Sid and Prince had had their trip to New York to open the gallery show of their paintings. The two portraits of each other, painting pictures of each other, were huge hits. The show got reviewed in the New York Times - almost unheard of for an unknown artist with a debut show. But Andre Stilson knew his way around New York art circles, and when he let the word out that his new debut show was going to be special, people came to see. That included the art critic from the Times who wrote, "Some of their subjects are more cute than serious, but these are two young men that the art world is going to see more of. Get thee down to New Finds Gallery and buy a picture for a few bucks that's going to be worth thousands within a decade." Even Stilson couldn't believe that review.
True to form, Sid spend most of his time in New York art museums. The Curator of American Art at the Metropolitan gave him a tour, and was flabbergasted to learn that he'd been hosted by Dillon Ripley at the Smithsonian and been toured by top staff at the Freer and National Portrait Gallery.
Prince did the more typical New York tour: Empire State, United Nations, Statue of Liberty. Prince's guide had been one of Stilson's sons who was a student at Columbia. Sid hadn't needed a guide, just introductions from Stilson to the right people at the Met and MOMA.
They could've sold the two portraits of each other several times over, but they insisted that they belonged to their mothers and weren't for sale. They came home a little worried that not much would sell. However, most of the other paintings sold before the show was over. They were on cloud nine, realizing that they were now really professionals. Sid gave all of his money, a little over $2,000, to his mother.
Sid's next major art effort had been the portraits in Gangland, which he couldn't sell or even display. He realized that he needed to get moving on more pictures for another New York show before the interest Stilson had generated dissipated. He visited Franklin with an idea. "I'd like to paint another set of portraits of the Gang, for a New York show, and to be sold. Do you think that the group would pose for me? These will be larger, more detailed, and will take a lot more time. And I need to work with live models. Would you give me the time? Will the rest of the Gang?"
Franklin replied, "I certainly would, and I'd think that the rest of the Gang would as well. But they're spread around the world pretty far. Merle and Tina are still in France, remember?"
"They'll be home soon, at least to visit. I'll be glad to go to down to Minneapolis for the folks there, Michigan as well."
"Forty-eight portraits is a big order."
"Forty-nine. Felix gets included. You know, there are some pretty big names on that list, and I can't even count how many Olympic medal winners."
"The medalist count is eight."
"I think that I'd want to emphasize the athletics in their portraits. I'll have to plan out the details as I learn more. These are for public show, so I can't play on my erotic theme - but any picture of Tim or Billy in a swim suit is at least mildly erotic. That won't discourage the public interest."
"I think that's why divers wear those skimpy suits."
"You bet. I love it."
"So does Tim."
"I know. Now, will you help me write to the Gang and ask for their support?"
"Just a thought, Sid. What if, instead of doing the Gang, you did a series of Olympic medal winners. You could start with the eight Gang members, but branch out. It might be interesting to include both big names and relative unknowns."
"I like that idea. I might pursue it someday, perhaps at the time of the Moscow Olympics. But I want to honor the Gang. You guys gave me life. I'd like to show my gratitude more publicly than the private show in Gangland. On the other hand, would the Gang prefer not to have such attention drawn to it?"
"I don't think that's a problem. Let's chat with Tim and Charlie."
The next day they did come to visit us. Sid was bubbling over with enthusiasm about painting portraits of the Gang. I liked the idea, and so did Tim. We were, however, concerned about the implications of significant publicity for the Gang. How would it impact our roles at UND? Would the interconnected nature of our relationships be suspect as people were hired and fired, contracts awarded, etc. Tim's attitude was basically, let the chips fall where they may. He continued, "We're all good friends; Sid isn't going to touch the sexual relationships involved; it's always better to have our friendships out in the open, rather than have them 'discovered' by some reporter, disgruntled faculty member, or losing team's coach."
Sid was encouraged, and was ready to start immediately. Enough of the Gang now lived in Grand Forks that he had plenty to do before he had to worry about getting the out of town folks to pose.
Sid was determined to show reality, and to do it with unorthodox poses. Tim was first, and Sid really gave him a workout. After watching about a dozen different dives, and seeing Tim exercise on all of the gymnastics paraphernalia, Sid narrowed possible poses down to two: either climbing UP to the high platform or working on the balance beam - chosen because it wasn't one of the competitive events for Tim. He finally selected the climbing pose - I think because he liked painting Tim's almost nude body. I would probably have made the same choice for exactly the same reason!
Sid did a photo study of Tim climbing the ladder, picked the exact pose he wanted and then had Tim hanging on the ladder for fifteen minutes at a time for most of one afternoon. With the photos and the sketches he made that afternoon he was ready to tackle oil. He did that at the university art studio, which is where he did his serious painting.
Sid was now a senior in high school, but was enrolled in studio art at the university. The high school gave him a course credit for his university work, and it would count toward his degree when he matriculated. Tim had chatted with Dr. Hiram Wilson, Distinguished Professor of Studio Graphic Arts. Hiram told Tim straight out, "Sid's the best artist I've worked with in the thirty years I've been on this faculty. His only problem is that his paintings are totally realistic, and that isn't 'in' in the art community today. But realism sells. And a lot of these modern kids aren't willing to accept the fact that realistic painting is tough. Most of the famous artists of various 'modern' schools cut their teeth doing realistic paintings. They built on that skill. The young artists today want to skip the skill part. Sid has the skills, uses them superbly, and he'll make his move into different styles when he's ready. I'm completely delighted to have him as my student."
Not long after that conversation Hiram met Tim at the faculty club and the two ate lunch together. Hiram said, "We have quite a painting of you developing in the North Studio."
Tim perked up and asked, "That must be where Sid paints?"
"Yep. And right now there's a six foot high canvas with you looking like you're going to climb through the top of it. It's magnificent. You can almost smell the chlorine of the swimming pool and feel the clamminess of the pool air as you watch Tim climb the ladder."
"I guess I ought to drop by and take a look at myself."
"I don't think I would until Sid invites you. But the picture's so big and so good that everybody has been watching it move to completion. Sid doesn't seem to mind an audience."
"Is his friend Prince taking art with you as well?"
"Yes, and he's good. But he's not in Sid's league. He knows it, and has deliberately moved away from being teamed up with Sid, like they were at the first New York show. I asked Prince about that, and he simply said that he didn't want to hold Sid back. Prince's a really nice guy, and Sid's biggest cheerleader."
"They've been good friends since Prince arrived in town. Prince's parents are scriptwriters for me, you know."
"I didn't know. I didn't know you had A scriptwriter, much less plural."
"All my speeches are drafted by an outfit called Development Consulting. They have a staff of five, and I keep them busy. They do good work, and it's paid off."
"How many people know that? A staff of five? I can't believe it."
"It isn't a secret, but we haven't made a big deal of it. Two questions I get asked on the speech circuit are, 'Do you give the same speech everywhere?', and 'Who writes your speeches?'"
"How do you answer?"
"To the first I say, 'Did that sound like a speech I could give in Minot?' The local references which are always built into the script force them to answer that with a 'No'. To the second I say, 'I have the world's best speechwriters, and you can be glad that I do'. And, while most speakers pile a few local references at the beginning of their speech, my guys build them into the entire script. The basic theme doesn't change, but the speech sure does. How'd we get onto this subject? We were talking about Sid."
"Tim, the entire faculty is talking about you, not Sid. We've all got you fingered to be our next president, and I haven't heard anybody who doesn't like that idea."
"You people are way ahead of yourselves."
"You aren't going to sit here and tell me that you haven't thought about being President, are you?"
"No, I'm not. But please don't quote me."
"I don't need to."
Tim was finding himself in conversations like that more and more frequently, sometimes with Prexy. Nothing definite was said, but more and more people seemed to simply accept that idea that Tim was going to be the next President of the University of North Dakota. And most were enthusiastic about the idea.
Even before the portrait of Tim was finished, Sid started working with Franklin on poses. I think that Franklin would've liked to feature Democracy House, but Sid wanted to emphasize his size. The pose Sid ended up with put Franklin at a carnival, swinging a heavy hammer to ring the bell at the top of a pole. Franklin has taken off his shirt which is laying on a bench, and has just hit a mighty blow which has not only rung the bell, but broken it. It gave Sid the opportunity to portray human muscles, and he accomplished it perfectly. When I saw the painting just after it was completed, I was flabbergasted by its quality, especially in showing the fine detail of Franklin's muscles.
In the meantime Tim had received his invitation to see himself climbing the platform ladder. I went with him. I got a hard-on just looking at that beautiful body seemingly move up the ladder. Tim didn't say a word; he simply moved over to Sid and gave him a huge hug.
Sid's first two paintings took him almost a month. At that rate he was embarking on an almost two-year project. He wanted to speed it up without sacrificing quality, a tough order. The only way he could do that was to find more hours in the day. He came and talked to Tim and me. "Look, I want to drop out of high school. I can't believe that the University won't admit me as a freshman next year, regardless of whether I finish high school or not. This portrait project is important to me, and to my career. What do you think?"
I said, "I think you need to get your high school art teacher, Professor Wilson from the university, your high school counselor and maybe principal, and an admissions counselor from the university together in one room and see what they all think of the idea."
Tim said, "Prexy ought to be there as well."
Sid said, "Why? Surely this wouldn't be an issue at that level?"
"Prexy thinks well outside the box. You want him there."
Sid said, "It sounds pretty much like you're already on my side."
"I'm used to dealing with athletes who have to mesh school and athletic careers. Sometimes dropping out for a while is the only alternative."
The meeting took place. Fran Gottleib, Sid's high school counselor, responded first. I was fearful when she started out, "You know, Sid, you don't want to go through life without a high school diploma. Even with a college degree, the missing diploma will jump up and bite when you least expect it."
"So I should stay in high school for the rest of this year, is that it?"
"No, I didn't say that. I've seen your two paintings. I can't believe them. I'd like to see that project go forward. But you need to plug into the appropriate high school program. There is one. As long as you don't drop out, but take a leave of absence - which you can legally do at your age - we can give you high school credit for your freshman year of college. At the end of that year, you can come back to Central High and graduate, with a complete transcript. The only required course you're missing is English, and you'll certainly take English your freshman year. It'll mean that you get your diploma a year late. No big deal."
Ms. Gottleib continued, "Does anybody here see a problem with that?"
We'd been worried about hidebound school administrators, but had been unable to find them in Grand Forks. Tim and I smiled to each other. We were both thinking that coming to Grand Forks really had been a good idea.
Sid had his 49 portraits done by June. They were magnificent. New Finds Gallery was elated with the prospect of such a major show, and scheduled it for a September 1977 opening in New York. There would be a preview for the press a week in advance.
I'm not doing to describe all 49 portraits. I couldn't remember them all without going back to a set of slides that I took of the show. (I guess I could still find them!) A couple are worth mentioning. I was depicted pulling an arrow out of a target. Sid and I debated long and hard over whether to use the international target, or the more familiar 5-ring target with a nine-point bulls-eye. We decided on the familiar one. Then, should I be removing a bulls-eye, a center shot, a near miss, or what. We finally settled on a line shot, touching the bulls-eye but just barely. The only other holes in the paper target are bulls-eyes, so it's been a perfect round, but with a near miss. From my hair and clothes, and movement in the grass, you can tell that a strong wind is blowing, making the perfect round really spectacular, but only archers are likely to put that all together. I'm smiling with a "cat that swallowed the canary" look that makes it clear that I know there had to be luck to get this kind of score in a wind. I love it.
For Paul, Sid reproduced the previous portrait of him wrestling with himself, except that this time he was wearing his singlet. It was the only pose that he stole from the previous set, but Paul had loved the first painting and begged Sid to reproduce it.
Sid really stewed over his self-portrait. I know that he'd have loved to do another triple self-portrait, but copying Norman Rockwell in our little private show was one thing, doing it for sale in a New York Gallery was another. What he ended up with was truly spectacular. He painted himself from a distance, looking over his shoulder so that we could see the almost finished painting on his easel. In the background were the other 48 portraits, sitting on easels, hanging on the wall, or standing on the floor. Each was a very careful miniature of the actual portrait. To top it off, the self-portrait on the easel that he was working on had the 49 other portraits visible, and most of them were identifiable. And, yes, in the central portrait on the easel you could just barely make out the hint of 49 portraits in the background! It was corny. It was kitsch. It was carnival art. But as Professor Wilson pointed out, "You try doing it." In New York it was the public's favorite painting. At auction it sold for $108,000, an unheard of price for a new artist, eclipsing the sale price for any of the other paintings. But I'm ahead of my story.
The entire Gang assembled in New York for the press preview and the grand opening of Sid's show. Mr. Stilson had rented extra space from one of his next door neighbor art galleries so that he'd have room for the 49 six-foot paintings and a similar number of live models that would be standing with them for at least the first couple of days. Still, the gallery was crowded, with about 35 reporters and photographers showing up for the press preview. They had to be careful with the photographers; they didn't mind pictures that gave an overview of the show, or that displayed portions of individual pictures. But they didn't want any reproduction quality photographs taken - those would be taken by a professional engaged by Stilson, with the negatives controlled by Sid and Stilson.
The reviews were fantastic. The art world was put on notice, this was the show to see in 1977. "Show of the Decade" was used more than once. The upshot of it was simply this: The show was scheduled to open at New Finds Gallery at 10:00 a.m. Saturday, September 17, 1977. Stilson arrived at the gallery about 7:30 to get things ready for the mid-morning opening. At 7:30 the line extended around the block and police were having to direct traffic. Parking was simply impossible. We'd all been told to arrive by nine and had been advised to take the subway in anticipation of parking problems. Luckily the line-up of Gang models was complete by ten minutes of nine, and the gallery doors were opened early to try to take pressure off the line. The fire marshal's limit for persons in the space was 175, so with the 48 models, and about ten gallery employees, we could only let in about 115 people at a time. As one left, one was let it. Stilson had arranged a circular path through the exhibit, leading out the door of the neighboring gallery from which he'd rented space. By noon it was clear that it would take the entire day to admit those standing in the line at noon. The last person in line at noon was given a sign that said, "Behind this point persons in the line will not be admitted until Sunday at 7:30 a.m."
That didn't deter people. By then people coming out of the show were coming by the line and telling people in the line things like, "Wow, it's sure worth the wait!" Food venders know a good thing, and Cokes, corn dogs, chips, and the like were being hawked. It was like a county fair. We were afraid that the long wait might cause tension and anger, but people stayed in good spirits. By five o'clock we'd asked a man in the line to hold the "Monday" sign, based on the assumption that we'd only be able to accommodate about 1,500 people a day, and that would require staying open pretty late.
The TV cameras got there about two on Saturday afternoon. All three network stations went live from time to time to show the lines. That brought a new surge of people which is how we got to need the Monday sign on Saturday evening.
At 5:30 on Saturday, Mr. Roderick Hunter, Curator of the Guggenheim Museum, arrived on the scene. He'd tried to telephone, but even with one of Stilson's assistants constantly answering the phone almost every caller was getting a busy signal. Luckily Mr. Stilson recognized Hunter and brought him inside. He introduced Sid and the three of them headed for Stilson's office. They emerged a half an hour later with Sid looking something like Tim did when he stood on an Olympic gold medal podium. As we would soon learn, Sid had just pulled off a coup which was far grander in the art world than anything Tim had yet accomplished in the Olympic world. Stilson and Hunter, with Sid in tow, went to find the TV cameras. It was evening news time and they'd either get live coverage or immediate replay in the evening news. Hunter and Stilson had a very simple announcement: The New Finds Gallery was simply unable to accommodate the crowds for this exhibit, so it would close as soon as all persons currently in line had been let in. The exhibit would reopen, six weeks hence, as the first single artist show in the history of the Guggenheim Museum. Hunter went on to point out that the grand spiral exhibit hall of Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum was the perfect setting for Sid's 49 portraits, and they were delighted to extend to Sid this invitation to display his outstanding work.
Sid was given the microphone, and to this day I don't know how he was able to get a word out. But he said, "It's a dream come true for any artist. For this to happen to me as a teenager is just beyond my wildest dreams. I'm not going to dare try pinching myself for several days. Thank you."
Stilson had managed to get the sound from the interview channeled into his sound system from his TV, as the NBC affiliate had broadcast the scene live. So all the Gang heard the announcement as it came. I don't think any of them had a dry eye, certainly Tim and I didn't as we stood near each other by our portraits.
The import of the announcement slowly sank in for the visitors to the gallery. First, those that had come early, waited in the line, and gotten in - and those that would get in - were getting an exclusive first look. And, second, the top people in the art world had just pronounced this to be "important." Hunter hadn't acted on his own, but on the basis of a rushed conference call involving at least a quorum of his board. Of course, I think that most of us understood that this was a smart move for a museum that had to work hard to keep attendance figures at a level that would support it. The public was clearly going to turn out for this, and the TV publicity this weekend, and which they would continue to emphasize for the next six weeks, was only going to add to the public interest. Hunter knew a winner when he saw it. For Stilson, it meant greatly increased sales dollars for the pictures when they were sold, and since his gallery didn't charge admission, no loss of admissions because of the move to the museum. Everyone was a winner. Especially Sid, who simply couldn't believe his good fortune.
Instead of making people stand in line until Monday, Stilson, Sid, and the others, after consulting with members of the Gang, decided to simply keep the gallery open until all in line were accommodated. We took breaks in shifts so that at least half or more of the Gang were available as people passed through. By Sunday noon Stilson was able to close his doors, and we all headed to our hotels for well-deserved sleep.
By Monday afternoon we were all more or less recovered. Sid, Stilson, and Hunter met at the Guggenheim, and Sid brought Franklin, Tim and me along. The question was, what would the show at the Guggenheim look like? They could simply hang the 49 portraits and let it go at that. But part of the appeal at New Finds had been the presence of the Gang. Clearly the Gang couldn't be present for the entire show - though Hunter certainly hoped that we'd return for his opening - and he was prepared to pay our air fares. But Hunter envisioned accompanying each portrait with its own display: a biography of the subject, photos of the subject, and perhaps some of Sid's sketches of alternate poses. He was in hopes that the biography might end with Sid's explanation of why he chose the pose he choose.
Hunter pointed out that the Guggenheim was the perfect place for such a display. One viewed an exhibit at the Guggenheim by taking an elevator to the top of the huge spiral which constituted the building. From the top, and any place along the spiral as you went down, you could look out over the large courtyard below and see about half of the pictures mounted for the show. You could always look across the open space and see the pictures from a distance. Sid's huge canvases would easily stand out when viewed in this way. But a grouping of little photographs and sketches, and text on a white background, would not be easily visible from across the open space. Thus, as you looked across at the show from a distance you saw the portraits. Up close you saw an individual portrait and its accompanying photos and supporting material. Hunter had it all worked out in his mind, and we simply took his word for it as it was his museum and we trusted that he knew what he was doing. But how could we assemble the needed material in time?
Tim had been listening to all of this, and now spoke for the first time. "That's simple. I know exactly the right people to pull this off. Susan Wilfield, Ed Schmidt, and Bill Manley are perfect to write the text and lay out the exhibits, and Mike Reasal is the man to take additional needed photographs."
Hunter said, "I recognize Mike Reasal; he's a top sports photographer with Sports Illustrated. I don't know the others. And what makes you think you can get Reasal and the others? It's very short notice, and you're going to need a huge time commitment for the next six weeks."
Tim replied, "The other three are writers we've worked with over the years. I know, for absolute certain, that they'd love this job and will put down whatever else they're doing to do it."
Sid put in, "I'll go along with Tim in agreeing that those four should do this job."
I said, "Sid, do you even know these folks?"
Sid said, "No. I've heard you talk about a couple of them. But I trust Tim. We need to settle this business right away, and I don't see any point in questioning Tim's judgement."
Hunter said, "Dr. Tim, you have an outstanding reputation, and if you're certain both of the skill and availability of these four, and Sid's happy with them, let's consider the matter closed."
Tim said, "May I use your telephone?"
In half an hour Tim had reached all four, Susan, Eddie, Bill and Mike. All were willing. No, not willing, eager. They'd all meet in Grand Forks in three days. Bill and Mike would stay with us, and Susan would stay with Eddie and his wife.
Mr. Hunter commented, "In under an hour you've put together a project that would take a museum in New York at least a month to get moving. My staff would've debated for a week over which writers to invite, and the fight over photographers would've been even bigger. And then trying to get the chosen few on board, much less to actually start work.... An hour. I can't believe it."
Tim said, "And those four will do better work than the group you'd collect. As soon as they have two or three of the individual displays worked out we'll show them to you. Then you can decide if you want to proceed."
Hunter said, "The time window isn't going to give us any choice, but I'll be honest in my responses about what I think of the quality of the work."
Stilson had a last question, "Museum exhibits are scheduled months in advance, if not years. How're you managing to mount this exhibit on such short notice?"
"I don't want to devalue Sid's work. We wouldn't consider mounting an exhibit that wasn't of a caliber appropriate to the Guggenheim. But our present exhibit, scheduled to go another eight months, is a bust. Attendance is awful, and the reviews have been terrible. Sid's going to bail us out of a mess. And I'd better not hear that quoted in the press."
We all laughed, but Hunter looked a little uncertain that he might've said too much. We assured him that he had not, and that he certainly wouldn't be quoted.
The art departments of Central High School and the University of North Dakota don't have marching bands or large stadiums at their disposal. But their joint welcome back celebration for Sid couldn't have been grander. When his plane landed in Fargo he was greeted by Hiram Wilson and whisked off in a limo for the ride to Grand Forks. The rest of us on the plane were taken by bus, but at a faster speed than the limo, so that we could be part of the greeting that awaited Sid in Grand Forks. The quadrangle outside the art department had been decorated, and filled with high school and college art students, friends, faculty - it seemed like half the world. There were soft drinks and cookies, and a huge cake which read, "Our Hero, Sid." The letters were a foot high, you figure out the size of the cake.
The limo pulled into the quad and stopped. The door opened and out stepped Prexy, who held the door for Sid. As he stepped out a huge cheer went up. When Prexy managed to get quiet he said, "Welcome home, Sid. Everybody, I'd like you to meet Sid Madison, simply the most recent representative of this town, its high school, and this university to have shown the world that North Dakota is where it's at."
Another large cheer. Sid was handed a huge, symbolic knife, and he cut the cake. The catering staff was ready with real knives and the cake was cut into more than 2,000 pieces and everyone got a taste. The local Coca-Cola bottler handed out, by his count, 2,500 cups of Coke. Sid's family, along with Prince and Princess, were standing at the cake to greet Sid, smiles and tears fighting for dominance on their faces. I thought, "He's not exactly a truant officer's poster child. Where would he be today if he hadn't cut school to visit the Smithsonian museums and sell papers on the Mall?" Tim smiled at me, and I think he was thinking much the same thing. I remembered what Tim had said to Sid when they were talking about meeting Dillon Ripley at the Smithsonian. He'd told Sid that he shouldn't cut school unless it was important, and that only Sid could decide whether it was important. The same thing applies to dropping out of high school. Certainly Sid had been proven correct that his portrait project was more important than his senior year high school classes.
Anybody that questioned that judgement should've been a fly on the wall at a conversation Sid had with Tim and me about a month later - with his Guggenheim opening still two weeks off. "Tim, I have to figure out what to charge to paint a portrait. Mr. Stilson says he's had three offers for portrait commissions and says I have to set a fee."
"Has he suggested a figure?" I asked.
"Yes, he recommends $10,000. That's a staggering amount. I can't believe it. He also said that he has no contract with me regarding commissions, but that when they come through him, he would expect to get 10%. If they come directly to me, he's out of the picture. That's fair, isn't it?"
Tim said, "That's completely fair. And go for the $10,000. Maybe more. You don't want to spend your life doing portrait commissions, so you have to set the fee high enough to keep the numbers low."
"I never thought of it that way."
"After you do the fifth portrait of a stranger, and maybe a cantankerous one, you may be doubling your fee. Start high."
"Ten grand it is. That simply sounds weird."
"Ride the wave while you can, Sid. It may not last."
The wave took him, and the entire Gang, back to New York. The Saturday noon opening included dignitaries in the courtyard, speeches longer than they should've been, wine and cheese for the V.I.P.s, and an opening to the public at 3:00 p.m. The line was about as long as it'd been at New Finds, but this museum could easily handle the crowd. The bottleneck was the ticket window and the elevators to the top, but they quickly got the better of the line. Most New Yorkers were smart enough to avoid the lines and came either Sunday or the following weekend. The tourists got the weekdays.
For the first several days Sid stood near the elevators at the top of the ramp, greeted visitors, and answered questions. The rest of the Gang stayed through Sunday, standing by our portraits. I'm not sure that our presence really enhanced the experience.
There had been real debate amongst Sid, Susan, Eddie, Bill and Mike about what the display accompanying each portrait should look like. In particular, they had a hard time making up their mind as to whether the displays should be uniform, e.g. a biography text, a given number of photos, two of Sid's sketches, with it all laid out the same for each. Alternatively, they could start from zero for each portrait, and plan the display without regard to the others. When they finally consulted Mr. Hunter, he urged the latter plan and that's what they agreed to do. As it worked out, they all agreed that that had been the way to go.
For Felix they'd located six men who'd boarded with him at UND, including Larry Knudsen, the aquatics coach. Each shared reminiscences which were put in cartoon speech balloons near their photos. In a couple of cases they found old photos of the man as a student with Felix. It made a very sympathetic portrait of a delightful man. Regrettably they'd had to avoid his "dirty old man" image.
Norman and Betsy were portrayed as parents. Norman's advice about automobiles and the back forty acres were about as risque as the exhibit texts got, but they couldn't leave those out.
And so on through all 49. For Sid himself they prepared a movie image of him thanking people for visiting the exhibit, it ended with him pointing to a delightful photo biography that they'd put together from family pictures, new photos by Mike, and snapshots that the Gang had taken. Mike had taken him on a flying trip to Washington to get pictures of him at the various museums and meeting with S. Dillon Ripley, who had agreed to permit the photo shoot in his office. They'd gotten newspaper file photos of the Mall run at which Sid had sold papers and met Tim. The exhibit ended with the actual copy of the morning paper that Olympians Tim, Hal, Jim, and Charlie had signed, along with the original Polaroid snapshot of us handing it to him.
The movie loop was triggered to start by a motion detector that picked up when someone walked away from Sid's self-portrait. It made a very clever end to the exhibition. Mr. Hunter loved it; in fact, he loved everything that Mike and crew put together. So did the public. So did the art critics - though a number thought that while it showed great artistic talent and skill, the subjects were a little too, well, corny. Sid just grinned at that - all the way to the bank.
The exhibit hung at the Guggenheim for six months. Then it was moved back to New Finds for sale at auction - all 49 portraits, and the photos and other materials from each exhibit. After paying the costs of the auction, and giving the New Finds Gallery their 25% commission, Sid netted just over a million dollars from the sale. He'd sat in the back of the auction room and watched his paintings go for anywhere from $5,000 to $65,000 and then the self-portrait at more than $100,000. It was almost more than he could handle, but he made it through the afternoon without heart failure. Mike's photos and the other display material sold for good money - often to the buyer of the portrait, but not necessarily. Mike, Susan, Bill and Eddie got those funds, in addition to the fees that the Guggenheim had paid them. Everybody was very pleased with the outcome.
Tim and I were a little concerned that that much money might go to Sid's head and fly out of his wallet. As we flew home after the sale (I had come East with him for the event; Tim had had a university responsibility that he couldn't avoid), I asked him what he was going to do with his new fortune. He said, "I need a car, so does Mom. And she needs a house. That and university tuition next fall are it. The rest goes in the bank."
April, it turned out, had no interest in a house. "I've lived in an apartment all my life, and I don't plan to start doing yard work at this age."
Sid's response was to buy the apartment building in which they lived. He got Fred's help. Well, he approached Fred for help, but Tom took the lead in helping him out. Sid wanted to buy the building that the family lived in, without the neighbors knowing who the new landlord was. Both he and his mom were afraid that it would reshape their relationships with their neighbors, and they didn't want that. It was a simple 4-apartment building, with one three-bedroom and one two-bedroom apartment on each of two floors. They'd started in one of the two-bedroom apartments, but after about a year one of the larger ones came open and they'd moved.
The building was a little run down, and Sid wanted to get it fixed up. Tom helped him set up a little s-corporation to own the building. They'd picked a real estate agent who worked for a firm that did apartment management. It wasn't hard to set the whole thing up. At first the other tenants were fearful when it became known that the building had been sold, but the agent came by and talked to each of them, assuring them that they would be welcome to stay. Her main reason for visiting was to get a list of things that needed repairing. She also announced that the building would be completely repainted, and they should pick colors. Sid was going to be a most unusual landlord.
His mother insisted on continuing to pay rent. She told Sid, "You've done well, and I know you'll help me and the girls out when we need you. But I want my life to go on like it has been. I love my job; Fred and Tim like my work, and they're good to me. Without my rent your little corporation is going to lose money, and that's not right."
April was, we all knew, quite a lady. We could see how Sid had turned out as well as he had.
It was interesting to watch Prince through all of this. We certainly would've understood if he'd been jealous or resentful. But he remained totally supportive. He went to New York with all of us to see the Guggenheim opening, and we never heard him utter a single word to Sid that wasn't supportive.
His own art career was doing well, just not in comparison to Sid. With Mr. Stilson's backing, both he and Sid had had shows in Chicago and Fargo. They'd sold a number of paintings, but hadn't been able to get New York prices. As Sid's Guggenheim show was being planned, Prince was madly painting for a one-man show at a gallery in Grand Forks. His opening was about three weeks after Sid's in New York. Sid would've loved to be at Prince's opening, but we had to caution him to stay away for fear of upstaging Prince at his own show. Sid and Prince talked it over and Prince reluctantly agreed that it would be better if Sid weren't there on the opening day. The next day, however, Sid was all over, enthusiastically praising Prince's work. It was a friendship that we were sure was going to last through the years.
Prexy and Tim did attend the opening, and were effusive with their praise for a UND art student who was making good. Sid got good press coverage (Tim and I lobbied hard with Eddie), and the show was a success. Prince and Sid certainly turned out to be the most successful artists the UND art department had yet produced, and both of them had yet to matriculate.
The next year as a freshman Prince found his true love in the psychology department, where she was studying to be a clinical psychologist. After graduation they headed to New York, where she worked on her Ph.D. and Prince pursued art studies. He never got a one-man show at the Guggenheim, but did fairly well over the years. He's still living in New York, happily married to a leading clinical psychologist in the city. Through the years he's come home regularly to visit his folks, Arlo and Arlene, who continued as 2/3 of the AAA support team for Tim. We often saw him on those visits and were glad to hear of his continued successes in New York, but for all intents and purposes he passed out of our lives when he graduated and moved to New York. He did admit to Sid that in getting started in the New York art world he had shamelessly traded on Sid's name and the fact that Sid's first New York show had been a joint one with him. He soon became well enough established that he didn't need to invoke Sid's name (too often).
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