Thursday, 31 December 2009


To all FNB, family, friends and followers!

David Levine RIP

December 30, 2009
David Levine, Biting Caricaturist, Dies at 83

David Levine, whose macro-headed, somberly expressive, astringently probing and hardly ever flattering caricatures of intellectuals and athletes, politicians and potentates were the visual trademark of The New York Review of Books for nearly half a century, died Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 83 and lived in Brooklyn.

His death, at New York Presbyterian Hospital, was caused by prostate cancer and a subsequent combination of illnesses, his wife, Kathy Hayes, said.

Mr. Levine’s drawings never seemed whimsical, like those of Al Hirschfeld. They didn’t celebrate neurotic self-consciousness, like Jules Feiffer’s. He wasn’t attracted to the macabre, the way Edward Gorey was. His work didn’t possess the arch social consciousness of Edward Sorel’s. Nor was he interested, as Roz Chast is, in the humorous absurdity of quotidian modern life. But in both style and mood, Mr. Levine was as distinct an artist and commentator as any of his well-known contemporaries. His work was not only witty but serious, not only biting but deeply informed, and artful in a painterly sense as well as a literate one; he was, in fact, beyond his pen and ink drawings, an accomplished painter. Those qualities led many to suggest that he was the heir of the 19th-century masters of the illustration, Honoré Daumier and Thomas Nast.Self-portrait

Especially in his political work, his portraits betrayed the mind of an artist concerned, worriedly concerned, about the world in which he lived. Among his most famous images were those of President Lyndon B. Johnson pulling up his shirt to reveal that the scar from his gallbladder operation was in the precise shape of the boundaries of Vietnam, and of Henry Kissinger having sex on the couch with a female body whose head was in the shape of a globe, depicting, Mr. Levine explained later, what Mr. Kissinger had done to the world. He drew Richard M. Nixon, his favorite subject, 66 times, depicting him as the Godfather, as Captain Queeg, as a fetus.

With those images and others — Yasir Arafat and Ariel Sharon in a David-and-Goliath parable; or Alan Greenspan, with scales of justice, balancing people and dollar bills, hanging from his downturned lips; or Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. carrying a gavel the size of a sledgehammer — Mr. Levine’s drawings sent out angry distress signals that the world was too much a puppet in the hands of too few puppeteers. “I would say that political satire saved the nation from going to hell,” he said in an interview in 2008, during an exhibit of his work called “American Presidents” at the New York Public Library.

Even when he wasn’t out to make a political point, however, his portraits — often densely inked, heavy in shadows cast by outsize noses on enormous, eccentrically shaped heads, and replete with exaggeratedly bad haircuts, 5 o’clock shadows, ill-conceived mustaches and other grooming foibles — tended to make the famous seem peculiar-looking in order to take them down a peg.

“They were extraordinary drawings with extraordinary perception,” Jules Feiffer said in a recent interview about the work of Mr. Levine, who was his friend. He added: “In the second half of the 20th century he was the most important political caricaturist. When he began, there was very little political caricature, very little literary caricature. He revived the art.”

David Levine was born on Dec. 20, 1926, in Brooklyn, where his father, Harry, ran a small garment shop and his mother, Lena, a nurse, was a political activist with Communist sympathies. A so-called red diaper baby, Mr. Levine leaned politically far to the left throughout his life. His family lived a few blocks from Ebbetts Field, where young David once shook the hand of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who became a hero, as did his wife, Eleanor. Years later, Mr. Levine’s caricature of Mrs. Roosevelt depicted her as a swan.

“I thought of her as beautiful,” he said. “Yet she was very homely.”

As a boy he sketched the stuffed animals in the vitrines at the Brooklyn Museum. He served in the Army just after World War II, then graduated from Temple University in Philadelphia with a degree in education and another degree from Temple’s Tyler School of Art. He also studied painting at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and with the Abstract Expressionist painter and renowned teacher Hans Hofmann.

Indeed, painting was Mr. Levine’s first love; he was a realist, and in 1958 he and Aaron Shikler (whose portrait of John F. Kennedy hangs in the White House) founded the Painting Group, a regular salon of amateurs and professionals who, for half a century, got together for working sessions with a model. A documentary about the group, “Portraits of a Lady,” focusing on their simultaneous portraits of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, was made in 2007; the portraits themselves were exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery.

Mr. Levine’s paintings, mostly watercolors, take as their subjects garment workers — a tribute to his father’s employees, who he said never believed that their lives could be seen as connected to beauty — or the bathers at his beloved Coney Island. In a story he liked to tell, he was painting on the boardwalk when he was approached by a homeless man who demanded to know how much he would charge for the painting. Mr. Levine, nonplussed, said $50.

“For that?” the man said.

The paintings are a sharply surprising contrast to his caricatures: sympathetic portraits of ordinary citizens, fond and respectful renderings of the distinctive seaside architecture, panoramas with people on the beach.

“None of Levine’s hard-edged burlesques prepare you for the sensuous satisfactions of his paintwork: the matte charm of his oil handling and the virtuoso refinement of his watercolors,” the critic Maureen Mullarkey wrote in 2004. “Caustic humor gives way to unexpected gentleness in the paintings.”
Mr. Levine’s successful career as a caricaturist and illustrator took root in the early 1960s, when he started working for Esquire. He began contributing cover portraits and interior illustrations to The New York Review of Books in 1963, its first year of publication, and within its signature blocky design his cerebral, brooding faces quickly became identifiable as, well, the cerebral, brooding face of the publication. He always worked from photographs, reading the accompanying article first to glean ideas.

“I try first to make the face believable, to give another dimension to a flat, linear drawing; then my distortions seem more acceptable,” he said.

From 1963 until 2007, after Mr. Levine received a diagnosis of macular degeneration and his vision deteriorated enough to affect his drawing, he contributed more than 3,800 drawings to The New York Review. Over the years he did 1,000 or so more for Esquire; almost 100 for Time, including a number of covers (one of which, for the 1967 Man of the Year issue, depicted President Johnson as a raging and despairing King Lear); and dozens over all for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone and other publications.

Mr. Levine’s first marriage ended in divorce. Besides Ms. Hayes, his partner for 32 years whom he married in 1996, he is survived by two children, Matthew, of Westport, Conn., and Eve, of Manhattan; two stepchildren, Nancy Rommelmann, of Portland, Ore., and Christopher Rommelmann, of Brooklyn; a grandson, and a stepgranddaughter.

“I might want to be critical, but I don’t wish to be destructive,” Mr. Levine once said, explaining his outlook on both art and life. “Caricature that goes too far simply lowers the viewer’s response to a person as a human being.”

The David Levine Gallery at the New York Review of Books:

More Levine work:

A few more notables depicted by Levine:



How much better could it get?

e.e. cummings

Buffalo Bill's
who used to
ride a watersmooth-silver
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
he was a handsome man
and what i want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The weather according to Loudon Wainwright III


Being a 'true' account of Richard Wattis in Tangier

This was in yesterday's Guardian:
Me, Paul Bowles and that forgotten night in Tangier: A documentary on the American author triggered a memory of a disturbing night at the writer's apartment that had been suppressed for 40 years

Ronald Bergan
The Guardian, Tuesday 29 December 2009

In 1998, at the Edinburgh Film Festival, I was happily watching the documentary Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles, when the weirdest thing happened to me. While the 87-year-old author was being interviewed in his apartment in Tangier, I had a strange feeling of deja vu. An African mask on the wall triggered the sense that I had been in that apartment before. Was that possible? Maybe I had seen a photo of it somewhere. I had come to the film without any pre-conceived notions, nor did I know much about Bowles, merely that he had written The Sheltering Sky, a book I had not read. I had seen Bernardo Bertolucci's film adaptation of it, which I had not much liked. That was the sum of my knowledge of Bowles.

The more the documentary continued, the more I became convinced that I had been in Bowles's apartment in Tangier and not just seen photos of it. It was too potent a sensation. While I watched the film, I struggled to understand why I had this certitude. Gradually, some images started to emerge from my unconscious mind, and then the whole story came flooding back. I had what I can only call a flashback to an incident that had taken place more than four decades earlier.

When I was 17 years old, a friend of mine, known as Frog, and I had decided to take a year off between school and university to travel around Europe very cheaply, hitch-hiking, staying in youth hostels and getting odd jobs where we could. We had managed to hitch rides down through Spain and had crossed on the ferry from Gibraltar to Tangier.

On our first night, after getting a room in a run-down hotel, we sat at an outdoor cafe nursing glasses of beer. After a while, two middle-aged men sat down at the table next to us. I immediately recognised one of them as Richard Wattis, a supporting actor in dozens of British films and TV shows, mostly playing officious civil servants. I caught myself staring at him. He smiled at me, and introduced himself as Dickie and his friend as Monty. They offered to buy us more beer and asked if we would like something to eat. As we had been living mostly on bread for the week, we accepted gladly.

After our meal, and a couple more beers, Dickie and Monty asked if we would like to visit the famous author Paul Bowles, of whom neither of us had heard. We could hardly refuse. Now rather tipsy, we followed our newfound friends through endless back streets, then climbed some winding stairs. Dickie rang the bell of an apartment. A young Moroccan dressed in a djellaba opened the door. There were a few other young men lounging on sofas and a strange smell in the air.

My friend and I were introduced to a tall, thin man in his late 40s. He was sitting in a cane chair and smoking a pipe. An African mask was on the wall above him. Ignoring Frog, whose looks had engendered his nickname, he asked me some questions and seemed to take an unusual amount of interest in my naive answers. Then he offered us some peculiar-looking cigarettes. Though neither of us smoked, it would have been impolite to refuse. I took a few puffs, not knowing then that the cigarettes must have been kif, as hashish is known in Morocco.

The next thing I knew was that I woke up in a bed wearing a djellaba with nothing underneath. I looked around and saw Frog, fully dressed, dozing in a chair. My clothes were at the foot of the bed. It was early morning. I remember feeling more confused than shocked. I just knew I had to get dressed and out of there as fast as possible. I woke Frog and we made our way quietly out of the bedroom. There didn't seem to be anyone around. Luckily, the front door was open. We ran out into the street and tried to find our way back to our hotel.

I had no recollection of what had happened between my taking the kif and waking up. I asked Frog if he knew, but he didn't, having fallen asleep after smoking the kif. I still wonder what took place during those few hours after I blacked out. Who had undressed me and put me in a djellaba, and why? Had I been abused? I think I would have known if I had. All I felt on waking up was a rather nasty headache.

It was curious, however, that I had eliminated the episode from my conscious mind until it had been aroused by the documentary more than 40 years later. I had heard about repressed and recovered memory, but had always been rather skeptical about it. There was another peculiar side-effect. Ever since the memory came back, I struggle to remember Bowles's name.

Incidentally, I've since read everything I could by him in the vain hope that I would appear somewhere in his writings where the mystery would be solved. Bowles's best writing drew me into an exotic, perverse, nihilistic world in which one of the dominant themes was the destruction of innocence. What impressed me and disturbed me most was his second novel, Let It Come Down (1952), set almost entirely in Tangier among the louche ex-pat community. It ends with the main character, Nelson Dyar, a soulless American high on hashish, hammering a nail into the ear of his sleeping Arab friend.

I don't know what I find most disturbing - that a writer could be so self-serving that he talks about the possibility that he was abused by a famous author then uses his recollection of the incident to inspire him to read the possible abuser's oeuvre; that the writer uses the incident to boast about his good looks; that he would want to tell everyone about it (it could possibly have been a slow day, thankfully, because Bergan tends to write obituaries of entertainers); or that Richard Wattis, the snooty Mr Brown from Sykes, seems to have been involved in procurement!! Richard Wattis?! What next? "The summer I met Peter Glaze in a Parisian cathouse"?

Walls and Bridges Cover Art

Mystery of John Lennon's soccer sketch solved
Dec 30 2009 by Dan Warburton
Evening Chronicle

IT’S John Lennon’s youthful sketch that baffled a generation of Beatles fans.

Penned when he was just a schoolboy, the image gained iconic status after being used for the album cover of his 1974 record Walls & Bridges.

But now researchers in Chile are claiming the childlike etching shows Toon legend George Robledo heading home the winner in Newcastle’s 1951 FA Cup final with Arsenal.

Author Nestor Flores was in the middle of researching the mystery of George’s late brother, Ted Robledo, when he discovered the famous photograph.

Unaware of how he recognised the scene, he lay in bed at night racking his brains in a bid to jog his memory.

And at 2am he awoke with a start in his South American home and the striking resemblance hit home – it was the artwork for Lennon’s fifth album.

In the foreground of the sketch, which was originally thought to be a self-portrait, is a Newcastle player wearing the number nine shirt, which was worn by the legendary Jackie Milburn, who scored 177 goals for the club between 1943 and 1957.

George Robledo is seen nodding in the winner as the Gunners’ keeper dives from his goals to keep the ball out.

Mr Nestor said: “In 1951 when John Lennon was 11, he drew the Chilean footballer George Robledo, whose brother I am currently writing a book about.

“Lennon kept that picture for over two decades and in 1974 it became the album cover.

“By reviewing hundreds of records and after rummaging through old photographs I found a picture of Robledo scoring the goal.

“When I saw the photo, I immediately knew I had seen that image before, but I couldn’t remember where.

“After writing a few pages more, and after a good night’s sleep, I realised the picture of the goal was almost identical to the cover of John Lennon’s album.

“That photo was taken on May 3 1952, and Lennon’s drawing is dated June of that year.”

George’s late goal in the 1952 FA Cup final proved to be the difference between the two teams.

The Magpies won the clash 1-0 and became the first team in the 20th Century to clinch the FA Cup in successive seasons. George eventually retired to his native Chile in Vina del Mar, with his wife Gladys, now 83, where he died of a heart attack in 1989, aged 62.

But today his daughter, Elizabeth, 48, who now lives in Sydney, Australia, said she was lost for words at the discovery.

She said: “Mum and I wanted to share this incredible story about Dad. We couldn’t believe a young writer from Valparaiso discovered that Dad was drawn by John Lennon when he only 11 years old.

“It’s incredible that he used his drawing 22 years later for the cover of his album called Walls & Bridges. It’s incredible and I can’t describe how I’m feeling.

“My mum still has a strong interest in the club – and any English news. I keep her up to date with Newcastle news and I think she even manages to see some English games in Chile.”

It is 29 years since Mark David Chapman gunned down Lennon in New York when he was just 40 years old.

When he released the Walls & Bridges album, it reached number one in the USA and number six in England in 1974.

Van the Man

Music legend Van Morrison father again at 64
Tuesday, December 29 06:21 pm

Music legend Van Morrison has become a father again at the age of 64, with a new baby son who is his "spitting image," he announced Tuesday.

The veteran singer, famous for songs like "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Moondance," said his wife and manager Gigi Lee gave birth to son George Ivan Morrison III on Monday.

"He is a dual citizen of Northern Ireland/United Kingdom and the United States," he said in a statement on his website, adding that he was "the spitting image of his daddy".

The singer, who is famously jealous of his privacy, already has a 39-year-old daughter from his first marriage. He said he had nicknamed his new child "Little Van," but did not reveal where he was born.

Van Morrison -- widely known as Van the Man -- first found fame in the 1960s with the band Them, but his solo career really took off with "Astral Weeks" in 1968, widely regarded as a groundbreaking album.

He has continued recording regularly as his youthful good looks have collapsed into a more rumpled stage persona, and last year performed "Astral Weeks" live for the first time in 40 years.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Sinatra covers Bruce Johnston

The Good Old Days

Something to keep you warm in these dark days of winter. A reminder of the days when NUFC served up some great goals and great results and had some great players - unlike the crap that couldn't motivate themselves last night (the Argentinians, Harper and Taylor (S) being the honourable exceptions, even if the latter missed one of the evening's two sitters) in front over 47,000 freezing fans. Nolan can applaud the crowd and mouth off in the Chronic all he wants but he and Smith were awful in the middle of the park. Again.

Monday, 28 December 2009


Alex Steinweiss: The father of album cover art

Alex Steinweiss: The father of album cover art

Retrospective book of Alex Steinweiss' album cover art introduces the iTunes generation to his work.

By Liesl Bradner

December 27, 2009

You know you've reached a career pinnacle when an award is named after you. So it was only fitting that the Alex Award, created for excellence in entertainment package design, was named after Alex Steinweiss, the father of modern-day album covers. Although familiar with his work, Grammy Award-winning art director Kevin Reagan admits he knew little of the artist's life when asked to present a lifetime achievement award to him at the inaugural "Alex" award ceremony in 2003.

The two soon became friends, and Reagan, fearful that a generation of iTunes listeners would never appreciate the man responsible for classical album designs, decided to pay homage to the artist with a career retrospective book, "Alex Steinweiss, the Inventor of the Modern Album Cover," an extensive collection of Steinweiss' artwork spanning six decades.
Published by Taschen, known for its immense collector's editions, the 13-pound "Steinweiss" contains more than 800 images, including ad campaign designs, paintings, movie posters and collages of memorabilia from his overseas travels in the '70s.

Steinweiss earned the title of "Father of Record Design" when he was hired as the art director for Connecticut-based Columbia Records in 1940. At the time, most albums were packaged in plain brown paper sleeves with no lyrics or credits. At age 23 he persuaded the big wigs to try eye-catching illustrated covers to lure customers. Sales skyrocketed. A repackage of "Smash Song Hits" by Rodgers and Hart was the first.

For the next three decades, Steinweiss designed thousands of original artworks for classical, jazz and pop covers for Columbia, Decca, London and Everest, creating album covers for the likes of Bing Crosby, Rodgers and Hart and recordings of Rachmaninoff, Beethoven and Stravinsky. "He was unstoppable, churning out 50 covers a month in his heyday," Reagan said.
It was Steinweiss' stylish illustrations combined with bold typography that changed the way albums were marketed. The Steinweiss scrawl, a distinctive curvy font, was his trademark lettering.
Although he graduated from the Parsons School of Design in New York, it was his high school art teacher, Leon Friend, who was the biggest influence, introducing him to graphic design.

"His sense of composition and color is unbelievable," Reagan said, referring to his use of pinks and yellows in the early '40s. "It was incredibly modern and fresh. He treated every cover like a painting." He had no real peers, but his protégé at Columbia, Jim Flora, made a name designing for jazz stars including Gene Krupa, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington.

With the integration of photography in album design in the '60s, Steinweiss slowly began a retreat from the business because he was out of his comfort zone. "He thought photography cheapened the medium," Reagan said. "He introduced collage as a way to keep his illustrative base."

In 1974 he relocated to Florida, holding several solo exhibitions of his paintings, drawings, collages and ceramics. At 92, Steinweiss resides in Sarasota, Fla., with his wife of 70 years, Blanche.

There's a whole new generation that doesn't know of him," Reagan said of his passion project. "I wanted to put this innovative man in history books of American graphic designers as one of the greats."
"I love music so much, and I had such ambition . . . I wanted people to look at the artwork and hear the music," Steinweiss told the authors.,0,999307.story