send me no more letters, no
Not unless you mail them
From Desolation Row
For the benefit of those of you who are totally clueless, or like twenty years old, I would add it was written by Bob Dylan.  All rights reserved, I would assume.

There's a line from the song scrawled on my portrait of Jamie Dimon ...

If I'd thought ahead, I would have written "Happy Anniversary Michele" on it too.  But that painting is long gone.  As it happens, though, I'm right in the middle of my Uncle Sam project ...

Hey Michele!  Congratulations.  Now you're famous.


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