I haven’t blogged for awhile. The last time was a little over four years ago. Finally I have the time and inclination, my main purpose being to “Pin” some items that have been collecting on my actual desktop, but need to be trashed and yet saved. Hence this blog.
1. Vincent Musetto, retired editor of The New York Post, aged 74, died on Tuesday June 9, 2015 in the Bronx. He is remembered for having penned one of the most famous headlines ever written, namely, “Headless Body in Topless Bar.” The headline ran on the Post’s front page on April 15, 1983. Margalit Fox, who wrote the obituary for the New York Times News Service described the crime behind the headline as “lurid even by tabloid standards.” The bar was in Queens and owned by the headless victim, Herbert Cummings. Mr. Cummings head was removed by a woman taken hostage by Cummings’ killer, Charles Dingle who shot Cummings during an argument, took female hostages, raped one, and then forced another to cut off Cummings’ head. His plan was to thereby confound the police but, alas, Mr. Dingle ended his days in 2012 in the Wende Correctional Facility near Buffalo NY. A very neat twist is that when Musetto seized upon this bit of “verbless audacity, arresting parallel adjectives and forceful trochaic slams” (Thank you Margalit Fox!) he wasn’t certain the bar was, in fact, a ‘topless bar.’ “It’s gotta be a topless bar!” said Musetto. “This is the greatest [insert ungenteel participle] headline of my career.” A cub was dispatched who telephoned back to report “to the relief of all and to the everlasting glory of US tabloid journalism that topless it was.” Literary scholar Peter Shaw, writing in The National Review, cited its compelling “trochaic rhythm . . . the juxtaposition of two apparently unrelated kinds of toplessness conjoined sex and death even as they are conjoined in reality.”
Another neat twist is that while the world may regard it as perhaps the best headline ever, Musetto believed he outdid himself the following year with “Granny Executed in Her Pink Pajamas.” No explanation of the story behind this one though. Musetto was born in May 1941, grew up in Boonton, NJ and obtained a BA from Fairleigh Dickinson University in NJ. His headline took on a life of its own appearing on t-shirts, as the title of a 1995 movie starring Raymond J. Barry, loosely based on the true crime, and as the name of a book published in 2008, Headless Body in Topless Bar: The Best Headlines from America’s Favorite Newspaper. A beautifully written obituary, it is a fitting tribute to a genius of an editor/ journalist.
2. A few weeks later—on Monday June 22, 2015, Don Featherstone, the creator of the original plastic pink flamingo died, aged 79. I learned from his obituary that he was a classically trained painter and a talented sculptor who wasn’t the least bit ashamed of the fact that he owed his fame to “the ultimate piece of American suburban kitsch”. “People say they’re tacky, but all great art began as tacky” said Featherstone in a 1997 interview. Featherstone created the flamingo in 1957 for plastics company Union Products Inc. modelling it on photos in National Geographic. He continued at Union Products for 43 years inventing hundreds of products and rising to the presidency from which he retired in 1999. Descriptions of the man by his wife Nancy are heartwarming: “He was the nicest guy in the world…He didn’t have a selfish bone in his body. He was funny and had a wonderful sense of humour and he made me so happy for 40 years.” Wow—the plastic pink flamingo and a spousal tribute like that! And here’s a somewhat neat twist from the president of Cado Products which currently manufactures the original Featherstone pink flamingo: “They say there are more plastici Featherstone flamingos in the world than real flamingos.”—Need I say anything more about my ‘somewhat’ qualifier?
3. On July 8th, 2015 The Globe & Mail newspaper ran an article by Nathalie Atkinson in its Visual Arts section on the main summer show at the Society of Illustrators’s Museum of American Illustration in Manhattan. This caught my eye for a number of reasons: the five illustrations accompanying the article and the fact that I once visited this museum and enjoyed a lunch upstairs in the Society’s dining room. This was a great honour bestowed upon my graphic design class during our class visit to New York in January 2004, a once-in-lifetime, never to be forgotten experience. (Thank you Capilano College (now University) and Kiff Holland and the other wonderful teachers who arranged this.) The article explains that this exhibition “chronicles the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) Arts & Design public art commissioned since its inception in 1985 when the 1-per-cent funding program (at the time called Arts for Transit) was founded as part of MTA’s overall station rebuilding program; early works include Milton Glaser’s porcelain-on-steel mural project at Astor Place (1986). Since then, more than 230 site-specific projects have been installed, with another 50 commissions in progress, but permanent public art dates back to the founding of the transit and subways, accorded to Sandra Bloodworth, co-author of the recent book New York’s Underground Art Museum and the current director of MTA Arts & Design.” The article continues with descriptions of many more pieces and how they were conceived and executed. As I write this (August 11th) the exhibition continues, but only for four more days. If I could have gone to New York to see it I would have…but I couldn’t and I regret this. Boo hoo!