In the eighties I had a painting studio in our garage, one of those free standing wooden structures, set back from our 1917, four-square, city house. Built on a slab, the garage was not deep enough for a sixties era automobile so a previous owner had bumped out the lower half of the back end. I ran electricity out there and I put in an extra window, something I found on the street. It gave me more light and a pretty good view of Sparky’s backyard.
I was using mostly acrylic house paint, mis-mixed colors that I bought at Mayers Hardware on Winton for a dollar a pint. I painted on cardboard or plywood that I found on the street. A series of ten “World Leaders” sold at the Pyramid before I had a chance to photograph them. My Arthur Shawcross painting got some notoriety. The Sparky paintings were on plywood. And I painted on the back of big sheets of billboard paper that I got from Dave Mahoney’s father. He worked at the billboard company on Park Avenue. The Paper Faces, a Buffalo band that we played with quite a bit, used to hang pieces of billboard paper behind them when they performed. I got the idea from them and just turned the paper over to the white side to paint on.
I did a series of paintings for a Personal Effects record release party at the Warehouse and a series of Guinness Book of World Record paintings for a Pyramid Arts Center show. And later, a series of paintings of members of my extended family at their workplace for “The City” show at Pyramid.
In 1989 I painted sixteen “Community Icons” for a show at Club Zero on Saint Paul Boulevard. Kathy Russo, who went on to marry Spaulding Grey, curated this show. She was a director at Pyramid Arts Center at the time. The Icons were based on real people in the Rochester Community but were painted as archetypes, the foundation of any city.
I was hopping parking meters out in front of Scorgie’s when I landed off balance, on one leg. It felt like I had jammed my leg up into my hip. I had never been to a chiropractor but I found one near my home in the city, on the corner of Cedarwood and Culver. Gary Seidel showed me how to free my sacroeiliac, which had locked up. He was also a musician, a trombone player, and he had a collection of African masks on his wall.
I liked the punk, bad boy, Mad Magazine, character that Armand Schaubroeck represented. His billboard, that hung over the expressway in the late sixties, was heroic.”Help Keep America Beautiful, Let it Grow.” And his tv commercials for the great House of Guitars are legendary.
Walter S. Taylor, founder of Bully Hill Winery, painted and designed eye-catching labels for his winery. When Coca-Cola bought the nearby Taylor Wine Company, Walter was prohibited from using his family name on his product so he crossed it off after doing so. According to his NYT obituary he was found in contempt for pugnaciously violating the order. He become a quadriplegic after a van accident in 1990. I sent him a 8×10 print of my painting of him and he sent me this thank you letter.
Dick Storms opened his first Record Archive shop in the mid seventies, next door to Village Green Book Store on Monroe Avenue. I put an ad on their bulletin board when we first moved back here. I was looking for a band to play with. Kevin Patrick and Gary Trainer called me and New Math was formed. Dick started his own record label, Archive Records, and he put two singles out by our band, Hi-Techs. He is a renowned garage sale hound and ran a cool shop called Weird Furniture for many years.
In the mid seventies Susan Plunkett was one of the owners of Hoosier Bill‘s, a restaurant on Monroe Avenue, down where the Bug Jar is now. She started her own restaurant, a health food place, in the old firehouse where the food co-op was. She called it Jazzberry’s. She booked bands in there and eventually moved uptown on East Avenue. We did some work for her, the big banner she hung outside when Dizzy Gillespie played there. My parents went to that show.
I first met Martin behind the counter at Midtown Records where we decided to put a band together. Martin bought a bass for our first rehearsal, an instrument he had never played before. We called the band Hi-Techs. We have been friends ever since. He is shown here at a surprise party that was thrown for him at a house he was rehabbing on York Street. The guests all hid in the dark waiting for him to come home and he was about an hour late. Someone had taken him out for a drink after work. I find him eccentric.
I absolutely love Chuck Cuminale‘s lyrics for his bands, Colorblind James & The White Caps, Colorblind James Experience and Colorblind James & The Death Valley Boys. They read as pure poetry to me. That’s the great Ken Frank, on bass guitar, featured in silhouette to the right of Chuck.
Hi Fi Alphabet
by Colorblind James
I saw the monster from the bay
I saw him raise his ugly head
We spoke for about a half an hour
I don’t recall a thing we said
“Jack’s Bloody Shadow” is a bar
It’s next door to the “Broken Ghost”
That’s up the street from “What a Cage”
I don’t remember on what coast
Lil’ miss was married yesterday to some bohemian die hard twerp
He didn’t bother to get dressed
It wasn’t even in a church
His family chipped in for a gift, all tied with ribbon in a knot
It’s what they’ve always wanted, yes: a cubist cemetery plot
He said, “I finally wrote my book
It’s called “The Hi Fi Alphabet””
I asked him what it was about
He hasn’t figured that out yet
I would like to have picked Peggi Fournier for this one. Because I was in a band I had a hard time picking a musician, a pick that wouldn’t slight someone else so I picked someone who had already left town. Pee Wee Elis, James Brown’s musical director, sax player and the co-writer of hits like “Cold Sweat” and the anthem, “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud,” attended Madison High School in Rochester while playing professionally with Ron Carter, Chuck Mangione and Cheryl Laurro’s father. In later years he worked with Van Morrison.
Jim Hughes married Peggi and me after we had been living together for three years. I remember him trying to approach the typical prenuptial topics with us. Although I grew up Catholic I had left the church. My parents had left too and Jim Hughes, a minister at the downtown Presbyterian Church, was a friend of theirs, a religious rebel. He helped craft a sweet ceremony.
I liked Mayor Tom Ryan but the development of the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Rochester was a fiasco. He is shown here cutting the ribbon on a development that started and stalled for many years.
Steve Dollar is and was in the Hunter Thompson/Lester Bangs mold. He tells it like it is according to him and I respect that immensely. We were lucky to have him in town as a music critic for the Democrat & Chronicle. Robert Meyerowitz, who wrote for City at the same time, is seen standing near the edge of the pool. The pool is in Dick Storms backyard on Meigs. Dick had a party there and some of us were in the pool. Someone yelled, “Come on Steve, get in the pool.” I put that lyric in “Silver Fingernails,” one of the songs we wrote for the Planetarium gig.
Silver Fingernails by Personal Effects 1987
Anybody remember the “Smiley Lady?” Probably not. She used to walk around town in a skirt and mismatched socks while talking, to herself, all the while smiling. “The Balloon Man,” another street person at that time, sold balloons for booze.
When I was in New Math, practicing in the Cox Building on Saint Paul, we would stop by Scorgie’s for beer. One night he took us down to the basement he was rehabbing. He had plans that included an indoor putting green and bar. We encouraged him to book bands. He was the quintessential, old school, tavern owner. I liked him a lot and loved his place.
Garth Fagan, whose dance troupe practices in the old CYO auditorium downtown, is a world-wide treasure. We used to see Garth Fagan at all the reggae shows that came to town.
These next two, “the Librarian” and “The Yoga Teacher” were not shown in the the 1989 show. I can’t remember why at this point.
Seems like we have always known Ashley. Years can go by, and they do yet, there she is, at all the cool shows, sometimes with a wig. She works at the library in our old neighborhood
Suzanne, some people called her “Gypsy,” lived on Vermont Street so we could walk to the yoga classes she taught in the living room of her apartment. It was my first experience with yoga and I liked her hands-on approach. Suzanne had perfect posture and that only exaggerated her full head of blond hair which flowed down to her butt.
Only one of the Community Icons sold, The Preacher. It is now in the collection of Rome Celli.