Last night's THINKING ALLOWED show was a smashing success. Robert Dubac, Alex Stein, Laraine Newman and Paul Dooley all turned in tremendous performances of beautifully written work. The show was funny, smart and well enough attended that the take at the door paid for the rental of the space with a little left over for me to offer the performers for their work; all declined, opting instead to have their shares go to the Help Pay Rick Shapiro's Crushing Medical Bills Fund. We also put out a hat to collect for that fund and I gave away CDs to all who contributed anything. We raised $295 which I hand delivered to the lovely Tracy Demarzo who was running a fund-raiser of her own across the street at Vlad the Retailer.
But that's not what I'm writing about today.
My show took place in The Fake Gallery, a wonderfully hip little space on Melrose where almost all the artwork is done by the owner of the gallery. He creates various fictitious personae to whom he gives credit for his work, claiming for each a specific genre and/or medium. He hangs the bios of these imaginary friends on the walls making the gallery itself sort of an entertainment. The gallery is a large, funny conceptual art piece that displays art inside both on the walls and on the stage.
Amongst the paintings on the wall, I found an original Chris Bonno. Chris and I were roommates back in the late eighties and early nineties when we were both struggling road comics. I don't think a month went by that one or the other of us wasn't at least a few days late making our half of the rent. When I was in town, I sat in my bathrobe at my typewriter (that's right. I said typewriter) cranking out my next screenplay or spec script. When Chris was in town he stood at his easel putting oil to canvas. We were both really just finding our voices and visions as artists. We argued. We made each other crazy. We smoked. I stank of depression and marijuana. He muttered and hummed. Once I came home to find he had done all my laundry and put my clothes away, neatly folded not because he was that kind or loving, but because he had realized that telling me that the heaps of smelly clothing was preventing either of us from ever getting laid was not ever going to cause me to do anything about it.
So, I was standing in the FAKE Gallery looking at this painting of his for sale and, had I not been contributing all that I had on me to this medical relief fund, I might have made an offer on it. I bought a Bonno -- one of his abstracts -- at a showing a couple of years ago at The Muse Gallery on Santa Monica. His paintings have started to be collected by the Hollywood Elite. I am a fan of the abstracts, but he also does marvelous, kitschy portraits of pop-culture figures of the past and still-lifes the subject matter of which always seems a bit like visual non sequitur. He has large paintings of ham, of cheese, of dentures and cigarette packs. He has portraits of William Shatner (as Kirk), Nimoy (as Spock) the Vincent Price, Optimus Prime, Silver Surfer, Tom Laughling (Billy Jack) and an hilarious painting of Mickey Mouse sitting for Vincent Van Gogh, looking terrified in a world of swirling brush-strokes and greater complexity than the cartoon rodent has ever before encountered. His work lives at the intersection of German expressionism and Mad Magazine. On the wall of The FAKE, hung a painting of a cooked turkey on a platter. It made me smile and think of this man whose path crosses mine from time to time and with whom I had shared a home long ago when we were both young and scared and feigning certainty about our futures.
After my show, I took the money we had collected for Rick Shapiro across the street to Vlad the Retailer (formerly an artisanal curio shop and performance space -- now in transition to . . . something else) where Rick's official fund-raiser was taking place. There, on the bill to perform, was Chris Bonno himself and we had a minute to talk. In addition to the fund-raising work he was doing for Rick, he has also put his painting SEXY COCO up for auction to help raise funds for Tornado victims in Kentucky.
The painting is autographed by Conan O'Brien and was chosen as the number one piece of Fan Art in an online contest a year or two ago when the competition was run by Team Coco. (Click on the image to bid. Own an O'Brien Autographed Bonno AND support a worthy cause)
These things -- the fund-raisers, the artistic contributions -- These things he absolutely does because he is kind and loving. It makes me strangely proud to see what a good man he's grown up to be, what a decent human. He still wanders about sometimes, muttering and humming. I'm pleased to live in a space that sometimes intersects his universe.
Now, people who know me are likely to know that I am deeply self-involved and self-serving by nature. You might imagine that I'm hoping that if I say enough nice things about Chris, if I post images and help him garner bids on the Sexy Coco painting and sing his praises, the painting of his that I own will skyrocket in value. That is not the case at all.
I'm hoping that if I say enough things about Chris, post images, help him garner bids and sing his praises, he will come to my home and do my laundry. It might be pleasantly nostalgic for him and, quite frankly, my clothes never smelled so fresh.