Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Backwards City Review Volume 3, No. 1. Spring 2007 has just been published with front and back covers by me. I'm very happy to have been invited, and you can order a copy by sending them $7.00.

Their address is

P.O. BOX 41317


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Wow Refrigerator Magnets

These and many other magnet designs are only priced at $6.00 each. talk about your bargains! Now you can cover your refrigerator with Habers and be the talk of your neighborhood. Order then by the pound, you won't regret it. You can view these and other good stuff at www.cafepress.com/irajoelhaber or just click on the handy link.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

On My 60th Birthday

A month or so ago, while scrounging through piles of film books at the strand I stumbled upon a copy of The Movies Come From America by Gilbert Seldes. Published in 1937 by Scribner’s it was a first edition review copy with the slip laid in, and it also had its rare dustjacket, though it was chipped and frayed. For some reason in all my years as a dealer I had never offered a copy of this book for sale. At 9 bucks, which included my 10% dealer discount, I grabbed it. I figured it to be a 75.00 book, but maybe a little lower, maybe a little higher and I would still make a nice profit from it if and when I sold it. The trouble with this book began when I started to look through it, and discovered some underlining. This annoying defect could sometimes pose a problem for me depending on the book. With this one I let it pass, then I noticed a signature written in pencil on the margin of one of the very nicely printed still plates. “Joseph Cornell.” This stopped me dead in my tracks, and I started to sweat a bit. Then on another plate again the signature. Both stills picture a young acting Mary Pickford from 1914. How wonderful that she still lives on for many cinephiles. Also on some pages were slight notations. Could this have been Cornell’s own copy? It seemed possible to me at first as I carried the book and the frayed dustjacket carefully up to the cashiers. I mean why would someone write Joseph Cornell in a book if he wasn’t Joseph Cornell, and the subject of the book certainly fit his interests. I began working the book when I got home. I put it into a Gaylord heavy duty jacket cover and started to try to find examples of his handwriting on the net. I once owned a Cornell, and very special it was as he made it especially for me. Never mind the heartbreak, when I remember that I had to sell it. Some where in a carton I think that I have a copy of the letter that Joseph had handwritten to me in his beautiful script. I remember it being on a piece of thin writing vellum paper. He had enclosed small envelopes with hidden notes and postcards of a color tinted Paramount theatre with attachments to it. Stunning. He had send it to me in response to a copy of my monograph on Radio City Music Hall that I had sent to him and he loved it. The envelope was lined with an 18th century print of balloons and was torn open by me in excitement that Fall morning when M handed it to me. I thought about visiting him but he died soon after. As of today I have no idea if this was indeed his book. I’ve contacted several foundations with an interest in Cornell but none have responded. You would think that they could have at least emailed me saying that they received the scans. One book dealer with an interest in Cornell was helpful I guess and said after viewing the scans that it might be his or it might not be his. It doesn’t really matter except of course for the money. I once found a rather scarce Walt Disney Book on the bargain bin of the old wonderful Barnes & Noble Sales Annex on 18th street. The book was in fine condition with the dustjacket and under the front flap was written in ink the very familiar signature of Walt Disney. I nearly fainted but it turned out that the signature was signed most likely by one of his animators or flunkies. I sold it rather quickly for around $250.00 making a nice profit since I think I paid $2.98 for it. I guess for me the rarest signed book that I found was a few years ago in a local bookstore priced at $3.00. I don’t know what drew me to the copy of “Long Walk To Freedom” by Nelson Mandela, but when I opened it there was a nice inscription from him to Carol Bellamy who was the executive Director of The United Nations Fund. The book had some damp staining but so what and what in the world possessed Ms. Bellamy to part with this unique book, and how did it wind up on the Bargain bin of a bookstore in Brooklyn and why didn’t the owners catch this rare signature. I stifled a scream of joy as I brought it up to the front desk. “Where did you find this?” the clerk asked? “Over there on the bargain table “I said trying very hard to control my excitement. “Well this isn’t the right price” Oh shit I thought here comes a scene. “It should be $2.00 not $3.00,” he said. I put down my two bucks and walked out of the store with a big smile on my face. Oh yes I sold it shortly there after for $1,000.00.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Foreign Country

I learned to drive a car in the summer of 1983 when I was 36 years old because I had landed a visiting artist teaching gig at a prestigious California University and I was told that I would have to learn how to drive by a number of friends. “You can’t go anywhere without a car in California, you know its not like New York” M told me, and I knew he was right. I was very nervous not only about learning to drive, but also about picking myself up and heading west for 3 months to a place that I’ve never been. “It’s like being in a foreign country” M also told me. Great I thought. I have to learn how to drive in New York City no less, and I was about to head out to a “foreign country” for 3 months. I wanted out of New York City for sure. After I had been nearly murdered in this city, I made up my mind to get the fuck out of this place that I didn’t really love anymore, actually I hated it. Besides which the city was full of dying or dead friends. AIDS was here, and it wasn’t going to go away anytime soon. I lost my first friend, a very handsome somewhat hedonistic but fine painter right before I was due to leave for the coast. I went to the hospital with my friend Cynthia to see him for the last time and to say goodbye. I was shocked when I walked into the room where he lay barely alive. This was not Bill, but a near death very old man, all skin and bones, who barely recognized us. “Ira Joel is going to California Bill, isn’t that great, and he’s come to say goodbye.” Cynthia said. I was so choked up, that I could barely say anything. We left and when we got out of the elevator I broke down and cried large sobs that racked by body. People looked at me and Cynthia held me as she led us to a bar to have a drink to calm me down. Back then it was easier to pick up and leave. I was still young and I left my loft with my roommate (our rent was $300.00 a month) threw myself a big going away party and that was that. I passed my driving test the 2nd time I took it. There were many hours of instruction from a tough red headed Italian woman instructor from Brooklyn. I paid for the lessons with some of the money that I got from my 3rd National Endowment. My first day out she took me to 14th street where I promptly got into an argument with another driver who didn’t care that I was learning to drive. “Never argue with another driver Ira Joel no matter what, for all you know he might have a gun and shoot you and me dead.” All in all Nina was patient and fun to be around and finally I was all set to go west. Rebecca Rhodes who was a painter and was married to the well-known theatre critic Lonnie Gable had interviewed me for the position at the Annual College Art Association meeting at the New York Hilton. Lonnie was also a painter and both of them taught at the university. In fact there were several well-known married couples on the art faculty, but on this cold day in February it was Rebecca who interviewed me. I liked her right off the bat. It was her comfortable face and body and soft voice with a slight Irish accent to it that won me over and like most of the close female friends that I’ve had throughout the years, it was for me love at first sight. I had a strong feeling I would be hired because I knew several of the artists on the faculty and my work was not exactly unknown so I was more then confident that I would be going to the land of la la.
M had been out there 8 or so years before and had fallen in love with G and our relationship ended when he returned to New York. When I finally arrived in California after a long plane ride it was night and I was met by Rebecca and Lonnie who were going to put me up at their house until I found a place of my own. “You really can’t see much now, Ira Joel but wait until the morning, it’s really lovely here. It took me a long time to adjust to California, at first I really hated it here, but now I love it.” Rebecca said as she drove on the freeway to their house, which was lovely. All the rooms were painted in bright blues, reds and yellows and greens and there were lots of cacti and plants everywhere. Most of the wall space was taken up by both their paintings, Lonnie’s large and abstract, and Rebecca’s small and representational. I was thrilled to be with them both. Lonnie was much older than Rebecca, and had been married before many years ago, and had a grown daughter who was studying art at the university. Lonnie was a legend in the New York Theatre world for his smart savvy and sometimes difficult to read theatre reviews and essays that he wrote for small but important literary magazines. He knew everyone in the New York Theatre world during the 30’s & 40’s but he left that world when he got an appointment at the university to teach theatre, painting and art history. His mind and intelligence was amazing, and I was a bit intimated by him. Tall in stature with a head of white curly hair and a quick wit and a tart tongue that I knew he had having read his collection of reviews on the plane. He could also be grumpy, opinionated and difficult as well but he had a loyal following among the students who flocked to his classes. On my first morning in California he took me to the Pacific Ocean, which I think is much more beautiful than the Atlantic and Rebecca was right, it really was lovely here. I started to really like the place when I saw all the palm trees and strange foliage that was everywhere and the marvelous California light. Oh how wonderful was that California light. Sharp at one moment than soft and diffused the next. I knew I needed a change, and I wanted so much to like California. I was with Lonnie when I found the place that I would live in. We saw the for rent ad on a bulletin board at school and we quickly removed it before anyone else had a chance to see it. It was a very small house that was most likely at one time servants quarters. It was located behind the main house which was a big Spanish style California number right out of a Raymond Chandler novel or a noir film from the 40’s and I half expected Barbara Stanwyck to answer the door when I rang the bell. Instead of Barbara there stood before me a young person who I couldn’t tell if they were a girl or boy. It was a girl, a rather butch girl but definitely a girl unless of course Californians were naming their boys Tanya. She was the daughter of the owners of the house and was as I later found out a music major at the university and a lovely person. The owner’s of the house, her parents were a middle aged married couple. Petra was a slim attractive woman, who still had some small stitches near her hair line that I guess were from a recent face lift and was very agreeable to my renting the small house. The house was perched on the highest hill in the most expensive area of the town and overlooked a still green and not yet developed valley, and best of all was up the road from the most beautiful beach that I had ever been on. This was definitely not Coney Island. My beautiful little house had a patio, which hung over the hill, a small kitchen, bath and bedroom and it even came with a small TV. You reached my house by going through a small wooden latched door on the side of the big house which led to the back area and my tiny home for the next 3 months. I settled in. The first thing I had to do was rent a car, and this was real scary for me. Rebecca took me to a car rental place and when I drove out of the lot she had a look of terror on her face, (think Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear) and I could swear that I saw her cross herself. She later told me that the clerk was aghast at how I pulled out of the lot, and she told him that I had just gotten my license, and I was from New York City where no one drove. I hated driving and it’s a miracle that the car and me didn’t wind up twisted around some Palm Tree. Before getting in the car in the morning for the drive down the coast road to the university I would have dry heaves. I just didn’t feel comfortable behind the wheel and would make mistakes left and right. Several times drivers would yell at me. I was a wreck. I was always getting lost but somehow would find myself at the right place. One night I was invited to dinner at Blanche and Herbert Botz’s home located somewhere on top of some mountain. Blanche Botz was a performance artist and one of her best known pieces was the one in which she screamed for one hour while kicking a dummy who represented her mother across the stage. Very impressive. Herbert was a writer of magic realist novels and poems. Their house was so isolated and difficult to get to that they arranged for another faculty member to meet me at my house and lead the way in his car, making the trip easier for me or so they thought. I would have preferred if he had just driven me in his car, but I stoically and dry heavingly got into my car and followed him up this curving dark road that finally ended at the top of a mountain and the Botz’s beautiful house. Nights in California were pitch black as I soon saw, and the only lights that greeted me as I parked the car were the lights in their house. The evening was a disaster. They had invited a visiting female playwright who it turned out was a nightmare. I even thought that she may have been psychotic. I had seen a play of hers many years before when I was 18 or 19 at the Judson Poet’s Theatre and enjoyed it, but I did not enjoy the playwright. I had heard from several people that Michelle was a difficult and shockingly homophobic woman, and I was soon to find this out for myself, as she launched into a hysterical monologue about how the New York Theatre World was controlled by a homosexual cabal that prevented her plays from being produced because she was a heterosexual woman. I couldn’t understand the Botz’s being friends with her, were they just being nice to her because she was all alone in this strange place? Things soon went downhill rather fast after that. In fact I got so angry with her that I made her cry, and I wasn’t even drinking, since I had to drive. I was not the only one angry at the table. Blanche and Herbert tried so hard to be diplomatic but there was no saving the evening. I ended the night by telling her that I had liked her play but could not say the same thing about her and that if I never saw her again I would consider myself blessed. The other faculty member would be driving Michelle back to her place, and I would follow them down the dangerous road. It was pitch black outside, and there were no lights turned on the property to help me maneuver my way out. As Willy started up his car, I backed up a bit, but suddenly I realized that I was stuck. What the fuck I thought just what I needed. I got of the car, and saw that I had backed out and over the edge of their property and that the car was hanging over the edge of the mountain. I nearly fainted. I had almost gone over the edge of the top and would have most certainly been very hurt if not killed, as it was a very long drop. Stumbling my way back to the Botz’s front door, I could barely speak when Herbert opened the door. Light poured out of the house and I pointed to my car. Herbert and Blanche tried to get me calmed down, and called a tow truck that would come in the morning to remove the car. In the meantime Herbert drove me back to my house, telling me that it wasn’t my fault he should have warned me about the edge, should have had the lights on out there, he would pay for the towing not to worry. By morning everyone on the faculty knew what happened and Lonnie especially was pissed. “Why the fuck didn’t they warn you about the edge, how could they not have lights on out there, stupid stupid stupid.” So now I was without a car, and had to depend on the bus and the kindness of friends and students to drive me around. My landlord’s husband Stu came to my rescue offering to lend me one of his many cars. “It runs ok, Ira Joel but it might give you some problems.

To be continued.

The images used in this post are photos of my little house in California and some of the drawings that I did while living there.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Some time ago in January of 1956 when I was 8 years old, my mother decided that she would take me on a trip to Washington D.C. It was January 1956 and Ike was soon going to be inaugurated for his second term. I liked Ike because he reminded me of my grandfather. I guess he was so popular because he reminded everyone in the country of his or her grandfather. So even though I had to go to school my mother said “that I would get a better education by seeing history up close then sitting in Miss Mahoney’s 5th grade class.” I certainly wasn’t going to argue about missing school for a whole week. “Don’t worry about it Ira, when we get back I’ll write a note saying that you were sick.” If I was missing a week of school, then my mother was going to miss a week of toiling in my father’s luncheonette, and that was fine by her. I don’t know what she told him, but he couldn’t stop her, as she was determined to take me on this trip. So one cold day in January of 1956 we packed a suitcase and took the train to Washington D.C. We didn’t have a hotel reservation but my mother just said “We’ll find something once we get there” I had never taken a trip like this before, and neither had my mom, so we were both excited as the big train pulled into the old grand Penn Station and the conductor called out “all aboard for Washington D.C. We found seats and soon my mother was talking to a young woman and her infant daughter. My mother was very outgoing and friendly and would talk to anyone so this did not surprise me. Smoking and yakking my mother and her new friend told each other of their lives as I sat and stared out the window at the unfamiliar landscape that flew by the grimy train window. At one point the young woman told my mother that she was a cousin of the actor John Payne and my mom got all excited. “Ira did you hear that? Jeanette’s cousin is John Payne.” I had to think for a minute who John Payne was, and could vaguely recall him as the boring actor who was in some musicals with Betty Grable that I had seen on the TV. Since neither of them were favorites of mine I most likely didn’t show much excitement over this. “Oh John Payne is nice,” my mother said. That was one of her favorite things to say if she liked a movie star, he or she was nice, as if she had just had a long conversation over coffee and cigarettes with them. Barbara Stanwyck was nice, so was Ann Sheridan and Bette Davis. Now if Jeanette had said that she was a cousin of Clark Gable or Doris Day or even Tab Hunter now that would have perked up my interest. Some years later Vincent sent me a very hot sexy photo of John Payne that I am using in this piece, and I guess I can now say that John Payne was” nice”. Before I knew it we were pulling into Union Station and my mother and Jeanette exchanged phone numbers, which they would never use and said their goodbyes. Taking my hand my mother and me made our way out of the train into big old Union Station. “Lets go to Travelers Aid and see if they can recommend a place for us to stay.” “We need to find a inexpensive hotel to stay for about a week.” My mother told the gray haired lady sitting in the Travelers Aid booth “How inexpensive?” She asked us. “Well I’m on a tight budget so it has to be cheap.” Well the lady gave us the name of a hotel and warned my mother not to expect too much. “Oh don’t worry we can make due.” Yeah well let me tell you that this place was beyond making due. It looked like what I thought one of those fleabag hotels that used to line the Bowery must be like. We took one look at the peeling paint, the dirty bathroom at the end of the hallway and the smell of urine and we were out the door. “Now what” I asked? “Let’s walk a bit and maybe we can find something better.” “Anything would be better than that dump,” I said. My mother laughed as we started our walk through the city. Finally we saw a large hotel across the street from The White House that looked real nice. “Oh let’s check out The Roger Smith” My mom said, and we did. It was a real hotel as I had imagined a hotel to be, and we both liked it right off the bat. The man at the desk asked if he could help us and my mother said she was looking for a room for us for about a week.” Well we can offer you a room for 4 days, but we have a convention booked after that and I’m afraid that you’ll have to leave after 4 days. “Fine we’ll take it she said” And so with that we began our visit. The city was getting ready for Ike’s big party and there were wooden bleachers going up everywhere. Everything in the city was white and big, and I couldn’t wait to start visiting all the famous landmarks that I had read about in school. “Maybe we’ll run into Ike and Mamie at the White House,” I said as we made our way with the rest of the tourists into the mansion. Right before the tour we had our picture taken by a photographer who peddled his photos on the street outside of the White House, and I thought it turned out pretty nice. The old good for nothing camera that I brought with me took lousy photos that were mostly too light or too blurry. I also brought with me a drawing pad, a brand new box of Crayola crayons, the 64 box please, and a Hardy Boys book, and I was all set to go. After the White House tour, we went to the Capitol, The Washington Monument, The Lincoln Memorial and The Jefferson Memorial. I loved all of them, but The Lincoln one was my favorite. Old Abe looked so real that I thought he would get up out of his chair. We were both pooped so we made our way back to the hotel and a nap after which we might go to a movie and of course dinner. Since we were luncheonette people we tried to find a nice one in the downtown area for dinner and before long we found the perfect 50’s diner all pink and gray and shinny with Formica and stainless steel. We got a booth that had one of those cute little jukeboxes that were all the rage in the 50’s and I started to drop nickels in to hear my favorite songs. Of course I played Doris Day, but I also loved the song from “Bus Stop” that was a big hit for The Four Lads. Sitting across from us in a both by himself was a strange looking young man with thinning hair and terrible skin who kept looking at us. Finally my mother said hello to him, and asked him if he would like to join us for dinner. “Oh thank you that would be so nice” He squeezed into the booth sitting next to me and opposite my mom and he was even weirder looking up close. “Oh you have a drawing pad with you” he said. “Yes I love to draw.” “He’s very artistic my mother chimed in.” “Oh I’m a artist also, well actually I’m only a commercial artist, but I do love drawing also. I like to draw angels,flowers,cats and shoes. Can I look through your sketchbook? “Ok, sure have a look.” “Oh these are nice, and how unusual, drawings of cigarette packs.” “Why do you draw these?” “Well there always around the house, so I draw them.” “And who is this a portrait of” he asked. “That’s a drawing of my favorite movie star in the world, Miss Doris Day, I love her. My uncle Natie took me to see “The Man Who Knew Too Much at the Paramount Theatre in Times Square, and it was great. “Have you ever been to New York City?” I asked. "Oh sure, I want to move to New York as soon as I can. I came to Washington from Pittsburgh, but I really want to live in New York.” “Me and my mother love New York, we go to the movies there all the time.” “Oh I love movies also, my favorite star is Marilyn Monroe. Have you seen Bus Stop yet? Its playing downtown, you should go.” “I don’t really care much for Marilyn Monroe, my mother said but maybe tonight or tomorrow night we’ll go see “Giant” I hear its very good” “Oh yes it is but it’s very long.” “I’m sorry my mother said, but we haven’t introduced ourselves, I’m Rosalind Haber and this is my son Ira.” My name is Andrew Warhola.” “Well Andrew, it’s been very nice talking to you, but we really should get a move on.” “Yes it’s been nice, thanks for inviting me over and good luck with your drawings Ira, maybe we’ll see each other in New York.” “Well it’s a big place but you never know,” I said. After Andrew left we got the check and walked back to our nice smelling big hotel that was across the street from The White House. “Mommy I thought he was nice, but weird looking.” “Well maybe he has a skin disease of some sort, but yes he was odd looking, but nice.” “Did you like your pot roast dinner Ira. “Yes but you make it better.”

Illustrations used in this post are:
A brochure that I made when I was a kid for Washington D.C. The very nice John Payne and
Me and my mother in front of The White House
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