Always with his eye keenly trained to make a quick buck, Salvador Dali noted the sixties zeitgeist for all things astrological and produced a limited edition portfolio of 250 lithographs on woven paper depicting the signs of the zodiac. Though Dali claimed to be interested in science and its investigations into the atom—he was well-known to be superstitious to the point of paranoia. As a young man he kept a talisman to ward off evil spirits; he also had a phobia about showing his feet, which made buying new shoes difficult; plus he believed he was the “reincarnation” of his dead older brother—which was most probably caused by his having to wear his dead sibling’s clothes.
Dali claimed in an interview with Mike Wallace that the Spanish were a superstitious nation which explained his own personal superstitions. His one-time friend and film collaborator Luis Buñuel agreed with Dali about the Spanish, claiming in his autobiography My Last Breath that religious indoctrination had caused many Spaniards to live their lives under the terrible fear of retribution. It has been claimed that towards the end of Dali’s life he became even more superstitious—only agreeing to meet visitors in a darkened room or communicating with people through a closed door.
Dali would return to the zodiac as a money-making source in the late 1960s and again in the 1970s. These works are primarily simple, direct and illustrative—other than a Dalinian lobster replacing a crab for sign of Cancer—though there is little doubt over the skill and talent of the artist who produced them.
Model, painter, disco diva, TV personality and the absolute fiercest of the pioneering transsexuals (along with Candy Darling), Amanda Lear was born Alain Maurice Louis René Tap in Saigon, 1939. Or it could have been Paris. Or Hong Kong. The year might have been 1941, 1945 or as she now claims 1950. There is much competing information about her parents, none of it conclusive. In general, not much is known for sure about the early life of Amanda Lear and she would very much like to keep it that way. She claims to have been educated in Switzerland and she eventually made her way to Paris in 1959, taking the stage name “Peki d’Oslo,” performing as a stripper at the notorious drag bar, Le Carrousel.
Amanda Lear’s mid-60s model card.
The story goes that the gangly, yet exotic Eurasian beauty Peki had a nose job and sex change in Casablanca paid for by none other than the Surrealist master Salvador Dali, who frequented Le Carrousel, in 1963. Amanda, as she is now known, then makes her way to London to become a part of the swinging Chelsea set where she is rumored to have had a relationship with Rolling Stone Brian Jones. She models for Yves St. Laurent and Paco Rabanne and is a constant muse for the Divine Dali, but her career is held back by rumors that she was born a man or was a hermaphrodite.
‘For Your Pleasure’ cover
Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry saw Lear on the runway during an Ossie Clark fashion show and invited her to be the model for Roxy’s For Your Pleasure album cover, walking a black panther on a leash. They were briefly engaged and that image has become iconic. Lear also had a yearlong affair with David Bowie who serenaded her with “Sorrow” in his “1980 Floor Show” (broadcast on The Midnight Special in 1974). Bowie helped Lear launch her musical career and by the late 1970s she had become a bestselling disco singer and television personality in Europe with hits like “Follow Me,” “Queen of Chinatown” and “I Am a Photograph.”
The David Bailey photograph of Lear that appeared in the infamous 1971 Dali-edited issue of French Vogue
Amanda Lear’s autobiography, My Life With Dali came out in 1985 and it begins when she would have been approximately 24 or 25 years of age. Almost no mention whatsoever is made of her life before arriving in London in 1965. When Dali biographer Ian Gibson confronted her on camera about the gender of her birth in his The Fame and Shame of Salvador Dali TV documentary, Lear angrily—and not at all convincingly—stonewalled him. She has always vehemently denied that she was a transsexual despite it being a well-established fact. She even posed nude for Playboy and several other men’s magazines and often sunbathed naked on beaches to dispel the rumors. All this really proved was that she had a kickin’ bod, but if you ask me, I think it’s sad that she choses to keep up this pretense. She should be rightfully celebrated for her biggest accomplishment in life—ironically, being true to herself—but apparently Amanda Lear just doesn’t see it that way.
Amanda Lear vehemently denies having had a sex change on German television 1977.
Today Amanda Lear still looks amazing—she’s practically ageless no matter what her real biological age might be—and continues to perform all over Europe. She’s sold somewhere in the vicinity of fifteen million albums and 25 million singles. She also has a thriving career as a painter and an original painting of hers can sell for $10,000 or more. She’s done stage acting and was the voice of Edna ‘E’ Mode in the Italian-dubbed version of The Incredibles. Lear was a judge on the Italian version of Dancing with the Stars.
The most famous short film ever made was inspired by dreams. Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali had talked about making a film together for some time but could never agree on what the film should be about.
One day, Dali told Buñuel he had dreamt of ants swarming in his hands. Buñuel replied that he had dreamt of slicing open someone’s eye with a cutthroat razor. “There’s the film,” he said, “let’s go and make it.”
As Buñuel later explained, they compiled the script from a series of images which they took it in turns to suggest to each other. There was only one rule:
...No idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted. We had to open all doors to the irrational and keep only those images that surprised us, without trying to explain why.
When one of them made a suggestion, the other had three seconds in which to say “yes” or “no” to the proposal. This was how Buñuel and Dali wrote Un Chien Andalou (1929). Their intention had been to shock and offend, but rather than offending the public, Un Chien Andalou became an notorious success, which left Buñuel feeling ambivalent over his new found fame:
What can I do about the people who adore all that is new, even when it goes against their deepest convictions, or about the insincere, corrupt press, and the inane herd that saw beauty or poetry in something which was basically no more than a desperate impassioned call for murder
The most infamous image in cinema history?
The film had been paid for by Buñuel’s mother, but their next movie L’Âge d’Or (1930) was commissioned by the arts patrons Marie-Laurie and Charles de Noailles. This time their film achieved notoriety after Dali declared it was an attack on the Catholic church. When screened in Paris, the film caused a riot and was banned for 50 years.
After this, Buñuel distanced himself from Surrealism and became a Communist—a decision that ended his friendship Dali and led the painter to damage Buñuel’s reputation in America by denouncing him as an atheist.
Dali’s portrait of Buñuel from 1924.
It would take until the late 1940s for Buñuel to re-establish his career as a film director when he started making B-movies in Mexico. In 1950, he co-wrote and directed Los olvidados (The Young & The Damned) for which he Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival in 1951.
In 1960, Buñuel wrote “A Statement” on filmmaking for the magazine Film Culture in which explained his views on cinema:
The screen is a dangerous and wonderful instrument, if a free spirit uses it. It is the superior way of expressing the world of dreams, emotions and instinct. The cinema seems to have been invented for the expression of the subconscious, so profoundly is it rooted in poetry. Nevertheless, it almost never pursues these ends.
We rarely see good cinema in the mammoth productions, or in the works that have received the praise of critics and audience. The particular story, the private drama of an individual, cannot interest—I believe—anyone worthy of living in our time.
If a man in the audience shares the joys and sorrows of a character on the screen, it should be because that character reflects the joys and sorrows of all society and so the personal feelings of that man in the audience. Unemployment, insecurity, the fear of war, social injustice, etc., affect all men of our time, and thus, they also affect the individual spectator.
But when the screen tells me that Mr. X is not happy at home and finds amusement with a girl-friend whom he finally abandons to reunite himself with his faithful wife, I find it all very moral and edifying, but it leaves me completely indifferent.
Octavio Paz has said: “But that a man in chains should shut his eyes, the world would explode.” And I could say: But that the white eye-lid of the screen reflect its proper light, the Universe would go up in flames. But for the moment we can sleep in peace: the light of the cinema is conveniently dosified and shackled.
A late starter, age did not diminish Buñuel’s talent as a filmmaker and his most successful movies were made when he was in his sixties and seventies—The Exterminating Angel, Belle de Jour, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and That Obscure Object of Desire.
Buñuel said he was “An atheist—thank God,”—a line (allegedly) pinched by Kurt Vonnegut, and the only thing he equated with religious passion was his favorite drink a martini. In his autobiography, My Last Breath, Buñuel offered his recipe for the definitive martini:
To provoke, or sustain, a reverie in a bar, you have to drink English gin, especially in the form of the dry martini. To be frank, given the primordial role in my life played by the dry martini, I think I really ought to give it at least a page. Like all cocktails, the martini, composed essentially of gin and a few drops of Noilly Prat, seems to have been an American invention. Connoisseurs who like their martinis very dry suggest simply allowing a ray of sunlight to shine through a bottle of Noilly Prat before it hits the bottle of gin. At a certain period in America it was said that the making of a dry martini should resemble the Immaculate Conception, for, as Saint Thomas Aquinas once noted, the generative power of the Holy Ghost pierced the Virgin’s hymen “like a ray of sunlight through a window-leaving it unbroken.”
Another crucial recommendation is that the ice be so cold and hard that it won’t melt, since nothing’s worse than a watery martini. For those who are still with me, let me give you my personal recipe, the fruit of long experimentation and guaranteed to produce perfect results. The day before your guests arrive, put all the ingredients-glasses, gin, and shaker-in the refrigerator. Use a thermometer to make sure the ice is about twenty degrees below zero (centigrade). Don’t take anything out until your friends arrive; then pour a few drops of Noilly Prat and half a demitasse spoon of Angostura bitters over the ice. Stir it, then pour it out, keeping only the ice, which retains a faint taste of both. Then pour straight gin over the ice, stir it again, and serve.
(During the 1940s, the director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York taught me a curious variation. Instead of Angostura, he used a dash of Pernod. Frankly, it seemed heretical to me, but apparently it was only a fad.)
In 1984, a year after his death, the BBC produced a documentary on The Life and Times of Don Luis Buñuel, which covered his life from eye-ball slicing to his plans for deathbed pranks to be played on his family and friends.
These almost unbelievably realistic sculptures of Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali and Abraham Lincoln are imbued with a downright menacing level of detail. The extremely uncanny likenesses created by former Hollywood special effects makeup artist, Kazuhiro Tsuji are designed to bring about an intense intimacy not available in reality.
Here’s an excerpt from Tsuji’s 2015 artist statement on his website:
Face to face, viewers approach the giant heads, which are two times life size. The stillness and detail allow for close examination of each pore with a level of scrutiny not even permitted to lovers. The sculptures permit an impossibly close, shared moment with the celebrated.
Tsuji, a Kyoto, Japan native, worked with director Akira Kurosawa in the production of Rhapsody in August and on a variety of Hollywood films after founding one of the first companies of its kind in Japan called Makeup and Effects Unlimited. Since 2008, Tsuji has devoted himself entirely to sculpture and his work has been exhibited widely.
Take a look at some of the artist’s absolute masterpieces below. I think the photos of these sculptures speak for themselves. And what I mean by that is that they really do look like they almost could…actually…speak…for themselves.
Below the images, you’ll find a brief interview hosted by Aline Pimentel with Tsuji inside his Burbank, California studio. In it, Tsuji says that each sculpture takes him three to four months, and that he works up to sixteen hours a day.
You can read more about the incredible, SELF TAUGHT artist on his website.
San Antonio-based artist and hair stylist Roberto Perez AKA Rob The Original creates these pretty nutty haircuts with the scalp as a blank canvas and a photo of the subject to work off of for reference.
A lot of Rob’s subjects crafted on heads are of pop stars, sports stars and reality TV dum-dums (none of which I care about). I did, however, find of few of his works I really dig like Salvador Dalí, Bruce Lee, Cesar Chavez and a few others. I’d imagine the two dudes who got the Cheech & Chong hairdos would always have to stand together though, because it would be rather confusing to onlookers if they were separated with just a Tommy Chong on the one head. Where’s Cheech, dammit?!
I would also like to see these haircuts after two weeks of hair regrowth. Do they all turn into the Wolfman? I mean Tupac as the Wolfman would be kinda of hilarious and inexplicable to sport on yer head, no? You’d still have a lot of explaining to do.
You may not have heard of Edward James, but you will certainly recognise the back of his head from the painting Not to be Reproduced by René Magritte. This was one of two portraits the Surrealist artist did of James, the other was The Pleasure Principle.
Edward William Frank James (1907–1984) was a poet and a patron of the arts, who used his vast wealth to publish writers (like poet John Betjeman), commission theatrical productions most notably Les Ballets and Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s last work together The Seven Deadly Sins in 1933. He also supported individuals, communities in Mexico and financed artisan workshops, but James is most famously known for his patronage of Surrealist art, in particular the artists Magritte, Leonora Carrington and Salvador Dalí. He also bought works by Giorgio de Chirico, Paul Klee, Pavel Tchelitchew, Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Max Ernst and Paul Delvaux.
Being rich and aristocratic usually meant James was described as a great “English eccentric,” though he was never fond of the term claiming he was like “the boy with green hair,” just born that way. According to James he was the illegitimate son of King Edward VII, which may have indeed been possible as his mother was said to have been one of the royal’s many mistresses. When he was five, his father (or at least his mother’s husband) died leaving James the sole heir to his fortune and the 8,000 acre family estate of West Dean House in Sussex. James eventually gave away the family estate, financing its reuse as a college. He created his own Surrealist home in Monkton, and then in Las Pozas, Mexico, where he used his money to support its community employing villagers to build houses, a hotel, Surrealist sculptures and architectural follies.
This delightful film The Secret Life of Edward James made in 1978 was narrated by the late jazz singer, art critic and writer George Melly. James and Melly were good friends, united by their passion for Surrealism. Melly was a wonderfully outrageous and much loved performer whose exuberance for life was often matched by his attire. He also wrote three highly entertaining volumes of autobiography and released a whole bag of recordings. If you haven’t heard of George Melly he is worth investigating.
Magritte’s other portrait of Edward James ‘The Pleasure Principle’ (1937).
Born Isabelle Collin Dufresne on September 6th 1935, but later but rechristened by Andy Warhol, Ultra Violet passed away Saturday after a long battle with cancer. She was brought up in a strictly religious upper-middle-class family, but she rebelled at an early age, and was supposedly exorcised at the insistence of her parents. Isabelle studied art in France and then ran to New York to live with her older sister.
After meeting Salvador Dali in the early 1950s she became his assistant, pupil and muse. Ten years later Dali introduced Isabelle to Andy Warhol and things would never the same.
When she was asked once for a short autobiography, she wrote this:
1935 - I was born a mystical child.
1940 - I was raised in France at the Sacred Heart Catholic convent where I became rebellious.
1950 - I was exorcised at age 15.
1951 - I was sent to a correction home at the age of 16.
1968 - I burned my bra as a sign of rebellion.
1972 - I questioned the masculinity imbued in religion and scriptures.
1998 - I had absorbed and accepted the gender differences.
Present - I believe Jesus Christ to be the Messiah and the Savior of the world.
At Warhol’s suggestion she changed her name to Ultra Violet as her hair was violet colored much of the time. Ultra Violet was one of Andy’s early Superstars and appeared in several of his underground films including I, a Man, The Life of Juanita Castro and Fuck aka ****. She was also in quite a few really good, weird, but more “above ground” exploitation or B films including The Telephone Book, Midnight Cowboy, Simon, King of the Witches, The Phynx, Cleopatra, Savages and Curse of the Headless Horseman.
Amazingly, you can watch The Life of Juanita Castro in its entirety via YouTube:
Ultra Violet narrated a very controversial “lost” film called Hot Parts, a compilation of hardcore porn scenes from vintage smokers and loops dating as far back as the turn of the century. It even had a soundtrack album released available here. The film was allowed to play as the police rushed in and busted it at its initial showing at the First Annual New York Erotic Film Festival. Still being talked about three years after the incident, this is from an article in Man to Man magazine from 1974:
Not too long after this, Ultra Violet made an LP for Capital Records. It was not promoted and had little to no publicity. Every known copy has a cut out hole, meaning it went directly to sale record bins, and usually sold for 99 cents. Today it sells on eBay for up to $5,200! Some tracks are actually pretty good. Ultra Violet really sounds like her friend Yoko Ono on this track, “Cool Mac Daddy.” The entire album is available on iTunes.
In 1973, a near-death experience launched Ultra Violet on a spiritual quest, culminating in her baptism in 1981, bringing her full circle back to her upbringing. From 1981 until her death, she was a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Oddly enough one year before this Ultra Violet did her own version of The Last Supper.
“The Last Supper,” a performance and film—a re-enactment of the Last Supper—was conceived for the Kitchen by Ultra Violet in 1972 and performed by New York-based female artists. Recently it was shown at a Miami Beach Cinematheque screening for Art Basel in 2007 and is included in the collection of Centre Pompidou, Paris.
Ultra Violet never showed her work until much later in life when she devoted herself to her art and mounted celebrated shows the world over. She was also the author of the books, Famous for 15 minutes, Ultra Violet: Andy Warhol, Superstar and Ultra Violet: L’Ultratique. Her first book, Famous for 15 Minutes was made into an opera called Famous! with music by David Conte and a libretto by John Stirling Walker. That is something I’d really like to see. There’s a website with some video here.
Here’s a pretty in depth interview with Ultra Violet:
In 1973, French publisher Felicie put out a remarkable “cookbook” (quotation marks are important here) by the great Surrealist master Salvador Dalí. It delivers everything you would expect from such a volume: visual flair, a winking sense of humor, a disregard for accepted norms, and a heightened feeling for the absurd. The book was called Les Diners de Gala—I think the idea here is a conflation of a “gala dinner” and his wife, whose name, of course, was Gala.
According to one source, only 400 copies of the cookbook were ever printed, although it’s difficult to say whether that was actually the case or not—a copy is always on eBay—it’s possible that Dalí was merely trying to foster an air of mysterious exclusivity. The hefty volume has become quite the collector’s item; prices on Amazon range from $300 to $490. Let’s take a look at the table of contents, which I’ll leave untranslated:
1. Les caprices pincés princiers (Exotic Dishes)
2. Les cannibalismes de l’automne (Eggs - Seafood)
3. Les suprêmes de malaises lilliputiens (Entrées)
4. Les entre-plats sodomisés (Meats)
5. Les spoutniks astiqués d’asticots statistiques (Snails - Frogs)
6. Les panaches panachés (Fish - Shellfish)
7. Les chairs monarchiques (Game - Poultry)
8. Les montres molles 1/2 sommeil (Pork)
9. L’atavisme désoxyribonucléique (Vegetables)
10. Les “je mange GALA” (Aphrodisiacs)
11. Les pios nonoches (Sweets - Desserts)
12. Les délices petits martyrs (Hors-d’oeuvres)
I don’t know what most of that means, but I do know that the title of chapter 10, dedicated to “Aphrodisiacs,” translates to “I eat GALA,” so right there in the table of contents you already have a bald reference to oral sex. Well done!
In the book Dalí discusses his loathing for a certain leafy green vegetable: “I only like to eat what has a clear intelligible form. If I hate that detestable degrading vegetable called spinach, it is because it is shapeless, like Liberty.”
In 2011, two noted Minnesota dance troupes, Ballet of the Dolls and Zorongo Flamenco, put on a staged piece in Minneapolis called “Dali’s Cookbook: A Gastronomical Inquisition” that was inspired by the cookbook.
After the jump, a cocktail recipe and a bunch more pics from the book…....
Aphrodite’s Child was Greece’s most prominent contribution to the prog-rock scene in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. They released End of the World in 1968 and It’s Five O’Clock in 1969, but their biggest accomplishment was still ahead of them: the double album 666, a rock opera about the Apocalypse of St. John as described in the Book of Revelations. The album was the brainchild of Vangelis Papathanassiou (music) and Costas Ferris (lyrics)—movie lovers will probably recognize the name Vangelis as the synth-y composer of the soundtracks to Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner, among others. 666 was extremely successful: although redolent of the excesses of the over-the-top prog scene of the day, the album sold 20 million albums, according to Wikipedia, and it is remembered fondly, garnering extremely positive notices from the likes of All-Music Guide and IGN in our own time. I must say, it holds up pretty well.
Once 666 was in the can, after toiling on it for the better part of 1970 and 1971, Vangelis and Ferris chanced to meet Salvador Dalí briefly in Paris. Afterwards Ferris decided to ask his PR man to get in touch with the great surrealist for the possibility of some kind of collaboration for the promotional materials. Dalí ended up visiting the band at the Europa Sonor studio, where he demanded to hear the entire album, all 80 minutes of it. Much to their surprise, Dalí was very enthusiastic about the album, calling it “a music of stone” (“une musique de pierre”) and saying that it reminded him of the great 16th-century woodcut master Albrecht Dürer (??).
Dalí proposed the following outline for a “happening,” to take place in Barcelona, then still under the rule of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, on the occasion of the release of 666:
1. Martial Law shall be ordered on a Sunday, in Barcelona. No one shall be allowed to walk in the streets, or watch the event. No cameras, no TV. Only a young couple of shepherds will have the privilege to witness the event. So, they can later describe it to the people, by oral speech.
2. Giant loudspeakers shall be put in the streets, playing all day the work 666, by Vangelis, Ferris and the Aphrodite’s Child. No live performance.
3. Soldiers dressed in Nazi uniforms, will walk in military march in the streets of Barcelona, arresting who-ever wants to break the law.
4. Hundreds of swans will be left to move in front of the Sagrada Famiglia, with pieces of dynamite in their bellies, which will explode in slow motion by special effects. (real living swans, that should be operated for putting the dynamite inside their belly).
5. Giant Navy planes, will fly all day in the sky of Barcelona, provoking big noise.
6. At 12:00 sharp, in the mid-day, those planes will start the bombardment of the great church, throwing all of their munitions.
7. Instead of bombs, they shall throw Elephants, Hippopotami, Whales and Archbishops carrying umbrellas.
Upon taking all of this in, Ferris dared to ask Dalí, “You mean, false archbishops, that is to say plastic or other dolls dressed as archbishops?” Dalí replied, “No, young man. When I say Archbishops, I mean real, living Archbishops. It’s about time to finish with the church!”
Alas, at some later point, Ferris ended up offending Dalí by bringing up Paul Éluard, to whom Dali’s wife Gala had been married before Dalí. Dalí was so upset that he mentioned having a duel (“Acceptez un duel, maintenant…”) and broke off contact with the band. (Personally I think the theatrics were a canny way out of having to follow through on an undeliverable promise ... slow-motion exploding swans?)
Sadly, we can’t show you the happening—nobody can—but here’s the full album of 666 by Aphrodite’s Child:
It seems like a perfect match, the master of Surrealist painting, Salvador Dali illustrating a classic of nonsense literature, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In 1969, Dali produced thirteen illustrations for a special edition of Carroll’s book published by Maecenas Press-Random House, New York. Dali made twelve heliogravures of original gouaches for each of the book’s twelve chapters, and one engraving for the frontispiece. Dali’s work is startling and beautiful, but at times seems slightly unrelated to the original source material. Even so, they are quite delightful.
Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, `and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice `without pictures or conversation?’
The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.
`Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English); `now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!’ (for when she looked down at her feet, they seemed to be almost out of sight, they were getting so far off).
More of Dali’s illustrations for ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ after the jump…
In 1967 legendary adman and designer George Lois conceived a hip new ad campaign for Braniff International Airways, in a style that was remarkably similar to his undying Esquire covers from around the same time. (If you’re at all interested in design, you’ve definitely seen a bunch of those covers, just Google it.)
In two TV spots, Andy Warhol tries to convince a not-buying-it Sonny Liston, then the world heavyweight champ, as to the artistic validity of his Campbell’s soup cans, and Yankee hurler Whitey Ford quizzes Salvador Dalí about the differences between the screwball and the knuckleball.
Lois, in his egotistical and yet charmingly frank (“out-bullshit” etc.) style, explains on his website what he was getting at with the Braniff ads. He mentions a bunch of other pairings that were presumably filmed, but, well, they ain’t on YouTube, anyway.
WHEN YOU GOT IT—FLAUNT IT!
A JUXTAPOSITION OF CELEBRITY ODD COUPLES, PORTRAYED AS LOVABLE SPOTLIGHT HUSTLERS, TRYING TO OUT-BULLSHIT EACH OTHER AS THEY FLY BRANIFF.
In 1967, When you got it—flaunt it! became an American colloquialism as well as a standard entry in the anthologies of American sayings, almost instantly. It was my slogan for Braniff—a zany, outrageous campaign that featured a smorgasbord of the world’s oddest couples, exchanging the screwiest and most sophisticated chatter heard on television. Our juxtaposition of unlikely couples was unprecedented, creating the perception that when you flew Braniff International, you never knew who might be in the seat next to you. Pop guru Andy Warhol tried (but failed) to engage the sullen heavyweight champ Sonny Liston…Salvador Dali (Wen yo godet—flawndet!) talked baseball with Whitey Ford…black baseball legend Satchel Paige talked about youth and fame with neophyte Dean Martin Jr….poet Marianne Moore discussed writing with crime novelist Mickey Spillane…Rex Reed dueled with Mickey Rooney…British comedienne Hermione Gingold trumped film legend George Raft at his own game, whilst inundating him with pretentious palaver.
Sounds wacky on the face of it, but as we eavesdrop on these odd couples trying to outflaunt each other, we hear everything that has to be said about Braniff. We also imply that you might bump into a celebrity or two on a Braniff flight. (Yet another spot was produced with a Braniff stewardess welcoming an eclectic procession of business travelers: Joe Namath, Emilio Pucci, the Italian fashion designer to the Jet Set, thespians Gina Lollobrigida, Tab Hunter and Sandra Locke, jockey Diane Crump and the Rock group Vanilla Fudge.) They are not idealized celebrities—they are famous people who are portrayed as lovable extroverts, combined to radiate a surreal kind of believability. A commercial has little credibility if we think its spokespersons are hustling a buck. Celebrities must not look like mercenaries. I make them believable by showing them in a human way, downplaying their celebrity.
Salvador Dali designed a series of nineteen Christmas cards between 1958 and 1976. These greeting cards were specially produced for the Barcelona-based company Hoechst Ibérica, and presented Dali’s take on traditional Christmas celebrations.
While popular in Spain, Dali’s greeting cards were not as successful in America, particularly with card manufacturer Hallmark, who thought his “surrealist take on Christmas proved a bit too avant garde for the average greeting card buyer.”
Rebecca M. Bender, Assistant Professor of Spanish Language and Literature has written a fascinating blog with more pictures of Dali’s festive work, which you can view here.
Max Bialystock’s advice from The Producers, “When you’ve got it flaunt it!” was never more apt for an artist than Salvador Dali. Like Mel Brooks’ fictional character, Dali was a showman, a performer who loved money, fame and success. Unlike Bialystock, Dali was good with his finances. As his publisher Peter Owen once told me, Dali wandered around playing the mad man until the issue of contracts and money was raised, then Dali dropped the pretense and became lucid for the duration of any negotiations. As Owen noted, “Dali was a notary’s son.”
Dali’s need to show-off often eclipsed his genius as an artist. His appearances in public often attracted more attention than his art, it was something he willingly indulged, once addressing an anarchist rally with a loaf of bread tied to his head; at the opening of the 1936 London Surrealists Exhibition, he wore a deep sea diving suit; and he was put on trial by his fellow Surrealists after he issued a public apology for attending a party dressed as the murdered baby Charles Lindbergh Jr., his wife, Gala dressed as the killer. It wasn’t the dressing up that offended the Surrealists, but Dali’s apology - “sorry” seemed to be the hardest word for Breton and co.
The Surrealists dismissed Dali as a grubby money grabber, but it is more likely they were jealous of his talent and envious that Dali had a sponsor, Edward James, a British millionaire, son of an American railroad magnate. James sponsored Dalí for a number of years and was repaid with his inclusion in Dali’s painting “Swans Reflecting Elephants”.
Dali’s need to show-off came from a greater need than just a love of money. Throughout his childhood, he fought against the memory of another Salvador - his older brother who had died in infancy. As Dali later wrote in his autobiography:
All my eccentricities I habitually perpetrate, are the tragic constant of my life. I want to prove I am not the dead brother but the living brother. By killing my brother I immortalize myself.”
Originally made for French television Soft Self-Portrait of Salvador Dali (1970) is a brilliant and beautiful film that captures the artist in fine fettle as he delights in performing for the camera. Here’s Dali indulging in his trademark mix of showman, clown and serious artist: hammering out a tuneless miaow on a cat piano (Dali associated pianos with sex after his father left an illustrated book on the effects of venereal diseases atop the family piano as a warning to the dangers of sexual intercourse); or sowing feathers in the air, as two children follow pushing the head of a plaster rhinoceros; or, his attempt to paint the sky.
Directed by Jean-Christopher Averty, with narration provided by Orson Welles.
Francis Bacon described Jackson Pollock as the “lacemaker,” as he thought Pollock’s Action Paintings looked like the intricacies of fine lacework. The description was flippant, but in it was also the recognition of Pollock’s talent in creating such fluid and spontaneous artwork.
In 1963, Salvador Dali tried his hand at Action Painting, or as he termed it “Dynamic Painting,” on the panel show I’ve Got A Secret. Unlike Pollock, who used oil, enamel and aluminum paint, Dali opted for shaving foam (yes, shaving foam) to create his mini-masterpiece. As one would imagine, the resultant (comic) mess bears little resemblance to the quality of the lacemaker’s work—though I doubt that was ever the intention.
A longer version with Dali judging the panelists’ paintings, after the jump…
Both above photo and the below video are via the Melody Nelson 33 1/3 Twitter feed. Darran Anderson’s Serge Gainsbourg’s Histoire de Melody Nelson, an upcoming entrant in the famed 33 1/3 book series will be published later this year, is available for pre-order now. If you are a Gainsbourg fan, you might want to follow this feed, as I expect they’ll be posting a real bounty of Serge-related multimedia.
Below, an insanely cool short sequence edited from the French movie La Pacha (1968). Gainsbourg is seen here singing “Requiem pour un con” (“Requiem for a Twat”)
Listen to the organs
They play for you
That tune is terrible
I hope you like
It’s quite beautiful, isn’t it?
It’s the requiem for a twat
I composed it specially for you
In your sordid memory
It’s a pretty theme
You don’t find
The ressemblance to yourself?
I’ve never seen this clip before. It made me tres happy.