August 1st, 1988 by Clark Humphrey

8/88 ArtsFocus Misc.




Welcome back to Misc., the column that always knew that column writing is a fine art, long before a Seattle actor proved it by forging a one-man show out of old Mike Royko columns. What’s next, you ask? A performance-art piece of collected personal ads? A choral chant based on TV listings?

News Item of the Month (NY Times “Correction,” 7/21): “Because of a mechanical error, an article on the Business Technology page yesterday about quality control appeared in some editions with a paragraph misplaced.” In a similar event, many copies of the 6/28 Time magazine bound the same eight pages twice — including a feature story on poor industrial design.

Junk Food of the Month: Health Valley Blue Corn Flakes. Proof that not all health-food-store junk foods are heavy exercises in carob masochism, they make the dinner-spoiling afternoon cereal a more colorful tradition. No word on whether they’re the breakfast of George Carlin, who once claimed there were no blue foods.

The B.A.T. Channel: BATUS, the UK-based tobacco company that formerly owned (and nearly killed) Frederick & Nelson, is placing newspaper ads to support its hostile takeover attempt against Farmers Insurance. They don’t mention BATUS’ plan to destroy explicit anti-smoking brochures made by Farmers’ Mercer Island office, firing anyone up to the board of directors who refuses.

Yes, But Is It Crime?: By now you’ve heard the legend of Lawrence McCormick, the commercially unsuccessful artist who entered the Linda Farris Gallery on 7/7 and poured red paint on four large glass works. You may not have seen his written statement, posted at Broadway’s Espresso Roma: “I enacted my Art Action: Iranian Blood Deposited on American Art Commodities because of the cold abstract middle-class elitist art establishment mentality of American commercial art galleries and the Linda Farris Gallery as the Seattle `avant garde’ example of degenerative decoration.” Farris, by the way, did not see the act, being in Moscow at the time. I was there, and will remember the large, stern visage of McCormick, waiting outside to be arrested, while the petite gallery ladies stood in near-shellshock.

(Latter-day note: McCormick committed suicide after this column was written but before it hit the streets.)

Demo Tapes: The Democratic Convention was a fascinating attempt to “clean up” the ritual aspect of American politics. It was like a funky old store or building trying for a trendier image. The good news is that much of the old spirit survived, between the major speeches and conductor John Williams’ heavy use of Sousa (including the “Liberty Bell March,” known to younger viewers as theMonty Python theme). The United Auto Workers ran ads with Y-word dads talking trade policy while playing with their sons (and with Danish Lego toys). The GOP responded to the whole tasteful love-in by launching a campaign of attack against Jackson, Carter, Mondale, Ted Kennedy and just about every other Democrat who isn’t actually running. At the same time, the Vancouver Sun sent a reporter out for a week to cover an event as important to Canada as the convention was to us: Wayne Gretzky’s wedding.

Local Publications of the Month: Aperture Northwest is the bible of regional film, TV and stage production. Like its national counterpart, Variety (America’s greatest newspaper), it goes beyond the raw data to be as lively as the business it covers….The same cannot, sadly, be said for Exposé, which purports to cover local fashion and style but whose only apparent idea of editorial content is to plug its advertisers.

Star Trysts: Bruce Springsteen hires a young woman for his band, gives her a prominent spot, then is rumored to be leaving his wife for her. Is he trying to live out Willie Nelson’s movie Honeysuckle Rose or what?…When Lionel Richie’s girlfriend was confronted by his wife, did she just quietly ask, “Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?”

Le Nyuk, Le Nyuk: The Frisco Chronicle claims the following is from a respected French journal, Cinema et Mort: “The lack of respect in America for the high art of The Three Stooges, and the unfortunate consignment of their masterworks to the vulgar medium of television, is perplexing to the French critical community. The impressive body of film work left by Les Trois Imbeciles resounds with the Jungian notion of the male’s painful struggle to come to grips with his own unconscious, specifically with the deeply repressed feminine side of his nature…. In short, Moe must become Curly, by way of Larry, to achieve his full human potentiality.”

Cathode Corner: Residential areas are being innundated by extra-large junk mail in the form of independent Yellow Pages. The latest twist is “The Yellow Pages That Talk.” It just means that the front cover plugs a phone number where you can get KING’s program highlights. Now you don’t have to buy a paper to learn that next Saturday’s ball game will be yet another Dodgers snooze…. The same station had our ol’ pal John Keister promoting caution with home fireworks this past July 4. Back in ’79, Keister wrote aUW Daily editorial condemning “Safe and Sane” fireworks as wimpy, proclaiming, “I regret that I have only ten fingers to give for my country.”

Update: The Beef Marketing Board, already beleaguered with poor publicity by spokesperson James Garner’s health troubles, learned that its poster of a beef-eating yuppie looked like an old Hitler Youth banner. Given the ad business’s recent obsession with young, white, blond, cheekboned visages in smug, aggressive poses, it’s a wonder such a mix-up didn’t happen sooner.

Let Us Make a Pledge to meet in September, and ’til then contemplate the aluminum roof on the Son of Heaven exhibit, beat the heat, and recall the words of playwright George C. Wolfe at the Group Theatre: “America is a continent composed completely of mongrels, and the only way someone can prove that they are pure is by pointing out someone else who’s a mongrel.”

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