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the royal flush

by Charlie Finch  
 


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The Art program





The cast of Art
   People are much like brushes -- those with the finest looks are not the finest in practice.
        -- Vincent Van Gogh

The hottest sex scandal in Washington, so hot that bigwigs of both parties are trying to keep the lid on, has nothing to do with Bill Clinton.

Instead, according to a senior reporter at The Baltimore Sun, who passed the story on to the Royal Flush on condition she not be named, the scandal involves two shocking and seemingly disparate incidents which occured ten days ago: the apparent suicide of 28 year-old journalist Sandy Hume and the sudden resignation of Rep. Bill Paxon (R-Buffalo) from the House of Representatives.

Hume, the son of Fox News chief and former ABC White House correspondent Brit Hume, broke the story of Paxon's revolt against Speaker Newt Gingrich last summer in The Hill, a daily congressional newspaper.

As a result, Paxon stepped down as minority whip, but retained his seat, and Sandy Hume was nominated for a Pulitzer prize.

According to our source at The Sun, Paxon, whose wife former Rep. Susan Molinari also resigned from Congress to host a CBS news program, notified House Republicans in January that he intended to challenge House majority leader Dick Armey for his post, the number 2 position in the House.

Armey, who has a reputation as a master practitioner of dirty pool, then allegedly threatened to expose a purported homosexual relationship between Paxon and Sandy Hume, which had generated Hume's scoop.

Driven insane at the prospect of disclosure, Hume apparently go so drunk while speeding towards Washington from a Bethesda, Maryland NBA game, that he was hauled off to jail by cops, where Hume attempted to hang himself with his own shoelace.

Inexplicably, Hume was sent home on his own, where it appears he put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

Two days later, Rep. Paxon, often mentioned as a future House Speaker, shocked Washington by resigning his seat, saying that he would "never run for office again" and that he had "no immediate prospects for a job."

We want to emphasize the bona fides of our source, a Baltimore Sun reporter who made a special effort to get this story to RF, because she was Sandy Hume's closest friend.

Though not a personal acquaintance of ours, she checked out with a mutual friend, a People magazine writer.

While this shocking development would certainly explain recent Republican reluctance to take on Bill Clinton in the Lewinsky affair, it raises even larger concerns about collusion between our government and big media to keep information of a scandalous nature from the public.

It pains me as a patriot to say it, but the U.S. is approaching Soviet-style levels of classification, censorship and control by the media/Washington axis.


What impressed me most about the new Getty Museum was not so much the building, but the unforgettable sight of John Walsh, the director, holding open a swinging door for ages while a torrent of people of all shapes, sizes and colours poured through, ignorant of his identity.
        -- Deborah Devonshire (née Mitford) in The Spectator.

It's perversely reassuring that a white painting (cf. Malevich, Rauschenberg and Ryman) can still tickle the philistines enough to make Yasmine Reza's play Art a hit on three continents.

This zen confection, whose opening we caught on Broadway, has two virtues:
1) It's short, one act, 1 1/2 hours, sandwiched betwixt cocktails and dinner.
2) The three white male protagonists, played brilliantly by Alan Alda, Victor Garber and Brit theater stalwart Alfred Molina, pary and filet each other like angstketeers. Perhaps a three-way tie for the Tony?

And Ms. Reza reserves a little trick for the rubes -- the white painting wins in the end!!


There's a sucker born every minute.
        -- P.T. Barnum

More evidence that non-insider money is coming back into the contemporary art market emerged at three well-attended openings last week.

"The money's coming back in -- but not as fast as you report, Charlie," a rosy-cheeked Carolyn Alexander admonished us at her Matthew Benedict opening.

Unfortunately, Benedict's illustration-house take on firemen and soldiers is arch camp at best -- we winked at painter Thomas Woodruff, a talented alchemist, who concurred that the stuff was shit.

Happily, proof that one doesn't need to pander to kitsch tastes was right up Tenth Avenue: Cheim and Read's stunning Alice Neel show Men in Suits, a must see.

In this year of the portrait, Neel's wry twists on male office dress are the equal, in their own eccentric way, to Chuck Close and Y.Z. Kami. If she were a dead man, her market would be stratospheric.

Particularly notable is Neel's famous David Bourdon and Gregory Battock, showing the ex-Life magazine critic in his undies coyly inching towards the late flamboyant critic/roué.

Staring back: Cheim and Read's anonymous and lucrative crowd of lawyers and investment advisors, wearing suits far more dear than Alice's quirky threads.

For real kitsch, even surpassing Matthew Benedict, however, one continued to Marlborough Gallery, of course, for Marisol's new prefab boxed homages to Rene Magritte, Clark Gable, and others too generically rendered to mention.

Yet, these too sell in the current "up" environment, as bronzed couples proudly showed off their Marisol purchases to their suburban buddies.


. . . Nice to see Cady Noland, out of the loop recently due to illness, roaming yet another Kenny Schachter junk fest, this one on Houston and LaGuardia Place.

Marriage is based on the theory that when someone discovers a particular brand of beer exactly to one's taste, that he should at once throw up his job and go to work in a brewery.
        -- George Jean Nathan

With more stops than the Rolling Stones, the Catherine David victory tour continues with a gig in Hong Kong, where the dull frog can wine 'n' dine Maoist commisars to the wee hours.

It seems to have eluded Ms. David that the Internet, such a supposedly big feature of Documenta X, could have spared her the chore of dragging her bag of post-structuralist French bones across the globe, trying to revive Stalinism.


CHARLIE FINCH is the New York editor of Coagula Art Journal and has coauthored the forthcoming Most Art Sucks from Smart Art Press.