Friday, April 23, 2010

Adios, Juan Antonio Samaranch

Yesterday morning, while awaiting a flight from Maui to Oahu, an email arrived from a colleague who noted the passing of Juan Antonio Samaranch, the former International Olympic Committee president. Sad news -- first read the initial headlines, then today's New York Times obituary for more details.

Samaranch is one Olympic V.I.P. who I always wanted to meet but never did. Probably the closest opportunity was in the Atlanta Olympic Village (we heard he was visiting, but we were not able to get to the area of Samaranch's arrival).

I first learned of J.A.S. during the late 1980s and early 1990s via a couple of TV documentaries regarding the I.O.C. Also, Peter Ueberroth's book on the 1984 Games delves into great detail about Samaranch, which established in my mind that the Spanish-born Olympic leader was a hero for the Olympic Movement for his willingness to take risks.

The day that changed my life and the lives of tens of thousands came in the fall of 1990, when Samaranch's accent proclaimed "AT-Lan-Tah" the host of the Centennial Games.

Inspired by the Barcelona Olympics of 1992, and some research of the Olympic bid process for the 2000 Sydney Games, in 1993 I wrote a letter to Samaranch at the IOC address, and to my surprise and delight, several weeks later, a response arrived in the form of a personalized J.A.S. business card and I.O.C. pin, which remain proudly displayed on my home office shelves.

It's been disappointing, thought not entirely surprising, to find few media reports about Samaranch that really delve into the vast ranch of influence and progress Samaranch helped bring to the Olympic Family. It will be interesting to see what becomes of Samaranch's Olympic collections (I understand his Olympic philately efforts were unsurpassed) and how the I.O.C. will honor and memorialize Samaranch in the near and distant future.

Photo via this blog

Monday, April 19, 2010

Getting It On At The Getty Center

One of the best horror film revelations is that scene in “The Shining” when Wendy, wife of bat shit crazy Overlook Inn keeper Jack, finally reads his “novel” to learn “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” typed hundreds of times.

All work and no play does lead to bad things, so my lady and I just embarked on an 11-day holiday, thanks in part to a charity raffle hosted by Give Kids The World during (client) IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009 last November (we won two round-trip business-class airline tickets to Hawaii).

Yes, we are indeed living the dream!

Our adventure commenced Friday with cross-country flights to LAX, and Saturday’s adventures included:

  • Breakfast at Santa Monica's famed Ocean Park Omelette Parlor, est. 1967 (home of the Schwarzenegger hame and cheese delight, or the avocado/sprout/bacon-infused delight on special -- YUM!
  • Beach bumming and manicure work in Malibu, overlooking a prime surfing point (more than 50 wetsuit-clad surfers in the water)
  • A visit to the beach side Adamson House, a beautiful estate where we received an impromptu history of Malibu lesson (who knew one family owned all of Malibu during the early 1900s?
  • Scenic driving along Sunset Boulevard, where eucalyptus’ sweet aromas fill the breeze, and we spotted some (illegal) public art featuring the Monopoly man and one artist’s commentary on the global financial crisis (this public poster – shown in the photos with this blog post – was at the entrance to a Bel Air neighborhood, a surprise as we drove by it
  • Driving and walking tour of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, including a visit to one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s few existing retail shop designs
  • Fresh gelato tasting and a visit to The Paley Center For Media (where we watched one of about 150,000 TV programs archived for posterity, and where a fantastic collection of Hirshfeld comics is on temporary display)
  • More driving on Sunset, this time west-bound, much like the fantastic race scene from “Against All Odds” (terrible movie, great race)
  • Dinner and drinks at The Getty Center, LA’s answer to the Parthenon in Athens. In addition to gourmet artichoke lasagna and a fabulous selection of sea scallops atop a green pea risotto (mouth watering while typing), we enjoyed conversation with two Germans at a neighboring table and two locals from Malibu at another – we all toasted the dusty red sunset over the Santa Monica Mountains
  • A peek at The Getty’s permanent collection including Van Gogh’s indigo “Irises” and Roy Lichtenstein’s outdoor “Three Brush Strokes” sculpture. Also enjoyed the special exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci doodles, er, sketches and bronzes, and one moving painting of a lion at the feet of Saint Jerome. There is also an intriguing exhibit in The Getty library showcasing Arabic and other books illustrated by hand over the centuries to showcase the mind, body and geography – beautiful.
On Sunday we trekked back to Hollywood for a tour at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House, an estate of the same era and scope as the home at Malibu. I highly recommend a visit to Hollyhock, from which you may also see the Griffith Observatory, Hollywoodland sign and Wright’s other LA masterpiece, Ennis House.
As I write this post, we are seated on a Maui-bound flight, chasing the April sun across the horizon. Touchdown at Kahului Airport (OGG) will be a welcome moment as R&R continues.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Baby, You Can't Drive These Cars

Several years ago, when my team was working with the High Museum of Art to publicize the Renzo Piano-designed expansion, I spent a morning visiting Chattanooga TV stations with one of the museum's executives.

During some early morning chit-chat between broadcast interviews, we got to talking about popular museum exhibitions of the day, and some of the vehicles on display at the Museum of Modern Art got mentioned.

At the time, it was thrilling to learn the High Museum would consider an automobile exhibition for Atlanta. Finally this spring, the High Museum delivered on this promise, with "The Allure of the Automobile" on display through mid-June.

I spent a recent Thursday evening checking out the gorgeous, multimillion-dollar cars on display. Talk about eye-candy!

The first vehicle to meet visitors' eyes is a satin yellow Duesenberg once gifted to Clark Gable by his wife Carole Lombard. Though it is not mentioned specifically in the exhibition (or at least I did not spot mention of it), I am convinced this very car was driven by Jack Nicholson's character in the film "Chinatown." Breathtaking beautiful!

From the streamline front-end decor of this No. 1 show car to each of the next five or so autos on view, the hood ornaments showcase an era of pride and craftsmanship not to be seen again (see photos).

When I rounded the corner to the second gallery, the first of two Mercedes-Benz dreamboats appeared -- was this the 1930s convertible on the cover of my first car book in fourth grade? Why yes, it was!

Several brands never seen, or only very rarely heard-of, filled the main room of "The Allure of the Automobile."

Highlights include an Alpha Romeo remniscent of the one blown up in 'The Godfather" (remember the tragic end of Michael Corleone's first wife? Alpha Romeo go bye-bye!), as well as a hunter green Aston Martin reminiscent of Sean Connery's hot wheels in "Goldfinger" (which the High Museum will screen as one of several car-filled films shown in conjunction with "The Allure").

The ostrich-pelt upholstery of a bumble bee colored Bugatti should not be missed.

Favorite moments also include an up-close look at a two-tone turquoise Tucker, and a room of Porsche and Ferrari racers that took me back to "Faster, Pussycat, Kill-Kill" era films (too bad this classic sports car feature won't run with the exhibition movies).

Probably the only let down -- sadly, a HUGE let down -- with "The Allure of the Automobile" is that on paper (and the High website) there is mention of a 300 series Mercedes-Benz from the mid-1950s. Many, I think, are led to believe that the very rare "gull-winged" Mercedes is in the building, only to find a topless racer version of the 300 series in da house. BOOOOOOO! Or as they say in auto racing, "BOOOOOOO!"

To add insult to the injury, the High catalog/coffee table book for the exhibition shamelessly deletes the actual racer Benz in the building, replacing it with glossy outdoor photos the gull-winged version that everyone wants to see. Its as though the curators put their wishful thinking into print, so that 25 years from now readers may get the impression "The High had that car on display?!" (sadly, the High did not).

The exhibit does sort of make up for the missing 300 coupe by concluding 'The Allure" with a prototype Corvette -- snazzy!

I highly recommend a visit to the High Museum auto art exhibition, and if you scoot on over there this weekend you can catch the excellent "John Portman - Art and Architecture" exhibition in its final days (disclosure: Portman is a client). Then get in your car and cruise downtown Atlanta, dreaming your the captain of your favorite "Allure" auto.

Drive safely!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Canada Comes To Atlanta!

I miss Canada something awful!
It's been six weeks since the flight home from Vancouver, and often I find myself jonesing for some late night pizza on Granville Street (complete with toasted sesame seed crust), Yaletown sushi, a glass of ice wine and on-the-street chatter about Olympic tickets.
So it was a great surprise to confirm recently that the iconic Canadian brand Cirque du Soleil soon will return to Georgia, bringing their new insect-themed tour "OVO" to Midtown Atlanta in November.

Edelman, where I work, is again partnering with Cirque du Soleil for "OVO" on the heels of last year's "KOOZA" tour and the 2006 Atlanta stop for "Corteo." The video for "OVO" looks great -- hoping to catch a live show preview in one of their summer tour stops.
Several times since returning to Georgia, fellow Olympic enthusiasts shared feedback and impressions from the Vancouver Olympic Opening Ceremony at B.C. Place, and more than a few folks also expressed their take on why Cirque du Soleil was not part of the big event -- "where the heck were they?" some inquired (the answer is in this Sept. 2008 news article regarding a joint statement by VANOC and Cirque du Soleil).
One senior, local P.R. veteran is convinced that Cirque du Soleil produced the Opening Ceremony of Albertville in 1992 (from what I can tell, it was in fact a French producer -- anyone know the answer?).

No matter the status of Cirque's five-ringed work, it will be cool to again see the Maple Leaf/l'Unifolié unfurled with Atlanta's skyline on the horizon.

Photos via Cirque du Soleil

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