Friday, April 10, 2009

What If?

Hardly a moment to spare for a blog entry, what with the welter of public attention surrounding the release of the new paperback edition of HUBERT’S FREAKS. My agent says Latterman and Leano are in a cat fight over who gets me. But my heart belongs to Opera. Hope you catch me on her show next Wednesday morning… Everybody’s really excited about that one! Jonathan Fransen (who happened to attend my alma mater) told me that rude really turns her on, while my fellow recovering addict Jimmy Fry admitted he wished he’d said, “It’s a book, baby. Of COURSE I made it up!” instead of trying to make nice to her.

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, the fullness of time has revealed a couple of lovely “what ifs” in the Bob story.

The most poignant in my opinion has to do with Steve Turner’s publicity coup. Somehow, by virtue of his magnetic personality and tireless work ethic, Steve managed to snag the attention of Randy Kennedy, an arts reporter for the “New York Times.” He told Randy the incredible story of Bob’s discovery, of Bob’s long struggle to understand the Hubert’s archive and to have the Arbus photos authenticated, and of the triumphal, forthcoming auction of the Arbus/Hubert’s archive at Phillips de Pury Galleries. Damned if Kennedy didn’t run the story, complete with one of the striking Arbus photos from the archive on November 22, 2007. We were elated. Problem was, the auction wasn’t scheduled to take place until April 2008. That gave Bayo adequate time to learn of Bob’s labors and to find himself an opportunistic Court Street legal beagle. If that article hadn’t come out who’s to say how the scenario might have run? Possibly Phillips would have held their auction, the archive would have sold, and Bob would have won the day without Bayo being any the wiser.

Another thing that dawned on me recently has to do with the stunning bequest by the Arbus estate of all Arbus’s materials to the Metropolitan Museum. This took place at the end of 2007, but it was by nature a very complicated deal, and it must have been in the works for years. That means that when Bob was negotiating with Jeff Rosenheim at the Met, Rosenheim already knew that he was about to gain access to all the Arbus photographs he’d ever need. That would certainly explain his attempts to de-link the Arbus photos from the Hubert’s archive. What he wanted more than anything was the documentary record of that strange and wonderful freak show that had inspired some of Arbus’s great work. Seems to me that, had the bequest from the Arbus estate not been forthcoming, Jeff Rosenheim would have been a lot more aggressive in pursuing Bob’s goods which, by his own admission, he really liked – and the whole Arbus/Hubert’s archive might have wound up at the Met.

Oops! There’s my agent again. Gotta go…


Ravel said...

I'm finishing reading the book. It began with an interest on Arbus (after seeing the movie "Fur") and then remembering your book on the shelf at the bookstore where I work. Loved it! Reads like a novel or a mystery, taps in our dreams (finding a treasure) and is entertaining (like must have been the shows at Hubert's.
I love antique pictures and places where I can find old stuff & the like. The book made me see again some of thoses weird sellers, the collectors we sometimes are (I certainly am)... Well, I saw a lot in your book.
Great book and I hope it has the success it deserves!
My salutations are to Bob too.
Ravel, in Montreal, Qc.

kevbosnafu said...

Just finished the book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am the curator of a small beer can and breweriana museum near Cape Cod and I love the stories of Bob's journeys in search of great archival material. Reminds me of my own searches for old beer cans, etc. for my collection. Anyway, great read!