Peter C.Newman's Eyebrows & 101 Uses For A Severed ...Thursday, September 29, 2011
This story really began in 1987 but it’s best that I get the bits and pieces out of the way first. These all happened in February 1992 at Duthies on 10th Avenue. I had been invited for a book launch. The book in question was a series of cartoon/illustration whose book title was 101 Uses for a Severed Penis. The author of these illustration was and is (and most brilliant) Dan Murphy. The book was published by Serious Fun Enterprises (a pair of not so usual suspects called Anne Garber and John T.D. Keyes). I remember one illustration from the book that featured what I think might have been an American style bicycle with a kick stand that was…and I am sure have guessed that!
Catering included bread that had been baked to resemble, fairly anatomically correct “you-know-whats”.
But there is one singular event in that book launch that has inspired me to launch today’s blog. I ran into an older man wearing a Greek Captain’s Hat. At the time there were only two men of note in Vancouver who wore these. One of them was artist Tony Onley and the other… The man while familiar looked different so I stared at him. He stared back, and fingering one of his eyebrows, he said, “I now have them done professionally.”
In early 1987 my photography business was quite exciting as I was working for all kinds of very good magazines. But there was one that had never contacted me. It was the then supreme in Canada, Saturday Night. I had sent queries but never received any responses.
But one morning I received a call from Saturday Night art director Bruce Ramsay. It seems that they were preparing an issue which was celebrating the magazine’s 100th anniversary. I was to photograph Peter C. Newman to illustrate his essay on how Canadians perceive water.
I made my appointment with Newman and he cited me to his tug boat/home somewhere near Victoria. He had obtained a zodiac inflatable boat equipped with an Evinrude outboard. It was my task (I really do not remember now who came up with this crazy idea) to steer the boat with my legs while holding my largish medium format Mamiya RB-67 tethered to a Norman 200B flash while Newman, at the bow picked water with his open hand.
While doing this, Newman would say, “Stop,” and then he would fish out of his shirt pocket a little brush. He would brush his eyebrows and ask me how they looked. Just as soon as the brush was in the pocket the eyebrows would return to their original wild condition. I commented to Newman that he and Brooke Shields had eyebrows in common. He smiled.
Ramsay was extremely happy with the pictures but is still escapes me why he picked a picture where Newman’s eyes are closed. The particular issue of Saturday Night came to be known as The Tombstone because of the gray cover. And there was something else Bruce Ramsay told me that cheered me up but not all that much. It seems I was not his original choice. He had selected Annie Leibovitz but she had turned him down.
The Light in the Piazza. During the intermission we explored a used book bin out in the lobby. There were books from $1.00 to $7.00. The only $7.00 book was a pristine and very large hardcover, Peter C. Newman’s Titans: How the New Canadian Establishment Seized Power (published in 1998). I opened the book and a card fell out. I have tried to find the person who signed the short missive to someone called Robert. Would this Robert have received Titans and the card, featuring some lovely English Iris illustrations, was left in the book or could the card have been used by Robert to bookmark Titans but was given some other book as an apology for a late sent profile? I will never know..
When I opened my copy of the 100th anniversary edition of Saturday Night I happened to look at the masthead. I would have never known that the anniversary issue editor, Gary Ross would be someone I would meet many years later. He is now the editor of Vancouver Magazine. And Peter C. Newman and I would cross paths many times after that 1987 date. ln 1996 both our names were on the cover on a picture book about Vancouver, Vancouver -The Art Of Living Well.