Meanwhile, up in the
AT&T Bell Labs Computer Drawing Center on Park Avenue, where Maria
an I were drawing, the big boys over in New Jersey or the sales
persons would occasionally have people in to see our Frame Creation
Systems and what wonderful things they could do. And so we were
always ready to give a nice flashy demonstration at anytime.
Once they brought in
this little guy named Wynn Walshe, very distinguished and polite, who oohed and aahed
over everything and took a great interest in this thing which could
send “graphic objects” over the phone lines. Well, I liked him a
lot, kinda like everybody’s favorite Grandfather and it turns out
he’s the Vice-President of J. Walter Thompson here in New York! And
it turns out he has in his office the original “videophone” still
hooked up and working. This was the very videophone on which
Richard Nixon made the very first picture telephone call in, like,
the History of the World.
Well, he came around a
couple times and he always liked me and he said, “Bill, if you ever
need to use that picture phone, you just come right on over and use
it, when ever you like, no problem.”
This was long before
Well, it happened that,
at that time, Russell and sk dunn were rehearsing to do a production
of Samuel Beckett’s “Happy Days” in the studio in San Francisco; sk
would play Winnie. I always think back to Rhoda Eland’s great
performance in Seattle at the Ensemble Theater, directed by Dale,
and of Winnie, sitting in the big pile of garbage I had created for
her, and Dale and I sitting backstage alone, listening to the small
houses and the long rainy nights and whispering backstage and Dale’s
decision to close the theater and Winnie’s long, sad monologue.
“Get through the day,
Winnie!” she calls out alone, to herself, “Get through the day!”
Russell was doing the
set. Well, he called me up and said Bill, I know what it should
look like but I have no idea how to do it. If I only had a little
sketch or something from you, you know, to give me an idea how to do
it, or such.
I thought of the
“videophone” up at J. Walter Thompson’s.
So that’s how Russell
and I got on the first international videophone to each other at the
same time, me up in the offices of J. Walter Thompson in New York
and he in the offices of J. Walter Thompson in San Francisco. And
they interrupted the international videophone traffic and set us up
and made a big thing about it. “Scenic designs are being rushed
from the designer in New York to his theater on the West Coast,”
that kind of thing.
The guys who were running the machines (soon to
be called nerds) thought it was great, and took a lot of time with
us. The “conversation” could, of course, be heard by both of us at
a normal speed, but the pictures came up very slowly, one after the
other, on a screen and could be printed out at any time. At one
point, Russell and I held up two little signs which we each had made, in
advance, mine said President and his said Vice-President, and we
held them for one of the “takes.” The guys were very impressed with
I always like to think of sk dunn, burried up to her neck in the
sand and winging her way to the West Coast crying, "Get through the
day, Winnie. Get through the day."
Russell said the
drawings were a big help and that people liked the set a lot.
Ah, the Theater!
* * *
My second winter in New
York roared in.
I was doing a lot of
work painting and drawing in my cold, little studio down on Ridge
with the drug dealers, and jumping over the puddles of blood, and,
of course, loving it all.
My little "amoeba man" from my studio show began to grow and
develope. That winter and the following year in San Francisco,
I would paint a lot. Most were oils and many were on large
canvases, some up to six or seven feet tall.
As I say they were large. I would later use a photo of one for
the postcard of my show at the Lab Gallery in San Francisco.
My aunt Mary Ellen and her daughter Joan came to that show all the way
from Sacramento, California.
“Wow, Bill, I had no
idea you were doing this kind of thing,” she said.
* * *
END OF VOLUME ONE