Life Magazine Eating Their Hat

As I mentioned in the Bomb Culture post, contemporary sources more often than not completely fuck it up.  Case in point the August 1949 issue of Life.  Robin Leach was alive and well in the 1940s.   The cover story is about the rich and famous of Fairfield County.  According to Life, Fairfield is ground zero for the artistic community.  The "idea people live around Westport."  Life gushes, "Today Fairfield County has almost as many 'idea people' as it has people of wealth.  Many of the authors, artists and actors live around the town of Westport, a onetime colonial shipping center just west of the town of Fairfield.  There are probably more professional artists within a 25-mile radius of Westport than in any comparable spot in the U.S.  The Westport Artist Club, which was formed only four years ago, already has 148 members.  The club's president, Wood Cowan, who once drew the newspaper cartoon Our Boarding House (Major Hoople) and is now semi-retired."

Some of these artists include Eva La Gallienne, who is taking a nap on her Westport lawn, exhausted from being glorious and her one-week appearance in the Westport Playhouse.  Fritz Reiner, a Wagnerian conductor at the Met.  F.P Adams of Information Please.  Please is right.  Helen Hokinson who draws "her famous cartoons of fat and fatuous ladies for The New Yorker Magazine."  Fat and fatuous exactly.  And James Fraser who designed the buffalo nickel.  Counterfeit.  Quite an artistic pantheon.  Like Hokinson's fat and fatuous ladies this is a joke.

In the same issue, Life asks the knock-knock joke:  "Is [Jackson Pollock] the greatest living painter in the United States?"  The joke is clearly on Life.  Out in the village of The Springs, Pollock was working on arguably the most important and influential paintings of the 20th Century.  But according to Life the real action (painting) was happening in Westfield County.  With Major Hoople and the buffalo nickel.  Of course nobody of importance summered around The Springs, just take a look at the photos in Bob Gruen's The Party's Over Now, no "professional artists within [a] 25-mile radius" of there.

Online some people are asking $150 for this issue of Life, I wonder if that is because it features a photograph of Charles S. Munson Chairman of the Board of Air Reduction Co., Ltd., Home Oxygen Co. Inc., Dry Ice, Inc. etc. etc. and Director of Pure Carbonic, Inc., Sterno, Inc., Airca Export Corp. etc. etc. playing golf or because it has a four-page spread of an artist of "interesting, if inexplicable, decorations" that most people of Westfield County would find "as unpalatable as yesterday's macaroni" complete with color images of Number 9, Number 12, and Number 17 along with images of Pollock "get[ting] acquainted" with his painting "after days of brooding and doodling."

PS:  Yes, that is The Singing Nun, Debbie Reynolds, on the cover.  Three years later she appeared in Singin' in the Rain.  Her movie memorabilia collection was valued at over $10 million in a 2009 bankruptcy filing.  Jackson Pollock's No. 5, 1948 sold for $140 million to David Geffen on November 2, 2006, setting a record for the highest price ever paid for a painting.



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