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An Autobiography: Chapter 46, Spotlight On the Arts

The Arts have always been an important part of my life: music, art, theatre, dance, literature and films. I wish I could remember the very first exposure to all the arts, but time has erased many events I am sorry to say.

I vaguely remember the first music. I think I was about six years old and staying at a day nursery in Covington, Kentucky, next door to a Methodist church. The kids at the nursery were invited to attend a music event at the church, and we were all mystified at what we saw and heard. A man played music on a Theremin! Eerie music coming from nowhere. He just waved his hands around and over two rods protruding from a box of some sort; I thought it was magic!

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Now if you aren’t familiar with this strange instrument, I am sure you have heard it in films. Movies in which the Theremin played an important part include, “The Lost Weekend”; “Spellbound”; “The Spiral Staircase”; “The 10 Commandments”; and that great Sci-Fi film, “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” And the Golden Days of Radio used the Theremin, too. Shows like “The Green Hornet” would not have had its full suspense and excitement without it.

My first exposure to art were works by my brother, Edwin Byron. At the time I didn’t realize what a fine artist he was, but his paintings and drawings introduced me to a beautiful world. In my teen years, I discovered some of the great American artists like Winslow Homer, Reginald March, Peter Hurd, Georgia O’Keeffe, Doris Lee, and Thomas Hart Benton. As a young teenager, the image of Benton’s painting, “Persephone,” of the old farmer looking around the tree at the beautiful nude girl lying by the stream with her basket of flowers and clothes beside her has stayed with me. You just never forget a lovely painting like that. I have forgotten some of the masters, but not “Persephone.”

I don’t remember the first movie I saw. I am sure I wasn’t more than five or six. It may have been when Mom and Dad took us three kids to the movie on “grocery night” or “silver dollar night.” During those Depression years, the theatres gave money and groceries to lucky ticket holders. We did win sometimes; we had a fair chance with five ticket stubs!

Books have always been important. Our library contains about 2,500 volumes, and one of our favorite authors is Hendrik Willem van Loon. His books The Arts and Van Loon’s Lives are classics I treasure. The description on the front of the dust jacket of “Lives” states: “Being a true and faithful account of a number of highly interesting meetings with certain historical personages, from Confucious and Plato to Voltaire and Thomas Jefferson, about whom we had always felt a great deal of curiosity and who came to us as our dinner guests in a bygone year.”

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The van Loon book was published in 1942, and the panel on the back cover is interesting:

In this book you will read a great deal about the
old and lovely city of Middelburg.
(Below that is a drawing of a bombed out city)
Today it looks like this. The Germans bombed it until not a
single house was left standing.
SAVE YOUR OWN TOWN FROM A SIMIALR FATE
AND IF YOU CANNOT ENLIST
BUY WAR BONDS

Some will remember Steve Allen’s amazingly successful PBS-TV series, “Meeting of the Minds.” The nation’s television critics voted Steve Allen’s scripts as BEST TV WRITING of 1976-77. There is no doubt that Steve got the idea from Van Loon’s “Lives.”

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Steve Allen 

In our library, I have the 1940 edition of The Oxford Book of English Verse, and it has my signature with a swirl beneath it, written in pencil, with the date: 10/30/40. You may remember that Ms. Grumplemeir, my penmanship teacher, once pointed out the swirl under my name to the class and told them, “Thurston will go far in whatever he chooses in life.” One of my favorite poems in the Oxford Book of verse is by Leigh Hunt (1784-1859).

Jenny Kiss’d Me 

Jenny kiss’d me when we met, 
Jumping from the chair she sat in; 
Time, you thief, who love to get 
Sweets into your list, put that in! 
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad, 
Say that health and wealth have miss’d me, 
Say I’m growing old, but add, 
Jenny kiss’d me. 

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Leigh Hunt 

In early 1987, I was visiting the Tennessee Arts Commission and we were talking about the lack of press and support that the “arts” receive in Tennessee. A lady looked at me and said, “You have published books, haven’t you? Maybe there’s something you can do to help us.”

So before long, I brought out the first edition, May 1987, of the widely acclaimed tabloid monthly, SPOTLIGHT ON THE ARTS. For six issues it was distributed throughout the state, but like most arts projects, we couldn’t get the advertising support it needed, and it folded.

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Ad in Spotlight on the Arts. 

Copies are in the Thurston Moore archives at the Nashville Public Library. Here’s comments from some of the letters we received:                                                                                          

“It is reflective of you, of your dedication to produce the best you know how for Tennessee.” – Alex Haley 

“The growing number of people who sustain our renaissance atmosphere could find no more comprehensive, literate or attractive compilation of information than SPOTLIGHT ON THE ARTS.” – Dane LaFontsee, Nashville City Ballet 

“Coverage of the arts in Tennessee is of great importance to all of us, and your publication does an excellent job in bringing attention to the multitude of cultural activities in our great state. - Warren K. Sumners, Tennessee Performing Arts left 

“You are making a fine contribution to the Arts in Tennessee…we will all benefit from your efforts.” – Constance Harrison, Knoxville Symphony Orchestra 

“Everyone at WPLN was so excited to see the beautiful Spotlight On the Arts. It was even better than expected. We have all been impressed with the very interesting articles.” – Brenda Loftis, WPLN-FM 

“On behalf of the State of Tennessee, it is a pleasure for me to have this opportunity to extend to you my best wishes for the Spotlight On the Arts. – Ned McWherter, Governor 

“Thank you for SPOTLIGHT ON THE ARTS. It is a most impressive publication and you should be proud and pleased with it.” – Estelle Linzer, Albert Schweitzer Fellowship 

“Our office has been so impressed with the quality and scope of Spotlight On the Arts. We cheer your vision and the important service to the Nashville community and to Nashville’s “aspiring,” as well as accomplished artists.” – Ophelia Paine, Metropolitan Historical Commission 

“Congratulations for putting the spotlight on the Arts.” – Billy Edd Wheeler, Playwright/Songwriter 

“Thanks to a much needed publication. I commend you for your efforts.” –George L. Mabry, Director Austin Peay State University’s leftfor the Creative Arts 

“The annual meeting of the U.S. Conference on Mayors will be held in Nashville with some 1,000 attending. May I request 1,000 copies of SPOTLIGHT ON THE ARTS as a Host City Gift during delegate registration? – Richard H. Fulton, Mayor 

“Spotlight On the Arts should fill a real need in the Arts community. You have successfully pioneered a number of projects and publications and I’m sure you will do well on this one.” - Jo Walker-Meadow, Country Music Association. 

SPOTLIGHT ON THE ARTS gave me my introduction to noted Nashville sculptor, Alan LeQuire. I interviewed him three years before the unveiling of his famous sculpture, Athena Parthenos, the Greek goddess of wisdom and patron of the arts of peace, in Nashville’s Parthenon. Athena is the tallest indoor sculpture in the western world.

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Alan LeQuire in his studio. 

In 1982, Alan LeQuire competed and won the commission to recreate for the Parthenon in Nashville the lost Athena Parthenos by fifth-century Greek sculptor, Pheidias. Over the eight years it took to complete, the Athena project became the most difficult, challenging, and rewarding commission any figurative sculptor could hope for – and hope to survive. This work required LeQuire to expand his knowledge of materials and sculpting techniques, and to greatly broaden and deepen his knowledge of classical mythology. The unveiling of Athena Parthenos in 1990 made LeQuire a celebrity and figure of controversy throughout Tennessee, and it attracted favorable notice from classical scholars, archaeologists, and art critics nationwide.

In 2003, Alan LeQuire’s Musica, a bronze statue, reportedly the largest sculpture group in the United States, was unveiled at the Music Row Roundabout in Nashville. Musica features nine nude figures dancing in a circular composition approximately 38 feet tall.

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Alan LeQuire’s “Musica.” 

LeQuire writes of his work:

"Dance is the physical expression of music, and the piece is intended to convey that feeling to the viewer in a composition which is simple, exuberant and celebratory. The theme of the sculpture is music, because of the historical and economic significance of the site. This is the heart of Music Row, the area and the artistic activity for which Nashville is best known. The theme is music, but the sculpture represents artistic creativity itself. An artistic idea often seems to miraculously and spontaneously burst forth. This is what happens in the sculpture, and the title Musica suggests this since it refers to all the 'arts of the muses.'"

I had an excellent staff on my paper. My Assistant Editor was Nick Fabian, 23 years old, son of Jane Fabian, one of the founders of The Nashville Ballet. He graduated from Vanderbilt in 1986, traveled three times to Europe, and knew all the right people in society and the arts in Middle Tennessee. He asked for no pay, said he wanted the experience. He said, “I’m having fun!”

I remember one time Nick and I went backstage at the Grand Ole Opry. I gave a copy of Spotlight to Roy Acuff with the feature we did on him. Later, I walked by his dressing room and looked in, and he was sitting there reading the paper! He wished me success and said, “You’ve always done well with your publications – you’ll do a few issues and sell it for a million!” I asked him if that was an offer, and he smiled.

My Senior Writer, Lydia Wiggins, is still a close friend. She and Georgianna were very close, and one of Georgianna’s children’s stories is dedicated to Lydia, whose full-time job was teaching at Tennessee State University.

Tracy and her new friend, Mark Rose, worked for me, distributing the “free” papers, selling ads, making “barter” deals when advertisers couldn’t pay! They went to Memphis for our issue No. 2: Ramesses the Great Exhibit at the Memphis Convention left.

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In October 1987, the annual INDIAN POW-WOW was held in Mt. Juliet, near Nashville, with more than 60 tribes attending. Georgianna and I were there, and Iron Eyes Cody was Honorary Chairman. Remember him as the Indian with the “tear” in his eye on those wonderful TV commercials? He made more than 200 Western films.

I visited with Iron Eyes and gave him a copy of the SPOTLIGHT, which had his photo on the cover, and he signed a copy for me. Georgianna danced with the Indians in the arena; she’s the greatest!

Don’t Miss the Next Chapter: Evening of Entertainment

An Autobiography: Chapter 45, President Kennedy’s Assassination

“C & W Wax Museum Set for Nashville”

That was a headline in the July 16, 1969, issue of Cash Box, a leading trade paper for the Country Music industry. The two column article had a photo of me: “Aurora Publishing, Inc., newly formed Nashville corporation, announced it will establish the nation’s first Country Music Wax Museum here.

“Displaying full life-size figures honoring the stars of the past and present in the country music world, the Museum will represent an investment of ‘several hundred thousand dollars.’… The idea for the Country Music Wax Museum was presented to Aurora by Thurston Moore, who originated The Country Music Who’s Who, which he sold recently to Record World. He is retained as Editor-in-Chief of the annual. … Roupen S. Gulbenk, President of Aurora, said, ‘Mr. Moore will be a consultant and advisor to Aurora in the Wax Museum project.’”

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I had always had great interest in wax museums and visited several of them in the United States, including the celebrated Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, and the magnificent Movieland Wax Museum and Palace of Living Art Museum in Buena Park, California.

I was acquainted with Kenneth R. Bunn, a sculptor in Colorado, and we gave him the contract for producing the figures. He made several trips to Nashville, and my extensive file of photos of the country stars were invaluable to the project.

The museum opened across the street from the Grand Ole Opry House. This gave the Opry-goers the opportunity to visit the museum before and after the Opry show. There were more than 60 artists featured in the museum, so it really was a “Who’s Who” of country music.

The glassed-in sets were kept at 72 degrees to provide maximum protection for the figures. Clothing and musical instruments were given by the stars themselves, or by their heirs. I remember Johnnie Wright, husband of Kitty Wells, calling me in Denver and asking if I would take care of the outfits for him and his partner, Jack Anglin, for their wax figures. He knew there was a leading western wear shop in Denver. He sent me their sizes, and Georgianna and I had fun picking out their suits, shirts, boots, etc.

The museum later moved to Music Row and was owned by my very close friend, Daniel Hsu; it was very successful for many years. Eventually the attractions disappeared on Music Row, including the Wax Museum, Barbara Mandrell Country, and the Willie Nelson General Store.

In 1970, I saw an ad in Antique Trader for more than 50,000 movie stills, lobby cards, 8 x 10s, etc., owned by Barkley’s Museum in Taylor, Missouri. That gave me the idea of creating a Movie Museum featuring this material and wax figures. I discussed my ideas with my friend Rock Gunter, who lived on Lookout Mountain, overlooking Denver. His fantastic home was just a short distance from the grave and museum of William F. Cody, aka Buffalo Bill.

I knew Rock when he was a performer and disc jockey at WWVA in Wheeling, West Virginia. In 1950, he had a No. 1 song on the charts: “Birmingham Bounce.” WWVA was third in sales of my Country Music Scrapbooks in the 1950s and ’60s, and Rock was one of the hundreds of DJs who hawked the books on their nightly program. The station was also the home of the WWVA Jamboree, one of the largest country Saturday night shows in the nation.

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Rock Gunter in his studio. 

Rock became a successful insurance executive and was intrigued with my plans and asked if he could be a partner. We shook hands, and I went to Missouri and bought the movie collection!

Then what do we do with it? Someone suggested Estes Park, Colorado, the gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park, about 65 miles from Denver. After a couple of trips, we bought an old two-story building that housed a laundromat, and we turned it into the beautiful and impressive MOVIE WAX MUSEUM, with wax figures and movie memorabilia.

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We had it for several years, and our son, Marc Byron, managed it. One summer, my friend Ray Rowland’s son, who was also named Mark (but spelled with a k), and his girlfriend, managed the museum. Sadly, in 1983, Mark was killed in a motorcycle accident.

Marc Byron studied the wax figures, and before long he became a fine wax sculptor. His figures of John Wayne and W.C. Fields are among the best. Many weekends Georgianna and I took over and enjoyed our time there. We eventually sold it; the remaining movie memorabilia, lobby cards, posters, etc, I sold for $15,000 to a young man in Texas. That collection today would bring several times that.

John McClure II, who lived in Denver, was a good friend and a very talented artist. He suggested that he create some dioramas for the museum, and I thought those would be something different, the likes of which I had never seen in other wax museums. The first one he did was an exact replica of a 1913 Jesse Lasky Feature Play Company silent movie set. This is a great work of art, and it is set into the wall in our living room. It is approximately 30 inches by 50 inches and 24 inches deep.

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John McClure’s diorama of the 1913 movie set. 

John created a very interesting diorama depicting the infamous John Dillinger, the famous bank robber, who was shot and killed in front of the Biograph Theatre in Chicago, July 22, 1934. The movie he went to see with his girl – “the lady in red” - was “Manhattan Melodrama” starring Clark Gable, William Powell and Myrna Loy.

We became friends with Ward Crowley, who owned the motel where we stayed on weekends, and he had a rare $25,000 collection of John F. Kennedy memorabilia. We made a display of his collection in the museum, and when John saw it, it gave him the idea of creating a diorama of Dealey Plaza where Kennedy was shot. I gave John $5,000 and commissioned him to create the diorama.

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John McClure working on his diorama of Dealey Plaza. 

Far from being an example of cute craftsmanship, the facsimile model is based on actual photographs and a film of the assassination, plus 400 snapshots of the plaza taken during two visits to Dallas by the McClure family, during which John “crawled around Dealey Plaza with a hundred-foot tape measure,” noting distances and angles and measuring the lane stripes on Elm Street.

He talked with key eyewitnesses, including an Associated Press photographer present during the assassination, and newspaper editor Penn Jones, Jr., who advised him not to become involved lest he became “hung-up” on the assassination for the rest of his life. Fortunately for students of the Presidential killing, John McClure ignored Jones’ sage advice. The result was an exacting model of breathtaking accuracy, which gives much needed perspectives on the assassination site.

The more he worked on the diorama, the more John got caught up in the shooting, and when it was completed, he believed that with his diorama he could prove that the Kennedy shooting was part of a conspiracy. He contacted the CIA in Washington, D.C., and they sent two agents to Denver to see the diorama and talk to John. I was there during that visit; I wish I had taken a recorder! The CIA agents were reserved, of course, and didn’t want to say much, but they were completely captivated by John’s explanation and demonstrations. They were there for almost two hours, and I wish I could remember what really transpired.

That was the only model in the world, in minute detail, showing the exact moment when President Kennedy was shot. Over 300 figures in the diorama are people who were actually there, all identified from photographs. John spent more than 1,200 hours making this historical diorama. The scale is 1/8´´ to a foot, and the model measures a full six feet square. John made a major contribution to the study of the assassination – by adding the third graphic dimension - depth.

In 1975, a book was published in Australia entitled PROOF OF CONSPIRACY In the Assassination of President Kennedy, written by Ian MacFarlane; it was printed in Hong Kong. In that book is John’s story of the diorama and a large photo of him looking into the diorama.

In a letter dated March 18, 1975, John wrote Ian: “I entered on the project quite naively and came out convinced of a conspiracy. Despite the multitude of photographs and movies taken in Dealey Plaza, in the minutes before and after the assassination of President Kennedy – some of which strangely “disappeared” forever into the files of the FBI and other agencies – it is often difficult to get an overall picture of what happened, and where. Photographs are two-dimensional and, depending on the type of lens used, distances and objects can be compressed or otherwise distorted.”

I had the model in Nashville, and Daniel Hsu was going to make a room for it at his Music Row Mall. It was stored there for a while, and mysteriously it was destroyed. You figure that out!

Aubrey Mayhew, a friend from my country music days, was a JFK collector, and it was he who bought the Texas School Book Depository at auction in 1970. Georgianna and I had a trade show in Dallas, at a time when the building was vacant. While there, I went to see the city manager; I knew he had met John when he was in Dallas, and I knew the building was kept locked, but I asked him if I could possibly get into the building and go to the floor where Oswald committed the crime of the century.

He took me to the building, and we went to the sixth floor on an old rickety freight elevator. We walked a short distance in the half dark before he pointed to a window and said, “That’s where Oswald knelt and fired the gun.”

I cannot tell of my feelings at that moment when I knelt at that window and looked out on Dealey Plaza, reliving that fateful day of November 22, 1963.

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Don’t Miss the Next Chapter: Spotlight On the Arts

An Autobiography: Chapter 44, Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle

Georgianna’s favorite museum exhibit was the enchanting Fairy’s dream home of Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle in Chicago’s Museum of Science and Energy. This elaborate miniature dollhouse was created by the silent film star in the 1930s and donated to the museum in 1949. It has delighted millions with its tiny treasures, including murals and paintings executed by Walt Disney himself, chandeliers adorned with real diamonds, emeralds and pearls, the tiniest Bible ever to be written, and ancient statues more than 2,000 years old. This is truly one of the museum treasures of the world, and at the museum you can take a magical audio tour through its whimsical, intricate rooms.

Through her childhood, like Georgianna, Colleen Moore was always fascinated by dolls and dollhouses. Later in life, Colleen’s father suggested that she should pursue her passion for miniatures and dollhouses by creating the “dollhouse” of her dreams. Her position as one of the most popular actresses in Hollywood gave her the connections and resources to produce her miniature home of fantastic proportions. Beginning in 1928, she enlisted the help of many talented professionals. By 1935, more than 700 individuals had given their expertise, including surgical instrument lighting specialists, Beverly Hills jewelers and Chinese jade craftsmen. The price tag for this palace, which was 8 feet 7 inches by 8 feet 2 inches by 7 feet 7 inches and containing more than 2,000 miniatures, soared to $500,000. The Fairy Castle remains a timeless reminder of the imagination, ingenuity and craftsmen of cultures and artisans from all over the world.

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Colleen Moore with her Fairy Castle. 

In 1935, Colleen Moore’s fascination with her dollhouse was transformed by the Great Depression into a passion for helping children. She organized a national tour of the Fairy Castle, and it was a huge success, raising more than $650,000 between 1935 and 1939.

Here are some highlights of the Fairy Castle:

THE MAGIC GARDEN – A cradle of gold and pearls is sitting on a rocking tree. This was one of the favorite artifacts in the Magic Garden. The cradle was made with jewelry from her grandmother, which she inherited from childhood.

THE PRINCE’S BEDROOM – The sword standing by the wardrobe is Excalibur, King Arthur’s sword.

THE PRINCESS’ BEDROOM – The bed represents the bed that Sleeping Beauty slept in. The bedspread is the gold spider web that covered her for 100 years as she waited for Prince Charming. The platinum chairs are set with diamonds and have seats of green cloisonne´. Their backs are made from a pair of emerald and diamond lapel clips that belonged to Colleen Moore.

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The Princess’ Bedroom 

THE LIBRARY – The books in the library are all real. There are more than 100; many of them are handwritten by very prominent authors. On the reading stand is a tiny dictionary, given to Colleen by her father when she was only five years old. It began her miniature collection.

CINDERELLA’S DRAWING ROOM - The floor is made of rose quartz and jade from China. The chandelier in the center of the room is gold, hung with real diamonds, emeralds and pearls. The vases at each side of the door going into the Great Hall are made of carved amber more than 500 years old. They came from the collection of the Dowager Empress of China.

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Cinderella’s Drawing Room 

(Pardon me if I digress for a moment. Chicago and pearls reminds me of the time I was in Chicago and got lonesome for Georgianna. I called her and told her to catch the next plane. I then went out and bought a dozen red roses and a string of pearls to decorate the flowers. Was she ever delighted and surprised! You can imagine the dividends I received for that gift!)

THE DINING ROOM – A replica of King Arthur’s round table is in the center. The five needlepoint tapestries in the room depict the Knights of the Round Table. They were commissioned from Madame Jorey, a master needleworker in Vienna. It’s almost impossible to distinguish the stitches without the aid of a magnifying glass.

THE KITCHEN – The kitchen is filled with whimsical wall murals from various fairytales. The copper stove is meant to be the stove of the wicked witch from Hansel and Gretel. The Royal Doulton dinner service on the table is an exact replica of the set made for Queen Mary’s dollhouse at Windsor Castle.

THE CHAPEL – To the right of the chapel’s organ is a vigil light, with a very large diamond in the top, which came from Colleen Moore’s mother’s engagement ring. When she died, she left it to Colleen to put in the Fairy Castle. The silver throne is a copy of the famous English throne in Westminster Abbey. The statue on the pedestal is a bust of Pope Pius IX, and on the bottom is the seal of the Vatican. On the prayer bench in front of the altar is the Bible printed in 1840, the smallest Bible in the world, and sprinted from real type.

THE GREAT HALL – Throughout the Great Hall are scenes from fairytales. The knights in armor, at each side of the door, came from the collection of Rudolph Valentino. On a rosewood table are Cinderella’s glass slippers. They are hollow with high heels and have tiny red glass bows. Under the glass bell, the tiny chairs of the three bears sit on the heads of pins – the largest weighing only 1/150,000th of an ounce! Many of the treasures in the Great Hall are very old. For example, there is a bust of a woman on a green pedestal that is Roman and about 2,500 years old. On a table there are three statues of the Goddess Isis, more than 4,000 years old. At the foot of the stairs there are two jars; one is a 3,000-year-old alabaster jar from Egypt, and the other is a glazed porcelain jar from ancient Siam that is more than 1,000 years old. Looking through the clear glass in the center of the Chapel you can see the altar and a little tabernacle. On top of the tabernacle is a beautiful golden sunburst. In the center is a glass container holding the sliver of the true cross. This was given to Colleen by her friend, Clare Booth Luce, who was ambassador to Italy and received the relic when she had made her first audience with the Pope.

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The Great Hall in the Fairy Castle. 

Georginana’s dollhouse is now owned by Ayla Gerber, age 7, daughter of Tony Gerber, my web artist and graphic designer. Georgianna loved coloring books, too. Many years ago she purchased a set of Kate Greenway doll prints to color, and with color pencils she delicately brought them to life. These are framed, 17 inches by 21 inches. I see one of these charming prints every day: the little girl with hair down her back has a shawl and hat on, carrying a basket, picking flowers. I imagine that was Georgianna long ago.

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Ayla playing with Georgianna’s dollhouse. 

Don’t miss the next chapter: President Kennedy’s Assassination

 

An Autobiography: Chapter 43, Cleveland Art Museum

Nashville, Tennessee, is fortunate to have fine museums, and through my graphics corporation, Thurston Moore Country, Ltd., I have produced postcards for several of these: Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art; Belle Meade Plantation; The Parthenon; Upper Room and Chapel Museum; and the Adventure Science Center. When Georgianna and I traveled to other cities, we always tried to visit at least one museum. To name a few we visited: The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts; the Henry Ford Museum; the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California; the Field Museum of Natural History and the Art Institute of Chicago.

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Since 2001, I have represented two Japanese artists who reside in Tokyo: Masaaki Tanaka and his wife, Chikako. In 1979, the Art Institute of Chicago purchased five limited edition/numbered serigraphs by Masaaki, and they are in the permanent collection of their department of Asian art.

Writing about Chicago reminds me of the time Georgianna and I spent the day walking in and out of museums, and in the afternoon walked a long distance to the Adler Planetarium. We were so tried that we sat down to rest a few minutes, and we both fell sound asleep with people walking by!

New York City has more than 100 museums covering every subject imaginable. We loved the Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, with its spiral staircase and unique museum space. And, of course, the Metropolitan Museum of Art ranks with the great museums of the world. On one of our visits there, we discovered a work by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1912). We sat there for a long time, looking at that masterpiece of the Rocky Mountains, which was our home for many years. From then on, Bierstadt was one of our favorite artists.

We haunted The Frick Collection several times while we lived in New York, studying the magnificent paintings they have of James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), trying to reconcile the fact that “our Whistler,” which is a magnificent oil painting of his model and mistress, Maud Franklin, is genuine. We have had appraisals both pro and con.

Words of Albert Schweitzer and the Music of Bach was presented in the Baldwin-Wallace College Chapel, Berea, Ohio, on Sunday, January 25, 1998, sponsored by the Riemenschneider Bach Institute. We were excited about seeing this production, partly because it gave us the opportunity of visiting The Cleveland Museum of Art.

Dr. Schweitzer had corresponded with Walter Holtkamp, who had built the organ for the museum auditorium, and he invited Dr. Schweitzer to Cleveland on his only trip to America in 1949, to hear the organ. On our visit in 1998, we met the organist, Karel Paukert, who gave a short concert featuring French composers for attendees in the museum, and before the concert he told about Dr. Schweitzer’s visit.

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The Cleveland Museum of Art 

From 1993 to 2002, I wrote monthly reports which were mailed to our children. Only one time did Georgianna add anything to these reports, and following is her copy.

 The Out of Towners II 

Assuming you’ve seen Neil Simon’s movie, with Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis, I shall now relate a bit of subsequent adventure in Cleveland, on January 22-27. Our schedule was to arrive in Cleveland and be housed at the Raddison Hotel in time for a leisurely dinner. Thurston had contracted a rental car, but after 45 minutes shivering in the unaccustomed cold, we realized that no shuttle was going to arrive. So Thurston called the hotel, and their shuttle picked us up and we cancelled the rental car. The shuttle would take us everywhere we wanted to go. GOODY! 

That was Thursday. On Friday, we spent a wonderful day with Elinore Barber, an extraordinary lady who runs the Bach Archive at the Baldwin-Wallace College. She would read the Woman’s part in our program. Elinore visits the Schweitzer House in Gunsbach many summers and knew Schweitzer very well. He treated her as his granddaughter. We were privileged to see original letters from Schweitzer, original manuscripts of Bach and Brahms, and so much more. We visited for over six hours. 

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Elinore Barber (right) with Miranda Scoggins at Hastings College. 

We were treated to a fabulous lunch at the college and became friends with Jeremy. He is a senior at B-W and studies piano and pre-med. He assists Elinore, and he became our buddy, stage manager and chauffer. We appreciated his happy, clunky car very much. He has a friend, Vitos, from Cyprus, who is studying modern music. Jeremy wants to teach and give concerts, get married and have a family. Being in the company of these bright young men during work and meals was a revelation of hope for the future. Elinore is their “Queen Mum.” This little lady in her seventies is a dynamo of brains, heart and dedication, the likes of which I haven’t seen for quite a while. 

Saturday we had a rehearsal scheduled in the evening, so we took a little time to return to the Cleveland Museum. We only had a short time to zip through part of it, and we had lunch in the museum café. We vowed to return the next day and stay all day until time to return to the hotel.  

Now the Sunday saga! The day began calm enough. Breakfast in our room, the Sunday paper, a ride in the hotel shuttle to the airport to get the rapid transit train to the museum shuttle stop. I had decided just to wear my short red coat and forget a hat, gloves, scarf, etc., so as not to be encumbered with them at the museum. After all, we would only be outside for a few minutes – I thought! It was really very cold outside with snow flurries blowing. On our train ride, we were impressed by a lot of really great creative graffiti - an art form all its own. 

We arrived at the museum shuttle stop. We waited 15 minutes, and no bus. We waited 30 minutes, and no bus. We waited, frozen, for 45 minutes in the middle of nowhere, no phone. Thurston had read the shuttle sign wrong; it didn’t run on Sunday until noon. Well, it was noon by then so we made it to the museum, ran for the restroom, and then ate a hasty hot dog at the café.  

At 1:30 we enjoyed an organ concert and then we walked and sat and walked and sat until we were saturated with great paintings. The museum closes at 5 pm, so a little after 4 we decided to head back to the hotel for dinner and a change of clothes before the show at the college. OH YEAH! 

We waited outside the museum for the shuttle, and no one could tell us why it didn’t come. And there was no bench for people to sit on while waiting! Time was passing. It was cold and getting dark, and we were tired and getting hungry. Finally a guard came and told us to walk around to the front of the museum and catch a No. 6 bus to the downtown terminal and take the train back to the airport from there. The front of the building was a long way around a lake and a park. We were frozen, and my left foot was getting sore. At last we arrived at a sheltered bus stop. We waited and waited. All at once, we saw the museum shuttle headed for the museum. We ran across the boulevard to see if it was returning, and just as we gave up on the idea, we missed ole No. 6! We plopped down on a bench at the bus stop, and a little old lady told us her life story - she was very jolly. 

Another 25 minutes froze past, and at last we got the bus and rode for miles and miles to the center of the city. We were desperate and looked for a restroom. They had just closed 15 minutes before. A clerk at the food stand said to go to the adjacent hotel. And we did! A rest room at last, no time to eat, run for the train! We were sitting on the train when I remembered I had a pack of M&Ms in my purse. We shared them, and laughed and laughed, remembering the movie and the Cracker Jack scene. People probably thought we were crazy. 

         At the airport we called the hotel shuttle. The young driver was used to us by then. He kept his motor running while we ran to our room and changed into more presentable clothes. We arrived at the auditorium 30 minutes before show time. It went well, thanks to Jeremy and his crew. We were called on stage as visiting celebrities, and Thurston even signed an autograph! What about that? 

Dinner that night was at midnight with Jeremy, Vitos and Elinore. By 1 am, we were driven to our hotel, and after many hugs and thank-yous, we collapsed. I think we will miss these new friends. 

Me, warmer now, 

Mom 

Postscript: If you don’t have this film, order it! Then you will really appreciate our Cleveland saga! One of the best comedies ever. Sandy Dennis should have gotten an academy award. Be sure to get the film with Lemmon and Dennis.

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Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis. 

Oh yes. I wrote the museum later and suggested a bench be placed at the shuttle stop. This they did, and sent me a letter thanking me!

Don’t miss the next chapter: Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle 

An Autobiography: Chapter 42, Expo ’67

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Proudly Canadian

Expo 67 in Montreal

A Photo Collection about Canada’s Centennial Celebration!

Set a good example for the world. If you are excellent, if you are of high quality, the world will imitate you.” 

Albert Schweitzer

The above is the heading for Canada’s Expo 67. On their website, you can see an overview of that fabulous exposition that cost $1 billion and drew more than 50 million people from around the world. Georgianna, Heather and I spent a week at the Fair. Although not officially a World’s Fair, authorized by the Bureau International des Expositions, Expo 67 was immensely popular and successful, and regarded by most everyone as the greatest “Worlds’ Fair” in many years.

And certainly one area where they were imitated for years to come was in the 3,000 creative films that were shown. Being movie buffs, we were in awe, and 10 to 12 hours a day for seven days couldn’t begin to see them all! Images were above or beneath you, sometimes all around you, caroming off walls, on hexagons and cruciforms, whirring in on blocks and prisms. Sometimes they were shown on a plain old screen – but for sure, everywhere there were films.

One of the most fabulous films was Labyrinth, prepared by the National Film Board of Canada. It told the “Story of Man” in a 45-minute film. Another film that enchanted everyone was “The Creation of the World of Man.” On a screen of 112 cubes, the Earth came awake. In an unbelievable multi-visual technique, flowers bloomed, the first men walked the Earth, tigers suddenly appeared.

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Labyrinth Pavilion at Expo ’67. 

In the Ontario Pavilion, a 17-minute film was shown that didn’t require special equipment or a special theatre to show it. “A Place to Stand” was about Ontario. It had no narration or even subtitles. It used only sound effects, orchestral music, and a wonderful song (“A place to stand, a place to grow, Ontari-ari-ario.”) As I write this, I am listening to the recording I bought at the pavilion gift shop!

The most popular film was Canada 67, a 22-minute film executed in Circle-Vision 360 degree, a total wrap-around process where 1,500 people stood in a room surrounded by the large movie screens. Nine projectors, concealed in the space between screens, projected a completely circular image while twelve synchronized sound channels developed the audience in sound. The film was made by the Walt Disney Studios.

I spent one day at the New York’s World Fair in 1964, and it, too, had creative films. The only one I remember, and one which I have a recording of, is “The Triumph of Man.” This was presented by the Travelers Insurance Company and was a series of 13 scenes. You may wonder how the story could unfold with only 13 scenes, but it worked beautifully. It was a carefully chosen series of scenes or episodes that illustrate significant achievements and triumphs in man’s struggle to understand himself and the world about him, and to solve the problems that have at times threatened to destroy what he had accomplished.

The most memorable exhibit at the New York Fair for me was Michelangelo’s Pieta. I stood there in awe for some time, studying every inch from every angle, trying to comprehend the genius of this artist. But, of course, no one can. I looked at the faces of viewers around me, and they, too, were looking at something they saw, and yet couldn’t believe it was there.

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Michelangelo’s Pieta. 

We flew to Montreal, and our friends, Earl and Sue, with their two children, Tracy Sue, age 9 (named after our daughter Tracy) and Marty, age 11, met us there. It was impossible to get lodging anywhere near the Expo grounds, and Logexpo found us a motel that was on the Expo Express subway line – which was free during the Expo. The seven of us shared one huge room, and we had a wonderful time. Coming home late at night, we rarely had a seat on the subway; we just hung on to the straps. First thing everyone did when we got there was head for the pool to relax for a few minutes. We discussed the events of the day, what we had seen, and everyone had their favorites. There were many interesting places for the kids, including an area of rides, and they loved every minute. Heather had many questions about things and people she saw, and I can’t imagine what a seven-year-old was thinking as she roamed that atmosphere of the future.

At the Fair, we organized our Pavilion visits, as we knew we could never see everything. We stood in long lines much of the time, but we took it in good spirits and knew we were among the 50 million fortunate people who got to share this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Every day the Montreal paper had a huge headline with the number of visitors the day before. It was always in the hundreds of thousands.

There was food of every kind from around the world, and we sampled as much as we could, some we liked and some we couldn’t decide. There were 62 participating countries with Pavilions – each one trying to outdo the other – and their employees represented their countries magnificently. The least little detail in their manner was not overlooked. The most beautiful young lady we met was from Thailand, and we took a photo of her with Heather.

Star attractions at the Fair included Sir Laurence Olivier, Maurice Chevalier, and Marlene Dietrich. We never attended any of the stage performances, as we felt our time was better spent at the Pavilions, “seeing the world.”

I remember on the first day, when it was blazing hot, that Sue and Georgianna removed their girdles and hose! There were many pools with running water throughout the grounds, and we all – as millions did – took advantage of that cooling water to soothe our feet. Whatever we did, it was enjoyable and part of history. There is nothing more gratifying than to spend time with friends. Earl and Sue are gone now, having made their exit shortly after Georgianna said goodbye.

The silver-grey Pavilion of the Soviet Union was enormous, and over the main entrance were the dates 1917-1967 to mark the 50 years of the U.S.S.R. This was one of the most popular Pavilions, and it had a 60-seat theatre for movies, documentaries, fashion shows. There was a fine restaurant, café and snack bars with a variety of foods from many republics of the Soviet Union.

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Pavilion of the U.S.S.R. at Expo ’67. 

All the Pavilions had fascinating gift shops that were a great temptation. Georgianna had a very unique dollhouse that had a general store on the first floor and a boutique on the second. Wherever we went, she looked for unusual items, dollhouse scale. She bought several items at the Fair.

What we found in the Russian gift shop was the most expensive item we bought at the fair: a fur coat with a matching fur cap for Heather. Inside the cap, printed in gold, was a logo and the word SOUJZPUSHNINA around the top, with MADE IN U.S.S.R. below it. For the time she could still wear it, she was the envy of every little girl in Denver!

The U.S. Pavilion, which we visited several times, trying to take it all in, was a giant dome, roughly three-quarters of a sphere, designed to look like a lacy filigree weightless against the sky. It was 250 feet spherical diameter and 200 feet high. The construction was a space frame of steel pipes enclosing 1,900 molded acrylic panels. By day, the bubble glistened as the sun highlighted the structure, and by night the bubble “glowed” from interior lighting.

The chief architect of the U.S. pavilion was Buckminster Fuller, famous for his “domes,” and this was the most complicated of his creations. The exterior covering was exquisitely tinted, and surprisingly it was lovely to look at.

The United States exhibit was entitled “Creative America.” The interior exhibits reflected different aspects of the United States and included folk art, cinema and the arts displays, as well as a space exhibit, which was reached by a 125-foot escalator and a simulated lunar landscape supporting full-scale lunar vehicles.

I am grateful to the myriad of those who created Expo 67 and made it possible. I don’t think the likes of it will ever be seen again.

Don’t miss the next chapter: Cleveland Art Museum

An Autobiography: Chapter 41, The Waiting Island

The Waiting Island gave Georgianna and me much satisfaction. We felt like we, with Reverend Chapin’s collaboration, had created something of historical significance that we would leave behind when we moved away.

The production brought two letters that made us realize why we came to Roosevelt Island.

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Ruins of Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island. 

A letter dated March 18, 1977:  

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Moore, 

I saw “The Waiting Island” the other night and was impressed with the wealth of cultural history it encompassed. It occurred to me that, since you have a performing arts group, you might be interested in seeing what other community groups have done to link drama and history. It would seem you have an ideal situation to use your material this way, too, for the enjoyment of the local community and visitors as well. 

Sincerely, 

Nanine Bilski 

Project Director 

America the Beautiful Fund of New York 

Enclosure: History Plays 

(Honorary members of the Fund included Leonard Bernstein, James Cagney, Katherine Cornell, Mrs. Ernest Hemingway, Peter Hurd, Alfred A. Knopf, James Michener and Meredith Willson.)

A letter dated June 20, 1977:  

Dear Chaplin Chapin, 

May I, on behalf of the United Hospital Fund and the Medical Archivists of New York, thank you, your photographer and your narrators for your superb rendering of “The Waiting Island” at the Fund on June 16th. Your audience was profoundly moved and I heard professions of a desire, not only to visit the Island, but also to live there! 

You have made a great contribution to the legend of Roosevelt Island and the meaning of Bird S. Coler Memorial Hospital.                                                                       

With my deep appreciation, 

Sincerely yours,                                                        

Louise Heinze 

Archivist and Consultant on Library Affairs.  

Eighteen years later, I used this same concept, adding music to the narrative and slides for the acclaimed production I wrote and produced: Words of Albert Schweitzer and the Music of Bach. This is the centerpiece for my work in keeping alive the legacy of Dr. Albert Schweitzer, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

In May, Heather resigned from her ballet classes, and sadly we started making plans to move back to Colorado. She made every effort to fit in with her classes, and we tried to understand. She had gotten some work in commercials and a part in a John Ritter film, and we told her that perhaps we could come back some day and let her pursue theatre.

In June, Georgianna’s stepbrother, Johnny, came to visit from his home in New Orleans. He rented a car so he could visit the area around New York City. I asked him if he would like to take me to see George Gershwin’s tomb in the Westchester Hills Cemetery in Hastings on Hudson, about 25 miles away. It was a beautiful day, and we enjoyed the drive very much.

Johnny asked me about Gershwin’s life as we drove through Westchester County on the scenic Saw Mill River Parkway. I told him about Gershwin’s life and talked about his serious compositions and the countless songs he wrote for Broadway shows and the films. Johnny was greatly impressed and said, “He must have written night and day.” I said, “No, Cole Porter wrote Night and Day!” 

The Gershwin tomb was very impressive, and I was grateful that within a few days I stood where he was born and where he was buried. Near his tomb was that of another Broadway immortal songwriter and Broadway producer: Billy Rose.

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One of my favorite New York stories is the sale of our Baldwin Baby Grand piano. We weren’t sure where we were moving; we asked Tracy to find us a house in Montrose where she was running our mail order business. It wasn’t practical to keep moving the piano, as much as I loved it. I had bought it around 1970 in Denver, and when we went to the showroom a salesman said they had a beautiful piano that would be coming back in a few days from the Aspen Music Festival. As was the custom, Baldwin loaned them a new piano for concerts. It was still considered “new,” but because it had been played, they lowered the price considerably. The asking price was $2,500 if I remember correctly, and we bought it “sight unseen.”

I priced the piano at $2,500 and ran an ad in The New York Times. I got several calls, and the buyer turned out to be a wonderful lady named Rita Fields.

The phone rang, and a businesslike voice said, “Mr. Moore, this is Rita Fields. I saw your ad in the paper for the Baldwin. Tell me about it and why you are selling it.” I explained everything to her, and as we got acquainted on the telephone, I believed the sale would happen. When I asked when she would like to come and see the piano, she said, “I don’t have to see it. I will send you a cashier’s check, and you can make arrangements with Baldwin in Manhattan to have them pick it up and deliver it.” I was dumbfounded, and she continued, “Mr. Moore, let me tell you something. When I buy a new car, I know exactly what I want. I don’t have to go and see it. I call the dealer, and he delivers it. I know from your voice you are honest and this is the only kind of person I deal with.”

When I hung up, Georgianna asked about the call, and I told her I sold the piano – maybe. I should have believed this beautiful lady, but it seemed so strange that I still had doubts. We said we would wait and see if a check came. In just a couple of days, it came. I took it to the bank and they verified its authenticity. I had thought on trips back to New York I would visit Mrs. Fields, to meet this woman who had such faith in her fellow man, and I am sorry I never got the opportunity.

A notice was mailed to residents:

Lila Gilbert Luda  

And a cast of fine characters 

Invite you to 

An evening of human interest and local color 

ROOSEVELT ISLAND - LOST AND FOUND 

And other story readings. 

Time: 8:00 PM, Friday, June 17th 

Place: Meeting Room 

Chapel of the Good Shepherd 

The stories were written by our dear friend, Lila, and two were read by Georgianna. Following the program there was a “Farewell Coffee Party” in our honor, and what a send-off we were given!

A 45-inch scroll had been prepared with the Roosevelt Islands Association masthead at the top followed by these words:

To a Couple of Wonderful People: 

Thurston and Georgianna, you came into a new community, you felt its pulse and you quickened it. You felt its spirit and you raised it. You sensed an appreciative audience and you brought it culture. How can we say “Thank you?” These two words are really too inadequate an exchange for your dedication, your perseverance, photography shows, plays, historical presentations of our new home, your very presence and energy stimulated us and raised our community from just another neighborhood. You are an indelible part of Roosevelt Island and you will fondly be remembered for a long time. 

A community in Colorado is now going to be made all the richer by your presence there. They are fortunate. Go in peace. We wish you … 

The scroll was signed, with messages, by more than 200 residents. That document given to us in love is framed and hangs on my office wall.

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Part of the 45-inch scroll presented to Thurston and Georgianna. 

A letter dated June 17, 1977: 

Dear Thurston, Georgianna and Heather: 

It is with a profound sense of loss that I write to wish you well as you leave Roosevelt Island. 

It seems like ages and several productions ago when you borrowed my couch for “Ten Little Indians.” Time has moved quite quickly because you have enriched each season on Roosevelt Island. You have brought such a sense of life to the community through all of your unselfish endeavors and I will truly miss seeing all of you. 

It is a great feeling to know that I have built a community that has attracted people like you willing to breath life into a series of buildings and turn it into a truly living place. 

You have given of your time, energy and talents for the enrichment of all the residents of Roosevelt Island. 

Thank you for all your many contributions and the best of everything as you return to Colorado. 

Sincerely, 

Diane M. Porter, Chief Planner 

Roosevelt Island Development Corporation                      

As we were leaving Roosevelt Island, my thoughts went back to another Island: Ellis Island, in which I had visited while in New York, and I thought about the restoration of that landmark honoring the more than 12 million immigrants who passed through their doors.

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Immigrants at Ellis Island. 

I would like to see a fitting monument erected on Roosevelt Island to honor the thousands of people who died and suffered during its dark history.

Don’t miss the next chapter:  Expo ‘67

An Autobiography: Chapter 40, World Trade Tower

The history of Roosevelt Island was a passion with Reverend Oliver Chapin, and he and I spent many hours in his study and on walks talking about the events and people who had inhabited that historical landmark in the East River. There had never been a play about the Island’s history, and I suggested to Oliver that we develop a production and present it to the residents. Oliver had books that had photos taken on the Island in the 1800s, and with my Yashica camera I copied many of these and made slides. There were 313 slides in the production.

I took countless photos on the Island, including the ruins of historical buildings. The most fascinating structure, of course, was the Octagon. The entrance was boarded up, and Oliver said no one had been inside in more than 20 years. We got permission to enter the Octagon, and when we stepped inside we were frozen in time. Oliver and I both stood there looking up at the spiraling staircase that went into total darkness. The only light we had was my camera, and as we slowly ascended the stairs every few minutes, I hit the flash and for a moment the entire tower was flooded with light. It is difficult to describe our experience.

I took some amazing photos as we fumbled along. We found an old wooden wheelchair and other furnishings that had been left there. There was a small stool, metal frame, wooden top that was definitely from the early days of the asylum. I resurrected that stool and still have it, a reminder of my days on Roosevelt Island. I like to think that Charles Dickens and Nellie Bly may have sat on it during their visits. That stool can be seen in our DVD of the One-Man Show I produced in 2009: Albert Schweitzer: Memoirs from Africa. 

As our project developed, we got more excited than ever, and Oliver said this could be a very important documentary for the Island’s history. I created hundreds of photos, and we decided to make a 90-minute multimedia dramatization. One day, walking down Main Street, I thought to myself that it would be great if we could get photos from a helicopter. 

I talked to Oliver, and he wasn’t too surprised at my idea since he had learned that I would do anything to make the end result dramatic and beautiful. We had no funds to pay for a helicopter, and I told Oliver that perhaps the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who had a fleet of helicopters, might be willing to help us. So I got on the phone, and before we knew it, we had our helicopter.

The Port Authority owned the 15-acre World Trade Center site, and a date and time was set for us to be at the top of the World Trade Tower. Georgianna or anyone else couldn’t believe it when we told them. It was hard for us to believe it, too, but there we were, “the nearest place to Heaven in Manhattan,” waiting for our pilot to arrive; we had only to wait a few minutes. The pilot introduced himself and said, “I am at your disposal; just tell me where you want to go.”

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World Trade Towers, Serigraphy by Masaaki 

Now we knew we weren’t dreaming. He gave us a tour over Manhattan on the way to Roosevelt Island and on our return. He circled the buildings I pointed out on the Island, and Oliver was never more excited than when we flew close over the Octagon and the other historical ruins. How could he have ever thought he would have this opportunity as part of his studies of the Island’s history. We made a couple runs low over Main Street from end to end. How exciting that was to look down on Island House, my home. I took movies as well as still photos.

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Inmate at the insane asylum. 

Georgianna wanted to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime event, so she came up with a “Georgianna-scheme,” whereas she would be the star in the Roosevelt Island movies. She dressed in her Hollywood best, in a full skirt, and went to the roof of one of the buildings on Main Street and waited for our helicopter to arrive.

Well, a helicopter did arrive, but it wasn’t ours! On the east side across from the Island is a helicopter port for rides to the airports, and they flew over the Island. So when she saw that helicopter coming she went into her “Eleanor Powell” dance, with her skirt swirling and arms waving. The pilot took advantage of the spectacle and circled Georgianna a couple times so his passengers could see the show! He probably told them, “Just another crazy New Yorker out for a lark.”

Georgainna was very pleased with herself and figured I got some great movies. When I got home, she was all excited and asked, “How did you like my dance?” She felt foolish when the truth came out, but we laughed about it and she said, “I hope those folks enjoyed my dance. How often does someone get to dance for helicopter passengers in New York?”

The multimedia dramatization Oliver and I produced was called The Waiting Island, and we presented it in March, with a return engagement in April, in the Good Shepherd Community Room. Then, on June 16th, we presented it in Manhattan for the United Hospital Fund of New York and the Medical Archivists in New York City. The three readers were Rev. Chapin, his daughter Joy, and Georgianna. All performances were packed with enthusiastic audiences.

Excerpts from the narrative will give you an idea of the scope of the production. You can see why folks were on the edge of their seats throughout the moving drama:

…His girlfriend, Geesje, was ordered to be stripped naked to the waist and conducted to the whipping post, then banished from the island for 30 years. So ended an “X” rated interlude on the Island of Pigs.

…On October 12, 1776, dwellers on our island watched as several thousand Redcoats on flatboats moved up the East River and through Hellsgate to attack Washington in the Bronx.

…Crime was the number one problem for New York in 1828. “Get the criminals out!” demanded the city. Within three months after the Blackwells sold the island to our city fathers, 136 prisoners had been brought here to begin quarrying stone for the city’s new penitentiary.

…The cells were being unlocked and blue and white striped figures slouched by, automatically forming into a line, myself a part of it. More harrowing still was the daily degradation of being marched in lock step to the river, carrying the bucket of excrement accumulated during the past 24 hours. Then breakfast: a slice of bread and a tin cup of warm brown water. … I was locked up in the dungeon. … I had to lie on the cold stone floor … the dampness of the walls made the prison a ghastly place. Worse yet, the complete shutting out of light and air, the impenetrable blackness, so thick it gave me the sensation of sinking into a devouring pit. The Spanish Inquisition had come to life in America.

…And the poorest of the poor ever to be brought to the Alms House were the children. The little ones nobody wanted. Children found in doorways, often exposed to bad weather, finally reached the Almshouse so sick as to be beyond recovery. So the little ones died like flies on our Waiting Island. If they did live, they were given an automatic birthday: July 4th. They grew up here, finding their friends among the arrested “street Arabs” of New York, kids who’d been forced on the street to beg and steal. Boys and girls five to fifteen. “Some of the girls were pretty, too … all the worse for them!”

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A forgotten child at the Alms House. 

....December 23, 1969. 141 years of history ended as the city signed our Island to the state for 99 years. … Roosevelt Island is the first community that sets out to mix, not only the black and white people, but the rich and the poor.

The drama ended with these words:

…North of the Island in the midst of dangerous waters there was once a rock: Gallows rock; perhaps they hanged people there. Gallows rock is gone now and a lighthouse tower replaces it …we are the light of the Island. If we let it shine, even the defeated and disillusioned may be surprised and helped. For this is our Island, our city, even our nation waits. The End is Our Beginning.  

Don’t Miss the Next Chapter: The Waiting Island