The Great FigureWednesday, October 26, 2011
For years I admired Charles Demuths’ The Figure 5 In Gold. It is only recently that I found out (“Ignorance is daring,” so my grandmother used to say.) that the painting was inspired by one of my favourite poets, Williams Carlos Williams.
Among the rain
I saw the figure 5
on a red
to gong clangs
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city
William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)
Sour Grapes: A Book of Poems
Four Seas Company, Boston, 1921
These days I have been thinking about perfect. I have been thinking about perfect reds and now I have been thinking about the perfect orange. There is orange in Demuth’s painting and even if there weren’t many of us would still somehow identify that painting with a local strip bar, the Number 5 Orange on Powell and Main. For some years, and I have not been there of late, there was a reproduction of Damuth’s 5 up on the wall. In fact I always thought that the club may have been called that because of some previous owner’s admiration for 20th century art. I have my doubts but I still like to dream of unlikely coincidences.
It was at the Number 5 (some of us, the real habitués of the joint would have simply said “at the 5”) that I saw some of the most beautiful women I have ever seen and managed to even go backstage, in the dressing room, to take pictures where most men are not allowed.
Now I can recall that just a few years (maybe four) I stopped to see if owner, Tony Ricci would be there. He was and he treated me to my fave drink, a soda water. We chatted. The economy was beginning to tank and he told me, “ I am too old to change professions. I stay here.” From some hoods that I sometimes have dim sum with I know that the 5 is not doing too badly. But I don’t have the heart to see for myself. The shine is off for me for that whole scene. Perhaps it is my age or that I no longer know the women on stage who at one time might have winked at me or sat down with me to chat.
For me the whole exotic dancers scene of Vancouver is encapsulated (paradoxically) by this picture of Laura Faye (from Peoria, Illinois) that I took in Las Vegas in September 1984. She had poise, she had elegance, she seemed to like what she did and she was very good at it.
I wonder how many of those few dancers that manage to get work in our BC can assert all that? It would be too sad for me to go and find out. Let the dream of my Laura Faye live on.