Thursday, September 25, 2008

Lunch With Bo Bo

“My wife is crazy” Bo Bo said. I was sitting across from him at the Chew and Schmooze diner eating my grilled cheese and ham sandwich when he cleared his throat and told me this. I had gone to high school with Bo Bo Gluckstein and this was the first time I’d seen him in nearly 40 or so years. Well actually this was really the 2nd time, the first encounter was a week or so earlier when I was walking along 6th avenue on a beautiful early fall day when I heard someone call out my name. I turned around and there was this guy smiling at me. “You don’t remember me do you” he said. “Can’t say that I do” I tried to place him, but I couldn’t. Oh God I thought did I have sex with him? This was not so far fetched as it may seem because a week or so earlier I had gotten an email from some guy who wanted to know if I was the Ira Joel Haber that he had sex with more than 30 years ago. “I knew it was you right away, you haven’t changed in all these years, he said. “It’s me Bo Bo.” Then I recognized him. Once very thin, Bo Bo had filled out considerably. Bo Bo and me had been good friends in high school. During our sophomore year we were in the same homeroom and sat next to each other. After talking with him I found out that we both would be taking art classes. His real name was Borowski Gluckstein, but everyone called him Bo Bo. “Can we have lunch sometime Ira, I would love to see you again.” I hesitated but finally said ok and here we sat at the Chew and Schmooze in lower Manhattan going over old times. I had actually run into Bo Bo in 1970. It was another nice fall afternoon and M and me were walking down Madison Ave when I heard my name called out. I turned and there was Bo Bo who I of course recognized as it was only 6 or 7 years since I last saw him at our high school graduation. It was a strange sight as Bo Bo was trying to get this woman (who I later learned was his wife) out of his parked car. Easy thing to do you would think, except she was lying on the back seat with her bare feet sticking out of the cars open back window. “Ira this is my wife Nina” “How do you do I said to her feet”, which she shaked at me in greeting. Bo Bo was very embarrassed by this, and M & me just looked at each other in utter disbelief. Later that night after dinner we talked about this incident and laughed so hard and long that I thought I would pee my pants. So I wasn’t at all surprised when so many years later over our lunch that he told me his wife Nina was crazy. “Nina has been in and out of mental hospitals over the years, and it’s been a real strain.” “I can imagine Bo Bo how awful it must be.” “I have a grown son, named Dustin” he said after taking a bit out of his roast beef sandwich. “Oh did you name him after Dustin Hoffman” “Hell no I can’t stand him, he was named after the silent screen actor Dustin Farnum who me and Nina my crazy wife adored, our son wants to be an actor.” What a terrible name I thought. Dustin Gluckstein, I could just see it on some movie marquee. “Well Ira its strange how things turn out. I took all those painting classes and you took all those commercial art classes now you’re the artist and I’ve spent my life working in shit advertising jobs. “I’ve been following your career and you should be very pleased, all those shows and grants. “Well Bo Bo it’s not all that much. “Not all that much, shit you’ re in Who’s Who in America, your art is in museums, and you’re all over the Internet. What do I have to show for all my years, a crazy wife and a son named Dustin? I thought back to our high school days, and all the art classes we took. Bo Bo took all these painting classes and to be quite honest about it, his paintings stunk. I was pretty happy in the commercial art classes I was taking. “Learn a trade” my parents would tell me over and over again. I liked designing things and creating movie ads and I was not comfortable using oil paints, and besides I hated the smell of turpentine. Bo Bo and his girl friend Reba Leiber were quite the couple. Bo Bo was quiet and serious and Reba was the cut up, loud and boisterous, a plain looking girl with great piano legs that held up her chunky New Utrecht High School body. Her laugh was a shriek and so shrill that I would try not to say anything funny in her presence for fear of my eardrums bursting. Try if you can to picture a 15 year old Alice Brady as she appeared in “My Man Godfrey” and you would have a perfect snapshot of Reba Leiber. Although we were good friends Bo Bo & me were in constant heated art competitions in school. We both submitted designs for our senior class button and cover designs for our high school theater productions and he always won, even though my submissions were much better. The worse disappointment for me was when Bo Bo won Boy class artist, and that was only because Reba campaigned for him and told all her girlfriends to vote for him. The only time I won a competition over him was when my designs for our high school yearbook end sheets were selected over his submission. I was also selected to be the art editor of our literary magazine, but at the last minute our faculty advisor thought it best if I had a co-art editor and of course she appointed Bo Bo. One day in November of 1963 I was in art class when Bo Bo’s painting teacher came screaming into our class yelling that Kennedy had been shot. We were stunned and even more so a few minutes later when the principal came on the school’s public address system to tell us that Kennedy was dead. Bo Bo spent the rest of the school year doing paintings of the dead president including many that he made up of Kennedy on the autopsy table. These were colorful and grim and were the best things Bo Bo had done. He said I could have one, and I picked out the one of Jackie crawling out of the death car. I still have it somewhere. Lunch was pleasant but somewhat uncomfortable for me, but it was nice when Bo Bo picked up the check. “I’ll give you call next week, and maybe we can have lunch again” he said as we walked out into the beautiful New York afternoon. Of course he didn’t but that was ok with me.

images used. Dustin Farnum, Dustin Hoffman and the endsheets that I created when I was 16 for my high school yearbook.


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