the great ones

by Art Chantry:

this is one of those ultra-famous vintage LP covers that never fails to surprise people when they see it. it’s from 1955 and it’s a cover by salvador dali! and what’s even more peculiar is that it’s for one of those jackie gleason ‘soft jazz’ records (side note: gleason couldn’t read or write a stitch of music. but, he knew how to work with people and composed all of this music in the studio with his musician buddies. that guy had all sorts of talent). there’s even a photo on the back cover of dali and “the great one” (jackie gleason’s nickname bestowed upon him by orson welles) shaking hands with big smiles aimed at the camera (well, that’s as close as dali gets to actually ‘smiling’). it’s hard to tell who is more impressed with himself – gleason or dali. so far as i know, this is the only LP cover ever done by dali. it’s certainly the most COMMERCIAL mainstream record he ever worked on.

—dali didn’t ‘draw’ or create the type on this cover. the only lettering he did was his signature.—AC

that’s not to say ol’ sal wasn’t a bit of a money grubbing whore willing to do damn near anything for a buck. the fact is, he was. over his ‘career’ he did all sorts of stupid crazy prestige-destroying commercial efforts to make money. he did many many projects for popular magazines like flair and vogue and harper’s bazarre and playboy and assorted arty fashion rags. he did book covers and even adverts/illustrations for commercial products, too. when i visited the archives of hallmarks cards, i saw dali paintings that he did for hallmark for use as cheapo greeting cards.

he painted silk ties for sale as male fashion product. an old friend had one that she found in a goodwill store. it was basically a quickie dali painting on a tie to wear with your suit – pretty cheesy. but his autograph was in full evidence! he made holograms with alice cooper. toward the end of his life, he had an arrangement with a printer to make art prints of many of his late pieces (designed for this very purpose). he made the mistake of signing all the unprinted sheets BEFORE they were printed (basically, leaving the printer with a blank check). so, after he died, the market was flooded with bootleg dalis actually signed by him in his own hand! for that reason alone, all of his fine art print work is treated with suspicion by serious collectors. it’s impossible to tell the bootlegs from the real deal. as a result, his ‘art print’ pricing collapsed after his death, rather than rose. a lot of morbid investors got burned by that little mistake (or was it one of dali’s little jokes?)

yup, ol’ sal was a hustler. he’d get into bed with any crazy idea if it made a buck. not like these precious “arteests of purity’ we see today, eh? in fact most old school painters were the same way, but dali was so nutso that he had no qualms about being totally up front balls-out about the process. his use of celebrity was a model for andy warhol.

which brings me around to my favortie salvador dali story. in the end, after all is said and done, you can take the artist out of the game, but you could never take dali out of of his carefully created image. dali was always dali.

a friend of mine was working in the art department at playboy magazine back in the early 70′s (i think that was the time frame). he had hired the legendary illustrator, brad holland, to do an illustration for a story he was working on. after holland come up to the offices and met with my friend, they were going out for a drink afterwards and waiting at the elevator in the playboy building. when the elevator opened up, there was dali, just standing there staring at them. apparently he was up visiting ‘hef’ about some project.

so, my friend and brad holland got onto an elevator alone with salvador dali (one of either side flanking him) and starting riding down in complete and nervous silence. finally, brad holland turned to dali and blurted out, “mr. dali, i can’t ride in the thing with you like this and not tell you how important you are to me and my life and career. without your work, i wouldn’t be here today. yo

e that important to me! i owe it all to you!!” (or something to that affect.)

the was a long moment of awkward silence. then slowly, empirically, dali turned his amazing head toward holland and stared at him like he was a bug for long time. then he opened his mouth and shouted in a huge bellowing stentorian voice, “AHSSSSSHOLLLLE!….”.

dali was always dali to the bitter end.

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