By arty Emmet
I hate to admit it now, but I never heard of Louise Nevelson until her brother hung her oil paintings in the restaurant at the Thorndike Hotel. The Thorndike was the social center of Rockland in those days (1974) and her brother Nate Berliawsky was the most interesting man in town.
Nate owned the joint so he could hang anything he wanted in his dining room. In a conspiratorial tone, he suggested to a few of us newspaper reporters that buying those oils would be the best investment we ever made.
We humored him and pretended we were really interested. I walked out of the hotel and across the street to the Farnsworth Museum. I grabbed a “Who’s Who” art book and looked up Nevelson. To my amazement, she was nationally and internationally known sculptor which meant that I was a dope.
Since I had barely enough to pay for lunch, I never really considered buying those Nevelson oils.
But I did hatch a plan to make Emmet a few bucks. If Nevelson was nationally known and hailed from Rockland for her teenage years, I asked the powers that be if I could go to New York City for an interview. Nate had twisted the arms at the Farnsworth to Give Nevelson a show in her native city. Now was the time.
I am “Bone Idle” and I did not care that much about art. I lived on expense checks in those days and the mileage to NYC and back would put at least $100 in my pockets. That was like $1,000 in those days.
Nate was thrilled and set the whole thing up. My sister lived in Foxborough, about halfway to NYC, so I could avoid the cost of a hotel.
I want to say it was East 30th Street, but of Course it could be wrong. I was ushered in to meet the grande dame and could not have been more impressed. She was tall, slender and as imperious as any queen. Her eyelashes were a pound apiece. I believe the word was “stunning.”
“Rockland cannot honor me,” she started and related the names of the Rockland High School girls who had treated her so badly five or six decades earlier. Anti-Semitism was rife in Rockland in those days and she never forgot it, she said.
I had a great story (and a wicked expense check) when that story hit the Bangor Daily News. Some people in the Jewish community were furious that I had dredged up the past, just before her show at the Farnsworth.
I loved it, of course. When the time for her show came, a gang of reporters was gathered, as usual, at the Black Pearl on the Rockland waterfront. In glided Nevelson, with her usual posse of underlings. My alleged pals gave me the business for starting all this trouble and dared me to go say hello.
Naturally, I jumped up and headed for her table. An underling leapt up to stop me from talking to the artist. “Emmet!” Nevelson said. “Join us.”
I joined her table while my inferiors in the news business just sat and gaped. “We created quite a furor, didn’t we,” she said with an appropriately wicked smile. I loved every second of it.
If memory serves, I managed to miss the Nevelson reception at the Farnsworth. If memory serves it was the morning after a splendid party (could have been McGuire’s wedding reception) and I slept through the whole thing.
Ted Sylvester, one of my very favorite human beings, filled in for me, covered the story and, once again, did not fire me when he should have.
I still barely have enough cash in my pocket to pay for lunch. I think often about those Nevelson oils in the Farnsworth. If memory serves (rarely) they were a few thousand dollars.
What do you think they would fetch this rainy day? When she died in 1988, her estate was estimated at $100 million. I could probably buy the Thorndike today if I had picked up a Nevelson oil or two. Story of my life.