Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Movie Director

Back when in the early 1990’s one of my book clients was a very famous movie director. I had gotten his office address from someone who knew him and I sent him one of my 8pg. Monthly book catalogs that I did way before the Internet. Soon after I received a phone call from his assistant who said that Richie would like to buy some of the books listed in my latest catalog. “Could I bring them up to the office?” Could I? You bet I could. This was after all one of the world’s great film directors who had already made several certified classics and he was only 40 years old. I carefully packed the books he wanted, A Disney Bambi book, Composing For Film, by Hanns Eisler, Fellini Screenplays, The Cinema Of Ernst Lubitsch & Olivier’s Othello and made my way by subway uptown to his office that overlooked Columbus Circle. The view of the circle from the top floor of his building reminded me of that wonderful scene in "It Should Happen To You” where Judy Holliday makes Peter Lawford drive around and around the circle so she could admire the large billboard with her name on it. But that was so long ago and the circle was very far removed from its’ 1954 look. The offices that Richie occupied were very laid back and casual. His assistant at that time, Jackie was very nice to me and I liked her. She was it seemed to me quite adapt and comfortable with her complex and high stress job of working for a director who was known for his temper and short fuses when things were not going the way he wanted them. He was also known for his great warmth and open personality but I was not to see any of that this day, as he was out scouting locations. “Gee too bad Richie’s not here today, think you would really enjoy talking to him about movies.” Jackie said. “Well” I said, “here are the books with the invoice and wow look at those great posters “. “Yes he has a great collection you should see what’s doing at his house” Jackie said as I made my way over to the far wall that had hanging on it wonderful framed one-sheet posters for “Stagecoach” and “The Searchers.” “He loves Ford” Jackie said, as I nodded, like who didn’t know that Ford was one of Richie’s great loves. The phone’s ringing jolted me back, and we said our good-byes nice meeting you, we’ll be in touch, keep sending Richie Catalogs etc etc. I couldn’t believe it. My luck and hard work had paid off. I just hoped that he would continue to buy books from me. He did and over the months he would pick and choose first as I would always send him the catalog early. His taste and interests were not surprisingly all over the place from Tashlin to Renoir and everyone in between. Up to that point I hadn’t met the great man, I did see him once in the lobby of his building as I exited the elevator after leaving his book order with Jackie. “Hi Richie” I though of screaming out, I just left your books upstairs.” But I didn’t of course, and just left the very noirish scene quietly. It was a “I know who you are but you don’t know me” sort of thing. The building that Ritchie operated out of was famous for the fact that many show biz. Personalities and services to the industry paid rent there. On his floor was another well known screenwriter and sometime director, and you would never know who would be on the elevator with you. Once I rode up with a very pleasant and talkative Bill Murray and another time the author Richard Price nodded to me as we passed in the hallway. Such nice people I thought. Richie needed bodyguards. He had just made a film about the Hassidim Community in my old neighborhood of Borough Park. When I was growing up there it was a Jewish-Italian lower middle class neighborhood but now it was big time Hassidim. The major shopping strip of 13th avenue was now so different. I loved his film but the JDL and several other extreme groups were aghast at Richie’s portrayal of the community as only right wingers can be. Totally out of their heads. Two big thuggish hulks, one who was African-American and the other one most likely Irish or something stood or sometimes sat in the outer waiting room now when I brought up his monthly order of books. Richie had flirted with drugs big time when he was living out west in his younger 20’s but now he was clean in practically every sense of the word. For a long time he had practiced celibacy after his 3rd marriage to a daughter of Royalty had fallen apart and down the toilet. The loss of Juliet was too much for Richie and he loved his drugs so he almost got very addicted. Lucky for AMERICAN CINEMA,(notice the caps) Richie got off the junk moved back East and started to make these very startling original films that were both ethnic but also very American and very New York. He was in trouble. His films as good as they were just didn’t make the bucks or bring in the big audiences and when it came to making a lot of money he was nowhere near the level of Coppola, Spielberg or Scorsese all of whom were close friends of his. His films did good at the festivals and he was honored year after year by this critics group and that critics group but he had never been nominated for an Oscar.

This really bothered him. When I started to sell him books he was just about to start work on a major undertaking, an adaptation of the Stephen Crane novel “Maggie a girl of the Street”. He had also just moved into a 4 story brownstone on the upper west side which was a dream come true for a poor Irish-Polish kid from Brooklyn or any poor kid for that matter. The place was a small mansion complete with a tiny one-person elevator. He had his own cook to make his meals, as he was on his own. Occasionally one of his children would come and visit and would stay in the small guestroom on the 3rd floor. His ex-wives and children were scattered across the continent and indeed the world like one of those spectacular constellation shows at the Hayden Planetarium. All those tiny pin pricks of light across the void. The house’s spaces were small except for the living room, which opened out into a lovely garden. There were even fireplaces and a large enough dinning room to hold the dinner parties that Richie sometimes liked to throw. Even though the house was 4 stories tall, it was small. His office on the 4th floor was also small and served as a small screening room where Richie would either watch videos or laser discs. DVDs were still quite a long way off. His collection of Laser Discs were housed in a very small room near the office and this was also where he kept his large LP collection of movie soundtracks from when he was a teen and young man. It was also here that he kept all his awards most of which sat in deep drawers in a large cabinet. There was also a small sitting room between the office and the “trophy” room. And then there were the posters. It was a visual feast, walls of great posters for great films and great posters for terrible films. One day in the early Spring I got a phone call from his new assistant Rebecca. She wanted to introduce herself to me, and to ask if I would be willing to do some work on Richies book collection. “Sure” I said. “Will the books be delivered to me?” “Oh No” Rebecca replied “You’ll have to work at the house, would this be ok with you?” “Sure” I said. “When do I have to start this.” “Well Richie wants to meet with you at the house can you come up at 2 O’ Clock next Wednesday?” “No problem.” No problem indeed. I was finally going to meet Richie and at his house no less. I was nervous about this. Hell this was one of the most famous movie directors in the world I was going to meet him at his house. The day before my appointment I picked out several things that I wanted Richie to sign for me, a few books, photographs and a lobby card or two. That Wednesday I made my way to his house and found his neat small town house. Next to the bell was no name just a small metal sign that read “If you are not expected do not ring the bell”. Friendly touch I thought to myself, but I guess needed. I rang the bell feeling great that I was indeed expected and waited for the door to be opened.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Season Greetings From Bay Ridge

On A Sunday At The Brooklyn Museum

Last Sunday I took myself to the Brooklyn Museum. It’s a majestic building with an unfortunate new façade that has cut away a lot of the original front including the magnificent grand staircase. Someone I know who lives right across the street from the museum ended her membership because of this crime against architecture. I was to meet Howard for a day of it, and to look at the shows on view. Now normally I wouldn’t go to a museum to see the work of a photographer unless of course it was someone I really liked a lot, and even then I wouldn’t necessarily go, but I thought I would give Annie Leibovitz the benefit of my great big doubt and I had nothing else to do, so why not go. I do like quite a few photographers Frank, Arbus, DeCava, Bresson, Wegee, Evans, Goldin and on and on, but I prefer to look at their works in books. I mean photographs are such an intimate medium. That’s one of the reasons I like it so much, because I can see them up close in a book and really not loose a thing by not seeing it all framed and museumed up. You can also get into a photograph so much better by looking closely at it in a big book than on a wall with a lot of people getting in your fucking way. Which is what I really hate about museums these days, the fucking crowds. Anyway we went, and the photography show in question is titled something pretentious like “Annie Leibovitz A Life In Photography” or something silly like that. To be honest about it, I’ve never given Ms. Leibovitz much thought as an artist. I’ve always thought of her as one of those celebrity photographers who are a step up from the Paparazzi, and even some of those guys are better than she is. I mean do I really give a shit about empty portraits of the rich and pretty. Well yes sometimes I do. I still have a fondness for those great Life Magazine photos that had such a big impact on me as a kid. Those photos and portraits had truth to me (maybe because most of them were in black and white) and spontaneity that someone like Leibovitz just doesn’t have. Maybe we did have greater stars back then with better faces and more talent then the ones of today. Of course some of her photos do include some pretty great people but they all kinda lay there all on the same plane. I wonder how much touching up she does on her photos. They all look so smooth and sharp even the older celebrities whose wrinkles and age do show through still look smooth. Her work like the work of so many celebrity photojournalists look best when one is quickly browsing through one of those slick magazines that I sometimes see. Turn the page and theres another image, another message. Quick! quick! quick! I also don’t think that I would turn her down if she called me up on the phone asking me to pose for her. “Oh Ira Joel I must photograph you for the latest issue of Vague” but I don’t think I have to worry about that happening any time in the near or far future. Anyway the crowds were huge, and I couldn’t stand it after a while, and Leibovitz just isn’t worth it. Hell I even gave up after a while at the very crowded Diane Arbus show last year at the Met, and I love her work. I have a great fondness for the old Brooklyn Museum itself; which was the museum of my youth. My uncle Natie would take me and sometimes, Howard, Freddy & Marco there and we would run and giggle through those great marble halls. Now I don’t run so much except to get the hell out of an exhibition I don’t like, and I certainly still giggle. So Howard and me had a bite to eat in their very lemon green cafeteria the color of which sort of kills your appetite. After that we went to the Egyptian collection that is so great, and so much better than anything upstairs and so full of great objects and things that I got all inspired to make art and it was empty just our footsteps echoing through the big rooms full of mummies and jewelry and all that other great stuff that we love. And of course when in doubt there is always the gift shop

Thursday, December 21, 2006

New Art Posted On Chick Flicks

Chick Flicks Magazine has just posted 6 of my paintings in their latest issue. I am very delighted with how they look. They did a great job. Check them out here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

On The Cover

Cerebration Magazine has used one of my black and white paintings for the cover of their new issue. I think it looks very nice. Check it out at this link.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Unlikely Stories Magazine has just posted what I consider to be one of the nicest presentations of my work yet. And thats saying a lot because there have many so many wonderful presentations of my work over the last few months. Check it out

Thursday, December 14, 2006

New Art Posted.

Double Dare Press has published 12 pieces of my art in their latest issue. They say that I'm "gifted beyond description." Check it out by scrolling down the pg. till you get to the featured artist link that I've reproduced here so you can easily find it.

Featured Artist Every single time you revisit Ira Joel Haber's work, something else asserts itself. The work is layered and complicated. He blends the familiar with the unattainable, the named object with the shadowed subtext, and invites you to ponder juxtaposition. Why is that image shattered, and that whole? Haber's work complicates your easily retrieved assumptions. Come investigate the world that isn't, yet often is. Come on, we double dare you.

Also just up is a drawing of mine on Events Quarterly

Untitled collage drawings Not dated but most likely from the early 90's

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Library

In my early youth of say 6 or 7 years, our library branch in Borough Park was housed in several storefronts on 13th ave. It was a dark cramped and strange place for a library to be and this finally changed in 1955 when a new library was erected on a once vacant lot just down the block from where I lived. This was big news and many of us in Borough Park followed the progress of this new addition to our neighborhood with keen interest. I was only 8 when it finally opened in that hot summer of 1955 and when the doors finally opened I was one of the first in line to get a library card. The children’s section was on the 2nd floor with cute little tables and chairs and loads of new books just waiting for me. It was a rather small library as far as libraries go but I loved it right from the start. It smelled good what with all those new books just waiting to be opened and read. I got my card and took my little self to the newly stocked shelves where I selected several books for checking out. I quickly went through the books that morning and brought them back a few hours later and picked out a new batch of books to check out. Again I went through them quickly and once again I took the short walk to the library where I returned them. Once more I picked out a few books and this time the librarian questioned me about why I kept coming back the same day over and over. “Look kid” she said. “You can’t keep coming back with books that you just took out a few hours ago.” “Why not” I asked. “Because its against the law.” Yeah right I thought. “Ok I’ll keep them for a day, but I’ll be back tomorrow.” “Fine come back tomorrow.” Over the next few years the library became my home away from my troubled home. Although too young to take out books in the downstairs adult section during my early teen years I would browse the shelves. One of my favorite forbidden pleasures was looking at a book called “Design This Day” which was published in the late 1940’s and was about well good design. It was well illustrated with pictures of industrial products, cars, and household items and for some reason that I couldn’t understand at that time there was a photo of a young nude male model (talk about good design) and although he was discreetly posed there was a bit of pubic hair showing and this photo became the erotic secret sexual image of my early teen years. Over and over I would go into the shelves and take a peek at my pubic hair photo friend. Of course I could never check the book out because I didn’t have an adult library card, and even if I did there was no way that I could ever muster up enough courage to bring it up to the librarian even though there was nothing about the book that would make her or anyone else suspect what the real reason was that I wanted this book. The library had a small record collection and when I was about 12 years old, I took my brother’s library card without his permission and would use it to check out some of the records. Sometimes I would sit at a table in the adult section with headphones on and listen to the scratchy recordings. Mostly I would listen to historical or spoken word recordings but sometimes I would pick out some singer that I liked or was curious about. I heard Billie Holiday for the 1st time here. One of my favorite TV shows growing up was Person to Person in which Edward R. Morrow would sit in a comfy chair chain smoking cigarettes and visit people of note, usually famous movie stars. The library had some of his “See It Now” (or were they called “Here It Now”) recordings and I would present my brother’s card to the librarian who would then give me a pair of earphones and would hold the card until the record and earphones were returned. One day however I got pinched. The steely mean spirited lady at the check out desk figured out that I was not my brother and asked me how old I was. “I’ll be 18 in 6 years I said. “Well come back in 6 years and we’ll issue you an adult card” the nasty thing said. “But in the meantime you can listen to the recording but I’m holding the card until your brother comes to pick it up.” I thought I would make a doody right there on the green and black checkered linoleum floor of the library. What to do what to do. I didn’t know if my brother would be angry or not with me, but I certainly wasn’t looking forward in finding this out. So I put on the old heavy bulky poorly designed headphones and sort of listened to the record, but my mind was elsewhere full of woe and worry. After listening I took the record back to the check out desk, and the nasty old biddy wasn’t there. Instead there was a nice young man on duty and when I gave him the record back, he handed me back my brother’s library card and I went out skipping to face the bright and sunny day. I could not believe my luck.

When I was around 11 and 12 me and my friend Marco Shalg who lived nearby would go to the library like some kids would go to the playground. Marco’s father was a Holocaust survivor and owned a launderette nearby. It was through Marco that I first really became aware of Nazi terror and the near destruction of European Jews. Sometimes I would see the tattooed numbers on Mr. Shalg’s wrist, and Marco would talk to me about the terrible times his father went through. Marco and me loved to laugh and have fun. One of our favorite things to do was to go to the library and ask the librarians for books that did not exist and then laugh hysterically when they would try to look up the title in the old card catalogs. “Do you have the book “The Big Bogie” I would ask her with a straight face as Marco would double up with laughter so hard that he would pee in his pants. We would also roam the stacks looking for funny titles and I recall our most favorite book title was “Bula Matari: Stanley Conqueror Of A Continent” by Jacob Wassermann Just my mentioning the word Bula would set Marco off into uncontroable fits of loud laughing that would shatter the silence of the library. He would throw himself on the floor laughing and peeing at the same time.. “Oh you are terrible Ira” Marco would say, as we walked home with Marco trying hard to cover the stains that covered the front of his pants. Marco thought I was the funniest person alive, funnier than Milton Berle or Soupy Sales or even Lucille Ball. Marco would laugh so loud in the library that many times an angry librarian would ask either him or the both of us to leave. “Oh you are terrible Ira.” Marco would say as we were escorted out of the building. One of our other favorite games was giving nicknames to the various poor hardworking-unsuspecting librarians who had no idea that we were laughing behind their backs. We would also like to sit in the chairs that faced the large windows looking out onto the street and peruse the many magazines looking for things that we thought were funny. For some reason a portrait of Sir Thomas Moore’s daughter Margaret Roper that was used as an illustration for a review of a new bio of her (“Margaret Roper” by E.E. Reynold) brought howls of laughter from us when we saw it in The Saturday Review Of Books. Once again we were told to leave the building. My two other best friends Howard and Freddy were jealous of my relationship with Marco. “What do you two laugh about all the time” Howard would ask. “Are you two homos?” Freddy inquired one day after the four of us walked back home from our junior high school. Of course me and Marco broke out in laughter and Marco dropped his books to the sidewalk and let loose with a stream of pee and hysterical laughing. It was scary. Luckily it was still winter and his heavy car coat hid the liquid stain from Freddy and Howard’s eyes. I was terrible, knowing that I could make poor Marco hysterical with laughter and pee any time I wanted to. As we grew older and reached our mid and late teens we didn’t see each other so much, our interests changed and we started to mature. In 1967 when I was 19 I moved to Manhattan, and Marco enlisted in the army and was sent to Viet Nam where he was killed in action. My mother told me this over the phone one Saturday in 1968 and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I think I probably did both.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

New Art Posted

Hotmetalpress has just published on line their Winter issue with some of my art featured including the cover. Check it out here. Click on my name on the left side to see more of my art most of which was done when I was a teenager.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Crumpled House Colorings 1970

Friday, December 01, 2006

My First Broadside

My first broadside has been posted by broadside Press and I'm very pleased with it. I'll have a 2nd one in Feb. Check it out.
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