David Bruce: The Coolest People in the Arts


Johnny Brewton is the creator behind the zine X-Ray, each issue of which consists of 226 copies, each one at least slightly different. It was definitely an artistic project, and lifetime subscribers included the J. Paul Getty Museum, the rare book department of S.U.N.Y. at Buffalo, and the University of Wisconsin. One contributor was Hunter S. Thompson, who helped create the cover of X-Ray #4 by putting on lipstick and kissing a few copies and by shooting a bullet through every copy. (The cover was a photograph of Marilyn Chambers holding a box of Ivory Snow.) Another contributor to X-Ray was Charles Bukowski, who impressed Mr. Brewton with his work ethic: Mr. Brewton wrote Mr. Bukowski on a Monday requesting some poems, and by that Saturday—not even a week later—he received an envelope containing some poems. Mr. Brewton says about Mr. Bukowski, “I was amazed at how generous he was—he really gave back a lot and supported small presses; he taught me a lot about professionalism and deadlines. He was always on time.” Yet another contributor was Timothy Leary. Mr. Leary’s publicist, however, in a phone conversation told Mr. Brewton, “Mr. Leary has to charge one dollar per word for articles and stories. Are you sure you want to do this?” Because the zine made basically zero money, Mr. Brewton sarcastically replied, “That fits my budget perfectly! I’ll buy one word.” The publicist asked, “Which word do you want?” Mr. Brewton replied, “I don’t know. Have Mr. Leary decide.” The publicist spoke to Mr. Leary, and Mr. Brewton overheard Mr. Leary say, “That’s great! Yes! I pick the word ‘Chaos’—that’s my piece!” Mr. Brewton titled the work “A One Word Dosage from Dr. Timothy Leary” and put a card saying “Chaos” inside a pill envelope—each of the 226 copies of the issue contained the one-word contribution.

Pablo Picasso was a true artist. Another artist, photographer Yousuf Karsh, once took Picasso’s portrait. At first, Karsh was going to take the portrait at Picasso’s home, but Picasso’s children were boisterous and did such things as ride bicycles throughout the rooms; therefore, Picasso suggested that they meet at his ceramics gallery in Valluris and have the photo shoot there. When Karsh showed up at the gallery with 200 pounds of photography equipment, the gallery owner told him, “He will never be here. He says the same thing to every photographer.” Fortunately, Picasso did show up for the photo shoot. Karsh remembers, “He could partially view himself in my large format lens and intuitively moved to complete the composition.” 

When Andy Warhola was a senior at Carnegie Institute of Technology (its name now is Carnegie Mellon University), he submitted a self-portrait to the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh Annual Exhibition—the painting was titled The Broad Gave Me My Face, but I Can Pick My Own Nose. Perhaps this particular title was a mistake, but Mr. Warhola liked mistakes. The very first time an illustration of his appeared in Glamour magazine, his name was misspelled “Warhol.” From that time on, he decided to be Andy Warhol instead of Andy Warhola. 

When Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti was painting his Last Judgment on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel, a man named Biagio da Cesena criticized it because of its nude figures. Michelangelo got his revenge by putting Biagio da Cesena into the painting. In the lowest level of hell, he appears as a horned beast.

Impressionist painter Claude Monet often painted outside. If you look closely at his 1870 painting titled The Beach at Trouville, you can see grains of sand that the wind blew onto the wet paint.

Copyright 2015 by Bruce D. Bruce.

Note: The above are the first five anecdotes from my book The Coolest People in the Arts: 250 Anecdotes and Stories, which is available here:









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